By Larry Ellis
Pilot staff writer
Chetco steelhead season closes Monday:
It's time to get your last licks in on the Chetco because one hour after sunset on Monday, March 31, fishing for salmon and steelhead will be closed. The entire month of March can often be a light's-out bite on uppers and downers if river conditions are good.
Yesterday, Chetco River conditions were ideal, still flowing at 2,800 cubic feet per second and rain was in the forecast. So why not take a few last casts for old times sake and maybe even be the person who catches the last steelhead of the season. There should be both uppers and plenty of downers mixed in the Chetco soup.
Rogue River spring Chinook caught last week:
Although the action certainly isn't hot and heavy, there were some very large springers being caught in the lower Rogue last week.
This is one salmon that anglers don't mind putting their hours in for. The Rogue's fish are without a doubt the finest eating salmon on the planet. Just hooking into one is a privilege, even if it's lost.
These fish fight four times stronger than any fall Chinook. They can spool you in less than a minute, especially if you don't break away from your anchor and follow them downriver immediately.
The springer run has been especially strong up north on the Columbia River, where they have had the third highest projected run in over 30 years, with an anticipated return of over 269,300 springers.
The reason why they taste so good and fight so well has to do with their extremely high fat content which is intended to get them upriver in a hurry and tide them over until they are ready to spawn in the fall.
That's why springers are referred to as fat footballs', because of their shape which is caused from all that extra fat.
"There's been quite a few caught and they've been big," says Steve Beyerlin from fishoregon.com. "Most of them have been in the 25- to 32-pound range. For this time of year I'd say (the springer fishing) it's good, but it's very early. They're not expecting a very big run, but holy cow, it's stirring some excitement."
"Ron Buntrock got a 32 pounder yesterday and the day before that he got a 31 pounder, so I'd say the action has been good for this time of year.
"The water temperature in the river is just getting barely fishable for springers," notes Beyerlin. "It's got to be close to 50 degrees before they bite."
Right now the springers that don't get caught are heading up the Rogue, but as soon as the water temperature hits 52 degrees, hold on!
With springers, or any salmon for that matter, water conditions are extremely important for a good season. Runoff from snow pack in the hills is very important in keeping the river in prime shape, and we've received plenty of that. So even with a poor projected run, you can still have a decent season.
Conversely, you can have a great projected run and poor river conditions, which equates to a lousy season. This year both the Columbia and the Rogue have great river conditions, which will enhance the Columbia's projected run even more, and help the Rogue out no matter how low the projection was. So there's more to river projections than meets they eye.
Which leads me to the Chetco. I don't want to talk about the ocean salmon season yet, because it has not yet finalized. But let's say that both California and Oregon's commercial and sport fleet are not allowed to fish the ocean at all.
Doesn't that mean, with less fish, or in this case, no fish being caught in the ocean, that would leave a lot more fish coming back to the rivers? I think that is precisely what is going to happen with the Chetco.
I think we're going to have a flat-out fantastic season in the river. So frankly, I'm looking forward to a bumper fall run of Chetco salmon in the river, even though the overall status of Chinook might be considered slightly lackluster.
Don't forget, the wheels' are talking about a low projected Sacramento return. Even if that low return is due to poor ocean feeding conditions, and of course all the rivers' fish that swim in the same ocean would be impacted to a certain degree, all the rivers should still get a decent return of fish in the fall.
I also think that no pressure on the ocean will also have an effect on the Rogue's springer return as well, maybe not to a huge degree, but enough for us to maintain a positive outlook nonetheless.
Last week again produced excellent numbers of redtail as well as striped surfperch for anglers using pieces of shrimp, mussels and sand crabs. The new Gulp! Sand Shrimp has been effective against the flat-siders.
This Gulp! stuff is really great, especially for kids just learning to fish because this stuff won't fly off the hook when you cast.
Great places to fish are one-half mile up the beach from the Winchuck Wayside, McVay Park, Sporthaven Beach, Kissing Rock at the mouth of Hunter Creek, the Gold Beach south jetty spit and just downhill from the Nesika Beach rest stop.
Rockfish, lingcod Port of Brookings
The bottomfishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor has been excellent when flat ocean seas have been prevailing.
"They're getting bigger black south and more lings north," says Mike Ramsay from Sporthaven Marina.
The fillet tables were lined up elbow-to-elbow with anglers making the most kindest cuts of all on their catches of the bottom-grabbers.
Rockfish, lingcod Port of Gold Beach:
On days when the ocean has been flat, the bar calm and the wind subsided, anglers have been literally scoring one- to two-hour limits of rockfish and lingcod at the Rogue Reef.
"Hands down, Gold Beach has probably the most pristine bottomfishing there is," says Jim Carey from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach.