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Chetco Bubble Fishery starts Oct. 1

On Oregon Waters by Larry Ellis, author badge,

tarting Thursday, the ocean will once again re-open to the retention of Chinook in what ODFW calls the “2015 Chetco River Fall Chinook Ocean Terminal Area Season.” Everybody around these parts just calls it the bubble fishery, or the Chetco bubble fishery. Of course, there is still a lot going on around Brookings and this week’s photos show there is something for just about every angler.

This is a state-run fishery that takes place in state waters; therefore, anglers are limited to fishing within 3 nautical miles from shore, and between Twin Rocks and the Oregon/California border. But that little fact is of no real significance. Most of the fish will be hanging out fairly close to the Chetco River’s north and south jetties.

Robert Bridgeford (right) from Brookings, Oregon was trolling the Chetco bay on Thursday with his friend Bob Towne when he caught this 25-pound chrome-bright Chinook that fell for a spinnerbait/anchovy setup. Photo by Larry Ellis
Robert Bridgeford (right) from Brookings, Oregon was trolling the Chetco bay on Thursday with his friend Bob Towne when he caught this 25-pound chrome-bright Chinook that fell for a spinnerbait/anchovy setup. All photos by the author

This year, the season will be open for eleven days from October 1-11, and there are a few rules that were implemented in last year’s season which will also remain in effect this year as well.

These three Brookings anglers limited out on very large black rockfish as well as limits of Dungeness crab while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor on Wednesday. Photo by Larry Ellis
These three Brookings anglers limited out on very large black rockfish as well as limits of Dungeness crab while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor on Wednesday.

As always, only 1 wild Chinook may be kept a day and anglers are only allowed to keep no more than 5 wild Chinook for the entire 11-day season. The minimum size is 24 inches.

A wild Chinook is a king salmon that has a fully-intact adipose fin. ODFW also calls a wild Chinook a “non- fin-clipped Chinook.”

But anglers may also keep hatchery Chinook in this fishery as well, which are Chinook that are missing an adipose fin.

Dee Lake and Marty Walch, both from Brookings limited out on rockfish and lingcod, photo by Larry Ellis
Dee Lake and Marty Walch, both from Brookings limited out on rockfish and lingcod last Tuesday out of the Port of Brookings Harbor while fishing with Jim Bithell, owner of Charthouse Sportfishing.

Because of this semi-new regulation, the daily bag limit is now 2 Chinook per angler. So according to the rules, you can keep 2 hatchery Chinook a day, or one wild Chinook plus one hatchery fish a day. But if you’ve caught your five-wild Chinook for the season, then you are only allowed to retain hatchery Chinook, and you would be required to release all wild Chinook.

Of course if you catch a coho, you are required to release it, so make sure to bone up on coho and Chinook identification. I only mention this because during the month of October, it is very likely that coho will be very large, with some of them pushing or exceeding the 20-pound mark. So don’t be fooled by the size of the fish.

The Chetco bay has still been kicking out Chinook between 20 and 35 pounds, with an occasional jack thrown in for good measure. Most anglers are catching these fish by trolling the traditional spinnerbait/anchovy setup, but there are a lot of people who are having considerable success trolling plugs and cut-plug herring. Both the Mag Lip 3.5 and 4.5, and Brad’s Super Bait Cut Plugs (with tuna in the scent chamber) are two good choices for plug trollers.

There have also been many reports of anglers hooking up large Chinook from both north and south jetties as well.

Lures that work excellently from the bank are 1-ounce Krocodiles and ¾-ounce Kastmasters, with the best colors being chrome with a blue leading edge.

Shore anglers should work their lures in the following manner.

Make a long cast and let your lure sink to the bottom on a semi-tight line. Almost always, a Chinook will pick up these lures as they are sinking to the bottom.

Joe Brandt from Grants Pass nailed this Pacific halibut on Wednesday while fishing in only 150 feet of water out of the Port of Brookings Harbor. Photo courtesy of Larry Ellis
«Joe Brandt from Grants Pass nailed this Pacific halibut on Wednesday while fishing in only 150 feet of water out of the Port of Brookings Harbor.

After your lure bottoms out, there are two different techniques.

Method 1 is to reel in your lure on a very-slow retrieve (2 miles an hour) until it either gets whacked by a Chinook or until you reel in the lure all the way back to the bank.

Method 2, and one that I prefer over all methods, is to first let the lure settle all the way to the bottom. Then after reeling in your slack line, point your rod tip down toward the surface of the water and lift your rod tip upward (and with it, your lure) about 2 to 3 feet.

Now let your spoon settle back toward the bottom on a semi-taut line, always pinching the line coming off your reel between your thumb and index finger.

Most of the time, Chinook will suck in your lure as it is sinking. The bite will feel very faint, like a bb was dropped onto your fingertip. If you feel this subtle sensation, point your rod tip to the water’s surface, reel in your slack, and set the hook like nobody’s business. Remember that hooksets are free.

I often find that combining Method 1 and 2 can be very effective as well.

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. Posted with permission of the Curry Coastal Pilot of Brookings, Oregon.

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