New Fishing Opportunity 2018! Long-leader Rockfish

Welcome to the future of fishing folks! Lets make it really hard for anglers to catch a fish without bait, really deep, with a float, 30 foot long-leader to lead, and a three hooks. If that wasn’t hard enough, make sure you download the 40 fathom curve onto your chart plotter and don’t be caught inside of it fishing with a list of other species on board! All joking aside, and jabs at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) the long-leader rockfish fishery happens to be a totally awesome experience that you don’t want to miss out on. I would personally like to thank Wayne Butler of Prowler Charters in Bandon, Oregon for helping to create this fishery with O.D.F.W. Without you Wayne my winter would have been a complete bust. So finally after many years of effort O.D.F.W has added a new fishery for offshore anglers to experiment with called the “Long-leader” rockfish fishery for 2017, and we hope its approved for 2018 by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council in March.  If you get out there and give it a try you may be pleasantly surprised like I was with limits of huge rockfish!

Successful long-leader trip

On this trip I had five anglers, and with a bag of  10 rockfish each,  we brought home 50 fish. Most of the fish that day were Canary rockfish with a handful of Yellowtail rockfish. These fish are about twice the size of fish that you will catch in the nearshore. I found the average weight and size of the Canary and Yellowtail rockfish, which are numerous, to be around 5 lbs. The Widow rockfish are also part of the catch but much smaller in size. They are none the less a tasty rockfish. I must mention that the deep water long-leader rockfish are some of the better eating fish in the ocean when bled properly and cared for. The meat is white and firm. Best used for fish and chips or traditional fish tacos however anyway you cook it just not over cooked will produce a mild and flaky meal.

Canary Rockfish

So then,”How do you go about catching them?” Good question. The three things I will cover are location,gear, and technique. Rockfish like structure and off the coast of Oregon that structure is rocky reefs. The reef structure disrupts and focuses currents in the area surrounding the reefs, and there by concentrates the fishes food. The fish congregate in these areas for an easy meal. With that said I will add the caveat that I sometimes find the Canary rockfish off on the flats around the reef. It just all depends on what they are feeding on and the currents. When you find the reef dont just fish structure use your depth sounder to locate the feed first which looks like a cloud on your sounder off the bottom and then pay attention to the marks below that cloud of feed. Since we are fishing in such deep water it can be difficult to determine what is fish and what isnt. The best way is to use your crew as the fish finders. Drop a line into likely looking ” clouds” and see what they get. If they don’t get bit in the first few minutes I will usually try and reposition. The Canary rockfish seem to prefer areas on the reef where there is a steep drop off or shelf. The best fishing I have seen so far was in December on one of the shelf drop offs. The shelf dropped nearly 30 feet vertically, and by positioning the boat up-current so that I would drift to the edge of this shelf with the gear yielded multiple hook ups per drift. Once past the shelf I would have the anglers reel up and we would drift it again. To find these reefs outside the 40 fathom curve (240′) can be difficult the ocean is a big place and usually these reefs are far offshore. If you don’t have a source for “numbers” I recommend a visit to a local mom and pop type tackle store. Buy some gear and then ask for directions to a know reef. Do it in that order and I am sure that you will get results.Out of Coos Bay we have reefs outside the 40 fathom curve both to the North and South of the port. The Tenmile Reef to the North approximately well ten miles north west and Cape Arago reef to the southwest about the same distance. I cant give you exact numbers or my shop would get burnt down by locals! Do your research and it wont be any problem. The gear that I use includes the following materials 2 oz. non-compressible float, 100# jinki and corresponding jinki line crimps for making the dropper leader, 6/0 octopus hooks or shrimp flies, large stainless barrel swivels for the ends of the dropper leader, 60# Oregon green fiber long-line ganion for the 30′ dropper, 40# monofiliment for the break away, and 1#-3# tombstone lead weights. This basically gives you the materials you need to build a shrimp fly rig w/float, a 30 foot dropper, and a break away for the lead. I know this rig seems very heavily built for a five pound fish, but I do it for a reason. Tangles and twist are much easier to control and undo with the heavy leader. The fish don’t care if its heavy and bite it. No need for fluorocarbon in this fishery! I do recommend using scent products on your shrimp flies it will make a huge difference and if in the future we can use bait I recommend squid or octopus. One alternative to try is Berkeley Gulp products. They are artificial baits but smell near the real thing. I will attach a picture of this later or a link to video in how to build this. Alright lets talk about technique. Mid-water rockfish which include Canary, Yellowtail,and Widow rockfish are susceptible to this long-leader method because they live up off the bottom for the most part feeding. What I like to do is have my clients hit the bottom with the lead and then reel up a few turns so that the lead no longer touches the bottom as the swell rises and falls. This does two things it keeps me from snagging and losing my 10$ lead and it puts the lure away from Yelloweye rockfish which we want to avoid. The one in this photo was immediately descended back to depth after a quick photo. Yelloweye rockfish are a prohibited and threatened species and must be released with a descending device.

Yelloweye Rockfish

Once the angler is up off the bottom I have them start to slowly reel the rig up for 10 to 20 turns of the reel handle. If the fish are there this will get you bit. If a bite doesn’t happen I will have them drop and repeat it. My patience for not catching is limited so I end up moving the boat if we are not catching. A descending device is required by O.D.F.W to be with you on long-leader trips and you must use it on any rockfish that is going to be released. You can make your own or buy one from a tackle store. Essentially it holds the fish as it is descended back to depth and re-compressed. The fish when brought up from depth cant relive the gases that build up, much like they do in a human diver, and the fish gets the bends. If you were to just throw this fish overboard it would most likely just float and be unable to swim back to depth. A fishing pole just rigged for this purpose with a heavy 5#lead and the descending device is helpful. These Yelloweye rockfish can be huge and a heavy lead is needed.We use mostly electric reels and heavy rods in this fishery so releasing these fish at depth is relatively easy. I fully recommend a electric reel and heavy rod for this fishery. It allows for quick retrieves, keeps you from getting fatigued, and you can use heavy leads which keep your lines more vertical when fishing deep and the drift may be strong. Drift is also something that I want to mention. When you are fishing out deep the currents around these reefs tend to be strong. Using heavy gear will help you over come this drift and sometimes even backing the boat at an idle into the drift is necessary. Keep the gear vertical as possible. It will help prevent snag ups and you will catch better! So with that I wish you good luck and visit and like my page at Sharky’s Charter Fishing on Facebook to see more photos and get fishing reports. See you on the water.

The Futures Bright For Coos Bay Deepsea Bottom Fishing

Just like the lyrics 1980’s pop song, “Futures So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades”, the future of “bottom fish” can be described like this; things are going great and they are only getting better (can you hear the harmonica blaring in the background?). Increased bag limits, extended seasons, and relaxed regulation all bode well for the recreational offshore angler in Oregon. It wasn’t like this for bottom fishing in the not so distant past. Unregulated commercial fishing and a poor understanding of the fishes biology nearly wiped out entire populations of bottom fish. Now with strict management, a healthy ocean, and better science the sport fishing off the Oregon coast has returned to being a world class destination for fishing.

If your not a local and accustomed to the local slang you might be wondering what exactly is a bottom fish? A “bottom fish” is a broad and somewhat dull term used to describe a multitude of fish species found near the Pacific coastline. These nearshore species include rockfish, lingcod, halibut, and sculpins. Some species of rockfish are vibrantly colored, and are anything but dull! A great example of this beauty would be the Tiger Rockfish, aptly named for its brilliant orange body and black tiger like vertical stripes, any angler would be stunned to see this appear at the end of his line. These fish species typically orient to geographic features associated with bottom structure, hence the name bottom fish. Rock,mud,sand are all habitats that “bottom fish” inhabit off the coast of Oregon. Most of these fish species occur in the nearshore and continental slope habitat within 5 miles of the coast. Depths that fish occupy include very shallow to depths unreachable with traditional fishing tackle. Most of the recreational fishing off the Oregon coast for bottom fish is done in depths from 50 feet to 300 feet out of ports that have rocky reefs nearby and are easily reached by small recreational fishing boats. The Port of Charleston happens to be located in one of these prime locations in Oregon to catch bottom fish. The port has a safe deep bar crossing, cozy accommodations for overnight travelers, and world class charter fishing services.

Many local and travelling anglers choose to go with charter fishing guides to benefit from the local knowledge that these fisherman have earned through years of experience on the fishing grounds. Charter boat captains must prove there knowledge to the US Coastguard through rigerous examination prior to being allowed to take passengers out to fish on the sea.  The bottom fishing trips are usually offered year round with the months of May-September being the calmest seas. After a short 30 minute ride to the reef anglers can expect to catch limits of rockfish in the 2 lbs. to 5 lbs. class, lingcod upto 40 lbs., and halibut upto 125 lbs. Fishing in Oregon rivals any experience you might have had in Alaska, and is second to none in my opinion. The daily bag limits for fish are always changing but as of this year we can keep 7 rockfish, two lingcod on the typical bottom fishing trip. These strict limits help protect the fishery for future generations and quality of fishing. However the take home of fish is quite generous and equates to on average 10-15 lbs. of fillets, perfect for making fish and chips for upto 30 of your hungriest friends.

So if your ready for an adventure or just want some really good eats consider going bottom fishing on your next vacation. Its not the lowly fish that its name implies. It should be called “action fishing” because that is what you will have fishing out of Charleston, Oregon! Its a fishing experience for the whole family on the Oregon Coast.

Coos Bay 2017 Salmon Season Forecast

Its been a long, wet, and cold winter here in Southern Oregon. I have had enough of it and am ready for Spring. The days are getting longer, and I want to be outside without a raincoat! If you want to talk salmon predictions than a discussion on El Nino/La Nina must happen, and is the basis of my prediction for this season and the future of salmon. Its official according to the scientists at NOAA that in the Pacific Northwest we are in a La Nina phase this winter for the first time in many years. Its been 5 months in a row now that the average seas surface temperature in the Southern Pacific Ocean has been at least .5 degree below average. When this decrease in temperature occurs the National Weather Service can declare it an official La Nina winter. Yeh! To many of us this isn’t a surprise considering how high the power bills have been! What weather is expected this spring and summer is what I want to know. After doing a bit more research at NOAA Weather, and reading the blogs, I am able to summarize to you that this time of the year  forecast models for El Nino/La Nina are not very reliable. However, it seems that forecast models are predicting a weak El Nino to develop or a near neutral phase for the average ocean temperatures this spring and summer.

When it comes to fishing in general, I am a hopeless optimist and the current El Nino/La Nina neutral forecast I find a  relief. I like tuna fishing and warmer El Nino ocean temperatures bring tuna close to shore. This season expect to see hard temperature breaks offshore 20-40 miles, and cooler average temperatures near shore. Its a relief to see that El Nino wont likely develop into a strong event this season which in general is harmful to growing salmon and groundfish species that prefer cooler nutrient rich waters and the plankton that thrive in it. This winter has seen more snow on the west coast mountain ranges then in previous years and thus many rivers have flooded or been sustained high on average. For me this is a sign of good things that may be coming for salmon and steelhead in  3 to 4 years. This winter is the beginning of a positive cycle for our salmon populations on the west coast and should be celebrated. As I sit here in my office at Sharky’s Charters, watching the rain come down in buckets, my thoughts drift towards the ocean and the possibility that chinook salmon are hunting the nearshore reefs searching for a meal. Its spring after all and the traditional kick off to King Salmon season. I don’t think that I am alone in my thoughts of twirling flashers and gold plated salmon spoons. Sport ocean chinook salmon season just opened on March 15, and while they are quite safe from me and my brethren on this blustery day it wont be long until the wind dies down and we head out to search for them. So what’s out there according to scientists?

As I mentioned earlier I am a hopeless optimist, but reality hit hard when I started reading Preseason Report I, just released in March. This preseason forecast, is in essence the best guess on the current numbers of salmon swimming off the west coast. The guess is supported by lots of math and statistics, and is usually pretty close in predicting the salmon populations. Preseason Report I is issued by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council to aid in the setting of the salmon fishing season, and to insure that to much fishing pressure is exerted on salmon populations by sport and commercial fisherman. After reading the document I can tell you this chinook season is going to be a lot like last season for the sport fisherman.Drought, El Nino, and the poor conditions for salmon that accompany them have taken a high toll on the southern and mid coast stocks of chinook and Coho salmon that Oregonians and Californians love to fish. Not many salmon in the ocean, but just enough to let us fish for them in most of Oregon’s coastal waters. The Sacramento River stocks, which drive most of the fishery off the coast of Oregon, are in only fair shape and small shadow of their former population. They however wont restrict our sport ocean fishery.The fact is that if sport fisherman were better at catching the chinook it would have restricted us also but the gear we use has a hard time fishing the depths that most chinook cruise in during the summer. The sad news is that the Klamath River, another huge contributor to our chinook fishery, is likely going to experience the worst return of chinook in recorded history. What a sad day it is for me to have to bring this news to my fellow anglers. It had better be a real eye-opener for the water managers and politicians that control the water and dams on the Klamath. This will likely result in complete closure of the commercial season in Oregon south of Florence. It will also likely result in a very small opening for ocean chinook off Brookings and Gold Beach in the summer months.

Our local river and bays will experience similar low chinook returns that we saw last season. There will be some good fishing in early September but it will diminish quickly as the fish move into tidewater. Keeping track of there movement in the bay and tidewater will really be key to having more success in this down season. . According to ODFW there were lots of chinook jacks in Coos Bay in 2016.Expect many three year old fish and fewer four year olds.

Coho salmon population predictions are similar to last year and thus we should see a season structure similar. I expect no Coho salmon fisheries in Oregon bays, but a limited ocean season beginning in late June for marked fish, and then a late season for unmarked fish in September.

Not the rosy forecast I was hoping to give you but its the truth and that’s what I report. So before you go and put your ocean salmon gear away for the season or put it for sale cheep on Craigslist,  I would like to leave you with this thought. While there may not be easy pickings for salmon up and down the coast I will predict that a lucky port will see the majority of the salmon. It was my home port Coos Bay that saw this phenomenon about four years ago and Newport’s fleet saw this last year. The fish will be in the best ocean conditions where the bait is, and if that happens to be in your port you will be in for a great season of ocean salmon fishing. Keep an eye on the SST and the Chlorophyll charts. The cooler nearshore water temperatures will get the fish feeding closer to the surface and thus in range of our lighter sport gear. The only way to find out if the salmon are on your near shore reefs this spring is to get out and give it a troll! See you out there I hope, and if your looking for an ocean charter for salmon give me a call at (541) 260-9110.

Trophy Lingcod

Are you searching for an adventure this winter in the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest and have a passion for saltwater angling? Then you might consider “Deepwater Lingcod”, for you next great fishing adventure! Lingcod fishing in Oregon is a year round passion for many anglers but the winter season is special. Anglers are allowed to venture further into the deep reefs of the ocean, outside of usual depth restricted areas. Anglers, targeting trophy Lingcod in the 30# to 50# class,search in depths of over 300 feet. Due to this great depth, the use of heavy lead pipe jigs in the 2# class, studded with large menacing trebles hooks is a favored lure. To retrieve this heavy jig the electric powered levelwind reel is becoming more popular. I use Diawa Tancom 500 electric reels on my vessel with great success. They allow the angler to retrieve his lure quickly when its necessary to reset a drift across the reef. This time saving method is extremely important when your trying to maximize fishing times in the ever present inclement weather of the Pacific Northwest in the winter.  Some anglers that I fish with choose to go one on one with a trophy lingcod using there high speed levelwind and crank them up by hand which adds to the excitement. There is something about the huge head, gaping mouthful of sharp teeth, and the heavily camouflaged body of the lingcod that makes the imagination of the angler run wild. The strike is quick and the initial fight of the fish is strong! The large lingcod commonly will rest while being reeled and then dash madly for the bottom many times as they are reeled up from the depths. Many an angler on my vessel has though that there fish had gotten away only to be surprised by a bent pole and peeling drag moments later. There is also the infamous “hitchhiker” scenario to consider when fishing for the trophy lingcod. Lingcod love to eat fish, especially wriggling fish that are stuck on a hook. As you jig the bottom for lingcod it is not uncommon to have a rockfish bite your line and while trying to escape attract a lingcod which in turn bites and latches onto the struggling rockfish. Hence the term “hitchhiker”. The largest lingcod that have been landed on my vessel have come as hitchhikers on other smaller rockfish. So while angling for them it is important to remembe that if you feel a slight wiggling on your line while jigging it is best to leave it there and wait for a true giant! So don’t forget when the winter gets you down, remember there is always a silver liner in those clouds in the form of a trophy winter lingcod trip with Sharky’s Charters!

r

Welcome to Sharky’s!

When you get the urge to fish, call Sharky’s! Capt. John Blanchard is one of the most sought after fishing guides on the Oregon coast! From Gold Beach to Bandon and up the coast to Reedsport and Winchester Bay, Sharky’s will get you there and get you fish! Coming to visit and golf? Add in a Sharky’s fishing trip to your plans for a perfect vacation.