Baitfish in the briny bay lure in the lazy lunkers

By Larry Ellis, fishing columnist August 04, 2012 09:41 am

Soon Ae Phillips landed this 25-plus pound Chinook while fishing in the ocean with her husband Robert last week out of the Port of Brookings Harbor. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
 

Fishing report for 

July 27-August 2

There’s only one thing more exciting than catching a Chinook salmon in the ocean – catching an ocean salmon in the Chetco Bay. And that’s exactly happened last week when an angler, who was visiting from Klamath Falls, decided to fling a one-ounce gold Kastmaster into the Chetco Bay from the crab pier on Wednesday. The lure shook hands with the inside of a salmon’s mouth.

 

Some people might have called that lone Chinook bite a lucky strike, but what followed was a chain of events that defined why Brookings is fishing paradise. After landing his fish, the jetty warrior handed off his rod to his daughter. Bang – Chinook number two bit the dust on the same lure.

A definite pattern started emerging when on the next day, an angler hooked and landed another hefty king.

All three of these fish were cut out of the same mold; nice 15- to 18-pound Chinook – the exact size salmon that have been dominating the red-hot action out in the ocean last week.

These are not the Chetco’s fall fish that enter the river in October. These are fat, succulent specimens that taste exactly like ocean kings. So why not join in the fun and toss a few spoons?

The hottest spoons for fishing the Chetco estuary have always been Krocodiles, Kastmasters and Little Cleos. Fishing the a lure with the correct weight is critical if you want put the hurtin’ on these Chinook, and each lure has a favored weight that works best in the Chetco Bay.

For instance, if you want to throw a Krocodile, you will definitely want to go with the one-ounce models. Back in ’81, Clay Mansur and I clocked kings from the north jetty like it was going out of style using one-ounce chrome Krocodiles – the one with the red stripe going down its side. That was about the only color that was made back in that day, but now you can try out a multitude of color combinations that might work better on one day than the next.

You can never go wrong using the aforementioned red-striped model, but plain chrome or chrome with a blue stripe works great also.

When it comes to Kastmasters, you’ll want to carry both three-quarter and one-ounce versions.

When using light line such as 12- or 15-pound test in an estuary with little current, the three-quarter ounce models are the only way to go. But if you’re using heavier line such as 20 or 25-pound test, and especially if there is a strong incoming or outgoing tide, you’ll want to up size to one ounce.

I always say that you can’t go wrong with a gold Kastmaster, but other popular colors are chrome, chrome/blue or chrome/green.

It is also important not to tie your line directly to the hole in a brand new Kastmaster or you will quickly break off the lure. For these fish catching magnets, you’ll want to tie a snap swivel or a ball bearing snap swivel to the end of your line first.

Little Cleos are the third most popular spoon used in the Chetco. The most popular-size Cleos are three-quarter ounce and one-and-one-quarter ounce, with chrome or chrome/blue being the most popular colors.

Spoon fishing 101

There are a few things anglers need to remember when fishing with all of these spoons. First of all, you need to be at or near the bottom. At or near the bottom may not always be the right thing to do, but it will always be the right thing to do – most of the time!

I wish I could claim that last phrase, but in all honesty and in danger of some serious plagiarism, I have to credit a man named Clancy Holt for that quote.

Another important aspect of spoon fishing has to do with the speed in which you are reeling in the lure. Chinook like their offerings presented to them nice and slow, and the slower, the better. Since Chinook will be biting these lures close to the bottom, you will need to let your lure drop back to the bottom occasionally.

But probably the greatest tip a person could get regarding fishing spoons is to fish them on-the-flutter, also called on-the-drop.

People will often say that their spoons got whacked accidentally while the pieces of metal were sinking to the bottom. Guaranteed, those strikes are no accidents.

By nature, most fish, especially salmon, are enticed by the action of a dying baitfish. A dying baitfish will suddenly expend all of its energy trying to rise to the surface, but after exhausting itself, it will flutter back to the bottom in a side-to-side, or rolling movement.

Learn to fish your spoons this way on purpose and you’ll catch more salmon.

The main technique is to toss your lure toward the hard edge of a baitfish school, and let the lure flutter to the bottom on a nearly-tight line. That’s a hair from being taut, yet a hair from being too slack. You will be detecting most of the bites by feeling the line between your thumb and forefinger of one hand.

The bite will be very faint; like a BB fell from the sky onto your finger. You’ll only feel this bite one time, so if you feel this sensation or if you see your line suddenly twitch, set the hook immediately.

If you don’t get a bite on your initial cast, let your spoon flutter back to the bottom, lift the lure about 2 feet and then allow it to flutter back to the bottom again, always feeling for a bite as the lure is falling.

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Salmon fishing in the ocean continues to be excellent, some of the best action I’ve seen in the ocean in the 31 years I’ve lived in Brookings. Limits have been quite common.

Try using a nose cone to give your trolled anchovy some extra life. Chartreuse is by far, the go-to color. My favorite nose cone is the Bechhold Rotary Bait Holder, but other anglers are catching their fair share of kings using FBR nose cones as well.

Tight lines!