Up from the deep

Written by Larry Ellis, fishing columnist April 05, 2013 08:47 pm

Citlaly Burke from Idaho was fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor with her uncle aboard the Sea Dream on Wednesday when she caught a limit of lingcod and large black rockfish. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Citlaly Burke from Idaho was fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor with her uncle aboard the Sea Dream on Wednesday when she caught a limit of lingcod and large black rockfish. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
After moving from Southern California to Southern Oregon about 32 years ago, I became a spoiled lingcod brat.

Before moving to Brookings, I knew what a lingcod was. I caught one on every other trip while fishing for rockfish in depths ranging from 100 to 150 fathoms. That’s between 600 and 900 feet deep. If you wanted to catch rockfish in Southern California south of Oxnard, you had to fish that deep because that’s where most of the rockfish lived. By the way, it is now illegal to fish in those depths in California for rockfish and lingcod.

On those rockfishing trips, we used Penn 6/0 or 9/0 reels loaded with 80-pound Dacron, because you needed a reel with enough line capacity to get to the bottom.

It was also common to use a six-shrimp-fly ganion, sometimes as many as 10 shrimp-flies. Now, you are only allowed to use two hooks for rockfish, cabezon and lingcod.

To get to the bottom, you used between 3- and 5-pound lead sinkers. If you wanted to save money, you would use a 6-pound sash weight as a sinker. If you don’t know what a sash weight is, it’s a cylindrical piece of cast iron that was used in a pulley system to raise and lower those old heavy window frames.

Shortly after first moving to Brookings, a fisherman told me you could catch lingcod from the Brookings north and south jetties. I thought he was lying. Surely, I thought, the lingcod in Brookings must be a different species than the lingcod I caught at San Clemente Island. Boy was I wrong.

I soon found that I was catching the very same lingcod from tide pools and jetties in water ranging from 2- to 4- feet deep.

So when you have a 10-lingcod day, as many people experienced last week, you can only appreciate how great that type of fishing actually is if you had come from a different planet, which many people think Southern California is anyway.

Last week, there were anglers who actually caught more than 10 lingcod a day. The fishing was so good that folks were throwing back legal-size lingcod in order to keep bigger fish.

Most anglers were catching their lingcod in water ranging from 25 to 60 feet, using single jigs or leadfish weighing between from 2 to 4 ounces. That’s a far cry from fishing with 10 shrimp-flies at 900 feet using a 6-pound sash weight.

I’m never going to mention fishing at 900 feet using a 6-pound sash weight ever again. It kind of sounds like somebody telling you that they used to walk 10 miles to go to school — through the snow! First of all, if I had to walk 10 miles to go to school, I don’t think I would have ever graduated. By the same token, I bet there are a few people saying that if they had to fish 900 feet for a rockfish using a 6-pound sash weight, they would have never fished.

This week, a series of low-pressure fronts have temporarily brought the stellar lingcod fishing to a screeching halt. After these storms pass by, the great lingcod and rockfishing will return.

In the meantime, when one door closes, another always opens, especially for fishermen in Southern Oregon. These low-pressure systems will bring badly-needed rain to the lower Rogue River. As a matter of fact, I can hear a few springer enthusiasts chanting that old familiar mantra, “Rain, rain, don’t go away — bring the springers to the bay.”

This weekend and through Monday, the Rogue is expected to crest at 16,000 cfs. I am of the opinion that when the river starts dropping in the middle of the week, anglers will begin seeing more springer catches.

“So far, they’ve been averaging at least 30 pounds,” says Larry Cody from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach.

Tight lines!