Action for Chinook salmon out of the Port of Brookings Harbor has and will continue to be totally off the charts, but only during those short windows of opportunity when anglers can catch a lucky break with Mother Nature.
This weekend, the National Weather Service is calling for 2- to 4-foot wind waves and gusty north winds in the 15- to 21- knot range at the salmon fishing grounds. If the NWS is right in their predictions, salmon anglers should again be seeing some fishable seas at the salmon grounds after the weekend is over.
Beginning Monday, the winds are slated to change from north to northwest, and are predicted to start abating toward 9 knots. By Tuesday, the winds are projected to die down to the 6- to 10-knot range and possibly settling down even more as the week progresses. The swell is slated to die down to 4 feet and the wind waves are also predicted to die down to the 1-foot range, and that suits this guy just fine.
If the NWS's predictions are true to form, anglers should be dialing in on the salmon this week, just like they have been in weeks past.
Except for one instance where my party had to come in early because of a sudden burst of high winds and seas, I've limited out on Chinook every day. On one particular afternoon, my friend and I were releasing 14-pound kings in order to hook up with one of those 30-pound Chinook that are so common in the ocean this year. And hook up with large Chinook we did.
On top of that, when one of us became hooked up, the other person experienced another hookup while reeling in his line to make way for the other guy. Numerous doubles were caught this way on that afternoon.
So when seas are favorable, 20-minute limits are common, should you choose to keep all of your legal-size kings. Consequently, the Port of Brookings Harbor is now the hottest port in the Pacific Northwest for Chinook. There are folks coming down from Bend and Eugene to experience the awesome salmon fishing.
But even with the fantastic fishing, you still have a few negative naysayers. When that highly unusual burst of salmon activity occurred during the first 10 days of opening season in May, a time when very quick limits of Chinook in the 20-pound class was a commonality, folks were coming up to me saying that the unusually-early salmon action was a harbinger that the rest of the season was going to be a bust.
Well, guess what? It's a harbinger all right - for good luck! It's now the middle of July and the salmon action has still been flat-out gangbusters out of the Port of Brookings Harbor, don't cha know?
Would you believe that folks are now saying that their wives are telling them not to bring home any more salmon? And here's one for the books: Anglers are actually coming up to me expressing the fact that they are sick and tired of catching salmon. I'm pretty sure there's a guy at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland bouncing off the walls in a white lab coat and a pocket protector trying to find a pill for that malady.
That would be like the Pope saying that he was bored with saying mass, or that Flipper lost his will to swim, or that Mozart was fed up with writing symphonies, or that Shakespeare was sick of penning prose - you get the picture.
Actually, most salmon aficionados in the local vicinity are sounding more like Sponge Bob.
"I'm ready - I'm ready - I'm ready!"
And the fish are getting even bigger day-by-day as well, with those 20-pound Chinook now being in the mid-20-pound class.
And the same growth rate can also be said about the coho salmon as well. At the very beginning of the salmon season, in May, I was catching and releasing coho that were in the 8-pound category. In June, I saw fish pushing the 10-pound mark, and one week ago, Mark Roland of Brookings caught (I hope you're sitting down for this) a 14-pound hatchery coho. I personally witnessed the weighing of this fish. For this time of year, that's an enormous coho.
Since coho are the fastest-growing salmonid that swims, it makes you wonder how big these coho are going to be at the end of the coho season south of Humbug Mountain toward August 10.
The ratio of hatchery (missing an adipose fin) coho to wild coho is also much higher this year than I've ever seen in years past, with the hatchery-to-wild coho ratio being at least 50 percent. As I have often said, these coho are going to be saving everyone's bacon this season, should the Chinook bite turn sour on any given day. That prediction is now coming to fruition. Those 14-pound coho could easily be pushing 15 or 16 pounds at the coho season's end in August.
Anglers are presently finding their fish in two locations. They are either heading straight for the border near the 42-degree line 4- to 6-miles from the Whistle Buoy on a 240-degree heading. Or they are heading out on a 270-degree heading and fishing between 5 and 8 miles in 220 to 240 feet of water off of Bird Island or off of Rainbow Rock.
So why are anglers having to venture out to sea so far? Because that's where that ideal 52-degree water is located, and that's where fishermen are finding rips, slicks, birds and bait.
The salmon that were being cleaned this week were also starting to show some signs of Pacific saury being in their stomachs, and saury are typically a fish that tuna devour. So keep your eyes peeled on the Terrafin Charts (terrafin.com) for that 59- to 62-degree ideal tuna water that will be approaching in weeks to come.
Presently, the commercial boys are bringing in some good-size albacore, and charter boat operator Wayne Butler at Prowler Charters in Bandon is planning on fishing next week for tuna in his area.
Currently, there is a pretty thick area of tuna water just north of the 43-degree line, about 30 miles off shore, and it looks to me like it's continuing to grow.
So if you've never caught a salmon in the ocean, now is the time to start booking a trip. Harvey Young of Fishawk River Company in Brookings has this fishery dialed in, and is ready, willing and able to take out a batch of cattle boaters ready to slay the fatted king.