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MailTribune.com
  • Ocean seasons looking great for anglers

  • BROOKINGS — Whether you're fishing from the open beach with the sand in your toes or the open ocean atop a charter boat, Oregon's anglers are poised to have a summer sprouting many saltwater fishing opportunities.
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  • BROOKINGS — Whether you're fishing from the open beach with the sand in your toes or the open ocean atop a charter boat, Oregon's anglers are poised to have a summer sprouting many saltwater fishing opportunities.
    Already anglers are catching a variety of surf perch species off beaches around Brookings and off the sand spit at the Rogue River's mouth, while pleasureboaters are filling limits of bottomfish and lingcod.
    And all are awaiting the Memorial Day start to the most expansive offshore recreational fishing season for chinook salmon in three years.
    Anglers who keep an eye on ocean conditions and an ear to the weather reports should be able to find plenty to cast for in the salt this summer.
    "When guys can get out, the opportunity is there," says Dave Pitts from the Chetco Outdoor Store near the mouth of the Chetco River at the Port of Brookings-Harbor, which is the hub of Rogue Valley ocean-fishing access.
    "When guys have been getting out, they've been whacking the lingcod and the vermillion," Pitts says. "The rockfish are there and it looks the like the chinook will be there, too. Who knows? We may even have a tuna season."
    The Pacific Fishery Management Council today is poised to adopt a liberal chinoook season for the ocean thanks to improvements in the numbers of chinook now finning off the Northern California and Southern Oregon coast.
    The PFMC already has tentatively approved a season that opens May 29 for the Memorial Day weekend and runs uninterrupted through Sept. 6, the end of Labor Day Weekend within the so-called Klamath Management Zone.
    The KMZ includes waters from Humbug Mountain near Port Orford south to Horse Mountain south of Eureka, Calif.
    If adopted as expected, it will be the first full summer chinook season since 2007, and it would be far more expansive than last year's token chinook season around Labor Day weekend.
    Also, a fin-clipped coho salmon fishery opens June 26 along the Oregon Coast and runs until Sept. 6 or a 30,000-coho limit is reached.
    The daily salmon limit in the ocean remains two. All chinook must be at least 24 inches long and all fin-clipped hatchery coho must be at least 16 inches long.
    Until then, anglers will spend the spring targeting black and blue rockfish as well as lingcod — the prize of the near-shore spring fishery.The daily rockfish limit is seven in aggregate and the lingcod limit is two per day.
    Most of those are caught on jigs fished off boats.
    While rockfish, lingcod and salmon fishing all require some planning and access to boats, surfperch provide an excellent way for virtually anyone to partake in summer saltwater fishing.
    A stout fishing rod, spinning reel and rubber boots are the main needs for surfperch anglers.
    The easiest way to fish for them is to tie on a 3- or 4-ounce pyramid sinker and attach short leaders with hooks up the line so the hooks are spread out. Baits ranging from clam necks to mussels or prawns are threaded on and cast into the open surf.
    If that's confusing, don't worry. Coastal tackle shops sell pre-tied surfperch rigs.
    The hardest part about surfperch fishing is finding them.
    From spots like the mouth of the Elk River to vast sandy beaches or slots behind rocks slapped by waves, surfperch's favorite haunts can take longer to find than it takes to catch a limit of 15 of these slim, saucer-like swimmers of the pounding surf.
    Almost always, that means fishing around high tide on open beaches. Usually that also means finding little dips or depressions in the near-shore sand where redtails lay in great schools waiting to mug any piece of marine food churned by the waves.
    Schools often congregate within 30 feet of the shoreline, darting in an out of the surf surge.
    The sand spit off the south jetty at the mouth of the Rogue is always a summer hot-spot for surfperch, especially around the high-slack tide.
    Perhaps the easiest and best time to find those spots is in the next few months, when larger female redtails congregate around coastal estuaries where they will give live birth.
    Fishing near the mouths of rivers like the Winchuck, Elk, Rogue and Umpqua rivers can bring fantastic hours catching this species of whitefish prized more for its taste than its tug.
    Surfperch are best filleted, breaded and pan-fried.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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