I keep telling my non-fishing friends that the salmon fishing in the ocean in this neck of the woods has never been better. They tell me that I have been saying the same thing every year. In actuality, I've only been making this statement with zeal for the last three years.
I truly don't remember when the fishing has been better, and I've been fishing the Brookings area for 33 years now. So when I say the salmon fishing is good, I have over three decades of experience to draw from. I truthfully do not know if we will ever experience another season as good as the one that is taking place at this very moment. I mean, it could happen next year, or it could happen 10 years from now - or it just could be never.
So if you want to experience some light's-out, wide-open salmon action, get out there and troll your anchovies. Since many anglers do not own their own boats, there are also a whole gaggle of local guides who have years under their belts fishing the local area. If you want to put some meat in the freezer, this is the year to do it.
Off hand, I can recall at least four guides who have been fishing this area for both Chinook and coho salmon, and they're all excellent.
First you've got Jim Bithell from Charthouse Sportfishing. Jim learned his art from the best, the late, the great, Dave Lehton. Jim has often been running two trips a day.
I was in the fish cleaning station last week when Jim was filleting a group's catch of kings and silvers. At one point, an envious angler gazed at the 20-pounders he was filleting and asked when the soonest date was available on his calendar. Thirty minutes later, the lucky gent and a few other fishermen were killing the coveting king.
Joe Whaley of Joe Whaley's Guide Service has also been knocking the snot out of both kings and silvers every day he can get on the water. Joe's fishing prowess is well known to the locals, and besides being one of the best guides on the water, he is also a lot of fun to fish with. They just don't get any better.
Then there's Captain Matt Flescher from Tidewind Sportfishing, who sent me an email last week telling me of the excellent weekend his clients were experiencing. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the crew at Tidewind. They flat-out know how to fish.
Anybody who has fished the Smith River knows Dave Castellanos of Cast Guide Service. But what many people do not know is that Dave has expanded his guiding expertise to the ocean.
I received Dave's phone call early last Saturday; he was so excited about the fishing he could hardly hold his phone steady. Dave had eight fish in the boat by 10 a.m., and one of his clients was just about to boat the ninth king.
I would have loved to have taken photos of David's hawgzillas, but I was also on the water that Saturday with a friend, experiencing the best day of salmon fishing I've had all year.
So if you're a guide and feel left out of being mentioned in this column, all you have to do is either call me or send me an email describing how your week went.
The salmon fishing was flat-out stellar last week, with Saturday being a glassy-smooth, bluebird day. Anglers were no longer being forced to fish at 100 to 150 feet deep, and use braided line in order to hook up.
It was another name-your-favorite number for deploying "the pull method" while trolling 4-ounce Delta Divers, flashers or dodgers, and 36-inch mooching leaders. Monofilament mainline was the rule rather than the exception.
The salmon were again all throughout the water column, with most anglers concentrating near the 42-degree line near the Oregon/California border.
I caught salmon at 17 pulls, 19 pulls, 27 pulls, 32 pulls, 57 pulls, 70 pulls and 80 pulls, all lucky numbers for me.
Chinook are either averaging in the 12- to 14-pound bracket (age-3 kings), or they are running from 15 to 25 pounds (age-4 Chinook). On the Saturday last, I threw back four kings and several fin-clipped coho that were pushing the 11-pound mark.
Remember that the limit is two salmon per day. At this point in time, the salmon could be Chinook or fin-clipped (hatchery) coho. There have been a few less-than-stellar Chinook bite periods where anglers have been opting to keep these beautiful fat succulent coho.
This year, the hatchery rate on coho is extremely high. So make sure to buy Hatchery Harvest Tags to mark these bad boys on. $16.50 for 10 fish - that's $1.65 a fish. Greatest deal in Oregon. Anglers may keep any combination of salmon that add up to two.
So you can keep two Chinook, or one Chinook and one coho, or two coho if you so desire. The coho season will last through August 10, or until a landed quota of 80,000 coho are caught. But I do not anticipate this quota to be attained, especially considering that the ocean north of Gold Beach has been extremely windy, creating hazardous seas for boaters.
The fact is, every day that anglers have been able to get on the water, salmon are being caught with abandon. It might take a person a few tries to ascertain the correct depth in which to troll their anchovies, or use the pull method to get deep-diving divers to get the bait down to the fish. So if you're not getting bit at 32 pulls, try trolling shallower, say - 27 pulls. If that doesn't get you bit within 10 minutes, try fishing between 17 and 19 pulls and see if that doesn't improve your luck.
The most important thing when trolling for Chinook, and this cannot be emphasized enough, is to look for slicks, rips, birds and trash lines. Even if your meter does not mark individual large salmon - do not let that keep you from fishing. The presence of these aforementioned scenarios are all a person needs to garner hookups from thumb-burning Chinook or scrappy silvers.