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So long steelhead; hello rock and surf fish

he Chetco will be closing its doors to the retention of steelhead and salmon this week one hour after sunset on Tuesday, March 31. Not that there are any salmon to be caught. But March can often be a good month to cash in on the end of the winter steelhead run, and, by the way the river is looking (Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday) to be should all be great days to plunk, side-drift, drift-fish or pull plugs.

As of Thursday, the water had a Coke-bottle-green tinge and was at 2,900 cfs. You couldn’t have ordered better water conditions, so this is definitely your last chance at tripping the winter steelhead fantastic.

The Chetco River technically won’t open back up for steelhead retention until May 23, and it won’t reopen for salmon until May 25, Memorial Day. Typically, the Chetco doesn’t even get salmon runs this time of year; however there will be a few runs of steelhead still trickling in when the water conditions are good. And since the Chetco is currently closed to cutthroat trout retention, the river will be theoretically closed to all fishing from April 1 until May 23, when the opening of trout season occurs.

That gives Rogue River springer aficionados a crack at trying to get a spring Chinook to inhale their anchovy and, according to a local tackle shop owner, a few springers have been caught during the high water the last freshet brought.

“We saw some fish (springers) yesterday, a definite increase from the high-water flow that we had,” said Jim Carey, owner of the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach on Thursday. “I do expect it to be in acceleration mode and be even better on Saturday, and Sunday should be OK too.”

Meanwhile the redtail surfperch bite has still been strong and steady at local-area beaches from Brookings to Gold Beach, with the majority of the striped surfperch being caught in Brookings-area locations, and most redtail surfperch catches occurring in the Gold Beach area at Kissing Rock and at the Nesika Beach Wayside.

“The surfperch fishing continues to be strong,” says Carey. “With the surf having kicked up, if you can get into a protected spot, it would be worthwhile. And those Berkley Camo Sandworms are just beating up the band. They’re working better than shrimp, better than mussels and better than clams.”

 Mark Gasich of Harbor holds up two lingcod and some hefty black rockfish he limited out on while fishing plastics out of the Port of Brookings Harbor on Thursday.

Mark Gasich of Harbor holds up two lingcod and some hefty black rockfish he limited out on while fishing plastics out of the Port of Brookings Harbor on Thursday. Photo by the author

In the Brookings area, rockfishing has improved, with limits of large black rockfish being a commonality, and limits of lingcod being the rule.

Anglers like Mark Gasich caught all of his rockfish and lings on plastic swimbaits and other gnarly-looking plastics.

Zoom Flukes in the color baby bass are always stalwart plastics to use any time, day or place for rockfish of all varieties, and Zoom Magnum Super Flukes in the colors watermelon and baby bass are always great plastics to deploy for lingcod.

Other great plastics are made by Bass Pro Shops, such as the D.O.A. C.A.L. Jerk Baits and the Big Shadee Shad are also awesome swimbaits to use on a lightweight setup using a 2-ounce lead head with 12- to 15-pound test.

Every year, three ocean salmon options for various seasons are brought to the table to be discussed and haggled over by the PFMC in April.

This year, all of the Chinook salmon options, now familiarly referred to as alternatives are good, and these alternatives, are for both the Oregon and California KMZ, which is an area from Humbug Mountain, south to Horse Mountain, just south of Eureka, California.

Alternative 1 is from May 1 through September 7. Alternative 2 is from May 9 through September 7, and Alternative 3 is from May 22 through September 7.

These opening dates are not carved in stone and can be adjusted at the PFMC meeting which will be held in mid-April.

Any way you look at it, we’re going to have a spectacular salmon season.

In addition, there are also three mark-select (hatchery) coho salmon options from Cape Falcon south to the Oregon/California border, and all the alternatives are great.

Option 1 calls for a season from June 27 through the earlier of August 9, or until a landed catch of 60,000 marked coho are caught. Option 2 is from June 27 through July 31, or until a landed catch of 52,500 marked coho are caught. And Option 3 calls for a shorter season from July 1 through July 31, or until 40,000 marked coho are caught.

Again, all three coho alternatives can be mixed and matched as well. Either way you look at it, Oregon should have an awesome ocean salmon fishery for both Chinook and coho this season.

You may have noticed that the Port of Brookings-Harbor’s parking lot has been recently torn up. The Oregon Marine Board is putting in a completely new parking lot, complete with an automated pay station, which is expected to be completed by Memorial Day. But if we have more good days of weather, it should be completed much sooner.

In the meantime, the Port of Brookings Harbor is doing everything they can to make the fillet station available for anglers. Boat trailers are temporarily being parked in the back parking lot behind the commercial businesses such as the Hungry Clam and Slugs ‘N’ Stones. It’s an inconvenience at the moment, but should be well worthwhile when it is completed.

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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