Larry Ellis, fishing columnist

If you've been racking your brain trying to figure out the perfect gift to give to your loved ones for Christmas, fret no more.

If you want to put a smile on someone's face - and I mean a genuine whole-hearted, grinning-ear-to-ear-type smile - look no further than your local sporting goods or department store.

Just close your eyes and picture yourself as a youth underneath the family Christmas tree, wondering which one of those mysterious packages you should unwrap first. If you are an angler, and you got anything even remotely related to fishing, the world suddenly became a joyous place.

So if you want to give the ultimate gift that keeps on giving, and not break your pocketbook, just grab any spinner, spoon, FlatFish, Kwikfish or Brad's Wiggler off the shelf, wrap it up, and give it to a fisherman. It doesn't matter what the color or size is either. If it isn't the red-hot lure this week, it will surely be the white-hot sensation another time.

Another great gift that nobody would ever refuse is some type of vacuum-sealing system. One of the most popular brands is the Food Saver. While these gifts cost a little more than a lure, they actually go hand-in-hand.

Vacuum sealers enable outdoorsmen to freeze fish, meat and game inside vacuum-sealed plastic bags for extended periods of time. With less air available, the food does not oxidize as fast, doesn't develop freezer burn and can last between 6 months to a year or longer in your freezer. When you defrost your product, it's almost as good as new.

Sometimes they go on sale for $40 or less. I bought two different models about seven years ago and they still work just as great today as they did when I first bought them - seriously!

If you own one of these older models and you have noticed that their vacuum power has either started going away or has completely gone away, do not throw them out thinking that you have to buy another "better" model. That would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, or reformatting the hard drive of your computer just because it doesn't run as fast as it did when it was new.

Normally, there are two seals on a vacuum sealer, one on the top lid, and another on the bottom. After a certain amount of usage, these seals insidiously become saturated with moisture from the food you were sealing, and this moisture hardens and makes the seals hard and unusable.

And on some of these older models, you cannot even purchase new seals because they are no longer being produced.

Now a lot of people don't know about this secret I am about to divulge. In many of the older models, you can pull the seals completely out of their recessed slots. A slight tug will let you know if you can do this safely with your machine. If you were going to throw the machine out anyway, no harm done!

One month while one of my vacuum sealers was experiencing diminished vacuum abilities, I pulled both seals out and washed them in hot water with Dawn dishwashing detergent. After washing and rinsing them several times, and making sure that all of the former dried liquid was washed away, I replaced them back in their slots.

Voila! Both machines worked just like new. Now I find myself pulling the seals out and washing them every two months or so, and the vacuum sealers have been working perfectly for years.

So many people have given up on their old vacuum sealers because they think they are worn out, when in fact, the seals just need a good washing.

Also, there is a heating strip on each vacuum sealer. After each use, I will take a couple of paper towels and dampen them with regular water. Place the paper towels in the microwave for about 30 seconds, and then wipe the heating strip clean.

Anyway, that's my Christmas present to all of the fishermen who think that their vacuum sealers are shot.

Now for the fish report. Well, the Chetco needs rain badly. I see no immediate forecast of major rain, so cross your fingers that a storm will hit the area before New Years Day. The ocean continues to kick out large lingcod and rockfish when the seas are calm. Crabbing has slowed down a little, but those who are sticking with it are getting the occasional limit or half-limit if they lay their pots in 95 feet of water.