By Larry Ellis

Pilot staff writer

The opening day of trout season on the Chetco River officially opens today (May 24).

The use of bait is permitted from the river mouth upriver to the head of tide.

The river mouth is an imaginary line drawn between the ends of the north and south jetties.

The head of tide has been a subject of debate over the years, but generally Tide Rock has always been considered the upper reach of tide.

Above the reach of tide, only artificial flies and lures may be used.

Anglers used to sleep in their waders in anticipation of the this event.

The species everyone is hoping to catch is the sea-run cutthroat.

In days of yore I would have been flogged for giving out this little tip.

The best bait is without question, a bullhead fillet. Around these parts a bullhead refers to a staghorn sculpin, in intertidal fish that frequents riprap in tidal areas.

Is it any wonder that these rock structures are also prime cutthroat haunts?

So toss your fillets any place where there is rock structure, whether it is riprap or a broken cement slab.

The first step is to catch the bullhead, which you can easily do with a size 12 hook and a small piece of night crawler.

Fillet one entire side of the bullhead and leave the skin on.

Tie a number 6 baitholder hook on the end of your line and pinch a few split shot about 20 inches above the hook. Now pierce one corner of the bullhead fillet with the point of the hook. The fillet should spin as you reel it in slowly.

I kid you not, a cutthroat will crawl over 10 dozen lively night crawlers to reach one dilapidated bullhead fillet.

In addition to trout, starting May 24, you may also keep steelhead or salmon in the river, with the same bait and lure restrictions applying as with trout.

The likelihood of catching a steelhead is virtually nil, however, keep your eyes peeled for schools of anchovies at the river mouth.

In years past, springers on their way to the Rogue have stopped at the Chetco to dine on a few 'chovies If this scenario should occur, try casting a one-ounce chrome Krocodile or a three-quarter- ounce Kastmaster on the edges of the baitfish school, and fish them on-the-drop.

This weekend perfect for surfperch,razor clams

If Hollywood were to make a movie depicting last week's fishing in the Brookings-Harbor area, it would definitely be called, andquot;Dances with Surfperch.andquot;

Last week's northwest winds kept most boaters at bay, but it didn't prevent anglers from bringing limit upon limit of striped surfperch to the fillet tables.

The slabs were pretty good size, too, with many looking like they were pushing 2 pounds or more. So if you're visiting from the valley this weekend, I would strongly recommend bringing along a variety of surf rods, reels and sinkers.

andquot;Why the variety of outfits,andquot; you might ask? Because when fishing for surfperch, you match your gear to the ocean conditions and the size of the surf, not the size of the fish.

If the surf is breaking fairly heavily, you'll want to use something that has a lot of substance to it, like a good meat stick ranging from 8 to 10 feet.

In this case, sinkers ranging between 4 and 6 ounces, and 20-pound test monofilament would be the correct call. Heavy machinery is also required when there are strong rip currents, regardless of the wave size.

With a moderate current and smaller surf, you can start thinking about gearing down. In these instances you can use ordinary steelhead gear. When the swells die down and the ocean starts laying flatter, you can use light tackle or even fly rods for the flat-siders.

The striped surfperch caught last week were also showing vibrant spawning coloration, looking more like tropical fish than anything else. Practically all those big 2 pounders are all females. They're really putting on the weight because of the packages they are carrying.

Surfperch are viviparous, which is another word for giving live birth. The mothers actually house about 15 young inside them, and after a gestation period of about five months, they will give live birth to quarter-size-miniatures that look exactly like their parents.

From my observations at the fillet tables, the baby perch are just starting to form. I think they got a late start in mating this year because of an extended winter. That means we'll be enjoying some great fishing experiences well into September.

Most of the action has been taking place about one-half mile uphill from the Winchuck Wayside located off Highway 101.

Another good spot is at McVay Beach. A trail is provided that leads from the park to the beach. Walk down hill until the sand meets the rocks.

Chetco Point Park is also hard to beat for not only surfperch but kelp greenling (minimum size 10-inches), cabezon (minimum size 16 inches) and occasionally, lingcod (minimum size 22 inches).

The best bait still seems to be small pieces of raw shrimp in the shell. My second choice is sand crabs, with mussels being number three. If you look way back inside their mouths you will see a set of teeth they use for grinding up those crab and mussel shells.

Just rig up with your sinker on the bottom and two dropper loops spaced about 18 inches from each other above the sinkers. Inside the loops thread some size 6 snelled leaders, bait up and you're good to go.

Before you cast, make notice that there will be a set of waves with regular lulls in between. Time your casts so they are made during the longest period of inactivity before the next wave occurs.

Always fish about two hours before the tide comes in and get out as the tide starts receding. Today, high tide starts at 4:28 p.m., so plan your trip so you are at your destination, rigged and ready to cast at 2:30 p.m., and fish until 5:30 p.m. This weekend favors late afternoon and early evening high tides.

The limit is 15 surfperch, any size.

Razor Clamming good through the weekend

For those who want to dig razor clams, we're catching the tail end of the minus tide series this weekend. The minus tide today starts at 9:26 a.m. at a -0.5 low, so you will want to get to your beach of choice no later than 7:30 a.m. Minus tides will carry clear through Memorial Day.

But don't give up on an average low tide of 0.0 or even slightly higher. I've had some of my best days when the low tide was 0.3 like it will be on Tuesday. There are less people on the beach, which means the clams won't be freaking out from all of the shovel handles pounding the sand.

Good razor-clamming beaches are at Myers Creek, Pistol River and Bailey Beach near Otter Point. The next series of fantastic minus tides start one week from tomorrow. There will be minus tides as low as -2.5!

Good Rockfish and lingcod expected this week

According to the National Weather Service, last week's 30-knot Norwester is expected to die down today to 5-15 knots, and then diminish to 5-10 knots through the middle of the week.

It could be a great time to hit your favorite reef for limits of bottomfish and lingcod.

Today's 9-foot northwest swell is expected to diminish to 6 feet on Sunday, then lessening on Monday to 4 feet. On Tuesday a combined northwest swell of 3 feet and a southwest swell of 2 feet is predicted to hit the area. So it is looking like the weather is stabilizing by the middle of the week.

The great thing about living in Brookings is that you don't have to venture very far to sea to be into some fantastic rockfish and lingcod action.

Try fishing for

Pacific sanddabs

Imagine a halibut averaging half the size of a dinner plate and you've got a Pacific sanddab. Although their size is small, they make up for it in taste and a very liberal limit of 25 fish.

The sanddab fishery off the coast of Brookings is literally an untapped resource. As implied, they are found in the sand, in no less than 140 feet of water.

These fish are hard to mark on a meter because they are either buried underneath the sand, or they are only a few inches above it.

Therefore, the best way to catch them is drift for them between 140 and 160 feet of water. Make absolutely sure you're in sand, and not rock or gravel. The whistle buoy has sometimes been a good place to start.

Use between 4 and 6 ounces of lead and make three dropper loops spaced 18 inches from each other. Any kind of bait will work. Strip bait like anchovies, squid, herring or even a sanddab cut in small pieces will suffice.

A lot of people will attach a second sinker ahead of the top hook so the rig lays in the sand perfectly flat.

Drift with the current for about 20 minutes. If you don't get bit, move up or down the line and keep trying until you find a biter. Since they're a schooling fish, where you find one, you'll usually find a lot more.

Tight Lines!