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Bottomfish, crabs, Rogue Bay kings on tap

On Oregon Waters by Larry Ellis, author badge,

ast week, a choir of electric fillet knives could be heard singing daily at the Port of Brookings Harbor's fillet station as anglers filleted rockfish after rockfish, and lingcod after lingcod.

Suffice it to say, the rockfishing action has been stellar and fishermen have had no problem hauling in limits of the bottom-grabbers with regularity using anything and everything, including single and twin-tail plastics, shrimp flies, leadfish and baitfish such as herring and anchovies.

Because of glassy-flat ocean conditions, anglers were catching their bottomfish uphill toward House Rock, downhill toward Camel Rock, or just straight out from the north and south jetties. In addition to bottomfish, the crabbing has suddenly picked up as well.

3 boys holding up 5 lingcod, photo by Larry Ellis
These lads from Boy Scout Troop 32 in Brookings had no problem limiting out within three hours on black rockfish and half-limits of lingcod. Photos by the author
Crabbers who have been setting their pots between 80- and 90-feet of water and soaking them overnight have also been raking in limits of Dungeness crab as well, and the 'dungies' have been as-hard-as-a-rock, well-filled-out crustaceans.

Anglers are also catching a few Chinook and coho a day as well, but they are having to go deep to get them. Again the age-old question keeps popping up. So how deep is deep, exactly?

Aaron Astell from Medford, Oregon was trolling an anchovy 100 feet on the wire about 6 miles from the Port of Brookings Harbor when this coho hammered his baitfish. Photo by Larry Ellis
Aaron Astell from Medford, Oregon was trolling an anchovy 100 feet on the wire about 6 miles from the Port of Brookings Harbor when this coho hammered his baitfish.

For some reason, most of the Chinook have been caught right on the bottom and they have been between 4 and 6 miles from the whistle buoy. For instance, a friend of mine and his wife caught their first Chinook this season while fishing about 4 1/2 miles from the whistler in about 188 feet of water. Their bites came 180 feet on the wire.

So if you want to catch salmon and coho in the ocean, again the advice is to go deep and fish deep. This scenario means having to constantly look at your depth finder and continually monitoring the depth of your downrigger balls, because if the bottom terrain changes, you have to change the depth of your bait to go along with it.

That being said, about 2 or 3 Chinook and approximately 4 coho have been coming to the fish-cleaning station a day. That's pretty slow fishing, but as the saying goes, it is what it is.

Rogue Bay action heating up
Fishing for fall Chinook in the Rogue bay has been an on-again/off-again scenario, which is typical for the Rogue Bay. But remember, this is only the beginning of the season -- the hottest action is yet to come.

But still, even on the slowest of days, there have always been some stellar bite periods.

No matter whether the action is fast and furious, or sluggish and slow, you must have your gear in the water at all times if you want to get bit, because when the salmon do finally decide to go on the bite, they always do it at the same time. So have all your gear pre-tied and in the water, because on the Rogue, if you snooze, you lose.

On Wednesday, about mid-tide on the incoming tide (3:20 pm), I could see multiple Chinook jumping clear out of the water. At 3:30 guide Chris Young had already filleted his two 20-pound class Chinook, another boater had netted a chrome-bright jack, and Debbie and Mark Hollinger boated their monstrous king.

Debbie and Mark Hollinger proudly display a gigantic fall Chinook they caught last Wednesday while trolling a spinnerbait/anchovy setup in the Rogue bay. Photo by Larry Ellis
Debbie and Mark Hollinger proudly display a gigantic fall Chinook they caught last Wednesday while trolling a spinnerbait/anchovy setup in the Rogue bay.

"The fishing has really been phenomenal at times," says Amy Gaddis from Jot's Resort in Gold Beach.

Most of the fishermen are trolling the Rogue's signature setup - a spinnerbait/anchovy rig. The best spinnerbait rigs are the ones that are hand-tied by local sporting goods stores such as the Rogue Outdoor Store and Jot's Resort.

Amy ties up all of Jot's spinnerbait rigs herself. I'll tell you right now that it takes a lot of practice to tie up a good-looking spinnerbait rig, so unless you are adept at tying these things up, it is best just to buy a good one from somebody like Amy - it is tuition well spent. Amy's spinnerbait rigs come equipped with a number 2 sliding octopus hook for the front hook, and a treble hook in a size 2 or 3 for the back hook.

The small front hook is not meant to hook the salmon - that's what the rear hook does. Having a small hook as a front hook enables you to adjust the anchovy in such a way that it will have a slight bend to it, allowing it to spin tightly, just like a drill bit. The small front hook is also concealed and does not tear up the anchovy, allowing the rig to last a lot longer than rigs using larger-size front hooks.

On my personally-tied spinnerbait rigs, I will use a number 2 Gamakatsu octopus hook for 5 1/2-inch anchovies, and a number 1 Gamakatsu octopus hook for 6-inch anchovies.

Last week's hawg Chinook showed in today's photo was also caught while using a very small number 3 gold Hildebrandt spinner blade. Sometimes downsizing your spinner blades is all it takes to get a bite when the fishing is a little on the slow side.

Check with Amy at Jot's Resort, or the kind folks at the Rogue Outdoor Store to show you how to rig up these sensational trolling setups.

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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