Salmon warriors may begin trolling their favorite setups today, May 10, for salmon in the ocean from Humbug Mountain to the Oregon/California border. This is an "all salmon except coho" fishery, but anglers will primarily be catching Chinook. Hatchery coho are off limits north of the Oregon/California border until that particular season opens on June 21.
Locating Chinook is going to be the most difficult task in the beginning of the season, but once the recreational salmon fleet finds the bulk of the fish, simply make tracks for the fleet and it's bombs away. Early in the season, the salmon will usually be off the shrimp beds, about 7 to 8 miles from port. By the time June rolls around it's game on in the local vicinity.
But it is always better to be an autonomous salmon warrior and know how to find the fish yourself. No matter where the bulk of the fleet may be, there are always a specific set of conditions that sets an angler up for a self-shaped salmon spree.
First of all, and most importantly, you'll definitely want to find those ideal salmon water temperatures between 52 and 53 degrees. Secondly, locate baitfish and/or krill in the same area on your fish finder. Third, verify that bait is there by finding birds flying overhead. If they're bobbing up and down in the water scooping up baitfish with their beaks, so much the better. The fourth ideal condition is locating a trash line. Find all the aforementioned conditions in the same area, and you can start counting your fish before your rods go down.
A trash line is very obvious visually. It's usually a rip current of rougher water containing debris such as pieces of kelp and other material generally straddling an area of calmer, flatter water. Trash lines can continue for several miles. If the calmer side of the trash line isn't producing salmon, try trolling on the side that contains more debris. If you happen to visually spot a solid wall of bait, definitely switch tactics and troll on the open side just straddling the bait line.
Trolling speed is paramount in getting Chinook to bite. They like to engulf bait that is moving as slow as possible. If you're using a nose cone such as the Bechhold Rotary Bullet Bait Holder (chartreuse is my fave), then you'll want to troll between 1.8 and 2.2 miles an hour in order to get the bait to spin properly. If you're not using a nose cone but are trolling straight bait, then you can drop the trolling speed a wee bit slower.
Trolling faster than 2.2 knots will get you hooked up more often with coho than with Chinook. This is a tactic that will work to your benefit when the coho season opens on June 21.
Last season, salmon were caught fairly close to shore, and if everyone is lucky, that scenario may repeat itself again this year.
5 1/2-inch anchovies are usually the go-to bait this time of the year, but I like to keep a half dozen packages of both 5 1/2- and 6-inch anchovies on hand.
The salmon may not show up until June this year, but always be prepared to catch them in mid- to late-May. No matter how bad the fishing may appear to be, there is always a show-off at the cleaning station filleting a limit of Chinook.
The bottom fishing has been spectacular all season with last week being no exception. Rockfish of all species came to the fillet station and there were a lot of lings in the 20-pound class being filleted.
The Rogue Reef in Gold Beach produced some nice 20- and 30-pound lingosaurs last week as well.
Surfperch fishing still remained very good at locations like Crissey Field, the Winchuck beach, McVay Beach, Sporthaven Beach and Chetco Point Park.
As of this writing the halibut quota for the Southern Oregon Subarea (SOS) had not yet been attained, so be sure to check with ODFW online and with local ODFW port samplers to make sure that the Pacific halibut season is still open. The seas should be calm enough in the beginning of the week for fishermen to trip the barn door fantastic.