More great salmon fishing on the way

By Larry Ellis, fishing columnist July 05, 2013 11:28 pm

Soon Ae Phillips was fishing with her husband Bob on their vessel High Hopes out of the Port of Brookings Harbor when she caught this 25-pound Chinook. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Soon Ae Phillips was fishing with her husband Bob on their vessel High Hopes out of the Port of Brookings Harbor when she caught this 25-pound Chinook. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Brookings-area anglers again saw lots of Chinook action last week, but the wide-open bite died down to what most anglers would call a good day in any other salmon season. That meant that some anglers got their limits of Chinook within one hour while others struggled to bring one to the net.

One of the most common things anglers talked about last week, besides the wind, was that they experienced lots of hookups without being able to bring the fish to the net. After a salmon made a run or two, or just after having fought a fish for a few minutes, the hook would just pop out of the fish’s mouth.

So if the aforementioned scenario happened to you last week, or even the week before, don’t be discouraged. If this happened just once in a while, a person could possibly look at their technique and discern whether their rod had not remained bent. I personally had three Chinook on where the hook just seemed to pop out for no good reason, and of course they were big ones.

I think that the high rate of losing most of these fish last week was not technique based but water temperature based.

When ocean temperatures are in the mid- to high-40s, Chinook tend not to bite as aggressively, but tend to peck at your anchovies. Fish that are hooked when the water temperature is between 47 and 49 degrees don’t always stay hooked all the way to the net.

But find that 52-degree water, especially if it is straddling a current break, trash line, or where bait and birds are hanging out, and you’ll find the most aggressive biters, and fish that tend to remain hooked all the way to the net. 52 degrees is a Chinook’s comfort zone.

So water temperatures can be too high as well as being too low. Last week, and the week previously, water temperatures were often exceeding 58 degrees, and often were approaching 60 degrees. I believe that when water temperatures start approaching 60 degrees, Chinook tend to become sluggish biters. They don’t inhale your offering as deeply as they might have, had the water temperature remained in the 52-degree range.

High winds have been preventing anglers from fishing most of the day. The most successful anglers have been hitting the water at zero dark thirty, and cashing in on that narrow two-hour window of opportunity before the wind blows them off the water.

A lot of folks are also thinking that these northwesterlies are going to hurt the fishing because they are going to cool down the water temperature. While it is true that gusty afternoon winds do tend to cool down the water temps, it could be more of a blessing in disguise for this upcoming week.

Northwesterly winds will likely bring the 58- to 60-degree water temperatures back down to a Chinook’s comfort zone of 52 degrees. If they lower the water temperatures below 52 degrees, anglers won’t have to wait long before water temperatures start climbing again after these blustery winds stop howling Sunday and Monday. Some of the best fishing is yet to come.

The first and last thing I do every morning and evening is look at the Terrafin charts for sea surface temperatures and chlorophyll readings.

The chlorophyll readings will tell where the highest concentrations of plankton are, and since bait fish thrive on plankton, high chlorophyll readings will also tell you where most of the bait fish are as well. In the case of Crescent City and Brookings, very high (red) concentrations on the chlorophyll chart were fairly close to shore as of Thursday, and I don’t foresee that situation changing all that much for the rest of the week.

Anglers have also been reporting large numbers of coho (silvers) salmon being caught as well. Since the coho season officially started on July 1, you are allowed to retain coho salmon as long as they are of hatchery origin (missing an adipose fin). Some of the coho have been between 6 and 9 pounds, and there are a lot more hatchery fish available to anglers this year than in recent times.

So bring an extra tray of bait with you this week. The coho are going through trays of anchovies like candy.

Remember that cabezon may now be retained as well.

Tight lines!