Fall Chinook beginning to show up in local rivers
Written by Larry Ellis, fishing columnist   
September 21, 2012 09:55 pm

Andrew Goodman, experimental biologist assistant from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, shows one of the large chrome-bright Chinook seined in the Rogue River last week at Huntley Park. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
 

Fishing report for 

September 14-20

Do you feel some electricity in the air? Or perhaps the hair on the back of your neck in standing on end? That’s because today is the first day of autumn, my favorite time of year, when fall Chinook start showing up in local-area rivers and estuaries.

They’ve actually been making a pretty decent showing in rivers like the Klamath and Rogue rivers, but the Coquille and Coos systems have been kicking out their fair share of fall kings as well.

 

There have also been some large Chinook reported being caught in the Rogue Bay. A 50-plus pounder caught last week immediately comes to mind. As today’s fish photograph shows, the seining operation at Huntley Park has been yielding some hefty Chinook as well. The one in the photo is a 38-pound hawg held by ODFW employee Andrew Goodman. That was during last week’s seining operation.

Those fish have to come through the bay before they hit Huntley, so guys in the bay have been trolling the usual Rogue Bait Rig, or spinner/bait rig, which is basically a mooching leader with a set of beads on top of the upper hook, with the spinner blade of your choice on top of that.

Remember that you will want to keep your bait as close to the bottom as possible. Although you may see Chinook busting the surface, they don’t bite on top. So use a spreader bar with a dropper leader tied to a cannonball sinker ranging between 2 and 5 ounces in order to keep your rig on the bottom.

The fishing is not what I would call wide open, but when it’s been good, it’s been spectacular. The Rogue Bay fishery has always been an on-again/off-again type scenario, where one good day alternates with one or two so-so days. That being said, it’s always worthwhile to troll the Rogue Bay.

“Three days ago (Monday) was the best day we’ve had for the entire season,” says Jim Carey from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach, talking about the 70-plus-fish day. “We’ve also had a couple silvers (coho) taken, so they’re starting to show up in the bay as well.”

In the Rogue River, only hatchery coho salmon, those missing an adipose fin, may be kept. All wild coho must be released.

In addition, Carey says that fishing for rockfish and lingcod out in the ocean out of Gold Beach has been stellar when folks have been able to cross the bar.

Meanwhile south of the border, anglers have been spanking the living daylights out of Chinook in the Klamath River. While talking with a local-area guide on Thursday, this is how the conversation transpired:

“How was the fishing today guys?” asked Jack Hanson of Jack’s Guide Service at noon on Thursday.

Clients in the background mumbling: “Great – It’s decent.”

Now, “Decent” to a salmon fisherman actually means that you could rate the fishing as PG (Pretty Good), or in Hanson’s case – DG.

“It was decently good,” replied Hanson. “I think we’ve got seven adults and a jack, and we’ve had some other good opportunities and break-offs. We’re now trying to regain our composure and get ready for the next bite.”

OK, let’s look at this situation realistically. Hanson already had four clients with eight fish, a limit or near-limit on just about any other river. But this year on the Klamath, it’s only moderately mediocre because the limit on the Klamath was raised to four fish per person. Still, I would have been happy to call it a day.

Hanson says the go-to technique is back-dragging roe, similar to side-drifting for steelhead, only this is dragging roe directly behind the boat, straight down the pipe – backwards, a technique called boon doggling.

On the Chetco, jacks (Chinook under 24 inches) have been entering the river on a semi-consistent basis. Folks have been nailing these fish using bobbers-and-sand shrimp, or bobbers-and-anchovy tails.

There are also plenty of anchovies still in the river, drawing in Chinook from the ocean as well. One gentleman landed a 22-pound Chinook and a jack from the crab pier on the south jetty last week using a three-quarter-ounce Kastmaster. It’s time to start thinking about trolling the Chetco Bay.

John Weber, STEP biologist for Curry County has requested that anglers turn in the snouts from all of the hatchery salmon caught in the Chetco Bay.

A portion of the 75,000 Chinook smolt that were released last year are going to be returning as jacks this year, and they will all have coded wire tags in their snouts, so it’s critical that ODFW gets these snouts so that they can determine how well the Ferry Creek acclimation program is working out.

“We really need these snouts,” says Weber. “We’re evaluating the Ferry Creek project and we’ve changed the smolt release in the main stem a little bit as well. We’ve made the releases later and we’ve also moved the releases down to Tide Rock. So we’re evaluating that too.”

So if you are able, please take your hatchery fish directly to an ODFW port sampler so they can wand the fish personally.

If no port sampler is present, ODFW is making receptacles available sometime this week so you can perform the snout-removal procedure yourself. Snout receptacles and the forms to be filled out will be made available at the Brookings fillet station, Chetco Outdoor Store, Sporthaven Marina, Riverside Market and, when the river opens in November, there will also be a drop station at Social Security Bar.

Cutting off the snout is a piece of cake. Situate the fish so that its back is up and its stomach if facing down. Simply place your knife on top of the fish’s head directly behind the eyes (toward the tail) and cut straight down from the top of the fish’s head to the mouth, making sure that the eyes are included with the snout. Then place the knife inside the mouth and cut back (toward the tail) to the bottom of the first cut. Easy peasy!

If cutting off the snout seems too complex, just cut off the fish’s entire head. If no receptacle or ODFW port sampler is available, please put the head or snout in a plastic baggie and keep it in your refrigerator or freezer, and later transport the item to the ODFW office in Gold Beach or to one of the port samplers at the Brookings fillet station.

Tight lines and bent rods!