Sunday, October 13, is the last day when recreational sport fishermen will have a chance at catching a Chinook salmon in the Chetco Ocean Terminal Area Fishery.
Although the overall action has not been red hot, there have been a few days throughout the season where there have been some stellar bite periods, with last Monday being one of the most productive days of the year.
On that Monday, I happened to be driving by Sporthaven Marina when Chinookzilla was being weighed in at the scales for the restaurant's annual hawg derby. Soon Ae Phillips of Brookings was fishing on board High Hopes when she hooked and landed a 50-pound, 4-ounce chrome-bright king while trolling an anchovy being spun by a chartreuse-colored Bechhold Rotary Bullet Bait Holder.
So who says that big Chinook only eat big baits? While it is true that anglers often troll the larger purple or black label herring for this fishery's noted 5-year-old king-o-saurs, salmon are a lot like people. After dining on a succulent cut of prime rib, the epicurean gourmet always has a little room left for that after-dinner mint. That anchovy was this big king's after-dinner mint, and certainly its final meal before it met its maker with the sweet spot of a miniature Louisville Slugger.
There were also reports that day of several large derby contenders that were either lost at the net, got tangled around downrigger wire, or had the hooks just pop out of their mouths, so make sure to always keep a bent rod and a tight line on these fish.
As of Thursday, the derby's leader board was reading: First Place - Soon Ae Phillips - 50 pounds, 4 ounces; Second Place - Kenny McMurry - 45 pounds, 8 ounces; Third Place - Rudy Vaquez - 38 pounds, 3 ounces.
The action is expected to be continued throughout the weekend. There were several derby tickets left for those who dare to trip the 'nook fantastic in this popular local-area tournament.
After Sunday, the ocean will be closed to the retention of Chinook, but the lower Chetco River below river mile 2.2 will be open. The boundary for the ocean is seaward from an imaginary line drawn between the Port of Brookings Harbor's north and south jetties. All water inland from there is considered the Chetco River.
So after Sunday, most salmon hunters will be trolling a stretch of river from the jaws upriver to the intersection of the main river and the entrance to the boat basin. You can use treble hooks and barbed hooks in this section of the river, which should increase your chances at landing one of these big kings.
Most people will be trolling with a spreader bar-type setup. On the end of the spreader bar, folks will be either using a 3- to 4- foot mooching leader, trolling either a cut-plug herring or a spinnerbait rig (such as a Rogue Bait Rig).
On the bottom of the spreader bar, tie about 18-inches of 15-pound monofilament leading to a snap, which snaps onto either a cannonball or a bank sinker ranging from 2 1/2 to 5 ounces. I like to keep my offerings as close to the bottom as possible.
There have also been several kings caught from the anglers fishing from the bank on the south jetty as well. The largest salmon weighed approximately 35 pounds and was caught on a Kastmaster.
Kastmasters are popular lures for catching salmon during this time of year. Use either the 3/4- or 1-ounce model in the colors chrome, chrome/blue or gold. Be sure to use a snap and reel the lure in as slowly as possible, but fast enough to keep it wiggling to and fro. These lures also get hammered while fishing them on-the-drop as well.
In the past, bank anglers have caught Chinook using anchovies as well. One of the most effective setups is using a mooching leader on the end of a 3-way swivel. Thread a round cork bobber down the leader so that it is about 1 1/2 feet from the bait. The purpose of this setup is to keep the anchovy off of the bottom and away from the crabs.
On the bottom of the 3-way swivel, tie 6 inches of 15-pound monofilament leading to a pyramid sinker ranging between 4 and 6 ounces. Put your rod in a sturdy holder and wait for a king to ring the dinner bell.
Anglers in the Rogue Bay continue to have some fair-to-good action on fall Chinook trolling spinnerbait rigs. According to Scott at the Chetco Outdoor Store, folks are catching them upriver as well. Dunkleberger Bar immediately comes to mind. Remember that Grant Martinsen caught his IGFA record 71-pound, 8-ounce king on October 21 on a fly rod using 8-pound tippet, so the action's not over yet.