FISH REPORT: OCEAN SALMON SEASON OPENS SUNDAY

June 21, 2008 12:00 am
Catches like this big lingcod and black rockfish were commonlast week when the northwest winds finallydied down, creating textbook ocean conditions. (Photo by Larry Ellis).
Catches like this big lingcod and black rockfish were commonlast week when the northwest winds finallydied down, creating textbook ocean conditions. (Photo by Larry Ellis).

By Larry Ellis

Pilot staff writer

Salmon season opens in the ocean Sunday June 22:

The moment you've been waiting for has finally arrived. Starting tomorrow, June 22, you may begin fishing in the ocean from Cape Falcon to the Oregon/California border for all species of salmon except Chinook.

The season will last through August 31, unless the 9,000 coho quota is reached before that, at which time the season will end when the 9,000th coho is caught. Actually there is no way a count that accurate could ever be ascertained, so ODFW just rounds out the 9,000-fish figure.

So in other words, if the 9,000 coho quota is not attained by August 31, the season will end one hour after sundown on August 31. If the aforementioned scenario did occur, the season would equate to 71 continuous fishing days.

Only coho (also called silvers) with a healed adipose fin-clip (hatchery fish) may be retained. All coho with a fully intact adipose fin (wild coho) must be released. Therefore, my advice is to buy a hatchery harvest tag (HHT).

In the case of coho salmon, an HHT authorizes a person to mark up to 10 healed adipose fin-clipped silvers, and there is no limit to the amount of HHTs you can buy.

Conceivably, if you were the consummate alpha-coho fish-warrior type, you could catch and retain a total of 142 silvers as long as the season lasted through August 31.

You would have to spend $180.00 in HHTs in order to perform that Herculean feat, but on paper, it could be done.

There is one stipulation in buying an HHT, a very important one. Before purchasing an HHT, you are still required to buy a combined angling tag as well as a fishing license.

When angling for salmon in the ocean, no more than two, single-point barbless hooks per rod are allowed, with no more than one lure or bait per rod.

You may also catch and retain chum, pinks or sockeye as part of the daily limit. Those particular salmon are not required to have a healed adipose fin-clip, but the odds of catching one in this part of the coast are slim to none.

For all intents and purposes, you are going to be fishing for coho salmon.

As the season progresses into August, you can actually observe the size of coho increase on a weekly basis. With good feeding conditions, a coho can achieve sizes approaching 20 pounds, so it is especially important to know how to identify a coho versus a Chinook.

When neophyte anglers are first introduced to salmon fishing, fish all look alike, so mistakes are commonly made, very costly mistakes that can put a hurtin' on your pocketbook.

Page 15 on the 2008 Oregon fishing regulations gives a rudimentary example of how to identify the differences between silvers and Chinook.

The main way to tell the difference between a Chinook or a silver is by looking at the teeth on the lower jaw as viewed from above.

The base of the teeth on a silver will be white, while the base of the teeth on a Chinook will be black. The gums on the side of a silver may be dark; however, the base of the teeth will tell the tale.

A Chinook will have spots on both upper and lower lobes of its tail fin, while a coho will only have spots on the upper lobe.

There are other ways of telling differences as well, although I wouldn't use them as the main defining criteria. For instance, a coho will often swim toward you with its mouth wide open, something Chinook hardly ever do.

You can, however, ensure that your catch will lean toward the silver route by employing very coho-specific techniques – troll faster, troll shallower and use flashy lures.

"You troll a little bit faster for coho than Chinook," says Wayne Butler, owner of Prowler Charters in Bandon (prowlercharters.com). "You might be up to 2 1/2 knots or 3 knots for coho where Chinook like it from 1 1/2 knots to 2 knots.

"With coho you're also going to fish shallower," notes Butler. "Predominantly, coho are more of a surface fish, in the top 3 or 4 fathoms. You're not going to run your lines down deep. So trolling shallow will help reduce the impacts on Chinook."

Butler says he also keys in on trolling hardware like spinners, flashers and hootchies instead of bait. Using Deep Sixes with a flasher and a spinner, or a dodger and a hootchie can be deadly combinations. Shocking pink is a killer color for coho.

A flasher will spin, while a dodger will impart a pack-and-forth motion that makes hootchies dance.

Jim Welter receives volunteer of the year award:

Jim Welter of Brookings was awarded ODFW's prestigious Dave Liscia Volunteer Service Award during the Fish and Wildlife Commission's June 6 meeting in Salem.

"It's about time they recognized him with that," says longtime friend Andy Martin from wildriversfishing.com. "In the whole state there couldn't be a more deserving person. He puts in more hours than most people's full-time jobs. He's been a huge player in enhancement projects on the Chetco River for more than 20 years."

The space in this entire newspaper could never do justice to all of Welter's achievements. At the very least, Welter has negotiated many salmon seasons for Brookings.

"I think it's great," says colleague Wayne Butler about the award. "He's constantly in the battlefield for Southern Oregon. And sharp as a tack. He's always been a great person with great character."

The Rogue turns on:

"They're still catching a few springers," says Sam Waller from jotsresort.com. "David Anderson limited out yesterday (Wednesday)."

Anderson (ultimatesalmonfishing.com) was ready to head for the barn after he limited out with four springers in the Quosatana area.

"It's kind of hit-and-miss," notes Waller. "We're kind of winding down our springer season and preparing for the big fall run, which we're hoping is a good run this year."

One of the most optimistic outlooks for a good Rogue fall Chinook season was stated in an ODFW June 19 news release:

"The return of fall chinook to Oregon's coastal rivers and streams is forecast be significantly below established goals and long-term averages. The exceptions are rivers in the Tillamook Bay system and the Rogue River, which should be near established goals."

Tight Lines!