Fish while you can: Ocean salmon season closes Sunday
Written by Larry Ellis, fishing columnist   
September 08, 2012 07:31 am

Byron Bishop of Brookings caught this 25.3-pound Chinook on Saturday while fishing with his grandfather Buddy Cappello, earning him a $300 cash award for both second largest fish and combined total weight for the day. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Byron Bishop of Brookings caught this 25.3-pound Chinook on Saturday while fishing with his grandfather Buddy Cappello, earning him a $300 cash award for both second largest fish and combined total weight for the day. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Fishing report for 

August 31-September 6

Today and tomorrow, September 8 and 9 are the last two days of the general ocean salmon season from Humbug Mountain to the California/Oregon border, but that shouldn’t stop salmon aficionados from trolling anchovies and herring in the ocean this weekend. Here’s what the National Weather Service is forecasting as of Friday morning.

Saturday: Variable winds 5 knots or less. Patchy fog before 11 a.m. Mixed swell ... WNW 5 feet and SSW 1 foot. Wind waves 1 foot or less.

Sunday: Variable winds less than 5 knots becoming WNW around 6 knots in the afternoon. Patchy fog before 11 a.m. Mixed swell ...WNW 3 feet and SSW 1 foot. Wind waves 1 foot or less.

If this forecast holds up, the ocean will definitely be doable for boaters, but always recheck the National Weather Service’s forecast because it can change on a daily basis.

All in all, I would rate this year’s ocean salmon season as stellar. I have personally canned over five cases of pint jars, and I know of other anglers who have canned more.

But the best salmon fishing is yet to come, so get ready to start crossing off the days on your calendar. In 22 days, the South Coast is going to get a 14-day season, when the famed (take a deep breath) Chetco River Fall Chinook State Waters Terminal Area Recreational Fishery occurs from Oct. 1-14.

Locals just call it the Chetco Bubble Fishery.

During this time of year, other rivers’ salmon are beginning to nose their way toward their own river’s scented birthwater. The Sacramento River’s fall Chinook should start heading south, as well as the Klamath River’s Chinook.

The same can be said of fall Chinook belonging to the Chetco River.

This fishery is set up to specifically target Chetco River Chinook that are getting primed for making their way up the Chetco River as soon as the fall rains come.  This is a state-run fishery that stays within three nautical miles from shore and borders from Twin Rocks to the California/Oregon border.

That is not to say that Sacramento and Klamath River fish will not be caught during this fishery. There are always a few of those rivers’ fish still hanging out in the ocean. But studies done by ODFW have demonstrated that most of the Chinook caught during the Chetco Bubble Fishery will be of Chetco River origin.

That being said, there should be some monster Chinook out in the ocean, so 22 days should give a person ample time to prepare their fishing gear accordingly.

For this fishery, I always put new line on all of my reels. For the most part, these fish will be larger-than-average size, between 25 and 55 pounds, and those monsters will be making some very long runs and taxing your fishing gear to the max. They’ll be peeling more line off your spools than those 14 pounders did in the general season so, as you discover uncharted territory, you don’t want to encounter any unwanted surprises.

Also, this is a fishery where people can do quite well trolling close to the bell and whistle buoys. In fact, I always assume that this particular area is going to be called Boat City, mainly because you never know what kind of weather Mother Nature will be dealing out during this time of year.

It is also a good time to change out your drag washers. While your reel is engaged, if your line isn’t peeling off the spool in smooth effortless motions, especially if it is making short jerk-like movements, it’s either time to replace those drag washers or consider using a different reel.

This is also a fishery where you can use both downriggers and/or divers to get your bait down to the proper depth. So now is the time to make sure that your downrigger wire is in good shape and that you have plenty of divers on hand in good working order.

While some folks may argue that downrigger wire should not rust, nevertheless it still does corrode. It also may have gotten pinched while encountering tangles out at sea, and those pinches weaken your wire. The price of lead is skyrocketing, so you don’t want to lose any downrigger balls. So if your downrigger wire looks the least bit iffy, replace it.

My preference for divers is the Delta brand, but Pink Ladies and Deep Sixes are dependable brands as well. If the metal on your Deep Sixes is starting to corrode, sometimes it’s just better to buy a new diver. I always have two divers on hand just in case the other one goes sour on me for no reason.

You will also want to make sure that you have a rod that is designed to be used with a downrigger and another rod that is more suited for divers.

You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg for expensive graphite rods. There are a lot of inexpensive rods out there that will get the job done. For instance, Cabela’s makes a great downrigger rod for only $35 – the DR 80M. It’s a limber stick with a lot of sensitivity, and its light action allows a Chinook to take your bait a little deeper.

For divers, you will want to use a rod with a little more backbone. Jim Bithell from Charthouse Sportfishing uses Ugly Sticks with his divers and has had a remarkable season.

You’ll also want to check the ball bearing swivels on your flashers and dodgers. If mine are getting mushy, I’ll replace the whole shooting match with large snaps and new ball bearing swivels.

You’ll also want to double check your mooching leaders as well. I like to tie up my own leaders so I always know how fresh my line is and what kind of hooks I’m using. If your pre-tied mooching leaders have stayed in the tackle box too long, buy some new ones – they’re inexpensive! I don’t mind losing fish, but I deplore losing one due to an old leader that’s gone bad.

The limit in the October bubble fishery is one Chinook a day; five for the entire season; minimum length is 24-inches.

Tight lines and bent rods!