Anglers bagging salmon, halibut and rockfish
Written by Larry Ellis, fishing columnist   
May 24, 2013 07:48 pm

Memorial Day Weekend is a big deal for Brookings Harbor fishing aficionados — always has been, always will be. This weekend is no exception. Weather permitting, both freshwater and saltwater anglers can look forward to catching a plethora of fish species.

Marcia Rising of Brookings loaded up on surfperch while fishing from one of the Brookings-area beaches on Thursday. The middle fish is a redtail surfperch.
But there is one fish species that’s a virtual guarantee. If you’re an early bird and are reading a copy of the Pilot today (May 25), and if you have a child age 12 or younger, head for the tent at Ray’s Food Place, where from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., your child will have a chance of catching and keeping one rainbow trout — free of charge.

“We give the kids a willow pole with line attached,” said Tony Hobbs, president of Oregon South Coast Fishermen (OSCF), the organization that sponsors the popular annual even. “We start out using flies, and then we go to night crawlers and then PowerBait. Everybody catches a trout because they’ve been starved and they’re pretty hungry. One of the members of the club will even bag the fish for you and put it on ice.”

If you’re a fledgling catch-and-release type of angler, and don’t wish to keep your quarry, OSCF will release the fish back into the barrel from which it was caught; that is, if it isn’t bleeding from the gills.

“Whatever fish are left after 11 a.m. are taken back to Elk River Hatchery, where these fish were raised,” notes Hobbs.

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Today is also the opening day of trout fishing on the Chetco River. Sea-run cutthroat trout begin their outward migration to the ocean in the spring, but there is always a resident population of sea-run cutts that remain in the river.

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And now for the most exciting news. Chinook salmon have finally started making their way to the Brookings area and anglers are beginning to pick up some nice salmon, trolling very close to shore, in between the bell and the whistle buoy.

Last Saturday, Jim Bithell of Charthouse Sportfishing and another angler had 10 solid hookups. Five fish were undersize and two legal fish were released. The two anglers ended up keeping three beautiful Chinook.

Jim, who put one of his clients on a salmon the day previously, caught all of his fish near the whistle buoy. All fish were close to the surface and were taken as close as five pulls from the boat.

Bigger is not always better. Salmon are hitting small anchovies (10 or more to the pack), which is the size they most commonly see in the ocean in May and June.

Even with last week’s high winds and low water temperatures (46 degrees), a few anglers managed to catch chinook near the red can on most days.

With moderate winds and seas predicted this weekend, and a south wind projected on Memorial Day, anglers can expect to see more Chinook action as the water warms back up toward 52 degrees.

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Surfperch anglers caught fish at most local-area beaches last week, when high winds and a lumpy ocean prevented most anglers from crossing the Brookings Harbor bar. The good surfperch action should continue getting better day-by-day as calmer seas are expected this weekend and into next week.

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All recreational and commercial fishermen who are interested in continuing to partake in our tremendous rockfish fishery are encouraged to attend a meeting at the Brookings library at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, where Lynn Mattess, ODFW’s Sport Groundfish and Halibut Project Leader will be giving a presentation on barotrauma and rockfish release devices.

“Lynn will talk about the value of using release devices and will show a short video that shows the recompression recovery of rockfish,” said Richard Heap, a representative from Oregon South Coast Fishermen to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

Rockfish release devices are the salvation of our rockfish fishery.