Fish report by Larry Ellis, and Ellis's holiday treats

December 20, 2008 12:00 am
Local anglers Maili Smithson and Bodie Legat with three8 to 12 pound steelhead they caught Friday afternoon on the Chetco side drifting puffballs and roe. (The Pilot/Chad Robert Snyder).
Local anglers Maili Smithson and Bodie Legat with three8 to 12 pound steelhead they caught Friday afternoon on the Chetco side drifting puffballs and roe. (The Pilot/Chad Robert Snyder).

Will the real fishing report please stand up

Hey, believe it or not, there were actually F-F-F fish B-B-B biting last week in this C-C-C cold Arctic blast. I know for a fact the steelhead were on-the-bite because I actually nailed one.

There are fishable numbers of the metalheads in both the Chetco and Rogue Rivers. But the water is so gin-clear that these fish are running from their own shadows, so if you know how to disguise yourself as a boulder, your chances are pretty good at catching or at least getting a taker.

At the very least, do not don your favorite lucky white fishing hat. With the water as clear as it is, keep your distance from them, walk softly and wear camouflage.

Charthouse Dave from Lady Joanne Charters has been telling me about all the fish he's been seeing and catching in the lower Rogue for the last 10 days, so when this bitter cold-snap hit, I figured it was curtains for the metalheads. I couldn't have been further from the truth.

On Tuesday, when we got all that snow and ice, he gave me a call and told me of a 31-inch wild fish that he had just caught and released, and then invited me up to enjoy a day of plunking on Wednesday.

You don't really have to fish all day for these steelhead.The main bite is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the fish are showing the most activity.

Most of the bank fishermen on the Rogue plunk, just because the Rogue is tailor-made for still-fishing from the bank, and when they plunk they use double-rigs.

If you want to see what a double-rig looks like, check out the picture on page 14 on the December issue of Northwest Sportsman. There are many different ways of rigging up. Basically you tie a regular single plunking setup designed for using a Spin-N-Glo, but before you rig up, slide a number 8 Lil Corky up your line.

The Corky is adjustable and is stopped by using either a Peg-it rubber nail or a bobber stopper knot placed where you want your upper rig to stop. Your upper rig can be a HotShot, FlatFish or another Spin-N-Glo.

The upper rig is tied with a snap swivel on the end. After making your initial cast, open up the snap, close it around the main line and then send it down to the water.You might have to jiggle your rod tip a little to aid your second rig to slide down easier. The snap swivel is stopped by the number 8 Corky.

If you want to use a Spin-N-Glo, lay your rod tip closer to the water so that the winged bobber gets pushed further down toward the bottom.A lot of Rogue River locals will actually lay their rods down to further aid the lowering of the upper rig.

Some guys, however, will send down a 1-ounce bank sinker attached to a snap.This pushes the top rig down to the Corky and also helps lay the line on the bottom so both rigs are fishing the same height. You don't have to do this when using a lipped lure because the action of the lure alone will cause the lure to dive toward the bottom.

It's not uncommon to see people hook a fish on the upper rig, especially if it's a cop car-colored HotShot or a fluorescent red FlatFish.

That particular day we caught and released one steelhead and lost a monster that whacked the Spin-N-Glo and spit the hook.

The Rogue has a very strong wild fish fishery, so most of your metalheads will be wild.Until the end of the year, all wild fish must be released. From New Years Day through April 30th, you are allowed to retain only 1 wild fish per day over 24 inches, 5 fish per year as part of the annual limit. However, you may keep adipose fin-clipped (hatchery) fish all year long.

Good places to fish would be Jim Hunt Creek, Canfield Riffle, Coyote Riffle, Huntley Park, Orchard Bar, Dunkleberger Bar and Quosatana Creek.

In clear water I suggest parking your rig about 30 feet away from the water and to remain in your truck until your rod goes down. These fish are very, very spooky and will jump at anything out of the ordinary.

As far as color Spin-N-Glos go, Dave had some that I'm sure are not available on the market. However, try using a number 6 pearl red SNG and paint its wings pink. Another good color in clear water is glitter brown trout with black wings, something that looks buggy.

When the water starts getting some color to it then use a gray ghost or flame chartreuse. Remember you can paint your wings or the bodies with fingernail polish to give them your desired effects if you choose to go with alternate colors.

CHETCO RIVER STEELHEAD

Even with low flows, the Chetco still managed to kick out some nice steelhead as well. Dave Pitts from the Rogue Outdoor Store reported that the low cut at the bottom end of the Ice Box hole against the north bank was producing some fish, one of which was a 14.9-pound steelhead taken by a float fisherman.

The important thing to remember in low, clear water, whether you're pulling plugs or float fishing is to get a very, very long line on the fish.

Camo cannot be emphasized enough. Pitts said fish as far as 70 feet away were moving away from anyone standing up with brightly-colored garments.

He also reported that several very good fishermen were observing pods of fish moving upriver, many of which were off-the-bite. But tee-rust me on this one. As soon as the Chetco rises and gets some color to it, the fish will be settling down and going back on-the-bite.

Pitts also informed me that the Chetco Outdoor Store should be getting in some sand shrimp this weekend, and that my friends is steelhead candy.

When I last checked the Chetco's flows on Thursday afternoon, it was already at 1,060 cfs (cubic feet per second) and the graph was spiking straight up. We might be in for some good fishing this weekend as the snow in the mountains starts to melt and raises the river even further. In addition, rain is being predicted this weekend and into the Christmas holiday.

Remember these general Chetco guidelines. From 4,000 cfs on up, as long as the river is dropping and not brown, break out your plunking boxes.You don't have to fish from shore to plunk.If you're boating it, anchored up with a Spin-N-Glo with your rod in the holder, you're plunking!

The hot color winged bobbers for the Chetco is sherbet (a.k.a. Tequila Sunrise) for the first part of the run and then flame chartreuse (a.k.a. ‘stop and go', ‘barber pole', ‘half-and-half', ‘Chetco Special') for the rest of the year.

From 3,000 to 4,000 cfs is perfect plug-pulling and side-drifting water.

From 3,000 cfs on down, side-drifting is still king but you can also start back-bouncing roe without worrying about your clusters tearing up.Back-bouncers may still find a salmon or two moving through, and it is not uncommon for anglers to pick up a few fresh chrome Chinook trickling in on the end of that bell curve (graph).

For further information on plunking check out my article "Plunkerology 101" in the January, 2008 issue of Salmon Trout Steelheader available in the library.

ROCKFISH , LINGCOD BITING

In addition to the steelhead bite, there were some very nice catches of large black rockfish and some decent-size lingcod brought to the fillet station during the cold snap.

There were a few days when the ocean laid down like a sheet of glass and those who braved the chilly weather did not go unrewarded.

I did notice that one of the lings was exuding milt, meaning that the lings are already starting to spawn. When the ocean lays down, the end of December and the beginning of January can produce some magnum catches of lings and bottom-dwellers.

A group of two anglers put out a couple of crab traps on their way out to go bottomfishing and picked up seven really nice Dungeness crab in one of the pots, so don't forget that this time of year Crab Louie and fish ‘n chips often go hand-in-hand.

Be sure to bleed your catch. It's not rocket science and it makes for a prime quality product. All it takes is poking your finger through one of the membranes underneath the fish's gills.

Don't forget to buy your 2009 fishing and hunting licenses early this year so you will get in on the traditional New Year's Day plunk-a-thon.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Tight lines!

And now, back by popular demand, it's a Larry Ellis Christmas.

YES VIRGINIA,

THERE IS A STEELHEAD

I want to thank everyone for their letters, emails and phone calls I have received this past year. Recently I received a very touching letter from a young fisher who was unsure if steelhead actually existed. I was so deeply moved that I decided to set the record straight as to whether a steelhead is finned phenomenon or a phantom aberration. She wrote:

Dear Mr. Ellis,

"I am 8 years old.

"Some of my little fishing buddies say there is no such thing as a steelhead.

"Papa says ‘If you see it in The Curry Coastal Pilot's fishing column it's so.'

"Please tell me the truth; is there a steelhead?

"Wanna B. Fishin,

"Lake Catchafishie, Oregon."

Dear Wanna B., your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the digitalism of a digital age.They do not believe except what they see on a fishing DVD. They think that nothing can be which is not catchable by their little lures.All lures, Wanna B., whether they be men's or children's, are tools. In these great rivers of ours, a lure is a mere piece of metal, cork or Styrofoam, an inanimate object in his tackle box, as compared with the boundless tackle stores about him, as measured by his ability to read the water and rig up correctly.

No, Wanna B., there is not a steelhead; there are THOUSANDS of steelhead.They exist as certainly as Puff Balls, Corkies and Spin-N-Glos exist. And you know that they abound and fill the slots of your tackle box. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no steelhead. It would be as dreary as if there were no Wanna Bees. There would be no Wiggle Warts, no FlatFish, no HotShots to make tolerable this existence. We would have no enjoyment, except in CD ROMS and Nintendo games. The blazing scales with which steelhead fill our rivers will never be extinguished.

Not believe in steelhead!You might as well not believe in springers!You might get your papa to hire men to look in all the honey holes, riffles and tail-outs on Christmas Eve for signs of a steelhead, but even if they did not see one sign of steelhead moving upriver, what would that prove? If nobody sees a steelhead that does not mean there are no steelhead.The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see steelhead dancing on the water's surface?Hopefully you will someday. But even if you don't, that's no proof that they are not there.Maybe they're in the ocean waiting for a rain to spark their migration upriver. They could also be hanging tight to cover, blending in with the environment, or laying motionless at the bottom of a riffle.

No steelhead! Thank God! They live, and they live forever. A thousand years from now, Wanna B., nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, they will continue to bring heart-thumping adrenaline rushes to children and adults.

Last year I received a lot of positive feedback for the traditional poem for which I took the liberty of revising to include our beloved Chetco River, its steelhead and most importantly, some of the most talented local fishers in our community. So in the spirit of good will, I bring to you once again, my traditional rendition which I call:

TWAS THE BITE

BEFORE

CHRISTMAS

…Larry Ellis

‘Twas the bite before Christmas, when all through the riffle,

not a fisher was sneezing, not even a sniffle.

The cows were all mooing, so we practiced some farm-calls,

in hopes that some chromers would gobble our yarn-balls.

The steelies were nestled all snug in their redds,

while visions of Spin-N-Glos danced in their heads.

With roe in their egg-loops, and rods in their snaps,

we all settled in for our pre-hook-up naps.

When out on the surface there arose such a clatter,

I woke from my slumber, to see what was the matter.

Away from my pickup I flew like a plover,

picked up my G-Loomis, which was doubled over.

The light of the sun, which arose o'er the dale,

gave the lustre of chrome to each shimmering scale.

When, what to my favorite river of lunkers,

with clubs in their hands, came eight helpful plunkers.

Such furious thrashing, robust from the get-go,

I knew that this trophy had come from the Chetco.

More rapid than eagles, my coursers they came,

and I hooted and hollered and called them by name:

"Now Martin! Now Mansur!

Now, Ramsay and Mitts!

On, Shurtleff! On Welter!

On, Loring and Pitts!

From the top of my lungs!

Should I happen to fall, I yelled!

Bonk away! Bonk away!

Bonk away all!"

My coursers forewarned me, that my goose was cooked,

they wondered if this one was truly fair-hooked.

When up toward the skyline the metalhead flew,

with my sinker in sight, and the Spin-N-Glo too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard with a crash

the leaping and falling of each separate splash.

As it drew in its head, and it turned from the south,

I could clearly see this one was hooked in the mouth.

I imagined him mounted from his head to his tail,

in a cabinet varnished from rail to rail.

A placard inscribed with my name well preserved,

would let everyone know, it was duly deserved.

His eyes--how they twinkled! His cheeks--like chianti!

And he had a hooked-nose, just like Jimmy Durante!

His small little kype was drawn up like a bow,

and the gums on his chin were as white as the snow.

The shank of the hook he held tight in his teeth,

and my line had encircled his head like a wreath.

He had a broad face and a big, fat round belly,

that shook when he jumped, like a jar full of Smelly-Jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old buck,

then I mocked him, and called him a conquered old schmuck.

But a wink of his eye and a twist of his head

soon gave me to know I had something to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

the magnificent chromer had just gone berserk.

When twisting his head in the rocks with his nose,

not an angler could help me, not even Bob Rose.

He sprang to the air, a most ominous sign,

then my line parted ways; this prize wasn't mine.

But I heard him exclaim, as he leaped toward Seattle,

"You might catch me next year, but for now, thanks for the battle!"