Lower Rogue Springers just beginning to show

Jantzen Godley from Central Point, Oregon was surf fishing with his family last week in Brookings when they hauled in large striped surfperch,
Photo Credit: Larry Ellis

by Larry Ellis

It's spring, the time of year when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love - especially if you're a fisherman - when it's high time for romancing the springer!  Anglers are now starting to concentrate their efforts on fishing the lower Rogue River for spring Chinook.

Springer fishing has never been known as being a fast-and-furious fishery. But if you want the chance of hooking into a salmon that fights three times harder than any fall Chinook (they can spool you in less than a minute), plus have the chance of bringing home the best-tasting salmon fillets in the world, you might think about giving springers a whirl.

"We've been catching springers for about one month now," said Larry Cody from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach on Thursday. "There have been several caught each day by both boaters and bankies."

A springer is just another name for a Chinook that enters a river in the spring.  They are on a mission to get to their native spawning grounds, and they want to get there lickety-split.

Springers enter the river fresh from the ocean as plump as they ever will be, and because of their high fat content, these fat footballs are notorious as being the best-eating salmon on the planet.

This fat content is also responsible for their sudden bursts of energy. I have known anglers who have received some pretty healthy thumb burns due to thumbing the spool on a springer making a long run.

In the lower Rogue this time of year, only adipose fin-clipped (hatchery) springers may be kept.  All wild fish must be released.  At the very beginning of the springer season (late-February and March), there are more wild springers caught, but around April and into May, the ratio of hatchery springers begin increasing.

"From what I've been hearing, it sounds like there's been a 50-50 split (between hatchery and wild springers)," adds Cody.

Fishing for springers involves putting your boat in a springer's travel lane, and diverting from these travel lanes only two inches one way or the other can mean the difference of being a hero or a zero.

So I heartily advise hiring an experienced guide when you are springer fishing, especially if it is your first time at springer fishing.  Some of the great Rogue River names immediately spring to mind - guides like John Anderson, Chris Young and Greg Eide.  But drop into the Rogue Outdoor Store or Jot's Resort to get the names of other great springer guides.

Cody also says that he has seen a fair number of fresh winter steelhead being caught on the lower Rogue as well.

"These are decent-looking steelhead," remarks Cody of the late winter-run steelies. "The ones I've seen have been nice and bright."

And when the ocean has been on the calm side, anglers are still catching their fair share of both striped and redtail surfperch. As May approaches, the surfperch fishing will incrementally get even better.

"Quite a few people are fishing for surfperch and they're doing really well," adds Cody. "We've got groups that come up from the bay area and that's all they want to do.  They could care less about salmon - they want surfperch!"

Cody invites anglers to drop into the store and he will personally show you how to rig up and where to catch the fat redtails.  With the extremely high water that the area has experienced this year, it pays to ask a professional like Cody where the local hot spots are, and where the danger zones are as well.

In the Brookings/Harbor area, anglers are doing quite well on large striped surfperch at beaches like McVay Park, Sporthaven Beach and Chetco Point Park.  They are also catching a combination of redtails, calico and striped surfperch.

The most popular bait is far and above, small pieces of raw shrimp, but anglers who are using the 2-inch Berkley Camo Sand Worms are also catching a few surfperch on these artificials.

If you are a surfperch fisherman, remember to time your trip so that you are fishing on the incoming tide only. Fishing the outgoing tide is just an exercise in futility.

And for this week's positive fishing affirmation, remember Cody's parting words: "Nobody's complaining about getting any fish."

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 (amatobooks.com), Amazon and eBay. Ellis particularly loves living in his hometown of Brookings, Oregon - The heart of salmon country and gateway to fishing paradise.