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OR KMZ salmon season opens in one week

On Oregon Waters, Larry Ellis,
he Oregon all-salmon-except-coho season will open exactly one week from today, Saturday, May 28 for ocean salmon anglers fishing in the Oregon Klamath Management Zone (KMZ). The Oregon KMZ includes a wide expanse of ocean from Humbug Mountain, south to the Oregon/California border, an area that includes both the Port of Brookings Harbor and the Port of Gold Beach. Most of the salmon that will be caught will be Chinook, which are also called kings.

We recreational fishermen always love it when the commercial fishermen get to fish earlier than the sport fishermen, because the commercials have a way of pinning down exactly where the fish will be when the recreational season finally does open.

The Oregon commercial troll fishery is taking place right now, which is giving recreational fishermen a heads up as to what the sport fishermen might anticipate come the opener on May 28.

According to a reliable source, this year’s crop of kings have already been spotted in the 50-fathom-area off of Brookings, and commercial fishermen have been averaging between 1 and 2 fish per boat – not red hot by any means, but very hopeful for the opener on May 28.

The good news is that the Chinook salmon have not been caught in the 300-foot depths as they were caught last year due to the brutal 2015 El Nino conditions that drove the fish to deeper water, but they were actually being caught in the upper water column.

In addition, there was plenty of baitfish, rips, slicks and diving birds in this vicinity.

In the meantime, recreational sport fishermen were locating salmon and baitfish (primarily anchovies) in the waters off of Crescent City Harbor, but haven’t been hooking up due to inclement weather. Recreational fishermen are currently allowed to fish in the California KMZ until the first leg of their salmon season closes after May 31.

angler holding 1 lingcod and 1 halibut, photo by Larry Ellis
Anglers can sometimes expect to catch both lingcod and Pacific halibut in the Southern Oregon Subarea like Jordan Personius of Grants Pass did on May 16 two years ago, but you have to fish inside of the 30 fathom curve in order to keep the lingcod. You are not permitted to take rockfish and lingcod outside the 30-fathom curve, so get your halibut first, then come inside the 30-fathom curve to get your lings and rockies, photos by Larry Ellis

“I’ve heard that guys are seeing fish (salmon) but I haven’t actually heard of anybody catching one yet” said Leonard Carter, assistant manager of Englund Marine Supply in Crescent City last Wednesday. “It’s been pretty rough out here. It looked like there was fish around today but it got so rough that the boaters had to turn around and come back.”

Carter did say that baitfish have been hanging around the Crescent City area for the past week.

“I never saw them but the fishermen said they looked like anchovies,” noted Carter.

Diving birds also were seen crashing on the baitfish schools.

Meanwhile the bottom fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor had been outstanding, that is until howling northwest winds cropped up on Wednesday. When the winds do subside and the swell diminishes, look for the great lingcod and rockfish fishing to pick up once again.

man holding lingcod, photo by Larry Ellis
Rocky Warren of Medford, Oregon was fishing on Friday after the wind started dying down and caught this lingcod out of the Port of Brookings Harbor.

Although still on the slow side, the Pacific halibut fishing picked up last week as well, with 9 Pacific halibut being checked in by Brookings port samplers by mid-week.

The halibut averaged 35-pounds each but a 48 incher was measured by the port samplers. Looking at the halibut inch-to-weight conversion chart, a 48-inch halibut would weigh approximately 52.7 pounds.

The Pacific halibut season in the Brookings area (the Southern Oregon Subarea) is open 7 days a week from May 1 through October 31, or until a landed quota of 8,605 pounds is caught, whichever comes first.

The Pacific halibut season in California is open for two weeks and then is closed for two weeks, but anglers who took advantage of the opener caught approximately 6 halibut in May.

“I’ve only heard of about a half dozen fish being caught,” said Carter. “It’s just a little bit early yet. It’s closed right now but it opens back up from June 1 through June 15, from July 1 through July 15, from August 1 through August 15 and then from September 1 through October 31.”

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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