Fear not the bait and switch when looking for Chinook
Written by Larry Ellis, fishing columnist   
August 02, 2013 09:54 pm

Mark Watkins and Roger Eberly, both from Eugene limited out on Chinook in the 20-pound class on Wednesday and Thursday while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Mark Watkins and Roger Eberly, both from Eugene limited out on Chinook in the 20-pound class on Wednesday and Thursday while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Salmon are a lot like people.  Sometimes you want steak; other times you want oatmeal.  Salmon are no different in the choice of bait they want to eat on any given day.

Basically, Chinook salmon in the Klamath Management Zone are anchovy aficionados. Rarely have anglers failed to get their limits on anchovies in the waters of the KMZ out of the ports of Eureka, Crescent City and Brookings Harbor.

In a way, you can compare an anchovy to a steak.  A lot of people are meat eaters and live for a tender fillet mignon or a juicy cut of prime rib.  But even the biggest steak lovers would get sick of eating prime rib every day of the week. So every once in a while, oatmeal really seems to hit the spot.

Last week, salmon seemed to want oatmeal as well, with their oatmeal being specifically green label herring.  I found this out while fishing with two fellows from Eugene who read this column regularly.  Last Thursday, they had an extra seat, so they invited me for a day on the water.

I brought with me my three trays of anchovies, certain that they would, as usual, be the hot bait of the day.  The other anglers brought green label herring.

We all fished exactly the same way.  We had the same exact 4-ounce Delta Divers, the same Les Davis Dodgers with Brad’s No. 04 green tape attached on each sides, and the same size 5/0 - 6/0 mooching leaders.

Our leaders were the same length, about 40 inches long, and the distance from the diver to the flasher was about 20 inches, connected by 60-pound monofilament.  We all used 65-pound braid for our main line as well.  In addition, we all were using the Bechhold chartreuse Rotary Bullet Bait Holder. The only difference was the bait.

The two Eugene residents had dyed their herring chartreuse by using Pautzke’s chartreuse-colored Fire Brine, the same color as the Rotary Bait Holders.

In addition, they also had some Pro-Cure bait injectors which were loaded with Atlas Mike’s shrimp/krill-flavored Gel Scent.  The needle on the injector was a perfect fit for injecting the extra-thick gel into the vent of the herring, which filled the bait fish body cavity to capacity. Because of the thick viscosity of the Gel, it tended to out-scent for a long period of time.

Being consummate hosts, they offered me the opportunity to try their herring/scent combo.  I stayed with my tried-and-true anchovy.

Within two minutes of trolling, one of their herring rods doubled over, and salmon number one was bonked and put in the box.  I continued using the anchovy.

Less than half an hour later, another herring got slammed by a large Chinook, which eventually pulled loose from the hook.  I continued using the incredible-edible anchovy.

About another hour later, another herring rod went off and fish number two was in the box.

After not getting bit on the anchovy, I decided to join the party and slipped one of the herring inside my Bechhold Rotary Bullet Bait Holder, injected it with the aforementioned scent, and set my rod for 24 pulls, which is my usual beginning distance of line when using this particular setup.  Before I had a chance to take the reel out of free spool, my first fish slammed the herring and started peeling off line.  My first Chinook met the sweet spot of a miniature Louisville Slugger and was in the fish box as well. The three of us ended up limiting out by 11 a.m.

I’m not saying that herring will work 100-percent of the time in the KMZ.  I’m just saying that on those occasions when your anchovy is not getting bit, consider mixing things up a little bit and serving your Chinook a nice bowl of oatmeal complete with the aforementioned condiments.  When the fishing is as good as it has been, a person can afford to try new things in order to further refine their techniques.

The ideal speed for trolling this setup and in order to get the bait fish spinning properly is between 1.6 and 2 miles an hour, favoring the faster end of the spectrum.  If your downrigger wire isn’t singing, or giving off that whistling sound that is all too familiar to salmon anglers, you’re trolling too slow.

Tight lines!