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Herring run peaks at Crescent City

On Oregon Waters, Larry Ellis,

very angler loves to think that he or she has it all figured out when it comes to predicting just how long the Pacific herring run will last in Crescent City Harbor. So it's hard to believe that the herring run is already a done deal when it just barely got started.

"They just went away," said Loren Taylor of Englund Marine Supply in Crescent City on Wednesday, as a cold front was pummeling the northern California and southern Oregon coastline. "They just spawned out and left."

But the jury's still out on that one.

Frank Galusha, former owner of the famed fishing website decided to make the 6-hour drive from his home base in Shasta Lake, California and tripped the baitfish fantastic with a friend on Monday. He brought home with him several hundred of the baitfish which he plans on eating and using for bait.

"We found our herring just outside the harbor where birds were gathering," said Galusha, who caught almost all of his fish on sabiki rigs. "But the guy fishing right next to me caught half a bucketful of herring on just one cast of his throw net," he said.

Galusha said that many of the baitfish, when cut open, looked like they had not yet spawned. So there is a slight possibility that a second wave of fish could be hitting the harbor.

Of note, there is no limit on Pacific herring in California and you do need a California fishing license in order to fish for them.
Mike and Michael Garvey with Chetco River steelhead, photo by Larry Ellis
Father and son Mike and Michael Garvey from Marlborough, Massachusetts decided to break away from striper country and travel all the way to Brookings, Oregon to fish the Chetco River with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing last week. The two limited out on winter steelhead by side-drifting an orange Puff Ball-and-roe setup.

The Chetco River fished quite well last week with the river maintaining between 1,500 and 1,800 cubic feet per second. The upper river holes were running quite clear but surprisingly some of the lower runs, say from Loeb State Park down to Social Security Bar were colored up enough for a few drift-boaters like Andy Martin from Wild Rivers Fishing to nab his fish by side-drifting orange Puff Balls-and-roe setups.

Now the river has risen to the occasion once again and is expected to top 7,000 cfs this weekend. Just wait for the river to drop and clear from a muddy brown to either a slate-gray or an aqua-green appearance and be prepared to clobber the steelhead by plunking number 4 Spin-N-Glos in the colors flame chartreuse (stop-and-go) with white wings, egg fluorescent with white wings, and when the river clears, pink pearl with white wings.

This is the time of year when the river has both incoming fresh steelhead and spawned-out downers heading back to sea.

With the great fishing that has been occurring, expect the river to be plugged with winter steelhead.

Because of their slender, almost snake-like appearance, downers are also called down-backs, snakes, tubes, and gunnies. Personally, I like to let all the downers go because in my opinion they do not make the best table fare.

Downers fight just as hard as incoming steelhead, sometimes more, and they are quite aggressive when they bite. If you see a gunny floating down the river, if you throw anything near it, you will often see it turn tail and make a beeline for your lure.

Having expended most of their energy for spawning, down-backs usually take the easy way out whenever possible and will often float down the river on the surface, where they often take on the appearance of a light-colored branch. They will be using as little energy as possible as they make their way back to the ocean.

What many people do not know is that steelhead have the capability of spawning several years in a row, unlike salmon which always die shortly after they spawn. In fact the Chetco holds its own record of sorts when it comes to multiple-year spawning steelhead.

Reading steelhead scales tells experts like Lisa Borgerson, retired research scientist for ODFW, how many times a steelhead has spawned. In her career with ODFW, she has not just read the scales of thousands of steelhead - she's read the scales of tons of steelhead!

"The most repeat spawning episodes I've read on a steelhead scale came from a fish that had 4 spawning checks and was picked up on its fifth run - and that fish came from the Chetco," noted Borgerson.

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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