SMORGASBORD OF SEAFOOD BROUGHT INTO PORT

December 06, 2008 12:00 am
Brandon Chandler (left) helps his friend Patrick Holmes hoist this 30-pound Chinook Patrick caught in the Chetco River last week while back-bouncing roe. Both youngsters are from Brookings and were fishing with Sean Clemens, a local guide. (The Pilot/Larry Ellis).
Brandon Chandler (left) helps his friend Patrick Holmes hoist this 30-pound Chinook Patrick caught in the Chetco River last week while back-bouncing roe. Both youngsters are from Brookings and were fishing with Sean Clemens, a local guide. (The Pilot/Larry Ellis).

By Larry Ellis

Fish report for November 28 through December 4

A smorgasbord of Brookings seafood was caught last week by several anglers waiting for 12 foot seas to drop, and if you play your cards right you could be enjoying a Crab Louie appetizer before dining on the best fish and chips available in the ocean.

That's what two Brookings residents did last week.Bob Goodman, a local contractor and well-known fisherman, went out with a friend last week and really cleaned up on the crab and bottomfish, and you could be sitting in the same seat this week. But you better strike while the iron's hot because the good crabbing might only last another week or so.

Under standard conditions, the commercial crabbers usually haul in their largest catches in the first week or two of the season and the same principle applies to recreational crabbers as well.

It has to do with what is often referred to as a 7-year crab cycle, where the pinnacle of success peaks one year, but later drops off until the top of the cycle comes around again.

While 2008 is not considered a peak year for crabbing, it is still pretty good.And the crab, varying in size, have been ranging from 6 to over 7 inches.Many people are achieving near-limits because the smaller crab are undersize for commercial fishermen.

It doesn't matter whether you luck into large or small crab.Their shells are hard and their bodies are packed full of meat, so full that one crab is often enough to fill you up, or at least satiate your appetite until the next course of deep-fried, freshly-caught black rockfish are brought to the table.

Last week several anglers dropped their pots in water ranging from 35 to 40 feet while on their way to slay the fatted bottom-grabbers.

The limit is 12 male Dungeness crab per person, measuring at least 5 3?4 inches across the inside of the crab's points on its back.

On Thursday the seas were flat-calm, which encourages the crab to come even closer toward shore, meaning if the seas remain fairly flat this weekend you should be able to get your Dungies fairly close to home.

You are allowed three crab pots or crab rings and the best bait is usually available free of charge in the cans at the Brookings Harbor fillet station.

Using black rockfish carcasses, also referred to as hanging bait, is a common practice used to entice the crab into your pots, often in combination with other methods such as bait jars packed with fresh-frozen squid.

While one method works great, using two in one trap serves as a buffer.Another secret many crabbers do is to buy a cheap can of tuna and poke a few holes in the lid to allow the fragrance of the tuna to leave another scent trail for the crustaceans to follow into the traps.

Be very careful while putting out your traps.Don't lay them in the same spots where the commercial fishermen are laying theirs, but create your own line. While the seas were flat-calm on Thursday, they won't remain that way for very long, so please exercise caution when laying out your traps.

Be very aware of surrounding swells and remember that, as the tide goes out, these rollers seem to pop up from nowhere and also build in size.

While you are letting your pots or rings do their own work, head downhill and try for some bottomfish.Many fishermen were successful last week in killing two birds with one stone.

Make sure to bleed your rockfish as soon as possible in order to have the best quality product available.You do not need to slash the fish's throat, although that method does work.

The simplest way of bleeding your catch is to merely poke your finger through the membrane that lays underneath the fish's gills.You only need to do this on one side.Sometimes if you get too exuberant and slash the fish's throat side to side, it forces its heart to beat too fast for the fish to bleed out.

When you stick your finger through the membrane, wait a few seconds.If the fish starts bleeding immediately, you've done your job correctly and the meat on your catch will be lily white when you go to fillet your catch.

Red fillets are the sign of a fish that has been poorly bled out, or not bled out at all.Brooking residents have access to having the best quality fish product in the world because we catch our own fish and bleed our own fish.

The rockfishing was pretty darned good last week.Use whatever method suits your fancy.The hardest part, fishermen have told me, is getting through the hordes of blue rockfish to get to the blacks.The rockfish are getting larger week by week as their abdomens grow with the roe inside them.

The lingcod fishing was somewhat slow, but not because there aren't any available.It's just getting harder to get through the blacks and blues to get to the lings.

Salmon fishing on the Chetco is winding down, but a few anglers were able to manage some beautiful limits of your typical end-of-the-season, 30-pound kings.

The river has been extremely low and clear, so the most successful anglers have been hitting the river at first legal light and back-bouncing roe.You have to be very persistent and put your bait right in front of their faces before one finally snaps on a reaction bite.

One lucky lad, Patrick Holmes of Brookings, caught his first salmon ever, back-bouncing roe, while fishing with his friend Brandon Chandler, also of Brookings, under the tutelage of local guide Sean Clemens.

I give Patrick the credit that is due him.It's enough just to catch your first salmon, but back-bouncing is a finesse technique that many fishermen have yet to master.Good back-bouncers are what every guide hopes to get for clients.

In spite of low, gin-clear water, there were also some steelhead that moved into the Chetco last week, with many in the 8- to 12-pound class. Again, back-bouncing roe seems to be the ticket.The river is just not high enough to effectively side-drift.

The river is getting dangerously low, so pray for rain. In the meantime go whack some blacks and catch a few Dungeness crab while the seas are calm.

Tight lines!