It was another disappointing week for local-area salmon enthusiasts who were craving to be on the water out of the Port of Brookings Harbor, but were beset with gusty northwest winds and sub-par salmon water temperatures again preventing fishermen from crossing the bar and trolling their favorite setups for Chinook salmon. But as the saying goes, when the mountain cannot come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain.
So last week, many Brookings anglers who had the foresight to follow that famous old adage, as well as predictions made by the National Weather Service, loaded up their boats and made the trek to Del Norte Harbor on Thursday, a day where mild seas and winds less than 5 mph were predicted to occur.
Those who made the 27-mile drive to Del Norte Harbor found salmon-perfection ocean temperatures between 49 and 51 degrees, and seas as flat as a sheet of liquid mercury, beckoning them to troll anchovies in a Chinook-rich environment.
It was my good fortune to have been one of those anglers, where two other friends and I all limited out on an excellent grade of king salmon ranging between 18 and 28 pounds. This was nothing less than a continuation of mid-May's excellent salmon action, and a harbinger of upcoming Chinook activity. I lost one salmon right at the net that was easily over 30 pounds, and we were one of many boats who caught limits of Chinook that day.
Approximately 3 miles from port, most of the fish were caught on a southwest heading in water depths ranging from 190 to 205 feet. I have to mention that, if you head directly south, it will take you 9 miles to get to 205 feet of water - and you don't want to do that if you can help it. So southwest young man, go southwest.
Numerous other boats were catching their salmon using downriggers to get their gear down to the salmon, but since our vessel did not come equipped with downriggers, we used Delta Divers and spreader bar/cannonball sinker combos to get the bait down to the salmon.
The 4-ounce Delta Divers are my personal preference. Here is how I like to rig up my diver rig from start to finish.
I like to start with a medium-action rod between 9 and 10 1/2 feet. G-Loomis, Shakespeare, Rogue Rods and IM 8 Air rods are all great, but my personal preference is the Lamiglas Kenai Kwik XCC 934 GH 9' 3" stick. Since I'm an old Shimano fan, I load my Bantam 50 with either 25-pound test Maxima Ultragreen monofilament, or Berkley Big Game monofilament. Of course, I've got those really great Smooth Drag carbon fiber drag washers locked and loaded (smoothdrag.com.)
You'll either want to tie your main line directly to the Delta Diver or use a screw swivel, and then run exactly 16 inches (no more; no less) of 60-pound monofilament from your Delta Diver to a Les Davis size 000 Herring Dodger. From the dodger, attach a 36-inch 2-hook sliding mooching leader made of 40-pound test and then hook a 5 1/2- or a 6-inch anchovy to the hooks using a standard mooching rigging. I always run a chartreuse-colored Bechhold Bullet Bait Holder in front of the hooks, but leaders without rotating bait holders caught fish that day as well.
The Chinook in today's photo was caught on the Bechhold Bullet rigging.
Usually Delta Divers are deployed using the "pull" method. One pull equals the length from the end of your reel to the first eyelet of your rod, or in the case of the Lamiglas model, about 2 feet. This particular Chinook was caught at 60 pulls, almost the equivalent of 120 feet of line being let out, but many Chinook and coho were caught using as few as 32 pulls.
In addition to the Chinook, we also caught and released numerous coho in the 5- to 7-pound class, many of which were missing an adipose fin (hatchery coho). This bodes very well for the upcoming coho season in Oregon from the California/Oregon border to Cape Falcon, which starts one week from today, Saturday, June 21. The coho season will last through August 10, or until the 80,000-coho quota is attained. It is illegal to keep a coho in California.
I doubt seriously that 80,000 coho will be caught, so I anticipate that a full hatchery coho season will occur in Oregon.
Because of the vast amount of coho that are available, and the huge amount of hatchery fish that I saw so far, I also urge all Oregon angling license holders to purchase a hatchery harvest tag. These tags are going to come in handy this year.
If the Chinook fishing should happen to be a little slow one day, these huge coho are going to save everyone's bacon. The price of a hatchery harvest tag is $16.50 and a tag allows an angler to mark down 10 hatchery salmon or steelhead. There is no limit on the amount of hatchery harvest tags an angler can purchase.
If this year is anything like last season, these northwest winds should be dying down toward the end of the month, and there should be plenty of Chinook and coho being caught.