Southern Oregon Bays Producing Salmon

Rogue Bay - Gold Beach, OR (Curry County)

Richard Christensen of Brookings hoists a 39-pound Chinook he caught while trolling a spinnerbait/anchovy rig in the Chetco bay last week. Photo by Larry Ellis.

by Larry Ellis

An unusually high amount of jack Chinook with a few big kings mixed in crossed the Rogue and Chetco bars last week, enough fish to keep fishermen trolling spinnerbait rigs.

In the Rogue bay, if you didn’t have one on, someone around you did.  And that’s what keeps people on the water, knowing that there are fish to be caught.

“We have less than 20 boats fishing the bay,” said Jim Carey from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach on Thursday.  “We’ve got several people trolling off the mouth of Indian Creek, so some of the Indian Creek salmon are coming in.”

Indian Creek runs into the Rogue bay, about 1/2 mile upriver from the Patterson Bridge. Just remember that it is not legal to fish inside Indian Creek itself, however, it is quite legal to intercept these fish in the Rogue bay, especially just a tad downriver from where Indian Creek empties into the Rogue.

You’ll know if you’ve caught one of these puppies.  They will be missing an adipose fin and they will have a slight bronze tint to them.

“Guide Jay Lander’s been on the water and catching a lot of wild fish, and he’s also getting one or two hatchery fish as well,” says John Anderson of Memory Makers Rogue River Guide Service.  “He’s caught a few Indian Creek fish but he has also found a few hatchery silvers.”

So bone up on your Chinook and coho identification because this time of year, the silvers could be between 8 and 14 pounds and can often fool the best of fishermen. All wild coho must be released, however, you are allowed to retain hatchery (adipose fin-clipped) coho.

Anderson said that at 1 p.m., guide Mark Van Hook had at least 2 Chinook on the boat and had released a wild silver on Thursday.  

“We had 4 people in my boat from Idaho, and we did really good today,” commented Van hook.  “We really put on a clinic. We ended up with 7 Chinook.”

In addition to the coho and kings that were being caught, a healthy showing of summer steelhead still kept anglers’ rods bent double.

“I did have several people talk about how good the summer steelhead fishing has been upriver,” noted Carey.

Chetco Bay Still Producing Chinook
The Chetco bay has still been producing fair numbers of kings, with the vast majority of them being of the jack persuasion. This large influx of jacks will prove to be a bonus for next year’s 3-year-old returns.

Normally, the jacks show up first, followed by the larger 3-, 4- and 5-year-old kings.  But, this year, there have been several kings pushing the 40-pound mark mixed in with the jacks, like the 39-pound monster that was caught last week by Richard Christensen of Brookings.  Christensen was trolling a spinnerbait setup when the near-40-pound behemoth engulfed his anchovy.

In the Chetco estuary, an incoming high tide is usually the best tide to fish.  If the peak of high tide coincides with the low light of the early morning hours, your anchovy is merely a baitfish waiting for a hawg Chinook to happen.

Chetco Bubble Fishery
In the ocean, just outside the jaws of Brookings’ north and south jetty, anglers will be trolling for the big hawgs that the Chetco is known to produce. The first leg of this fishery will take place Saturday and Sunday, October 6 and 7.

Weather will be the determining factor that will tell anglers if the fishery is a go or a no.

Several reliable anglers have noticed that there are lot of humongous arches on the fish finders, just outside the Chetco River mouth. Those arches represent Chinook that are just waiting to head upriver when the first freshet occurs.  So it’s not a matter of “if” anglers will be hooking up with these Chinook; it’s merely a matter of “when” their rods will connect with one of these kings.

There are, however, certain rules that pertain to this fishery.

First, only 2 single point barbless hooks are allowed.

Second, the daily bag limit is only one Chinook.

Third, all Chinook must be at least 28 inches long in order to be legally kept.

I predict that anglers will be quite successful in this very popular fishery.

When the seventh of the month is over, the bubble fishery will be closed from the following Monday through the following Friday.

The second leg of the bubble fishery occur on the next weekend on Saturday and Sunday, October 13 and 14.

If no rain is in the forecast, the salmon will tend to be more scattered and can be found anywhere from Twin Rocks down to the mouth of the Winchuck.  However if the barometer drops, or rain is in the forecast, look for these fish to group up the day before the rain, where they will tend to be very close to mouth of the north and south jetties.

All eyes will be on the commercial fishermen, who will be fishing this bubble fishery between October 8 through October 12.

Bottomfishing Fair to Good - Crabbing Excellent
Anglers who have fished the Brookings Harbor reefs have had reasonable success on catching limits or near-limits of rockfish and lingcod using leadfish and soft plastics.

Most anglers are heading south to get their bottom-grabbers.

Dungeness crabbing in the ocean has also been quite good, with crabbers catching limits of jumbos in the 6- to 8-inch range.

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 author of two books, "Plug Fishing for Salmon" and "Buoy 10, the World's Largest Salmon Run."  Both books can be bought from Amato Publications (, Amazon and eBay. Ellis particularly loves living in his hometown of Brookings, Oregon - The heart of salmon country and gateway to fishing paradise.

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