- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

LINCOLN CITY, Ore. (AP) - It’s time to pack the gear and head out. The salmon are running.

“Generally speaking, it’s early, two or three weeks, probably, before we see these kinds of catch rates and see this number of fish coming,” said Brian Riggers, a fish biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The dry weather conditions probably had something to do with it.”

Riggers and several other staffers from the department were at the dock at Knight Park at the mouth of Salmon River north of Lincoln City on Monday, Sept. 14, doing creel check of anglers as they arrived.

“This is our first time down here on the Salmon (River),” said Bruce Letourneux of Pacific City as a checker measured and cut the snouts with embedded coded-wire tags off of a pair of hatchery fall-run Chinook salmon in Letourneux’s cooler. “We’ve been fishing the Nestucca River in Pacific City a lot.

“We just heard there was some pretty good fishing down here, and we’d never experienced it before, so we just came down and gave it a shot.”

As did a lot of others.

All of the trailer spaces at Knight Park were full, and trailers and rigs lined the shoulder of the road east and west of the park entrance.

“Quite a few people,” Letourneux said. “It’s kind of tight out there with a lot of boats, a different kind of fishery.

“We started about 8:30 a.m. (on the incoming tide), and we got the last one about a half-hour ago (around noon) right out here in the jaws, in the mouth (of the river).”

About 10 feet behind Letourneux’s boat at the dock, a whopper chrome-bright 3-foot Chinook was lying in the bottom of Garry Wilhelm’s boat.

“First one this year. I’d say probably 30 pounds,” the smiling Wilhelm said. “It was a great fight. We had a little bit of trouble. The sinker got caught in the net, and luckily, he didn’t take off or run, so Dad was able to get in there with clippers and clip the line (to the sinker).

“So then he fought a little bit more and reeled him in. Yea, it was a great fight.”

Both Letourneux and Wilhelm had caught the fall Chinook trolling herring and flashers. Wilhelm had switched after going 0-for-hours the previous day.

“It was special because yesterday we were both skunked and wondered what we were doing wrong,” Wilhelm said about him and his dad. And Monday, Sept. 14, looked as if it might be a repeat.

“We weren’t getting any bites or anything,” he said. “We were just getting ready to leave and caught that one.”

Wilhelm blamed the slow fishing in part to using bottled, cured herring rather than the fresh-frozen variety that Letourneux had trolled.

Farther south, Margaret Louise Roe and her identical twin sister, Katy, were pitching lures from the beach at Taft near the mouth of Siletz Bay.

“This is my second time in my life,” said Margaret, who despite her inexperience had hooked and landed a non-hatchery coho salmon that she had to release and lost a larger fish the previous week.

“That was amazing,” she said about the second fish. “It was only 15, 20 feet out when I hooked him. He jumped, he did all of that fun stuff. It was amazing. It was all the way up to right there (she added, pointing about a rod-length into the water), but then it ran again as soon as we got the net in the water.

“I got scared and touched my bail (the metal half-ring on the front of the reel that guides the line back on the spool).”

Margaret lamented the timing of the non-fin-clipped salmon.

“I caught a 10-pound coho that I had to let go; he wasn’t clipped,” she said. “Two days early. If I’d caught him 48 hours later, I could have kept him,” Margaret added about a rule change that allows for non-clipped salmon to be kept on the Siletz.

“We’ve heard about it for a very long time, but we finally decided to try it,” sister Katy said about pursuing salmon. “We’re into trout fishing, so we decided something bigger would be fun.

Both twins were pitching lures, large spoons and spinners.

Michael Edwards of Lincoln City, a frequent shore angler at Taft, had helped Margaret with the salmon that she lost the previous week. He estimated it would have weighed between 10 and 12 pounds.

Edwards’ technique was unique among those on the beach, pitching a Hoochie, a plastic squid imitation lure, with a fly rod. He also had a spinning rod handy, just in case.

“It’s kind of a different technique, but it’s an effective technique,” he said, whipping the Hoochie out about 15 feet. “It’s something I grew up with. It’s fun, it’s relaxing. It’s different.

“I think you can control the bait. Its action’s a lot better. You can jig it.”

One problem common on several bays, including Siletz, are the seals that patrol watching for tell-tale signs of an angler with a salmon on the line, Edwards said.

“I quit saying ‘fish on’ because it’s the dinner bell,” he said. “The seals steal most of the fish; probably half of the fish caught have been stolen by seals. It’s not the easiest place to fish with all of these seals.”

But it’s a double-edged sword, Edwards added. The seals cruising the main channel push the salmon in closer to shore. He said he’s hooked into fish as close as 5 feet from shore.

The salmon should be running through October, with fish moving in and out with the tides until enough rains arrive to inspire them to move into the rivers. Creel checks will continue into November on the river, Riggers said.

“It’s going to be a long season, hopefully,” Wilhelm said.

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