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Brookings: Non-stop bottomfish action

On Oregon Waters by Larry Ellis

t is now the end of the month and the most-asked question at the local fish-cleaning stations in Brookings and Crescent City has been, “Were there any salmon caught today?” According to Jeff at Englund Marine in Crescent City, the action hasn’t been hot yet, but a possible upcoming salmon scenario is looking very promising.

“We’ve had reports of three or four salmon caught a day,” said Jeff on Thursday. “The water temperature has been steady between 52 and 53 degrees, and although the salmon aren’t here quite yet, the ocean is setting itself up. They could be here any day now.”

Scales don’t exaggerate. Richard French from Brookings hoists a 7-pound canary rockfish he caught on Monday while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor.

« Scales don’t exaggerate. Richard French from Brookings hoists a 7-pound canary rockfish he caught on Monday while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor. Photo by the author

Mark Gasich of Brookings, who frequents both ports of Brookings Harbor and Crescent City told me of a bite where five salmon were landed two days in a row in the Crescent City area.

“That’s more fish than the port samplers have checked in at the Brookings boat ramp for the entire season,” said Gasich on Thursday. “If we get a few days where we get an east or a south wind, those salmon could get here really soon.”

Even if the winds die down to less than 5 knots for a few days from any direction, that would be enough to lure higher catchable numbers of salmon closer to the Port of Brookings Harbor.

So far, the Port of Brookings Harbor has been getting a little onesie-twosie Chinook action on most days, which is typical of most days during the month of May.

June has always been the stalwart month when folks can depend on getting a take-down or two on anchovies being spun by a chartreuse Bechhold Bullet or other hooded bait spinners. And June will officially arrive this coming Monday.

“And when the fish finally get here there will be plenty of bait to hold them here,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing, who told me there are plenty of schools of krill, as well as large smelt and herring in the Brookings area.

With seas laying down on some days like a sheet of liquid mercury, anglers have been trying their luck at catching Pacific halibut. One week ago Thursday, Rudy Vasquez of Las Vegas landed the first halibut in the Southern Oregon Subarea — a beautiful 30-pound specimen.

One week later last Thursday, I saw the remnants of a 50-pound halibut in one of the receptacles at the Brookings fish cleaning facility, so the halibut bite is just starting to pick up.

Rudy got his halibut while fishing in 170 feet of water off of Bird Island, and I heard that the 50 pounder was caught in the same general vicinity as well. But any depth between 170 and 220 feet of water off of Twin Rocks, House Rock, Arch Rock and the Thomas Creek Bridge should be possible producers of big flatties.

“And we’ve been seeing lots and lots of coho at the halibut grounds,” said Doug Morris of Brookings on Thursday.

Seeing lots of coho is a good sign that the Chinook shouldn’t be far behind. So sharpen your hooks and buy plenty of bait. The kings should be arriving en masse any day now.

The red-hot lingcod action still continues to thrill local ling aficionados, with lots of lings in the 10- to 20-pound class being landed on herring, twin-tail plastics, Kalin Mogambos, shrimp flies and leadfish. If you had to settle on one color, go for white.

Most of last week’s action occurred south of the Port of Brookings Harbor. When summer starts approaching, you’ll find more lingcod action downhill from the red can buoy.

There are innumerable reefs south of Brookings containing rockfish and lingcod just begging to have a leadfish moving toward the bottom in an erratic manner.

To find good rockfishing reefs, look on the shoreline for steep, sloping rocky configurations that slope toward the ocean. More than likely, this bottomfishing habitat will continue its upward and downward sloping action as it continues to form craggy reefs in deeper water.

As you cross these land-based configurations, look on your fish finder for any rocky formations that slope upward 20 or more feet to form pinnacles and high spots. First, fish the peak of the high spots before working all downward-sloping venues with your lures.

The rockfish action has been very good, with some very large canary rockfish being landed. Canary rockfish go by many names, with this week’s photograph featuring a 7-pound ocean goldfish being weighed in on my Rapala digital scale.

Most of the rockfish being caught are black rockfish, with blue rockfish following close behind. Remember that only three blue rockfish may be retained a day in Oregon, with only one canary allowed to be retained within the seven-rockfish daily limit.

All China, quillback, copper and yelloweye rockfish must be released.

In Oregon, the limit is two lingcod, with a minimum size of 22 inches.

Just across the border in California, the daily bag and possession limit of lingcod increased to three fish, with a minimum size limit of 22 inches total length. Also, there is a sub-bag limit of only five black rockfish per day in California as well.

“The lingcod fishing has been phenomenal,” says Jeff at Englund Marine in Crescent City. “A 40-pound ling was weighed in last week.”

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

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