Fishing report for
I cannot get excited enough about this year’s ocean salmon season. Indeed, it has been a long time ago when anglers could venture out on the ocean with the confidence that they might be putting one or two salmon in the cooler. But this year’s projections are so high that people are counting their salmon before their rods go down.
To quickly recap last week’s column – sometime this May, southern Oregon is going to get a very long ocean Chinook season. Three ocean salmon season options were discussed one week ago in Sacramento and, this coming April, members of the PFMC will be doing their balancing act to come up with one season. All of the Chinook options look great for the Brookings Harbor area, so it doesn’t matter which option is finally chosen – they’re all excellent!
Scientists have predicted that the ocean will be crawling with over 2.4-million 3-, 4- and 5-year-old king salmon originating from the Klamath and Sacramento Rivers. So there’s no better time than the present to get your salmon gear in order.
It’s always a good idea to have your drag washers replaced every year and to have your reel disassembled and cleaned. Over the years, I’ve grown fond of Ollie Damon’s in Portland (olliedamons.com). Several of the local sporting goods stores also work on reels in their shops, one being the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach.
I also like to look at all of my rod guides, especially if they are ceramic. Most people don’t think that ceramic guides wear away, but they are notorious for sporting hairline cracks that are virtually invisible. Here’s how I test all of my ceramic guides.
Run an 8-inch piece of 10-pound monofilament through one of the guides, holding onto the ends of the line with the fingers of each hand. Apply pressure toward the outside of the guide while rotating the line around (not up and down) the guide. If your line suddenly stops, it has usually settled in one of these cracks. Cracked guides need to be replaced.
Steelhead fishing is far from over on the Chetco. March can be one of the most thrilling months for battling one of the Chetco’s metalheads. There will still be fresh incoming steelhead entering the river while spawned out down-backs will be heading back to the ocean.
As of Friday morning, the National Weather Service was predicting a dropping river with ideal flows for plunkers starting on Sunday at 7,000 cfs. Monday is also looking good with an anticipated flow of 4,700. Remember that the Chetco fishes best on a dropping river. and the river is expected to be dropping today through Tuesday.
The river may be side-driftable on Tuesday with a prediction of flows between 3,800 and 4,000 cfs, but later in the week, storms are anticipated to raise the river once again.
Water conditions key for Rogue springers
With the droughts that occurred in November and December, people were wondering if the low-water trend would continue through early spring and influence springer fishing on the Rogue. The snow pack has been virtually nil, but due to unseasonable rains, springer fishermen could be looking forward to some good fishing in March and April.
Water conditions are absolutely key when springer fishing. You can have an expected high return of spring Chinook with poor water conditions, and have a poor springer year. On the other hand, you can have a mediocre springer run expectation with excellent water conditions and have some pretty decent fishing.
This year, the unexpected high water flows in March are a blessing in disguise for springer aficionados, and by the way things are shaping up, it looks like there are more storms on the way, which should maintain the Rogue at a high enough water level to make springer fishermen ecstatic.
From this point forward, springer fishing on the Rogue should start picking up for anglers in sleds who are anchoring up.
Look for water that’s between 4- and 6-feet deep when setting out your springer rigs, which are almost always employed using a spreader bar. The standard go-to springer rigs are usually single spinners, anchovies or Rogue Bait Rigs (spinnerbait rigs) with an anchovy on the back.
It is also important to have a fish finder that can record how fast the boat is moving. The boat will not be moving when you’re anchored up, but the water flowing by you will. Ideally, you want to find water that’s moving between 1.6 and 2.2 miles an hour, which coincidentally is a boat’s ideal trolling speed for Chinook.
When selecting a place to anchor up, it is essential to determine the speed of the water where your plugs, spinners or anchovies will be, not where the boat is anchored.
Water temperature also plays an important factor when springer fishing, with 1 degree playing a big factor in getting a springer to unhinge its rusty jaws. Your rig might not get bit in 46-degree water, but as soon as the water warms to 47 degrees, they start to go on the bite.
As the water approaches 48 degrees, they start to become more aggressive. Anything between 49 and 54 degrees is ideal. In the lower river, below Elephant Rock, springers will be staging, acclimating to the colder river temperatures.
In these staging areas, a spring Chinook’s comfort zone is exactly the same as in the ocean, with 52-degrees being the perfect temperature.
Also, it is a good idea to pay close attention to the Gold Beach bar. On calm days, salmon tend to cross the bar more often, leading to more fish in the lower bay.
After the springers have acclimated in lower tidewater for a day or so, they will bite in colder-than-preferred water upriver from the staging areas in places like Kimball Riffle, Lobster Bar and Quosatana Creek.