WATCH WATER TEMPS, BAROMETRIC PRESSURE FOR BEST BITE

April 19, 2008 12:00 am
Two anglers hoisting lingcod and rockfish they caught last week outside the Port of Brookings Harbor. (The Pilot/Larry Ellis).
Two anglers hoisting lingcod and rockfish they caught last week outside the Port of Brookings Harbor. (The Pilot/Larry Ellis).

By Larry Ellis

Pilot staff writer

Ideal water temperatures and barometric pressure prompt Rogue River springer bite

Quick! Name the most important factor that causes salmon to go on the bite. If you said "water temperature," you read ahead – cheaters!

The fact is, if you were to ask professional guides which three elements influence fishing the most, I would hazard a guess that 99 percent of them would mention water temperatures right off the bat, no matter which species they were fishing for.

Sure, air temperatures come into play to a certain degree, but only by causing the water temperature to rise or fall, and that process could take several days or even weeks. What does a fish care about air temperatures anyway, since it spends its entire life submerged in liquid?

This leads to the second most significant ingredient that can cause a salmon to either open its mouth or get a serious case of lockjaw, even with ideal water temperature – barometric pressure.

You often hear anglers chanting old mantras like, "When the wind blows from the west, fish bite the best," or, "When the wind blows from the east, fish bite the least."

My favorite is, "When the wind blows from the south, it blows the hook right in the fish's mouth."

All of those old adages contain a kernel of truth, but when you stop and analyze them, they are more directly related to changes in barometric pressure, or what anglers refer to as fronts.

Barometric pressure not only affects the air, but it also triggers changes in the water itself. Fish can feel these changes. It's kind of like when your ears pop. You feel uncomfortable as you ascend in a car or a plane, but sooner or later (more likely later), your ears will finally adjust by popping.

Fish are a lot like that too. When they're uncomfortable, they don't feel like eating. But when the pressure eases up, it's time to start chowing down, especially if the water temperature is in their comfort zone.

The most significant part about changes in barometric pressure is that a fish will eventually adjust to it after it finally stabilizes, but they will often be off the bite for the first day or two while they are acclimating to the change

The third factor that predisposes a salmon to chomp your 'chovy is definitely scent. A salmon smells in parts per billion, whereas other fish smell in parts per million. You could say that a salmon is guided by scent until its last dying breath.

So that's it in a nutshell: temperature, barometric pressure and scent, in order of primary importance. And that's exactly what's been happening on the lower Rogue this past week.

When the water temperatures were ideal, and there were no cold fronts in the forecast, the springer's mouths became unhinged, as if you squirted a few drops of Liquid Wrench inside their jaws.

Just last week, one of the Rogue's seasoned veterans caught springers based on water temperature and barometric pressure.

"Every time that temperature jumps up to 54 or 55, we're catching fish," says Les Craig from Rogue River Guide Service (rogueguide.com). "The water temperatures were about 55 on Sunday and Monday and the fishing was very good.

"We've got this cold wind blowing right now and we're expecting snow Saturday, so you can expect a downturn for a few days."

Craig is remaining optimistic about having a good springer season this year. As soon as the water temps climb back up, the fish will be back on the bite. In the meantime, he has a strategy for fishing in temperatures below 54.

"I use a lot of straight bait in the colder temperatures," notes Craig. "As the water warms up I'll go to spinners or spinnerbaits."

Craig likes to adjust his anchovy so it has a tighter spin when the water flow is between 2 and 3 miles per hour, but readjusts his 'chovy so it has more of a flop when he is fishing in a slower-moving current.

Anglers cash in on rockfish and lingcod outside the Port of Brookings Harbor

The fishing this week has been nothing short of spectacular for anglers going after the bottom-grabbers. Limits upon limits of rockfish kept pouring into the cleaning station this week.

It sounds like the same old story week after week, but it's my job to report the facts to you, and if the stories are seeming a little redundant, just be thankful we live in an area that has the best fish habitat on the Oregon Coast.

Again, there were several days where anglers were hauling in some tremendously large vermilion rockfish. This has probably been one of the best years for catching the big goldfish.

In my mind, they are one of the most beautiful looking rockfish there are. Normally, the vermilion are running over 6 pounds, with a lot of gorgeous specimens over 10. When they get that big, you really don't know what you have on the end of your line until you finally see color.

The number one lure has been an ordinary leadfish. You don't have to spend 5 bucks or more for expensive jigs in order to be into the verms. The ones that cost a buck work just fine.

Of interest, Jock Headlee informed me that there are two types of blue rockfish coming to the tables now, the regular kind and another called a blue blotched rockfish. In addition, there have been two distinct species of vermilion rockfish coming to the tables. This has no effect on the fishing, it's just interesting and kind of exciting that a couple new varieties of rockfish have been identified.

In addition to rockfish, anglers have been bringing loads of lingcod limits to the fillet tables as well. This has been some of the best lingcod fishing I have ever seen. Limits are generally the rule for fish averaging between 24 and 28 inches.

There have been some 12- to 15-pound females being brought into the cleaning station, and the big gals' bellies are very filled out, so it appears that there is another spawn occurring. Many anglers are reporting releasing the lings that are over 15 pounds, so they will continue procreating the species.

Tight Lines!