Let the ocean salmon season begin

Written by Larry Ellis, fishing columnist June 23, 2013 10:33 pm

Brookings resident Bob Rose, left, fished the ocean out of the Port of Brookings Harbor with Captain Jim Bithell of Charthouse Sportfishing on Thursday. Each took home a 4-year-old Chinook salmon ranging between 17 and 25 pounds. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Brookings resident Bob Rose, left, fished the ocean out of the Port of Brookings Harbor with Captain Jim Bithell of Charthouse Sportfishing on Thursday. Each took home a 4-year-old Chinook salmon ranging between 17 and 25 pounds. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
If you haven’t noticed, for more than three weeks, strong northwest winds have been keeping anglers from trolling for salmon out of the Port of Brookings Harbor. The winds are not only keeping anglers from crossing the bar, but they have also kept the ocean at 45 degrees, a temperature that is not suited to a Chinook’s appetite.

Things were quite different in Eureka, California, where a red-hot salmon bite has been keeping anglers’ rods doubled over ever since the ocean salmon season started in May. So as the old saying goes, if the mountain won’t come to Mohammed. ...

Eureka’s been getting a lot of boat traffic from all ends of California and Oregon, with several Brookings-area anglers hauling their boats to Humboldt Bay. You can’t miss the fleet of 150-plus boats that are fishing within a few miles from shore.

One of the popular boat ramps in Eureka is the Samoa Boat Ramp, located off of Highway 255. In this little section of the California coast, picture-perfect 52-degree water and baitfish of every variety have been keeping salmon close to shore and on-the-feed, and well within range of the recreational sport-fishing fleet.

For the most part, those who have taken the 120-mile trek have not been disappointed. Anglers have been limiting out with regularity on this year’s copious crop of corpulent 4-year-old kings which are averaging between 17 and 25 pounds.

Last week, the winds that have kept the water cool near the southern Oregon coast finally died down, and over a period of several days, south winds combined with south swells have brought warm water to other northern California ports. Suddenly the hot spot turned to Crescent City, and traveling 29 miles to get from Brookings to Crescent City was a lot more appealing than the 2 1/2-hour drive to Eureka.

“It kinda popped here the last two or three days,” said Chris Hegnes from Englund Marine in Crescent City on Tuesday, who said that anglers were often back into port with their limits of strapping Chinook by 9 a.m.

Folks were catching salmon right in front of the harbor near the cans, or were heading south to The Sisters and fishing in about 20 fathoms.

So it was inevitable that Brookings was about ready to pop well, as was predicted in last week’s fish column.

Captain Jim Bithell, owner of Charthouse Sportfishing, also predicted earlier in the week that the ocean was going to warm up on Thursday, so local fishing enthusiast Bob Rose and I hopped aboard his boat, Chart House, and preceded to troll our favorite anchovy setup.

Captain Jim’s prediction was spot-on. Within 20 minutes, Jim’s rod doubled over, and later in the day, Bob and I both experienced a double hookup, and we were soon off to the Brookings fillet tables with three gorgeous specimens of Chinook.

The ocean salmon season has finally gotten off to a good start. The salmon action should continue to get better day-by-day for the next few months. Seas are predicted to be semi-flat from Sunday through Tuesday.

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Meanwhile, the white-hot lingcod bite has continued to give Brookings and Gold Beach anglers heart-thumping adrenaline rushes, with a lot of 15- to 20-pound lings being filleted. The rockfish bite has continued to be very good as well.

Larry Cody from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach has reported that the rockfish and lingcod fishing has been excellent near the Rogue Reef, with anglers catching lots of rockfish in the 4- to 5-pound class. Some of the lingcod have been between 15 and 30 pounds.

According to Cody, surfperch fishermen are also enjoying some decent catches of fairly-large redtail surfperch.

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Fishing for Pacific halibut has continued to be productive for a few anglers who are fishing areas between 180- and 300-feet deep. Big fish of the week went to Soon Ae Phillips of Brookings, who battled a 50-pound monster to the boat.

Tight lines!