Countdown to the Slam’n Salmon Derby

By Larry Ellis, fishing columnist August 24, 2012 09:53 pm

Roger Thompson of Brookings, owner of Driftwood RV Park – one of the sponsors for the Slam’n Salmon Ocean Derby – hoists two Chinook he caught out in the ocean on Wednesday. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
 

Fishing report for 

August 17-23

It’s time to start counting backwards. There are only six days to go before the 10th annual Slam’n Salmon Derby of 2012 officially begins.

The check-in portion of the derby begins this coming Thursday, when registration and badge pick up starts at 12 p.m. Vendors, sponsors and the beer garden become available at noon as well. Then at 4 p.m., a derby kick-off party will launch the festivities, with the actual derby fishing taking place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

 

This time last season, salmon fishing in the ocean was so horrible that only 47 Chinook were weighed in at 2011’s derby. But what a difference only one year can make.

There are a lot of reasons for anglers to get jazzed about this year’s tournament. In my personal opinion, as long as boats can cross the bar, the ocean will provide salty salmon slayers with the highest numbers of fall Chinook ever caught in the history of the derby.

For the last two months, I have experienced the best ocean salmon fishing in the 32 years I have lived in Brookings, so there’s no reason to fear that the great fishing of 2012 would suddenly take a weekend holiday.

Just thinking about the great salmon fishing in the ocean we’ve had this year sends chills up and down my spine.

While I try to withhold using fish-catching clichés like “wide-open” or “lights-out,” I can truthfully say that last week provided anglers with both phrases – and then some! It certainly did for me and river guide Jack Hanson of Jack’s Guide Service last Monday, when Jack decided to take a day off from work to do some fun fishing with yours truly.

We fished the afternoon bite; the same as the title of a Charles Bronson movie –From Noon Till Three.

There was a period when the fishing was absolutely off the charts. While fishing about four miles from shore on a 210 heading, we baited up with anchovies and proceeded to troll naked ‘chovies behind some dodgers and divers. But before we had a chance to sit down, one of the rods would go off. This activity continued for at least one straight hour.

Some of the fish were coho, while others were Chinook just one-half inch shy of the minimum 24-inch length. We must have hooked and released a dozen or more fish before finally heading for the barn at 3 p.m. with our limit of four kings. It was without a doubt, some of the hottest salmon action I’ve ever experienced.

The week before that, I was fortunate enough to have fished with Robert Phillips of Brookings aboard his boat High Hopes. We limited out that day as well. As a matter of fact, Robert and I had one trip where we experienced two doubles in the same day, and were back to the fish-cleaning station by 8:30 a.m. Again, the terms “wide-open” and “light’s-out” spring to mind.

These are the reasons why anglers can expect some fantastic salmon action in this year’s Slam’n Salmon Derby; the derby that his literally put Brookings on the map.

Here’s what contestants can expect from their one-time derby fee of $50.

“The registration fee includes a Sunday salmon barbecue ticket,” said derby event coordinator Tawndy Davidson from the Port of Brookings Harbor. “Additional tickets can be purchased for only $10.”

These are ocean-caught Chinook, the highest-eating-quality salmon in the world. The cost of dining on these epicurean delights at a restaurant would be upwards toward $25.

“These are going to be locally-caught salmon by Caito Fisheries,” says Davidson. “The salmon is barbecued in our super secret salmon marinade. We’re preparing for at least 1,400 salmon barbecues which includes fresh corn on the cob, dinner roll, potato salad and juicy watermelon.”

The barbecue starts at 3 p.m. on Sunday, the last day of the tournament. But it’s the prize money that anglers will be vying for on Friday, Saturday and Sunday – cash prizes over $10,000.

The grand cash award will be $5,000 for the largest fish by weight, $2,500 for the second largest, and $1,000 for the third largest salmon. In addition, there will be a $1,000 cash award given for the heaviest three-day combined weight, so it is actually possible for a lucky angler to take home $9,500 in grand prize cash awards.  But the prize money doesn’t stop there.

Largest fish of the day is $250, second largest is $150 and third largest is $125. In addition, there will be a cash prize of $100 for the smallest legal salmon of the day.

“We still are doing our $100 cash prize for every fish over 50 pounds and a $50 award for every fish over 40 pounds,” says Davidson. “Just catch a fish over 40 pounds and you get your registration fee back.”

All together, the combined cash and prize awards will be over $15,000. So sharpen your hooks and buy plenty of bait. You’ll also want to ice down your catch to prevent spoilage with that great salted ice that the port sells for a nominal fee.

C&K Markets and Ray’s Food Place will be operating the breakfast food tent in the morning, with lunch options for hungry anglers to take with them for a fee.

The derby’s schedule can be found at www.slamnsalmon.com, or call the port office at 541-469-2218.

Anglers should also be aware that there are some coho that are approaching 15 pounds or more, so know your identification. Coho are illegal to retain in the ocean and must be released.

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According to river guide Jack Hanson, the Klamath River is just “plugged with salmon.” It’s getting them to bite that’s the tricky part. But still, I have heard of several 16-Chinook days for four anglers. Don’t forget, the limit for fall kings this year is four fish per angler with a possession limit of eight fish per angler.

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The Rogue Bay has finally kicked into gear with several 40-plus fish days, according to Jim Carey, owner of the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach, with good numbers of summer steelhead entering the river as well.

“We’ve also had great bottom fishing when the weather has been good,” says Carey. “We’re seeing a bunch of Vermilion and lingcod, and the surf perch fishing is still strong and going strong.”

Tight lines!