Opening day trout season; halibut, lingcod and more
Written by Larry Ellis, fishing columnist   
May 25, 2012 08:55 pm

Tom West, of Medford, caught this 30-pound, 41-inch halibut while fishing off the coast of Brookings this last week. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
 

Fishing report for 

May 18-24

Last week, a few lucky anglers who fished near the Thomas Creek Bridge in depths ranging from 220 to 250 feet were rewarded with some nice Pacific halibut. The following halibut regulations only apply south of Humbug Mountain, six miles south of Port Orford.Tight lines!

 

Sunday was the first day this season where I witnessed a boat with three passengers catching their limit, the limit being one Pacific halibut per person per day.

One of the halibut, caught by Tom West of Medford, measured 41 inches. Nobody had a scale with them to get an official weight, but there is a universal halibut length chart that is pretty darned accurate for weights as long as you have a given length. According to that chart, this flattie would have weighed 31.7 pounds, but it looked a lot beefier.

Sunday was a good day for a few Pacific halibut anglers as well, with the ocean being about as calm as I’ve seen it all year. On this day, the same vessel had caught a halibut that was estimated by one of the fish checkers to be around 40 pounds.

That’s about the time a local Brookings couple pulling a Boston Whaler pulled up to the fillet station. The gentleman asked me if I would be so kind as to help him get his halibut out of the boat to put onto the fillet table.

Being the alpha male who I think I am, I was happy to oblige. My ego almost earned me a hernia. This sucker was so heavy, I couldn’t fling it onto the table with one hand. So using both hands, I finally managed to maneuver the barn door onto the table. The grimace has been permanently etched in my face.

Now, on the halibut conversion chart, there is only one length where the numeral equates to an exact weight in pounds, that length being 46 inches. In other words, a 46-inch halibut almost always weighs 46 pounds.

Another one of the fish checkers sauntered over to the halibut to get an exact measurement. This one was precisely 45 inches long. I’m calling the weight of this fish 45.9999 pounds. The next time I come to the cleaning station, I’m bringing my Berkley digital scale, and anyone is welcome to ask me to weigh their fish for them.

For Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, I counted at least seven halibut brought to the Brookings cleaning station.

The great thing about those three days was that again, limits of lingcod and rockfish were very common. Anglers were lined up elbow-to-elbow at the port’s facility, waiting for their turn to fillet their fish. Upon seeing the long lines, some fishermen just shrugged their shoulders and made tracks for home to clean their fish.

The ocean got a little bit too juicy for comfort on Thursday due to a cold front packing a wallop and kicking up some high wind and swells, but as soon as the ocean dies down again, I’d venture to say that there will be lingcod, rockfish and possibly another halibut or two brought to the cleaning station. Right now, it’s looking a little lumpy on the horizon, but the big pond is supposed to get calmer toward the middle of the week.

Anglers should also be aware that groundfish are not permitted on board a vessel that is fishing in water outside of the 30-fathom curve. Most people think of groundfish as only being rockfish, lingcod and sea trout; groundfish also refers to other fish such as sanddabs, various types of sole, and other beasts called skates.

While it is not likely that you’ll hook a sanddab or a sole while fishing with large halibut hooks, there is a strong likelihood that you could latch into a skate.

Skates often approach weights that reach or exceed 100 pounds, so if you’re fishing past the 30-fathom curve, make sure to release all skates.

Thirty fathoms is 180 feet deep, but depth alone does not define where the 30-fathom curve exists. The 30-fathom curve is defined by way-points.

A person can be fishing for groundfish in depths greater than 180 feet and still be well inside of the 30 fathom curve. Conversely, an angler could be fishing for groundfish in water shallower than 180 feet and actually be outside of the 30-fathom curve. So make sure you know the coordinates for the 30-fathom curve, which can be found at the following link: http://www.dfw.state.or.us

/MRP/regulations/sport_fishing/docs/30fmwaypts.pdf.

It is also worth mentioning that catching groundfish within the 30-fathom curve and then going fishing for halibut outside the 30-fathom curve is also a violation. So if you wanted to target both species in one day, your best bet would be to first catch your halibut and then come inside the 30-fathom curve to fish for lingcod and rockfish.

There is one exception to this rule. It would be perfectly legal to catch groundfish first and then fish for halibut, but if, and only if, you were fishing for both species within the 30-fathom curve.

It is also worth mentioning that California halibut, which can exceed weights of 30 pounds, is also considered a groundfish.

Surf fishermen were also bringing plenty of limits of redtail and striped surfperch to the fillet station as well. One gentleman claimed to have caught his limit in less than two hours. Folks have been fishing the usual surfperch haunts from Crissy Field clear up to the Rogue River south jetty, and almost everyone was using small pieces of raw shrimp for bait.

Ocean Chinook were scarce last week, probably due to cold water temperature. But as soon as the ocean warms up to 52 degrees, anglers should be bringing kings hand over fist.

Trout season on the Chetco officially opened today, May 26. Memorial Day weekend is usually the official kickoff for catching sea-run cutthroat trout.

The minimum size is 8 inches. The limit is two trout per angler with only one trout over 20 inches allowed to be retained in one day.

Anglers may use bait in tidewater, but only flies and artificial lures are allowed above tidewater. The best bait, hands down is a staghorn sculpin fillet. Anglers who want to fish above tidewater can do quite well on Rooster Tails, Panther Martins and Mepps spinners.