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Salmon season opens to bubble aficionados

On Oregon Waters by Larry Ellis, author badge,

he 2015 Chetco River Fall Chinook Ocean Terminal Area Season (aka the Bubble Season) officially opened its doors last Thursday to throngs of anglers trolling anything and everything from anchovies spun by hooded helmets to cut-plug herring. The annual affair got off to a slow start but there were a few folks who limited out.

So don’t be disheartened if you were one of the many anglers whose rods never had a savage take-down.

This fishery always starts off with a low hookup ratio in the very beginning but progressively starts picking up as the season advances.

I was lucky enough to have been invited to fish the opener of the bubble fishery by a friend, and I had two solid hookups by trolling anchovies being spun by chartreuse-colored Bechhold Rotary Bullet Baitholders.

Donene Bond from Brookings hoists a chrome-bright 35-pound Chinook she caught, photo by Larry Ellis
«Donene Bond from Brookings hoists a chrome-bright 35-pound Chinook she caught last week while trolling a spinnerbait/anchovy setup in the Chetco estuary.

The first hookup was replete with splendid runs and thumb-burning action, with a hefty Chinook ending up in the cooler. The big king was hooked so well that it was difficult to get the hooks out even though they were barbless, as is required in this fishery.

But the second fish, although full of animated action and rip-roaring runs, ended up juice-dogging the net and ultimately spit the hook. In fact , there were several reports of anglers losing fish at the net.

Chinook were picked up in water between 40- and 60-feet deep paralleling Sporthaven Beach but there were also boaters fishing at and uphill from the whistle buoy. Folks were hooking their fish anywhere between 40 and 100 feet on-the-wire.

Don’t worry if you do not find clusters of salmon. Simply find the baitfish and the salmon will not be far behind. In fact both of my hookups came in water where there were no salmon being marked on the meter at all.

Larry Ellis holds a surprise redtail surfperch that whacked a trolled anchovy setup in the ocean in the Chetco Bubble Fishery, photo by Larry Ellis
«The author holds a Chinook he caught in the ocean on the opening day of the Chetco Bubble Fishery while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor.

The big king hammered an anchovy that was spun by a chartreuse-colored Bechhold Rotary Bullet Bait Holder. My favorite rigging is an 8-inch chrome dodger with green tape leading to a two-hook sliding mooching leader between 34- and 36-inches long. Before tying the leader to the dodger, slide down a chartreuse-colored Bechhold Rotary Bullet Baitholder which houses the head of an anchovy. The low-profile fins of the bullet causes the anchovy to spin like a drill bit.

The dodger whips the rapidly-spinning anchovy to and from in an erratic manner. This kind of motion just drives salmon crazy. I never go longer than 36 inches on my leaders because the anchovy no longer is affected by this wild jerking motion of the dodger.

You can buy pre-tied mooching leaders or tie your own. My preference is to use a 5/0 Owner straight eye-style hook for the front sliding hook and a 6/0 octopus-style hook for the back hook, but pre-tied mooching leaders are all made with the octopus-style hook.

One trick of the trade is to use a dental rubber band to hold the back hook onto the anchovy. In other words you are not piercing the baitfish with the rear hook at all.

The bubble fishery will last through October 11.

Larry Ellis holds a surprise redtail surfperch that whacked a trolled anchovy setup in the ocean in the Chetco Bubble Fishery, photo by Larry Ellis
The author holds a surprise redtail surfperch that whacked a trolled anchovy setup in the ocean in the Chetco Bubble Fishery outside the Port of Brookings Oregon. The anchovy was meant for a Chinook.

Folks trolling the Chetco estuary with spinnerbait/anchovy rigs also put some serious hurtin’ on chrome-bright Chinook as well, like the 35-pound beauty that was caught by Donene Bond of Brookings.

Remember to turn in your hatchery fish snouts. Inside the fish cleaning station at the Port of Brookings Harbor is a kiosk, and inside the kiosk are pencils, forms, plastic bags and instructions on how to cut the snout off. If you turn in a hatchery snout, and if your fish’s snout has a coded wire tag imbedded in its head, you will be automatically be entered in a raffle that gives away a very expensive rod and reel outfit.

Bottomfishing action still superb
If there’s one thing you can count on in the ocean outside of the Port of Brookings Harbor, it’s the spectacular bottom fishing that this area provides.

Action for cabezon, rockfish and lingcod has still been absolutely off the charts.

This is the most cost-effective fishery on the Oregon coast. Excellent bottomfishing action immediately starts as you exit the port’s jaws, where reefs of all shapes and sizes harbor cabbies, rockfish and lingasaurs.

Anglers are catching their bottomfish using twin-tail plastics, single-tail worms, grubs, plastic jerk baits, shrimp flies and leadfish.

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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