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Rogue Bay Chinook stellar; tuna at Coos

On Oregon Waters by Larry Ellis author badge,

ower-than-usual water releases out of Lost Creek Dam from now till October is probably going to produce higher-than-usual hookups on fall Chinook for anglers trolling in the lower Rogue Bay. And the fantastic fall Chinook fishing should continue all the way through October due to the fact that the upper Rogue River flows are predicted to be lower than usual due to drought situations near Lost Creek Dam, lower-than-usual acre feet of water in Lost Creek Reservoir, and high-temperature scenarios that occur in the Rogue River Canyon.

Last Thursday, the water flows from the McLeod gauge (just below Lost Creek Dam) and the Agness gauge were reading 1,540 cubic feet per second(cfs) and 1,680 cfs respectively. Usually those two gauges read within 100 cfs of each other.

And the water flows are anticipated to go down even more during the summer months, which should keep the fishing in the Rogue Bay outstanding.

"We were letting flows out of the dam for the salmon run, but that's done now," said Janine Schaur, Budget Technician for the US Army Corps of Engineers at McLeod, Oregon. "About 1,550 (cfs) is going to be our average until July 10, and then it will probably go down some more after that until the second week in August."

Anglers last week were commonly hauling in limits or at least a fish per person.

"I had one day where we had 4 fish in the boat and lost a few as well," said Jack Hanson of Jack's Guide Service in Brookings. "Everywhere you looked there were people hooking up left and right. It looks like the old Rogue is back."

And the fish counts although not through the roof, are still quite respectable.

"Rogue River fishing has been relatively strong over the past week since the last time you wrote (last Saturday)," said Jim Carey from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach. "It's been averaging about 25 to 40 fish a day."

Stven Wallace holding 2 large tuna he caught off Coos Bay, Photo by Larry Ellis
Steve Wallace from Escalon, California and numerous other Brookings residents towed their boats up to Charleston Harbor in Coos Bay, Oregon last week to make a royal score on albacore ranging from 15 to 40 pounds which were only 30 miles from shore.

Low, clear and very warm river conditions create extremely-favorable conditions for fishing the Rogue Bay. Here's why.

When drought conditions cause the Army Corps of Engineers to let out lower-than-usual amounts of water out of Lost Creek Dam, river flows drop, and consequent warmer-water temperatures rise, especially in the Rogue River Canyon and in the upper tidewater holes near or just above Claybanks.

When salmon enter the Rogue estuary, they hang out for a day or so before following their native instincts and heading upriver to spawn.

Their first stops are always the upper tidewater holes, which this year should be producing water temperatures in the neighborhood of 75 to 80 degrees - seriously!

Salmon that are coming in fresh from the ocean have a natural comfort zone of 52 degrees. When they hit that impenetrable wall of 80-degree water in the upper holes, they don't dig that so much and are pushed back into the estuary as that wall of warm water pushes them back to the bay after the turn of low tide.

A salmon's instinct to spawn is suddenly overridden by their need to have their backs scratched by that cooler water in the bay. Here in the bay, the combination of outgoing Chinook and fresh incoming kings cause the salmon to stack up in the bay like cordwood. Now your lures are seeing the insides of more salmon mouths than usual.

So although I sympathize with the upper Rogue's low-flow dilemma, I get quite excited whenever I hear of these conditions, because what are poor conditions for the upper river are great conditions for the Rogue bay.

Be sure to stop in the Rogue Outdoor Store or Jot's Resort, and ask the friendly clientele how to rig up a Rogue Bait Rig, which will be explained in greater detail in next week's column.

Ocean Chinook still scattered
Ocean Chinook salmon have been few and far between outside the Port of Brookings, but 40 Chinook on the nose were reported being caught on Sunday.

Anglers who caught these strapping specimens of Chinook took advantage of where the commercials were fishing and caught most of their fish between 14 and 17 miles out to sea while fishing their anchovies deep, between 100- and 150-feet on the wire.

Monday, 4 salmon were counted by the Brookings Port Samplers. One of the salmon was a hatchery coho.

Trudie Blasi over at Full Throttle Sportfishing in Eureka says that the salmon finally arrived and her husband Gary has been limiting out on Chinook ranging from 9 to 19 pounds.

"We're fishing deep for them," said Blasi. "So deep that we're only running 2 downriggers. We're still going to the Eel River Canyon to get 'em."

Albacore at Coos Bay
Meanwhile, anglers from Brookings towed their boats up to Charleston Harbor (Coos Bay) and found hordes of albacore only 30 miles from shore.

The action should keep heating up as July progresses.

There is a possibility that the ideal 62-degree water could make its way closer to Brookings, so keep your eyes peeled on

The lingcod and rockfish bite has remained stellar out of the Port of Brookings as well.

If you want to enjoy a change of pace, try fishing for Pacific sanddabs.

Sanddabs (average 10- to 12-inches long) taste like miniature halibut, and can be found in about 140 feet of water off of Bird Island and other sandy areas uphill from the Port of Brookings Harbor. There is a liberal limit of 25 flatfish, which include sanddabs, sole, starry flounder and California halibut.

You can use three hooks when fishing for sanddabs, but you have to use very small, size 10 hooks because their mouths are very small. Anything works for bait, from pieces of anchovies or other baitfish, to little pieces of squid or small chunks of raw shrimp.

You can deploy a regular surf rig with sinkers ranging from 4 to 8 ounces on the bottom, or you can use two sinkers, one on the bottom of the rig and one at the top of the rig to make sure that the entire rig is right on the bottom.

No matter what rig you decide to deploy, make sure that your rig is always hugging the bottom.

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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