Brookings Harbor anglers enjoyed another week of great fishing on the big pond catching limits of rockfish and lingcod. Black rockfish are now steadily increasing in numbers and in size, and are making up 95-percent of the limits of rockfish. The other 5-percent are a mixture of China rockfish, vermilion rockfish and blue rockfish.
Lingcod have still been coming into the fish-cleaning station with frequency, although not in the same numbers as in weeks past. Even so, limits have still been common. It seems as though many anglers are either finding hordes of lingcod but can't find many rockfish, or they're finding plenty of rockfish but have difficulty getting a ling. About half of the anglers filleting fish are cleaning limits of both rockfish and lingcod.
Both lingcod and rockfish are being caught in deep water and shallow-water habitat. If you're a leadfish kind of angler like me, fishing in depths of water ranging from 60 to 90 feet seems to be the way to go.
But a few kayakers and anglers using 14-foot Gregors, Valcos and Westerns were able to get into shallow-water areas near the kelp beds where larger vessels fear to tread. Anglers fishing near the kelp are having excellent success throwing long, single-tail plastic worms rigged Texas-style, or tossing twin-tail plastic lures on 1-, 1.5- or 2-ounce leadhead jigs. White, chartreuse and root beer seem to be the most productive colors.
Weather permitting, the great bottom fishing should continue into next week.
As a reminder, the retention of cabezon is still not permitted until July 1, so until then, you'll have to release all cabezon.
Also, remember that the 30-fathom restriction is also in effect for all groundfish, which means that you cannot retain any groundfish outside of the 30-fathom curve. Groundfish includes, but is not limited to, all rockfish, lingcod and flounder.
Remember this very important letter of the law. If you have rockfish or lingcod on board your vessel, you are not permitted to take your vessel outside the 30-fathom curve when fishing for Pacific halibut. So if you have plans to partake in a combo trip for Pacific halibut and groundfish on the same day, get your halibut first, then come inside of the 30-fathom curve to catch your rockfish and lingcod.
Several Pacific halibut were also caught last week by anglers fishing in depths ranging from 180 to 240 feet. While it's not a wide-open fishery, there are enough halibut being caught to lure fishermen to lower a 2- to 3-pound sinker and drift a combination of large herring, squid, octopus or salmon bellies.
If the current is moderate or virtually nil, use a 2-pound sinker. If the current is fairly robust, go with a 3-pound sinker.
People fishing for Pacific halibut are also catching some very large skates, the most common species being the big skate (Raja binoculata). Big skates are easy to identify. Each wing on both sides of its body has a very blatant and large eye-like spot. The body is also covered with small, round cream-colored patches. Big skates are aptly named because they easily reach sizes over 100 pounds.
Some people claim that skate wings are edible, but I've only had to try a skate wing one time to be repulsed by the taste. The point of edibility is moot however, when you consider that if you catch one outside the 30-fathom curve, you are required to release it, since a skate is technically a groundfish.
Ocean Chinook salmon are almost here. By the time June rolls around, they should be being caught in solid numbers. I have heard one verified report by one of the Brookings port samplers of a Chinook caught near Bird Island one week ago Friday.
Presently, Eureka is enjoying most of the Chinook action. Gary Blasi from Full-Throttle Sportfishing in Humboldt Bay, Calif., started his season on May 4 with two back-to-back six-fish multiple hookups. That was a quick trip for Gary, since he only takes six passengers out at one time.
By May 7, he already had another six-fish hookup, with many double hookups since then. On May 12 and 13, Gary pulled limits again, with fish up to 30 pounds being caught. A 30-pounder this early in the season is indicative of the high amount of 4-year-olds that are swimming in the ocean there this year.
So hold onto your anchovies. The same salmon action is expected to hit the Brookings area sometime in June.