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Bottomfishing have you baffled?

On Oregon Waters, Larry Ellis,
sually fishing for rockfish, cabezon and lingcod is the easiest kind of fishing in the world.

But lately some folks have been saying that the fishing has either been good one day or mediocre the next. People either find the spots or they don't, so they say.

All I can say is if the bottomfish are throwing you a curveball, it's time to start throwing the fish a changeup.

When I first moved to Brookings some 35 years ago, I didn't have a boat. Nor did I have friends who had a boat. So if I wanted to catch fresh bottomfish, I had to get them by some other means.

Anyway, there was a guy named Gary Wimberly who told me that lingcod could be caught on the Brookings north jetty. I didn't believe him at the time, but being that I didn't have any other means of fishing, I decided to give the north jetty a shot. Before long I started clocking rockfish and lingcod fishing from the jetty. Thank you Gary for turning me on to fishing for the big boys from the bank!

I also noticed that there were also certain individuals who were consistently walking from tidepools and certain cliffs carrying rockfish and lingcod in their hands.

After I put 2 and 2 together, I figured out that fish love kelp and they also love rocks. The fish may be out in deeper water from time to time, but almost always you will find them inside the kelp.

The truth of the matter is if you want to be successful at scoring limits of rockfish and lingcod outside the Port of Brookings Harbor, you need only do three things - downsize your gear, fish in tighter to the kelp, and cast. Oh, and throwing a Carolina Rig might not be all that bad of an idea either.

That's exactly what two gents did last Thursday when I ran into them filleting their rockfish and lings in the port's fillet station.

They were actually using a variation of the Carolina Rig and they were using ultra-light fishing tackle. They were having the time of their lives and they were hooking fish like gangbusters. They were also fishing either in the kelp or just outside the kelp stringers in about 30 feet of water. This gave them the advantage of being able to hook all those fish that tend to take up residence within the kelp. Why not join us?

Garrett Pierce (left) and Vance Pierce stand on both sides of their 92-year-old grandfather Vance Strunk with rockfish and lingcod, courtesy of Larry Ellis
Garrett Pierce (left) and Vance Pierce stand on both sides of their 92-year-old grandfather Vance Strunk who all came over from Pleasant Hill, Oregon to catch their fair share of rockfish and lingcod last week while fishing outside the Port of Brookings Harbor. Photo by Larry Ellis

WARNING: When fishing in tight to the kelp, beware of wash rocks, especially when the tide is ebbing. Wash rocks tend to come out of nowhere and can be hazardous to a boat.

I can almost guarantee that when you use lighter line with light tackle, you will definitely have more hookups than the rest of the herd. You may not land all of the big ones, but you definitely will hook up into more fish than you ever had in the past, and that's what fishing is all about!

The original Carolina Rig was first used by bass fishermen, and it was a great way of hooking bass in lakes. It also works quite well in the ocean in or around the kelp beds as well. And spinning reels loaded with monofilament between 8- and 12-pound test, and using light-tackle spinning rods are a perfect way of fishing this particular setup.

In order of operations, a Carolina Rig utilizes either a sliding bullet (worm) sinker or an egg sinker between 1 and 2 ounces which is slid up the mainline, after which a 5mm bead is slid up the mainline.

Tie a barrel swivel on the end of your mainline. Then tie a 24-inch piece of monofilament leader ranging from 8- to 12-pound test to the end of the swivel. At the end of your leader, tie a 2/0 or a 3/0 baitholder hook. Your favorite plastic squiggly, miniature swimbait or creature bait is then attached to the hook.

The beauty about a Carolina Rig was that it is kind of a do-nothing type of setup. You drag the sinker along the bottom either manually or by naturally drifting with the wind. I always like to feel part of the line coming off the end of the spool with my index finger. When you see your line twitch or if your feel that a BB has dropped on the end of your finger, proceed to cross the fish's eyes with all your might.

The principle behind using a Carolina Rig is that the fish doesn't feel resistance from the reel's drag system because it first inhales the lure as it passes freely through the hole in either sinkers.

The two gentlemen mentioned previously varied the original Carolina Rig by using a banana sinker ranging between 1 and 2 ounces tied to the leader which was then tied to a very light jig head with a swim bait attached.

Either way, if you decide to fish the original Carolina Rig or the discussed variation of the rig, you better be holding on to your rod nice and tight.

Remember that in water 30-feet deep there is less current, and you can use smaller sinkers which allows you to feel the bite of the fish more directly than if you fished the same rig in deeper water.

Rogue Bay kicking out monter salmon
Talk to some people and the bite is slow. Talk to others and the bite is on. Either way, there are some anglers who are fishing the Rogue Bay who are occasionally catching Chinook ranging between 12 and 42 pounds. For the chance of hooking a 40 pounder, I'd gladly take the chance of going biteless for a week.

"Over the past week we have had good fishing, and there were a couple of days that were very good fishing," said Jim Carey from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach on Thursday. "Good anglers are producing fish pretty consistently.

"And the classes of fish have been beautiful - 20 and 30 (pounders)," he continued. "I've already heard of a 42 and a 44 now."

Trolling straight bait (anchovies) and Rogue Bait Rigs are the most-popular Rogue Bay setups but straight spinners such as a CV-7, Hildebrandt, Bear Valley and the old unattainable Pop Geer spinners have been hooking fish on occasion as well. All of the aforementioned rigs are being trolled off of a spreader bar with an 18-inch dropper leading to a sinker ranging from 2 to 4 ounces.

Don't forget that you are now allowed to use two rods per person on most coastal streams and estuaries in the Northwest and Southwest zones, but only when fishing for Chinook salmon, hatchery coho and hatchery steelhead. And you can only use this 2-rod endorsement in these estuaries and rivers until October 31. If you are fishing for species other than the ones mentioned, you are only allowed to use one rod.

You cannot use two rods in the ocean and neither can you on the Columbia or its tributaries.

"This 2-rod license thing - we're selling 'em!, exclaimed Carey. "I think it's great for the guides."

But in order to use 2-rods per person, you have to buy a 2-rod endorsement. And remember that in the Rogue River, the 2-rod endorsement is only good from the river mouth upstream to the Ferry Hole Boat Ramp.

Also, just because you are allowed to use 2 rods per person, don't overload the boat with rods - you're just asking for tangles. Most boats will fish 3 rods effectively, sometimes 4 with an experienced guide at the helm.

It saddens me deeply to announce that Bill Frisch of Brookings, also known as Yellowtail Bill, has died. I, like most people, did not find out about Bill's passing until several weeks afterward. Bill was one of the best fishermen I ever knew - period, exclamation mark, end of story!

Tight lines!

Larry Ellis is the author of the recently published "Buoy 10 - The World's Largest Salmon Run!", a 14-mile long salmon fishery on the Columbia River. It is the first book ever written about the Buoy 10 fishery. He is also the author of "Plug Fishing for Salmon. Both books can be found at, and Larry currently writes monthly for Salmon Trout Steelheader magazine and is also the weekly fishing columnist 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.

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german brown trout in Modoc creek.
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