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KMZ ocean salmon seasons set for 2016

On Oregon Waters, Larry Ellis, myoutdoorbuddy.com
fter considerable disagreement and intransigence occurred among organizations who were discussing salmon-allotment issues during a meeting held in Vancouver, Washington by the PFMC last week, problems were resolved and the ocean salmon seasons for 2016 were finally set at 4:30 pm on Thursday.

The Klamath Management Zones (KMZ) seasons for both California and Oregon will be quite different than usual as well as different from each other than in previous seasons.

The Oregon KMZ, an area spanning Humbug Mountain south to the Oregon/California border and which also encompasses the Port of Brookings Harbor, will have two separate seasons - a slightly delayed first season and a second season that specifically covers the Labor Day Weekend. In the Oregon KMZ, the minimum size for Chinook is 24 inches.

The first season for the Oregon KMZ will last for 72 straight days from May 18 through August 7. This will be an all-salmon-except-Coho season that will be primarily targeting Chinook salmon. However, within this season, anglers will be able to keep hatchery (adipose fin-clipped) Coho in a special 13-day season lasting from June 25 through August 7, or until a 26,000 hatchery Coho quota has been attained.

Sarah O'Dell and Morgan Murphy with rockfish limit, photo by Larry Ellis
Sarah O'Dell and Morgan Murphy from Wilderville, Oregon caught limits of rockfish and lingcod on Sunday while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor, photos by Larry Ellis

This first salmon season which closes one hour after sunset on August 7 will then shut down for 26 straight days until the second 3-day all-salmon-except Coho season opens up from September 3 through September 5, which will allow for the Slam'n Salmon Derby which has traditionally been held on Labor Day Weekend.

During this latter season, no Coho will be allowed in the Oregon KMZ. I feel compelled to note this factor because every year to my surprise several anglers are always given very expensive tickets for keeping Coho.

Larry Ellis with rockfish, photo by Larry Ellis
Rockfish pushing bait balls are often caught on the surface this time of year on baitfish-looking plugs that dive from 2 to 5 feet deep like the author did while throwing a Yo-Zuri sardine-looking type lure.

The California KMZ which spans from the California/Oregon border south to Horse Mountain will have four separate seasons. These are all-salmon-except-Coho seasons which primarily target Chinook salmon. No Coho are ever allowed to be retained in California and the minimum length for Chinook in the California KMZ is 20 inches.

Season 1 lasts for 16 days from May 16 through May 31. Season 2 lasts for 15 days from June 16 through June 30. Season 3 lasts for 32 days from July 16 through August 16. Season 4 finally winds up the California KMZ area for another 5 days lasting from September 1 through September 5.

When all the seasons within each KMZ zone are combined, the California KMZ has a 68-day combined season while the Oregon KMZ has a 75-day season, a 7-day longer season than its California counterpart of the KMZ.

Look for Rockfish action on the Surface
This is the time of the year when rockfish start ascending from their deepwater abodes and start thrashing baitfish that are maneuvering over their haunts near the surface of the water. So I always like to keep an extra rod locked and loaded with my favorite topwater or shallow-surface diving lure, which for me has always been a 5-inch Yo-Zuri minnow in the color resembling a sardine.

Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing gave me a call last week to inform me that there were plenty of anchovies within a few miles from shore and with them came lots of limits of rockfish that were feeding on the baitfish. Even though the salmon season has not yet started, Andy had already hooked and released a Coho salmon and had a Chinook on one of his rods as well.

When looking for exciting rockfish surface action, keep your eyes peeled on the water's surface for any unusual water chop activity, which might be an indication of rockfish feeding on baitfish. You should also be watching the water's surface for signs of diving birds as well.

Look at the lip on your plug. Lips that are about one-inch long usually will cause the lure to dive from 1 to 3 feet, but longer lips up to 2-1/2 inches long will usually send the lure down to 6-feet depths, which is perfect for catching surface-biting rockfish because they will often dive back to depths slightly below where the baitfish are.

The Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow line makes plugs that dive at all depths but Rapala also makes some great plugs as well.

If you find a location loaded with surface-thrashing rockfish, you will probably find lingcod in the mix as well. It also pays to put these locations in your GPS memory banks because generally the baitfish brings the rockfish up from specific rockfish-holding locations, and you can go back to these locations at another time and clean up while fishing leadfish or plastics near the bottom.

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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