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Herring arrive in C-City, fishing abounds

On Oregon Waters, Larry Ellis,
ell, they're here, and it was my good fortune to be there when they arrived. We're talking about the long-awaited arrival of Pacific Herring into Crescent City Harbor.

"A guy called me this morning and asked if the herring had arrived yet," explained Leonard Carter, assistant manager of Englund Marine Supply on Wednesday. "I told him that they weren't here yet, but they would be here any minute. Two hours later, guys were throwing them in their buckets!"

I just got to Citizens Dock on Wednesday when the first herring arrived in Crescent City Harbor, and there were a few people with bucketfuls of the baitfish leaving the dock.

By the time this article comes out, the iridescent baitfish should still be in the harbor. Although their concentrations were not super high at that time, there should be several different waves of fish coming into and building up in the harbor all week long. Normally they stay anywhere from one to three weeks, but the average time people can expect them to remain in the harbor is approximately two weeks.

Boy catching Pacific Herring, Photo by Larry Ellis
Pacific herring finally made their way into Crescent City Harbor in large numbers today (Wednesday). Some anglers, like this fishermen, were taking home herring by the bucketful.

Charterboat operators depend on filling their freezers with these fish-catching marvels. Jim Bithell of Charthouse Sportfishing for example uses these babies to put his clients on lingcod as well as halibut.

Sergio Hernandez wth limit of large black rockfish and ligcod, photo by Larry Ellis
Sergio Hernandez fished at House Rock out of the Port of Brookings Harbor on Wednesday and caught limits of large black rockfish and lingcod.

But first things first. You do need a California fishing license to jig for herring. If you cannot afford the resident or non-resident annual fishing license, then you can buy one for the day.

And chances are that you already have the rod and reel needed to catch these sparkly baitfish. But just in case you don't have the right stuff, Englund Marine sells a rod with a spinning reel combo complete with line for $29.95.

Generally speaking, these baitfish usually first enter the area around the entrance to the marina, where anglers usually pick them off while fishing on or near Citizens Dock. As the run progresses and builds, they will spill over into the area around the boat launch facility and near the Coast Guard dock.

Incoming tide is usually the best time to jig for them especially as it approaches high tide.

But whether you use your herring for lingcod, halibut or salmon bait, or whether you decide to can or pickle them for food, keeping them ultra cold is the key to keeping them safe for eating and for maintaining their scales, because each individual scale acts like a sparkly lure of its own.

Tony Sepulveda owner of GreenWater Fishing Adventrues with steelhead, photo by Larry Ellis
Tony Sepulveda, owner-guide of Green Water Fishing Adventures and several other boats fishing alongside with him had quite a lot of success on the Chetco River last week. Here, Tony is holding a steelhead in the upper teens that a client caught while side-drifting a Puff Ball-and-roe setup.

So if you want the best baits possible, you are going to need a moderate-size ice chest, lots of ice and non-iodized table salt.

Layer your ice chest with about 6 inches of ice, then add a cup or two of table salt on top of the ice. Add another 6 inches of ice and sprinkle on it another cup or two of table salt. When your ice chest is about 3/4 full of ice, you're ready to put the herring into the ice chest.

When used this way, your ice chest turns into a freezer (just like making ice cream!), and when the wiggly baitfish hits the ice/salt concoction, it is almost immediately killed and stops wiggling, thereby keeping all or most of its scales intact.

The trick in catching the most herring is to not set the hook or jig sharply and abruptly, but to make long sweeping motions and gently ease them into your boat or onto your ice chest. These guys and gals have paper-thin mouths so you have to baby them a lot. Remember to keep both the winged and non-winged varieties of sabiki rigs in your tackle boxes.

Bottomfishing outside the Port of Brookings Harbor was also stellar last week as well. Jim Bithell, owner of Charthouse Sportfishing limited out his clients on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the trick is to head uphill toward House Rock to get away from all the freshwater influence that has occurred near blown-out rivers like the Chetco and Winchuck.

Bithell's clients caught lots of the turquoise-meated variety of lingcod as well as lots of very large black rockfish.

Anglers are having most of their luck fishing plastics in this very cold saltwater environment. Lingcod as usual are hitting plastics as well as large whole herring.

james Lovett with steelhead, photo by Larry Ellis
James Lovett from Hiouchi, California caught this steelhead last week while side-drifting Puff Balls-and-roe on the Chetco river

Chetco River steelheaders are also catching plenty of hatchery and wild winter steelhead by side-drifting Puff Balls-and-roe setups as well as pulling plugs, and the action should continue to thrill fishermen throughout the week.

With the calming of the river bar, expect the lower Rogue River to kick out plenty of winter steelhead as well for anglers anchoring up and setting out plugs like Mag Lip 3.0 or antique Wiggle Warts and Wee Warts, as well as the Brad's Wigglers and Wee Wigglers.

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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