On the Water: Local salmon action picking up

Written by Larry Ellis, fishing columnist August 09, 2013 10:46 pm

Drew Watkins of Portland was trolling a chartreuse-dyed herring on Wednesday when he caught this 31-pound 8-ounce Chinook out of the Port of Brookings Harbor. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Drew Watkins of Portland was trolling a chartreuse-dyed herring on Wednesday when he caught this 31-pound 8-ounce Chinook out of the Port of Brookings Harbor. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
If you’re looking for lights-out ocean salmon fishing, the hottest spot on the coast has been — and still is — Eureka, California, where quick and easy limits are being reported every day.

“We had the largest grade of the season today within an hour,” Gary Blasi from Full Throttle Sportfishing said on Tuesday. “It is simply amazing fishing right now. They still keep on coming.”

Anglers from Brookings are still trailering their boats down to the Samoa boat ramp and cashing in on the red-hot action.

Meanwhile, the bite out of the Port of Brookings Harbor and Crescent City slowed down over last weekend, but it is slowly starting to pick up once again. Expect the action to get better as August progresses.

“They’ve been catching salmon in the last few days between 130 and 140 feet of water near Castle Rock,” said Leonard from Englund Marine in Crescent City on Thursday.

Out of Brookings, most of the action has been straight out of the jaws, just past the whistle buoy between 110 and 120 feet of water, or off of Bird Island from 120 to 130 feet of water.

Yesterday (Friday, Aug. 9), I limited out on salmon up to 29 pounds using herring dyed in Pautzke’s chartreuse Fire Brine with a Bechhold Rotary Bullet Bait Holder attached to give the herring a wicked spin that salmon cannot resist.

You can use these bait holders ahead of a standard mooching rig, which works just fine. But for complete control over all of your materials such as line, hook brands and hook sizes, I prefer to tie my own mooching rigs. Also, if my knot breaks, I only have myself to blame.

If you’re into tying these things up yourself, and you’re using one of these Bechhold Rotary nose cones, I heartily suggest using an Owner 5/0 SSW straight eye hook with a cutting point for the front hook.

When a straight eye hook is pulled taut to this particular nose cone, it allows the hook point to stand straight out at a perfect 90-degree angle to the bait holder as well as your anchovy or herring. Rigging up this way will allow a higher percentage of hookups when you encounter those short-striking fish.

For the rear hook, I prefer to use a Gamakatsu or an Owner 6/0 octopus-style hook. I have found that using a dental rubber band to hold the rear hook in place works great. I like to place the bend of the hook as close to end of the bait fish’s tail as possible.

If you don’t know how to tie your own mooching leaders, many of the local sporting goods workers will be happy to show you how.

A factoid about fish finders

Lately, a long-standing and ludicrous rumor has been repeated around the local watershed stating that fish finders will not mark salmon in the ocean — the logic being that salmon do not possess swim bladders.

The aforementioned statement contains two falsehoods. First of all, salmon do indeed possess swim bladders (also known as air bladders), and second, it wouldn’t matter if they had a swim bladder or not because fish finders use SONAR to detect two features.

“Sonar only measures two things — distance and density,” says Captain Jack Findleton, co-owner of Sonar GPS Training. “It can’t measure anything else. It doesn’t know how to.”

Those rocks that show up on your fish finder don’t contain air bladders — yet they fortunately show up on your fish finder, as well as kelp stringers and other types of underwater structures.

“That whole thing started down in the San Francisco area,” noted Findleton, a retired Sacramento River fishing guide. “I used to tell people, ‘You know, you’re right. Salmon in the ocean don’t have a swim bladder. They stop in Tiburon and have one put in,’ because they certainly have one as they move up the river, and they certainly have one when they get up to Ball’s Ferry.”

Tight lines!