Now that the ocean salmon season has come to an end, that is, until the Chetco ocean terminal season opens on October 1, anglers are going to be trolling the Chetco estuary in the hopes of hooking one of the bay's first salmon of the season.
Reputable people have already spotted a considerable amount of jacks stacking up in Social Security Hole, Tide Rock and Morris Hole, and an unsubstantiated rumor is going around that several adult salmon have been caught as well. Although the aforementioned holes are closed to fishing until November 2, jacks will be working the tide, moving out to sea on the outgoing warm-water tide and back into the tidewater holes on the incoming tide containing an influx of cool ocean water, giving anglers a good chance at catching them in the estuary.
A jack is not a separate species of salmon, but is a precocious sexually mature male that just enters a river system earlier than usual. A jack can be a jack coho or a jack Chinook. Jack coho, which are rarely found in the Chetco, are between 15 and 20 inches, while jack Chinook are common, and are actually 2-year-old Chinook, between 15 and 24 inches. Like the name infers, they are almost always males.
The limit is five jacks daily, with two possession limits. You don't have to tag jacks either. Any jack Chinook over 24 inches, however, would then be considered an adult, and must be tagged. Also, once a person is tagged out on adult salmon for the day, the person may not continue fishing for jacks.
Save the snouts of adipose fin-clipped fish
You may notice the kiosk located inside the fish-cleaning station at the Port of Brookings Harbor. Normally, salmon are checked and wanded by ODFW port samplers who will be scanning the fish's snouts for coded wire tags. The tags give ODFW invaluable information about how successful the Ferry Creek acclimation site is doing.
There will be times when the port samplers will be short-handed or are off work, and it is essential that all of these coded wire tags be recovered. So if you catch a fish in the bay with a missing adipose fin, ODFW STEP biologist John Weber is imploring anglers to cut the snout off for several reasons.
For the last three years, including this year, Oregon South Coast Fishermen, in conjunction with ODFW inserted coded wire tags into a large portion of juvenile salmon that were of Ferry Creek and Chetco main-stem origin. Recovery of these tags gives ODFW invaluable information on how well the Ferry Creek operation is working and will likely result in a release of up to 200,000 hatchery salmon smolts instead of the usual 150,000. That's an increase of 50,000 smolts whose progeny will be available for everyone to fish for in the bay.
According to Weber, a large portion of this year's hatchery fish, both jacks and 3-year-old fish will have coded wire tags inserted in their snouts. Next year, a significant portion of hatchery jacks, 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds will have coded wire tags inserted in their snouts as well, and it is the 3- and 4-year-old adult fish that can be found more easily in spawning ground surveys. Two-year-old fish, on the other hand, have a tendency to escape spawning ground surveys.
In addition, capturing the snout of a 2- or 3-year-old salmon missing an adipose fin will give anglers a chance at winning some fantastic prizes. Last year, a Lamiglas fishing rod and a Shimano Curado 300 reel were some of the prizes that immediately come to mind.
So when you catch a fish that does not have an adipose fin, you stand a chance to win an assortment of great prizes; that is, if the snout of your salmon contains a coded wire tag.
Last year, 29 jacks had snouts containing coded wire tags designating them of Ferry Creek origin, while nine jacks had snouts containing coded wire tags of fish released in the main-stem. It appears that the Ferry Creek program is getting off to a fantastic start.
This year, there should be a lot more chances for fishermen to enter the drawing, since a larger portion of Chetco River salmon are 3-year-olds.
The kiosk at the Port of Brookings Harbor fish cleaning station contains all the envelopes and bags necessary to enclose these snouts. So do yourself and our magnificent hatchery salmon program a great service and make sure that no snout remains uncut from a salmon missing an adipose fin.