There are some very large halibut coming to the fillet station. Admittedly, not everyone who is fishing for halibut is catching them. But when you see someone struggling to hoist a 60-pound barndoor over the gunnel, that gives the neighboring anglers enough incentive to continue dragging 2 pounds of lead across the bottom in 240 feet of water.
Folks have been catching their halibut in the usual hangouts, such as the underwater canyon offshore from the Thomas Creek Bridge. But lately, people have been looking for deep water ranging from 140 to 250 feet off of Bird Island, Twin Rocks and House Rock, and some of these newer haunts have been kicking out a halibut every now and again.
Bottomfishing for rockfish, cabezon and lingcod still remains stellar out of the Port of Brookings Harbor, with lingcod between 12 and 20 pounds coming to the scales almost every day. One day last week a monster ling easily topping 25 pounds was filleted at the port's cleaning station.
Meanwhile, the question everyone is going to be asking for this weekend's Slam'n Salmon Ocean Derby is, "Where's the salmon"? Even though the action has slowed somewhat, people trolling in the ocean are still bringing some Chinook to the fillet station every day weighing in excess of 20 pounds. So where exactly are the salmon?
There are four basic spots where people are going to be fishing for salmon this weekend. The first is near the California/Oregon border, fishing in depths around 90 to 120 feet. If the water temperature is getting toward 58 degrees or higher, anglers will be trying for salmon just out from the whistle buoy in about 110 to 120 feet of water. Again, water temperature is critical. You ideally want water ranging between 52 and 54 degrees.
Another place people will be trolling will be off of Bird Island, anywhere between 100 and 140 feet of water. Sometimes people have to venture uphill to find that ideal salmon water temperature.
If seas are fairly flat, people will also find willing biters even further uphill, off of Mack Arch.
Remember to look for birds, slicks, rips, trash lines, or anything unusual looking. If you find birds hugging trash lines, and if those trash lines are in 52 degrees of water, you've struck the mother lode, especially if you are metering bait on your fish finder. In these instances, sometimes one side of a trash line will produce salmon while the other side will not.
In any case, learn to use your electronics to their fullest potential. You always want to be able to see your downrigger ball. A downrigger ball simply looks like a straight horizontal line on your meter. If you're unsure whether you're metering bait or your downrigger ball, pull up your downrigger ball a few feet and see if the horizontal line follows suit.
If you can't see your downrigger ball at all, turn up the gain on your fish finder, enlarge the screen or narrow the cone range of your transducer (if your fish finder has this capability).
You'll want your downrigger ball to be a few feet higher than the bait schools because salmon will travel up to engulf a bait due to the way their eyes are situated in their head. Rarely will they travel downward to get a bait. But there are exceptions to this rule.
Sometimes salmon will be directly underneath a school of baitfish or krill, waiting for dying baitfish to spiral downward toward them. You should be able view this situation by seeing arches or slashes underneath the bait schools. If you do see these large diagonal slashes, those are usually salmon.
In addition, take into consideration that sometimes your dodger will tend to drag your bait below the downrigger ball and adjust your rig accordingly.
People with two depth finders will often use one for metering fish directly underneath the boat, and tilt the other transducer slightly away from the stern so that you can easier view your downrigger ball. In the latter case, you can often see your dodger and bait as well, and make fine adjustments to your downrigger ball depth.
So don't be afraid to tweak your depth. Sometimes when the fish are slightly off the bite, the strike zone is narrower than usual.