By Larry Ellis
Pilot staff writer
What can I say about the ocean fishing in Brookings? It's been just flat-out incredible.
I often wonder what it feels like to be the new kid on the block to walk into the cleaning station and see all the varieties of fish being cleaned. It's like you've died and gone to heaven. Pinch me, am I really awake? Is this reality or just a wonderful dream?
Well, in Brookings, it's reality. It's like a restaurant out there. The fishing's just smokin' red-hot. Every day I check out the fillet tables. There have been days when people have been literally cleaning tuna, silver salmon, king salmon, black rockfish, blue rockfish, vermilion rockfish, copper rockfish, China rockfish, quillback rockfish, lingcod, kelp greenling, redtail surfperch, striped surfperch you've got the picture.
Let's start with tuna. This is the third month where anglers have been able to go out 28 miles and slay the fatted albacore. I've been here 27 years now and I don't think I've ever seen it so good. The guys in Newport are saying if the southerlies keep on coming, they could have tuna fishing easily through September and October, even possibly into November.
You have to wonder why the tuna fishing has been so steady this year. Is it only because we have just had unseasonably warm water temperatures? I think that's partially the case. You can't deny that warm, 62-degree water has been bringing the albies closer to shore than usual and even bringing a few exotic species to our coastline that are indigenous to Mexico, as well.
You also have to take into consideration that a large part of being able to go tuna hunting also has to do with the unusually high amount of flat seas we've had this past summer. But that's not totally it either. We always have had our typical summer days of flat-calm, mirror-like water. And there haven't always been tuna to chase around when those days have come around.
What about S.S.T.s, or Sea Surface Temperature satellite charts like the ones you can subscribe to on the Terrafin Web site? They've been around a while, but only lately have they been readily available for the average Joe or Jane.
With Terrafin software, you can see where the warm water is in any given vicinity at any given time, and plan an outing accordingly. They give you precise coordinates that you can dial your GPS into and be at that spot in the shortest amount of time possible.
That's not even mentioning how electronics have changed the way in which we go long-range tuna fishing. What about tilt-shift sonar? How the heck did that one get left out? Once you've found the spot, you can dial in precisely where the schools are located and head directly for them without making any extra passes. You can even tell the size of the fish. Spending less time finding fish saves time and fuel.
I don't think you can credit any one reason for the fantastic tuna season we've had without crediting every one as a unit. You can't read the unseasonably warm water currents without having Terrafin charts and you can't get there without your vessel's state-of-the-art electronics. In addition, you can't even go fishing unless Mother Nature winks at you for that brief instant in time and allows you to make the journey.
As Frank LoPreste, owner of the Royal Polaris has been saying for years, "The good old days are now!"
The tuna fishing has been awesome when boats have been able to get out. Tuna have been as close as 28 miles this week, while others have had to go 37 miles. The fish have been large, as usual, averaging about 25 pounds.
Of all the landing up and down the coast, Wayne Butler from Prowler Charters has scored the most albies for his clients this week, with three days numbering into the 90s
Anglers have been scoring limits of very large black rockfish as well as a large grade of other "Sebastes" species as well. Those with the most success have been heading uphill, but it really doesn't matter which direction you go. The fish are ubiquitous. Find a high spot, and you'll find fish.
Again this week a group of kayakers were filleting out some very nice size bottom-grabbers at the cleaning station.
Some very large lingamamasours have been filleted at the tables as well. The best bait for the lings has been a freshly caught kelp greenling (minimum size 10 inches), otherwise known as a sea trout. Both rockfish and lings are starting to fatten up and the roe in their bellies are beginning to develop as always happens this year, as they start putting on weight for January's spawn.
Only coho with a healed adipose fin clip (hatchery silver) may be retained. All wild fish must be released.
Salmon have also been coming into the cleaning station, although not with the regularity that we normally expect this time of year. I think the warm currents are playing a part. When the tuna are in, the salmon are out and vice versa.
Nevertheless, some very nice Chinook and coho have been filleted at the tables. And the coho action is good. I have no doubt that the coho quota will last through the season, which closes one hour after sunset on Sept. 4 for both kings and silvers. At the moment the coho quota was at 62-percent.
You better start looking twice inside the mouths of your salmon because the silvers are putting on weight at an extraordinarily rapid pace, and they're big.
"Right now we've been going 6 to 8 miles out; 84 to 70 back," says Jim Bithell of the Charthouse. "The coho are definitely getting big. We're seeing some that are pushing 12 to 14 pounds."
Hey folks, those silvers are large enough to target. Come the end of August there could be some 16 pounders.