Free fishing – what could be better?

By Larry Ellis, fishing columnist June 08, 2012 10:52 pm

Larry Ellis hoists one of the Chinook he caught last week while fishing out of the Port of Brookings with Captain Jim Bithell of Charthouse Sportfishing. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Larry Ellis hoists one of the Chinook he caught last week while fishing out of the Port of Brookings with Captain Jim Bithell of Charthouse Sportfishing. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Fishing report for 

June 1-7

Today and tomorrow, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is trying to spread an infection. It’s a highly-contagious disease called fisheremia, formally known as fishing fever, and they’re doing it by allowing anyone to fish, crab or clam this weekend, June 9 and 10, without buying a fishing or shellfish license.

When ODFW says “free,” they mean it. Not only are you not required to have a fishing license, you also are not required to possess a combined angling tag, which means that anglers in Oregon are not required to mark down whether they’ve caught a hatchery or wild salmon or steelhead, a sturgeon or a Pacific halibut.

Here’s a couple “what if” scenarios that I know must have popped into everybody’s mind from time to time.

What if a person has already bought a fishing license and a combined angling tag? Is that person still required to mark down fish on their tag? Again, during Free Fishing Weekend, “Free means Free”. Anglers who have already purchased a combined angling tag are not required to mark down the aforementioned fish on their tag.

But what if a person has already tagged out on salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or Pacific halibut? Does that mean that a person cannot angle for those fish anymore? Refer to the previous paragraph.

This is the only time of year when an angler can be tagged out on a specific fish species and still retain additional fish.

However, there is a catch (pardon the pun) to the previously-made statements. Anglers must still abide by the 2012 ODFW fishing and shellfishing regulations.

There are a few events this weekend to entice the youth into getting hooked on fishing. Last week, Libby Pond was stocked with 5,000 catchable rainbow trout and 300 of ODFW’s pride-and-joy trophy rainbows. Today, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 12 p.m., there will be a fishing derby including prizes for children 13 years of ºage and younger. Loaner fishing equipment and gear will be available for the kids.

Then on Sunday, anyone can fish for these trout.

Then, at Elk River Hatchery in Port Orford both today and tomorrow, there will be an event for kids 10 and younger from 8 am to 4 pm. The youth can fish one day but not the other, to ensure that everyone has an equal chance at battling a strapping rainbow. Last year, kids caught some monster rainbow trout – for the very first time! Fisheremia was running rampant that year.



Nothing tastes better than an ocean-caught Chinook; that is, unless it’s a spring Chinook caught in the ocean. The 2.2-million projection of Klamath River and Sacramento River kings swimming in the ocean doesn’t take into account all of the ocean spring Chinook that are being caught and, without a doubt, there were lots of those fish coming to the Brookings fillet station.

Last week provided extraordinary ocean and feed conditions for anglers trolling for Chinook out of the Port of Brookings Harbor.

The week before last’s fishing report focused on the large amount of krill and small anchovies that were intermingling inside the Chinooks’ stomachs. What a difference a few days can make.

Last week I dissected numerous Chinook stomachs and was hard-pressed to find any baitfish in them at all. However, their stomachs were just bulging with krill. For those reasons, the Chinook tended to be light-biters.

While fishing with Jim Bithell from Charthouse Sportfishing and local fishing enthusiast Danny Murillo on June 1, we had a chance to catch our limit of ocean kings up to 15 pounds. In addition, I got a first-hand insight into the keen mind of a first-rate salmon guide.

Because the salmon were only filled with krill, they were accustomed to taking small bites of bait rather than taking full-blown inhalations of anchovies, hence the light-biting kings.

One of the tricks that Jim used (and is now in my salmon repertoire), had to do with fishing deep for salmon using downriggers. When a salmon bit the anchovy running from the downriggers, it tended to peck-peck-peck at the bait before finally tripping the downrigger snap. But instead of the rod doubling over, which happens when salmon are feeding on anchovies, the Chinook had a tendency of swimming with the boat at its trolling speed.

When this happened, Jim immediately kicked the reel into free-spool and started giving the salmon some slack line.

“He’s got the bait,” said Bithell, as he was feeding the salmon line. The next series of phrases was always a repeat performance: “He’s still swimming with it – he’s taking it – he’s taking it,” and finally, “FISH ON!”

So it really behooves a person to cut open salmon stomachs to see what they have been eating. If the vast majority of stomachs are filled with krill instead of baitfish, remember Bithell’s trick. It really pays off big time.

We did have a couple of savage take downs that didn’t stick, all coming from Delta Divers. I prefer to use Delta Divers now rather than the Deep Six Divers.

I think that the Deltas tend to dive deeper. Using 65-pound PowerPro braided line loaded on line-counter reels, you can almost count on the depth of the diver being half of what your line counter is reading in feet.

So if your line-counter reel is reading 90, your Delta Diver is probably around 45-feet deep. I am fully confident that one of my doubled-over take-downs was 70 feet deep, right where we were marking salmon.

The only disadvantage of Delta Divers is that you cannot get them to trip while reeling them in, like you can with the Deep Six models. But when you’re fighting a salmon on a Delta Diver, the fish moves the leader swivel toward the back of the diver, enabling you to fight the fish with no drag whatsoever.

With a Deep Six Diver, it sometimes trips when you don’t want it to trip, and then you’ve got no choice but to reel in the entire rig in order to reset the diver – big waste of time!

Sunday was the best day of this year’s season, with over 60 Chinook being counted by ODFW’s fish checkers. As soon as the ocean lays down again, hopefully this week, they’ll be back.

Tight lines!