Larry Ellis, fishing columnist

In spite of 3- to 5-foot wind waves, anglers ventured out to sea to troll for Chinook salmon. This is without a doubt, the hottest salmon action I have ever experienced in 32 years.

In fact, the action was so hot and heavy, people were calling out their favorite sports idol's jersey number in order to determine how deep to send their downrigger, or how many pulls to use with their divers.

I started out with the undisputed most-noted Giant of all time, Willie Mays. Seconds after the downrigger hit number 24, my rod went off and I battling a nice Chinook.

After catching a Chinook at 24 feet, the next logical choice was to go

down to the 27-foot mark, Juan Marichal's famed jersey number. That

became my go-to number for most of the season. If you can't catch a

Chinook with a Marichal, the fish just ain't biting.

After a while, I started to experiment with other depths. The next

logical step was to employ the Sandy Koufax and set my downrigger at 32

feet, another popular depth used in the ocean in recent months. 32 feet

seems to work just like magic, as in Magic Johnson - take your pick!

My friend Robert Phillips, whose wife is a diehard 49er fan, landed a Jerry Rice a week ago when he sent his bait down 80 feet.

But the last Chinook I caught and landed was a Gale Sayers last Tuesday.

I sent the downrigger and my bait down 40 feet. Just as the depth

number hit 40, I stopped the downrigger and began taking up the slack

when a bear of a chinook grabbed my anchovy, doubled over my rod, and

made several line-peeling runs.

The fact of the matter is that there are so many salmon in the ocean,

and big ones at that, it doesn't really matter much what depth you

decide to fish. At least on most days. So pick your favorite sports

athlete and, just for fun, send your bait down to the depth of his or

her jersey number. When the fishing is as good, as it is right now, you

can play around a little bit with your depth.

Anglers are starting to fill their combined angling tags, so by all

means, purchase a Hatchery Harvest Tag. For a mere $16.50, you can mark

up to 10 fish that have a healed adipose missing fin. That will save you

from tagging out on your combined angling tag. After you've tagged out

on the Hatchery tag, you can purchase more tags till the cows come home.

A good grade of salmon have been hitting the fillet tables this week,

with many over 20 pounds and some beasts approaching 30, like the one

that Robert Phillips caught last week. His wife Soon Ae caught one that

easily went 25 pounds. Most of these fish are age-4 Chinook.

A mixture of 3-year-olds have been interspersed with the 4-year-old

fish, and many anglers have been releasing the 3s in order to have a

chance at catching one of the larger 4s or perhaps even a 5-year-old


Slow trolling is the ticket because Chinook like their baits presented very slowly, about 1.2 knots, give or take.

If your downrigger wire is angled too far behind the boat, you're probably trolling too fast.

Make sure that your fish finder is marking some kind of bait. You don't

have to see Chinook on the screen, but where you find bait or baitfish,

Chinook won't be far behind.

If you're using a Les Davis Dodger, like me, don't make your leaders

more than 40 inches. You want the action of that dodger to whip your

bait around and impart some action to it.

The Rogue Bay is just starting to see the beginning of the fall Chinook action and the tail end of the springer run.

"They're stockpiled so thick in here right now, they're boiling

everywhere," said guide John Anderson of "And these are late springers

and early fall fish. I can't even imagine what it's going to be like in

August and September when the real run gets here. The fishing should be

absolutely red hot."

Tight lines!