For the best learning experience, hire a river guide

By Larry Ellis, fishing columnist April 20, 2012 11:33 pm

Ernie Nevarez from Grants Pass and two friends fished the ocean out of the Port of Brookings Harbor and caught a variety of groundfish like this kelp greenling (left), black rockfish, lingcod and China cod. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
 

Fishing report for 

April 13-19

Years ago, Dusty Routh, one of the top feature writers for Fishing & Hunting News gave me the best advice I ever had. He told me that every minute you spend on a fishing guide’s boat is invaluable. If I could, I would thank Dusty for that one priceless nugget of information.

It’s been several years now since Dusty has passed, and I have hung on every word of that sentence. One of my favorite sayings now is, “Hiring a good Rogue River fishing guide is tuition well spent”.

 

Last week the numbers spoke for themselves: Jay Lander – eight fish in one day; John Anderson – 11 fish on, two lost at the boat. While I don’t have the exact numbers, I know that Gene Garner was also top dog on the lower Rogue. The list goes on and on. If you want a comprehensive list of stellar Rogue River fishing guides, stop in the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach and Jim Carey will be happy to hand you a pamphlet listing them.

Here’s how I look at the tuition analogy. Depending on the guide and the amount of people who are on a boat, it could cost anywhere between $150 and $200 per person for an eight-hour springer trip.

Let’s say that a person wanted to take a hypothetical springer fishing class at Oregon State University (Go Beavers!), a class that we shall call “Springerology 101”.  That class would meet three times a week for one long semester, amounting to three credits, and the cost for that class would be in the neighborhood of $750.

For most of the semester, you would be delving into the history of spring Chinook and how the ice ages played a role in their evolution. By the time the semester ends in four months, you would be lucky if you learned how to rig up correctly.

The real question is – would you be able to take that knowledge learned in the classroom and be able to apply it to a real river? The answer is – not likely! There are some things that just can’t be learned from a book, or from an article for that matter.

In the end, there’s nothing that can take the place of fishing in real time with a person who is not only successful at catching springers, but grew up on the river you are fishing as well, because as they say, “local knowledge is extremely hard to come by.”

If you think of your fishing guide as your teacher and you’re the student, you can gain more knowledge by asking questions and taking copious notes in one day, than you would gain by fishing on your own for a decade.

The Rogue River springer fishery is a highly technical fishery with a steep learning curve. From only one course on the water with a skilled guide, you will be taking the information that you learned with you for the rest of your life – and all for less than one-third the price of an OSU class. In today’s economy, that’s a great deal.


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Saltwater anglers usually think of the best fishing occurring on the incoming tide, from two hours before high tide through high slack. This week, however, anglers wanting to fill their freezers with fresh lingcod, cabezon and rockfish fillets should pay attention to the early morning low slack tides as well, especially during the hour before the change of low tide.

Weather permitting, ideal low slack tides will start on Monday at 7:52 a.m. In this case, boaters should be on the water at 7 a.m. to make sure that they reap the benefits of the change of low tide, when limits can often be attained in an hour. As the week progresses, low slack tide opportunities will increase by approximately 48 minutes each day.

For the best online tide charts for the Brookings Harbor vicinity, make the following link one of your favorites: http://www.tides4fishing. com/us/oregon/brookings-chetco-cove.

Surfperch fishermen can also have some very good action during the change of low tide as well. There are several places where surf anglers can find both striped and redtail surfperch. Starting at the border, Crissey Field, just south of the Winchuck River is often a great place to find the mottled slabs.

Another stalwart surfperch spot is about one-half mile up the beach on the other side of the Winchuck River, which is accessed from the Winchuck River Wayside.

Going north on 101, McVay State Park is another popular surfperch fishing area. Here, you will want to hike down the trail and fish just south of the trail’s end.

Another great location is directly in front of the motel at Sporthaven Beach. Traveling further north, Chetco Point Park is another great spot for surfperch, kelp greenling, rockfish and lingcod.


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Trout fishermen, last week Garrison Lake near Port Orford was planted with 3,000 catchable-size rainbows and 200 larger-size ‘bows, so there should still be plenty of those fish left plus some large holdover rainbows that wintered over.

I’ve had some of my best fishing right from the docks at the public boat ramp. One method that really works well here is threading a clear plastic bobber up your main line and tying your line off to a small crane swivel. Affix a 20-inch leader to the end of the swivel with a size 16 gold treble hook on the leader’s end loaded with PowerBait.

Open the clear bobber and allow it to fill about halfway with lake water. This makes the bobber slightly more than neutrally buoyant, allowing it to sink very slowly.

This is a great technique when fishing around weedy areas, where trout are hanging out waiting for insect hatches. After your cast, reel in the bobber very slowly. It will sink inch by inch as you slowly wind in your line, allowing you to cover a lot of water while keeping the rig free from weeds.

Always keep four colors of PowerBait with you: Rainbow, Cheese, Chartreuse and Fluorescent Orange. Use between 2- and 4-pound test and get ready to get hammered by one of those holdover rainbows.

Tight lines!