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Salmon still expected; baitfish await them

On Oregon Waters by Larry Ellis, author badge,

t's one thing to have a good salmon prediction - it's another to have baitfish around to keep them in the local area. Although the switch on ocean Chinook has yet to be flipped, when they finally do arrive, there will be no problem with them taking up residency.

There is so much baitfish just a hundred yards off all the beaches near the Port of Brookings Harbor, it's ridiculous. Everywhere you go, pelicans can be seen dive-bombing schools of baitfish, whether smelt, herring, shad, or sardines.

On Wednesday, Marge Mansur from Four M Tackle told me that the Chinook were about 8 miles offshore at the shrimp beds. A heading of 290 degrees puts you there. But the seas were a little iffy in the morning and the winds were too high for the commercial boys to get there

baitfish on a pole, by Larry Ellis
Anglers were still hauling in smelt, herring, shad and sardines 4 or more at a time last week while using Sabiki rigs in the Port of Brookings Harbor.

Then the ocean started laying down in the afternoon.

On Thursday, the ocean laid down as flat as a sheet of liquid mercury.

I know that I do tend to over-use this particular phrase, but I do love my clichés, and after all, the ocean indeed looked exactly as I described. And that scenario beckoned fishermen of all shapes and sizes to head up as far as Arch Rock or as far south as Camel Rock to try their luck at catching bottomfish and to troll for salmon.

By mid-morning, some of the commercial vessels had a few Chinook in their totes and there were more bottomfish hitting the fillet tables than Carter's got pills.

In short, the ocean is really starting to shape up for some Chinook action.

The water is ranging from 49 to 53 degrees, and a few rips and slicks are starting to develop. And don't forget that there's plenty of bait to keep them here.

With more of the same weather being predicted this weekend and into early next week, I'd say it's almost a sure thing that salmon are going to hit the fillet tables sometime next week.

On Thursday there were a lot of people trolling for salmon on that 290-degree heading from the whistle buoy. There will probably be a few boats heading south toward the California boarder either on a 220- or a 240-degree heading as well.

And let's not forget following that 110-foot line slightly uphill from jaws of the Port of Brookings Harbor.

"The ocean's starting to lay down for us and a Chinook salmon was caught today off of the (St. George) reef," said Leonard at Englund Marine at Crescent City on Thursday. "And we just weighed in a 35-pound lingcod, so fishing for rockfish and lingcod has been very good."

And when I left the Port of Brookings Harbor's fillet station on Thursday, someone was bringing in a lingcod to the tables that was in the 30-pound class as well.

Ron Vogel (left) and Adam Bogner, both from Brookings limited out on a good grade of black rockfish, by larry Ellis
Ron Vogel (left) and Adam Bogner, both from Brookings limited out on a good grade of black rockfish while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor on Wednesday.

Anglers have been easily limiting out on a superior grade of rockfish and large lingcod in both Crescent City and Brookings.

In addition, the baitfish are still flooding the boat basin inside the Port of Brookings Harbor. There are a few anglers using throw nets to catch their baitfish, but most people are using sabiki rigs.

When I arrived on the scene at the crab pier located on the south jetty, I counted 24 people who were all jigging for baitfish, the majority of which were smelt and sardines, with an occasional herring or American shad thrown in for good measure. To sum it all up, the pier was crowded.

Anglers have also been jigging for baitfish off the jetties and at the public dock located off the center jetty.

Baitfish have been coming into port on the incoming tide, with the majority of fish being pushed in with the current at mid-tide, the strongest part of the tide.

And based on the amount of baitfish that are hanging out just off the Brookings-area beaches, I foresee that the baitfish action could continue for the next several weeks, at least.

There are plenty of coho (also known as silvers) being caught offshore as well. Right now, all silvers must be released, but that is going to change shortly.

Exactly one week from today (June 27), anglers will be allowed to keep one or two hatchery (adipose fin-clipped) coho as part of their two-salmon daily limit, north of the Oregon/California border. This year, the coho season is from June 27 through August 9, or until 55,000-marked coho are caught.

I always say that the coho fishery is our salvation. If the Chinook do arrive late, the coho will probably be there to pick up the slack.

Fishing for redtail and striped surfperch has also remained stellar at Brookings- and Gold Beach-area beaches.

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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