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Lings stellar! Keep a canary! King options!

t’s one thing to see limits of lingcod getting filleted every day at the Port of Brookings Harbor cleaning station. It’s another to experience it directly, live, one-on-one with people catching them like they were bluegill in a lake. But that’s exactly what happened to me last Sunday when I fished with Captain Jim Bithell of Charthouse Sportfishing.

The most common phrase uttered that day was, “Not another lingcod!”

Jim had a couple of clients on board, neither of whom had ever caught a lingcod. All I can say is when inexperienced fishermen can catch lings to the equivalent of shooting goldfish in a barrel, fishing has definitely been taken to the ultimate level.

Fishing with Jim is fishing in style, with his 24-foot Clipper Craft built with beautiful Philippine mahogany. Pushed with twin 60-horse Mercs, you get to your desired spot in short order.

 Tom Nusbaum of Grants Pass holds a freshly-gaffed lingcod he caught on a herring while fishing with Captain Jim Bithell from Charthouse Sportfishing on Sunday out of the Port of Brookings Harbor.
Tom Nusbaum of Grants Pass holds a freshly-gaffed lingcod he caught on a herring while fishing with Captain Jim Bithell from Charthouse Sportfishing on Sunday out of the Port of Brookings Harbor.

Jim’s usual modus operandi is to first go for the rockfish, and then after limiting out, start slow-trolling for lingcod.

But when I dropped my leadfish to the bottom, within a few short minutes I had my first lingcod of the day, a worthy specimen between 8 and 10 pounds -- a perfect eating-size ling.

After we caught about half our rockfish limit, we started targeting lingcod.

Jim’s method of targeting lingasaurs is to use a whole purple-label herring. We all rigged up the same way with a 6-ounce banana sinker, a 30-inch mooching leader between 40 and 50 pounds, a 2/0 top sliding hook and a large treble hook for the bottom hook.

You can buy premade sliding mooching leaders inexpensively, cut off the bottom hook and then replace it with a 5/0 or 6/0 treble hook.

Rigging up is a breeze. You insert the point of the top hook in the lower jaw of the herring and have the point come out of the top middle of the herring’s head, the toughest part of the fish. One of the treble points is inserted in the read side of the herring.

Lower your rig to the bottom, reel up eight cranks, begin a slow troll of 0.8 miles an hour or less, and wait for a hungry ling to engulf your offering.

This is the best lingcod fishing I have ever experienced in the 34 years I have lived in Brookings or in any other port for that matter. Both Ports of Brookings-Harbor and Gold Beach had spectacular fishing. I caught lingcod on herring and I caught plenty of lingcod on leadfish.

After we limited out, which took less than an hour, we were back trying to catch the rest of our rockfish limit.

Ladies and gentlemen, all I can say is that the lingcod are so thick it’s absolutely ridiculous

Is it possible to get sick of catching lingcod? If you ever get that desperate, I hear there’s a pill you can take for that one. I must have released at least 10 lings that were bigger than the ones I kept, and so did the rest of the passengers.

As I left the boat, the mantra, “Not another lingcod,” kept ringing in my head ad infinitum.

Canary rockfish retention allowed
Hey guess what all you bottomfishing enthusiasts? You can now keep one canary rockfish a day as part of your seven fish daily groundfish limit.

“As of Wednesday, it was legal to retain one canary rockfish per day as part of your daily seven fish (groundfish) limit,” said Patrick Mirick, ODFW’s assistant groundfish project leader on Thursday.

The species belonging to that seven fish groundfish group are listed on page 6, 92 and 93 of the 2015 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations. But if you just keep rockfish, you’re in the safe zone.

“We’re encouraging people to only keep the fish that appear to be mortally wounded and to release the healthy ones,” added Mirick. “It gives us an opportunity to reduce some of the waste.”

PFMC discusses ocean salmon alternatives
I also received a phone call from Rich Heap, the Oregon Sportfishing representative on the PFMC Salmon Advisory Sub-panel on Thursday who had just logged out of the PFMC meeting discussing salmon season options.

“We now have our three salmon options,” said Heap. “The best option is option one (for Chinook), and I think it’s pretty likely to go. For the Klamath Management Zone, option one is May 1 through September 7.”

For mark-selective (adipose fin-clipped) coho, option one is June 27 through August 9, with a quota of 60,000 marked coho -- and that’s a huge quota.

So with 1.3 million Chinook doing the backstroke in the ocean, and a half a million silvers showing up on occasion, that gives anglers a chance to catch one species or the other when the time is right. The anticipated hatchery coho rate this year is approximately one hatchery coho for every three coho caught.

So it looks like the fishing is going to be rated PG (pretty grand) this week and in the months to come for lingcod hunters in Brookings and Gold Beach, and later, for ocean salmon warriors, when that season finally opens.

Tight lines!

Larry Ellis, author, writer, columnist and photographer has had a 50-year passion for fishing in California and Oregon's saltwater and freshwater venues. He is a well-known writer for Oregon, Washington and California Fishing and Hunting News, Northwest Sportsman, California Sportsman and Pacific Coast Sportfishing. He currently writes monthly for Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine, and is the weekly fishing columnist for “On the Water” for the Curry Coastal Pilot Newspaper. He particularly loves living in his hometown of Brookings, Oregon - The heart of salmon country and gateway to fishing paradise.

On the Water in Oregon by Larry Ellis is posted with permission of the Curry Coastal Pilot of Brookings, Oregon.


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