By Larry Ellis
Pilot staff writer
Four days left till the end of salmon season
Starting today, anglers have four days left until the salmon season closes. It looks like our coho quota is going to hold up. Our coho season ends at the same time the Chinook season ends, one hour after sunset on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
All in all, it's been a super fantastic coho season. Many fish are being reported approaching the upper teens. I talked to Rick Hurliman from the Barview Store (Tillamook Bay) who had recently weighed in a silver that tipped the scales at 20 pounds. He said it's the best coho season he's seen since the '70s.
Others are saying the same thing about the coho season in this neck of the woods, and from what I've seen at the fillet stations, I would say they are right. Sure, people have had to travel between 7 to 10 miles to get 'em, but you can blame that on all this screwy warm water we've been having.
Normally, if we didn't have those warm water currents and all the southerly storms pushing that warm water toward our coast, those silvers would be right in our own backyard.
Taking that into consideration, one has to admit that although the season has been slightly unorthodox, it has been a pretty good one.
Mixed in with four to five silvers is a Chinook ranging between 14 to 38 pounds. Although the Chinook are not in the same massive quantities as the silvers, they are still out there. Most of the kings seem to be a little deeper than usual. OK, a lot deeper. Many folks are reporting getting their 'nooks deeper than 100 feet.
I know that Pat Sullivan from Winchester Bay has been going as deep as 300 feet for his trophy kings, and Wayne Butler from Prowler Charters in Bandon has been approaching the 200-foot mark to get his. Butler says he's been using 50-pound balls to get his gear to fork effectively.
The only sad thing about going that deep for Chinook is that most sport boats do not carry 50-pound lead weights, nor do they carry enough downrigger wire to reach that depth.
But some of those fish will be coming in closer to shore in October, whether they want to or not, when the final leg of the ocean salmon season opens up Oct. 1. That's the Chetco River trophy salmon season and I firmly believe that there are going to be a lot of huge fish weighed in, especially considering the amount of bait that's been available to them the last three years.
Rogue River kicks out a slug of salmon
Even when the ocean season ends, most rivers will still be open for the retention of kings, and with some rivers like the Rogue, even hatchery silvers. This is where you are going to see your largest silvers of the year. The coho have been sharing the same ocean as the Chinook and gorging on the same bait. I would not be surprised to see some silvers over 20 pounds mixed in with the Chinook in the Rogue bay.
Wednesday was an exceptional day for anglers dragging spinnerbait rigs and plug-cut herring in the Rogue estuary. There were reports of boats having as many as two Chinook per boat, with the average being about one fish per boat. Now that might not seem like a full-on, light's-out gangbuster bite to most people, but some years we must set our standards just a tad bit lower than usual. This is one of those years.
Rockfish and lingcod
It's been a madhouse at the port's cleaning station with all the rockfish and lingcod being filleted. The grade of the rockfish has been excellent and there has been a wide variety of fish species mixed in with the batch. Remember that all cabezon have to be released if you're fishing from a boat.
What is not surprising is the size of the lingasaurs being brought to the cleaning tables. Every week bigger females have been coming to the tables. You can easily tell the females from the males. The hens are just chuck full of roe, just like the one shown in today's photo of the week, caught by J.J. Vaninetti from Medford.
You can identify the females by the extended bulge in their abdominal cavity. Besides that, they are going radically on-the-bite. J.J. got his lings on plain ol' ordinary shrimp flies. One of the lingasaurs was hitchhiking on a black rockfish which was lip-hooked by one of the flies. Expect to see more lingcod brought into the cleaning station this week.
Surfperch gone wild
Don't winterize your surf rods just yet. This is the second year in a row where both striped and redtail surfperch have been biting late in the season. A lot of folks are not fishing for them lately because of the red-hot tuna bite that's been taking everyone's mind off the flat-siders.
In Gold Beach, many anglers are still catching the pinkfin accidentally while trolling for salmon. This anomaly has been going on for at least two months. Many anglers who are using whole anchovies on the back of their spinnerbait rigs have been reporting catching one or two of the golden-barred slabs. Those puppies are actually engulfing a whole anchovy.
That type of activity doesn't stop at the Rogue bay. Robert Roszkowski from Port O' Call Bait & Tackle in Bandon has also had similar reports from salmon trollers in the mouth of the Coquille. They're catching the pinkfin doing exactly the same thing, only they've been trolling single anchovies.
So you might want to consider hitting a couple of the most popular surfperch beaches. The beach one-half mile north of the Winchuck Wayside is an excellent bet, as is McVay Park. The Gold Beach south jetty spit is a former version of what it was one year ago, but it is still quite fishable nevertheless. Perhaps that's why so many redtails have been hammering the anchovies being trolled in the bay.
Enjoy the Slam'n Salmon Derby.