FISH REPORT: OCEAN COHO SEASON CLOSES, ROCKFISH ACTION HEATS UP

August 15, 2008 11:00 pm

BY LARRY ELLIS

The coho season in the ocean from Cape Falcon to the California border officially came to a close at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 14.

"When all of the data actually showed up here, we were at 94-percent of the quota as of Sunday, which meant we basically had nothing left," said Eric Schindler, Ocean Salmon Project Leader for ODFW.

The ports of Brookings Harbor and Winchester Bay were accounting for the largest portion of the silver population caught.The rest of the coastal ports from Bandon up to Garibaldi were not faring very well, even when ocean conditions calmed down enough for recreational vessels to put out their divers and hootchies. That scenario did a complete 180 about 10 days ago.

"Basically all of a sudden they were getting them almost everywhere," noted Schindler."Things lined up in the last week and a half where you had warm water pushing in from offshore.That concentrates the coho into a narrower band, and it also makes them a little more hungry."

In addition, due to this year's excellent ocean feeding conditions, the size of this year's coast-wide coho were a lot girthier, heavier and in much better health than the scrawny specimens that were caught last season.

From the phone calls I made to coastal ports this week, all of the silvers were nice chunky fish, and because of the baitfish available to them in the ocean, almost every port had stories of fish achieving sizes up to and even exceeding 15 pounds.

"I was hearing about a lot of fish in the 12 pounds and on up range," added Schindler."There's a lot of feed out there and they were nice fat fish."

Almost all of these coho are Columbia River bound, but there are several rivers where one is allowed to fish for and retain fin-clipped silvers.

The Rogue is one example. Judging by the size of the silvers caught in the ocean so far, I feel confident to say that by September, there will be a lot of coho in the middle to upper teens available to anglers in the Rogue bay.

Crabbing in the ocean

is now closed

Don't put out any more crab rings or crab pots in the ocean.Aug. 14 was the last day anyone could legally crab in the ocean until the season reopens Dec. 1.That means you are not permitted to crab even on the ocean side of the north or south jetties.

However, crabbing in the Chetco estuary is permitted year-round, so bring your rings, pots or butterfly traps to the public pier located on the south jetty near the U.S. Coast Guard Station.

The best time to crab is when the ocean lays down. That's when the crab come in the closest, just outside the last breaker.When that happens, especially when there are flat-calm seas, the larger crab will come into the bay.

According to the National Weather Service, winds are supposed to be dying down this weekend, so the crabbing should be fair to good Sunday through Tuesday.

Fresh rockfish and lingcod carcasses are usually available at this time because when the ocean lays down, the bottomfishing picks up. So get to the fish cleaning station early if you want some fresh hanging bait to put in your pots and rings.

Leave the cabezon carcasses be.They are a crab's natural enemy and if you use one for bait, you will come up with the proverbial goose-egg.

Rockfish and lingcod

fishing stellar

The rockfishing outside the Port of Brookings Harbor was so good last week it was ridiculous.Fish are biting just about anything you want to throw at them, whether it is shrimp flies, leadfish, scampis or bait.

Brookings has the finest rockfish fishery on the California and Oregon Coast, the reason being – you have total control over the quality of your catch, and that makes the extra cost of catching your own fish worthwhile.

So upon landing a rockfish or a lingcod, immediately bleed it.When you finally clean your fish, your fillets should look white, not red. In the case of lingcod, some fillets will be green, the fillet du jour.

Some people will make a clean slit across their throats while others will either slice a gill or pierce a gill membrane.

The next step is crucial. Carry an ice chest with ice to put your bled-out fish into. You may end up with a bloody slurry but you will end up with a superior food product.

I saw some very nice specimens of rockfish at the station last week.One China cod probably went about 4 or 5 pounds.

Lingcod fishing is getting better week by week, with larger fish sporting increasingly bulging abdomens. One gorgeous specimen easily went 25 pounds.The best bait, hands down, is a live kelp greenling.

Rogue Bay Chinook

bite steady

The Rogue Bay Chinook bite has been fair but steady, with between 20 and 30 fish being caught a day.

"It's been pretty decent here the last few days," says Sam Waller, owner of Jot's Resort in Gold Beach (www.jotsresort.com). "I had Ernie and Rena out here. On Sunday we caught three and Monday we caught four. Two of them were close to 40 (pounds) and four of them were close to 30."

OK, let's give the Rogue the credit it deserves.Since the Summer Olympics have officially started, on a scale from 1 to 10 I'm giving the Rogue an overall 6.5.

On numbers of fish I would give it a 3.5, but when it comes to quality, I always hear Ravel's Bolero playing in the background.This baby's a 10 for sure.Not including jacks, the smallest Chinook tips the scales between 25 and 30 pounds, and there are tons of 40s being caught, even a few 50s.

When I arrived at Jot's on Wednesday, Greg Eide of Greg Eide Guide Service was unloading the first of four fish he caught that day.

Jot's Resort will award a button to you for every fish caught over 30 pounds, but you must have it weighed in on their scale.There are so many fish going buttonless this year it's almost a crime.

Jared Hendrickson of Redding hoisted his 31-pound Chinook off Greg's boat for one of Jot's prestigious buttons. Earlier in the day a 42-pound button was bestowed upon a lucky angler.

Since August 1, a total of 26 buttons were awarded for fish over 30 pounds and six buttons were given to anglers who caught 40-pound or larger kings.

So far, the largest fish at Jot's has been a 49-pounder caught by Wayne Webb of Klamath Falls, but there will be larger fish caught as the season progresses.

The Rogue Bait Rig has been the go-to setup, with a No. 4 green-on-green blade taking a significant portion of the fish, but Waller says a Big Al's Fish Flash flasher leading to a plug-cut herring has also been the ticket to King City.Run the flasher from the end of your spreader.

Mixed in with the big Chinook are a pretty good portion of jacks.Jack returns are one of the indicators of a good fall harvest for 3-year-old fish the following year, and 4-year-olds the next. ODFW has taken notice of these 2-year-old male Chinook.

"That's what we're seeing," says Steve Mazur, ODFW biologist for the Rogue Watershed. "It looks to me that at Huntley we're going to have a good jack return."

Excellent redtail surfperch bite

Anglers who are soaking a few sand crabs are being rewarded with some scrappy redtail surfperch up to and over 2 pounds.

"The surfperch fishing is still relatively strong," says Jim Carey from The Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach. "Sand crabs have been doing really well, then shrimp, and then mussels are in third position."

You don't necessarily have to use live sand crabs in order to score on the silver slabs.The frozen variety, which Carey's establishment sells, also brings home the flat-siders.

One of Carey's tricks is immersing their back ends in hot water.It will take on an orange tint and look like they are carrying eggs.

"The best hook you can use on them is either a No. 4 English bait hook or a Kahle hook," tips Carey.

Try this method one-half mile uphill from the Winchuck Wayside in Harbor, the mouth of Hunter Creek, the Gold Beach south jetty spit or at the Nesika Beach Wayside and see if you don't catch more perch.

Three-inch Gulp Sandworms are also great artificials to use as well.

Half pounders busting

a move up the Rogue

For the last couple years, the Rogue half-pounder run has been on the downside but they're back now and they're coming through in fairly good shots.

"The half-pounder run's looking really good," says Mazur."We're finally getting those guys back on line. They've been running for a few weeks now. There are fish spread all the way to Agness and into the canyon."

Head up to Agness on the South Bank Rogue and try drifting night crawlers or throw Panther Martin spinners in the riffles below the Illinois River.

Tight lines!