Salmon fishing in the ocean up and down the coast of Northern California and Southern Oregon this year has given anglers enough adrenaline rushes to light up the city of Brookings for a year.
Generally speaking, late August and early September are very good months to be fishing from Eureka, Calif., up to Winchester Bay in Reedsport, not only in the ocean, but also in the some of the rivers as well. This year has been no exception.
Ocean fishing stellar
Starting at Eureka, salmon fishing in the ocean has been nothing short of stellar, with very few days where anglers have not caught fish.
But what a difference only 6 degrees can make. Sometime last week, 58-degree water moved in on the beach and replaced that ideal 52-degree Chinook water that was hugging the coastline within 2 miles from shore.
Now, higher temperature water has sent the salmon offshore to about 250 feet of water, or approximately 7 miles from shore, and when that happens, the salmon go deep to find the break that straddles clear water and dirty water.
"The fish always go deep when the water is gin-blue, like it has been this week," said Gary Blasi from Full Throttle Sportfishing on Thursday. "We're now catching them between 100 and 180 feet on the wire. "The fish have been in the deeper water because I think it's dirtier water down there. All we need is a little bit of wind to turn the water over and bring upwelling, and it's game on again."
Blasi pulled all his divers and has been running two rods off of the downriggers on each side of the boat for all of his clients, who have been hooking up salmon like gangbusters.
Hoopa Valley Tribe scores big win on Klamath
Meanwhile, the Klamath River mouth has been insane with salmon ranging from 20, 30, and even 40 pounds. I was at the mouth last Tuesday and saw some giants hooked.
The Klamath has been beset with low and warm water conditions, caused by a drought year and a lawsuit brought by the Westlands Water District to restrict flows from Lewiston Dam into the Trinity River.
Compounded with the second-largest return of salmon in history, and foreseeing another possible salmon die-off similar to the year 2002, the Hoopa Valley Tribe and Klamath Justice Coalition convinced a Federal Court judge to rule in favor of releasing water from Lewiston Dam starting Thursday (Aug. 22) and continuing well into September.
The cool water and higher river flows should spark the salmon at the mouth to move upriver, providing angling opportunity for tribal and sport fishermen.
Out of the Port of Brookings Harbor
Although the action hasn't been red hot, salmon fishing in the ocean out of the Port of Brookings Harbor is slowly starting to pick up again, with a few more fish being filleted at the port cleaning station day by day. On Wednesday, Jim Bithell from Charthouse Sportfishing hooked and landed several Chinook for his clients.
Fishing for rockfish and lingcod continues to be stellar.
Rogue Bay picking up
Fishing in the Rogue Bay is continuing to pick up, according to Larry Cody from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach.
"We had a spectacular day yesterday and it's looking like it's going to be that way today," said Cody on Thursday.
When people can cross the Gold Beach bar, the fishing for rockfish and lingcod is excellent.
"And we're still getting reasonable numbers of surfperch," adds Cody.
ODFW has also netted over 2,500 half-pounders during their weekly seining operation at Huntley Park, so the river should be plugged with these guys this month and into September.
Winchester Bay hot
For the last two weeks, the hottest action on the coast has been at Winchester Bay, where guides from Brookings and Gold Beach have been making the trek to easily limit their clients in the ocean and on the Umpqua River with large fall Chinook, trolling outside the jaws, and from the 101 Bridge down to the lower end of the Big Bend area. We're talking several hundred fish being caught a day.
"We killed 'em on the Umpqua today," said John Anderson from Memory Makers Rogue River Guide Service in Gold Beach on Thursday.
John put his clients on a 34-pounder, two mid-20 pounders and a 16-pound Chinook.