China: the year of the pig - Oregon: the year of the tuna.
After a series of northwest winds and high swells, last Monday the ocean finally laid down like a sheet of liquid mercury. The flat-calm seas allowed anglers to do just about anything they wanted in Davey Jones' Locker last week.
There were only a few boat trailers in the port parking lot on Monday. Those few lucky souls had no problem bringing back a variety of rockfish to the cleaning station. But there were bigger fish to fry. Plans were already being made by the local tunameisters to hit the blue water on Tuesday in search of 62-degree water and albacore.
The terrafin charts were showing perfect tuna temps between 40 and 50 miles out from the jetty jaws and by golly, nothing short of a hurricane was going to get in the way between this flotilla of vessels and their beloved long-finned albies.
I had no doubt they would strike gold that day. I was on my way to Coos Bay to visit the new Morgan Creek hatchery. Every beach, every scenic vista along Highway 101 was a clone of itself. Cape Ferrelo had flat-calm seas. The ocean at Gold Beach was as calm as a lake. Bandon looked like a mirror. Coos Bay was so flat it was scary. There wasn't a ripple on the water as far as they eye could see.
The result of the Brookings tuna-quest? Try 30- to 35-pound albacore. From what the guys told me, they bit on anything and everything, but the hot jig was something no tuna fisherman should ever go without.
"We got 'em mostly trolling Cedar Plugs," said Billy Blue, one of the local tuna aficionados. "They killed the dorado color."
It's mid September, only one week away from the first day of fall, and the warm water is still out there. The tuna are back, just as I had predicted. After the high swell leveled off, the Pacific warmed back up.
As of last Thursday, the ocean still looked like a lake. That's four straight days of perfectly calm seas. More anglers continued to spank the albies during the week. All I can say is, enjoy it while you can because it will probably be a quarter of a century before we get to experience this kind of back-to-back tuna action again.
Hot lingcod action kicks in on the Oregon coast
Holy lingasauruses Batman. Somebody just let the prehistoric behemoths out of their cages!
Once again, it's been Lingcod City at the Port of Brookings Harbor fillet station this week. Anglers were busy filleting the fatted toothmeisters left and right. Every day they appear to be getting larger and more abundant.
Most of the lings have been females. The big gals are putting on weight at an extraordinarily rapid pace preparing for the spawn, which will occur after the first of the year.
Monday, the first day of the flat seas, one family had good luck bringing one lingcod shy of a limit to the cleaning station. After I took a photo of Heather and Levi Heidrich of Falcon, Colo. holding the lings, Heather said she had a larger one in the truck. I thought to myself, Darn, missed another large lingcod photo op!'
She brought out a digital camera with a photo of a female ling she caught that day. It was so large they could only get the top half of its body in the frame. That lingcod easily went every bit of 40 pounds. After taking the photo, Heather released the big brooder.
I encourage everyone to do what Heather did and release those big hens so there will continue to be a big lingcod stock for future generations of anglers to catch. Lings that size easily contain over half a million eggs.
The fish barrels were also filled with plenty of rockfish carcasses. Several kayakers were nailing lings and rockfish in the cove around the corner from the north jetty.
Big squid being caught in the ocean
September is prime time to catch Humboldt squid. Actually, most are accidentally caught by anglers fishing for other species. Several of the squidlies have been brought to the fillet station last week, most between 4 and 7 feet long from the beginning of the body to the ends of the tentacles, and I suspect there will be a few more brought in before the month is over.
If you should catch one of these giants, keep your fingers away from their mouths. They have a hidden beak that is strong enough to break bones. The beak is usually black and looks exactly like a parrot's beak. And yes, they are incredible edibles.
Rogue Bay has a good week
Fishing in the Rogue Bay picked up last week. Jim Carey from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach reported that except for one day, there were about 35 Chinook caught every day last week in the Rogue estuary.
Try the jetties for rockfish and lingcod
Now that the rockfish and lings have moved in closer to shore, it's practically a given that they have also moved in between the spaces between the boulders forming the north and south jetty.
Mike and Dennis Mason, Rapp Brush and I all used to catch our fair share of the bottom-grabbers using one-ounce jig heads with twin-tail plastics. White is always a good color.
You have to pitch the jigs close to the rocks and work them near the bottom so the fish hit them on-the-fall, although they will strike them on-the-retrieve. It's not a fishery where the fish come to you. You have to come to the fish.
Work every single rock up and down the jetties and stick to fishing a few hours before incoming high tide and work through high slack. Work the river side of the jetties and only when the seas are calm.
The north jetty can be accessed from Del Norte Ave.