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Salmon fishing slow? Go for surfperch!

On Oregon Waters by Larry Ellis, author badge,

ishing for Chinook on the Chetco was fair at best last week, with most boats copping a big fat zero, however there were a few driftboats that had some salmon in the box, especially toward the beginning of the week when the flow was up to 1,500 cfs.

With super gin-clear water, the salmon are spookier than a ghost on Halloween and they naturally do not bite as well when they are forced to always be on the lookout. But with rains expected this weekend and into the beginning of next week, the Chetco could conceivably rise to the occasion once again and be kicking out its famous November 30-pound hawgs.

On Tuesday I also personally saw on the Chetco - believe it or not - one steelhead being filleted, which looked like it was between 8 and 10 pounds. Another fellow fisher told me of another steelhead caught on the very same day.

A fly fisherman works his fly line to get his streamer to the right place on a peaceful sunny day on the Chetco River last week., photo by Larry Ellis
A fly fisherman works his fly line to get his streamer to the right place on a peaceful sunny day on the Chetco River last week. Photo by Larry Ellis

In the meantime, Jason Dimmick gave me a call on Tuesday to tell me that he and 3 other friends just knocked the living daylights out of striped surfperch while fishing on the river side of the Port of Brookings Harbor's south jetty.

So when the salmon fishing is a little on the slow side, break out your surfperch fishing gear and head for local-area beaches and hot rock spots. Jason's group of 4 people limited out with 60 striped surfperch using small pieces of raw shrimp for bait.

"We really hammered the surfperch," said Dimmick on Tuesday. "It was a beautiful bluebird day and the fishing was absolutely fantastic. We all got our limits and a lot of them were huge 2-pounders, just perfect for fish tacos."

The Brookings area is not the only place that kicked out surfperch last week. Folks fishing Gold Beach surfperch locations were also hammering surfperch, which last week were mostly the redtail variety.

"An interesting thing is that we're still getting surfperch," says Larry Cody from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach. "We've got people pretty much daily who are buying gear and going out and catching 'em."

One of the best places to catch surfperch has been the stalwart Rogue South Jetty Spit. Anglers commonly walk out to the sand spit at low tide and fish through high tide and high slack using either small pieces of raw shrimp or 2-inch Berkley Camo-colored Sand Worms.

This place fishes best on the ocean side but be very careful when fishing the spit because sneaker waves and fast incoming tides should be avoided.

On the opposite side of the south jetty, where the beach meets the ocean side of the jetty, is a great place for picking up both striped and redtail surfperch.

Another great place to fish would be just downhill from the Nesika Beach Wayside.

Make sure to grab a free tide book from Fred Meyers and be aware of the tide cycles. Surfperch will almost always bite on the incoming tide.

You can get away with fishing lighter steelhead-type gear when fishing from jetty rocks, but you will want to beef things up when fishing the actual surf.

On a stout 8- to 9-foot surf rod, run 20-pound monofilament mainline to a 4- to 6-ounce pyramid sinker. Run a 2-hook dropper-loop gangion with loops spaced 18 inches equidistant to each other and also 18 inches from the sinker. In the loops run a number 6- or 8 snelled hook leader. You want to run small hooks in case the fish are light biters.

If your shrimp is coming off the hook, throw a few wraps of light cotton thread or Miracle Thread around the bait to prevent it from flying off of the hook.

"The salmon run in the lower river (lower Rogue bay) has pretty much wound down," says Cody. "They're still catching the occasional odd Indian Creek fish at Indian Creek but that's about it. We're really waiting for the winter steelhead to arrive which traditionally is sometime around Thanksgiving."

Cody also says that anglers are catching some large salmon on both the Elk and Sixes Rivers.

"They're doing well down in tidewater," notes Cody. "I don't hear of any action very far upriver. In clear water they're running roe and right now with the recent rain they're probably running either anchovies or cut-plug herring."

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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