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OR KMZ salmon season opens today

On Oregon Waters, Larry Ellis,
outhern Oregon ocean salmon aficionados are all trembling like the shaky legs of a newborn fawn, full of nervous energy whose outcome is yet uncertain. That is because today, May 28, marks the beginning of the salmon season in the Oregon KMZ, officially the opening day of the all-salmon-except-coho season for the area from Humbug Mountain south to the Oregon/California border, also known as the Oregon KMZ.

Fishermen in the Oregon KMZ are an extremely-lucky lot. They get to fish for salmon 7 days a week in the all-salmon-except-coho season lasting from May 28 through August 7, and then from September 3 through September 5.

Anglers fishing for salmon in the California KMZ (from the Oregon/California border south to Horse Mountain) are not so lucky. Their salmon season has been dramatically split up this year. The dates of their salmon seasons are May 16 through May 31, June 16 through June 30, July 16 through August 16, and finally from September 1 - September 5. During those times however, they also get to fish 7 days a week.

So how will the Oregon KMZ opener be this year? Sometimes you have to look at both the California KMZ and the Oregon KMZ to figure that out.

This year, anglers in the California KMZ got to fish 13 days earlier than their Oregon KMZ counterpart. The results of their opening days told us that the season is basically back to normal.

The largest port in the California KMZ, Humboldt Bay (Eureka) started out their salmon season like gangbusters. The charter boat fleet was coming back to port fairly early in the day with limits of Chinook up to 20 pounds, and they got their fish fairly close to home in Humboldt Bay this year. This year, Humboldt Bay has been loaded with baitfish and ideal salmon water temperatures and water conditions.

"The salmon are biting!" exclaimed Gary Blasi, owner of Full Throttle Sportfishing in Eureka last Tuesday. "They've been biting here for the last week pretty good. I'm just now getting back in the harbor and it's only 10:30 (am). We got easy limits and lost a lot of fish. We're getting a lot of double hookups and when you really get into the fish, we're getting triples as well."

Last year the water in Humboldt Bay was not conducive for salmon at all. Due to last year's brutal El Nino event, the Eureka fleet had to travel 20 miles south of the bay to the Eel River Canyon. But this year things are back to normal, which is a good thing for salmon fishermen in the KMZ. I asked Blasi if he has been traveling very far to get to the fish this year.

"Yeah we are kind of - we're going 3 miles out," he laughed. "The bay looks normal right now."

The Port of Crescent City has also been seeing lots of baitfish with salmon to go along with it. They had one good day and two fair days. The main problem with Crescent City has been the howling northwest winds.

But don't be mad at the wind just because it keeps you off the water once in a while. It is the northwest winds that create upwelling. Upwelling mixes up the bottom and creates lots of plankton, which is considered the nutrient soup for baitfish and krill. Salmon in turn get fat by eating the baitfish and krill. Northwest winds also cools off the water to a salmon's comfort zone of 52 degrees.

"What people don't realize is that with this northwest wind, it brings that ocean water back down to 50 degrees," points out Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. "Just look at the Point St. George Buoy."

When it's not windy, the water off of the Point St. George Buoy climbs up to 54 degrees or higher. But when the northwest winds start howling, the water temperature drops back down to a salmon's comfort zone.

Looking at the Point St. George Buoy last Thursday evening, northwest winds brought the water temperature down to 49.8 degrees, just like Martin predicted. So after these northwest winds stop howling, look for the water off of Brookings to start shaping up into ideal salmon conditions. The fishing usually heats up toward the middle of June.

Bob Rose with stringer of Lingcod, courtesy of Larry Ellis
Bob Rose from Brookings, Oregon and a friend limited out on lingcod last week while fishing in the ocean out of the Port of Brookings Harbor. Photo courtesy of Larry Ellis

"There's a ton of krill out there and anchovies are in the Port of Brooking Harbor," Martin also noted. "And there's also some herring out there as well."

To keep apprized of the Point St. George Buoy weather and water conditions, visit

Also, next weekend, June 4-5, is Oregon Free Fishing Weekend, where anglers do not need a fishing license, shellfish license or any tags.

ODFW will be stocking Libby Pond with some lunker trout for a kids' event, which will be taking place on Saturday June 4from 8 am to 12 pm. This year there will not be a derby, just a non-competitive atmosphere and good, clean fun for the kids and their families. During this time period, there will be free tickets issued to the kids for a raffle which will be offering rods, reels, tackle, pizza and more. So get there before 8 and don't be late!

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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