Rockfish and Lingcod back on the bite

Ken Lanham from Rio Vista, California and a friend caught near-limits of large rockfish while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor last week. Photo by Larry Ellis.

by Larry Ellis

After several weeks of rainy weather and high seas, local-area seafarers once again slew the fatted bottom grabber last week during a stretch of semi-calm days out of the Port of Brookings Harbor, with most anglers’ luck favoring either rockfish or lingcod.

When I arrived at the port’s cleaning station last Wednesday, several groups of anglers were filleting some very large black rockfish.  In fact, one of the port samplers told me that the rockfish she sampled that day were all hefty specimens of Sebastes.  Later in the day, three anglers of the salt were filleting 6 lingcod, all of which easily weighed over 12 pounds each.

“Some people caught fish close to the harbor yesterday for the first time off of Chetco Point,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing on Thursday, whose clients have been limiting out on both rockfish and lingasaurs.

Martin added that it looks like the ocean is going to have another window of opportunity on Sunday and Monday, but another storm looking on the horizon is predicted to raise the swells up to 11 feet, making the ocean pretty much unfishable.

So learn to be your own meteorologist and keep abreast with the National Weather Service’s up-to-the-minute weather details.  

In your computer browser, type “”.  After pushing the “enter” tab on your keyboard, type in “Brookings, Oregon” in the box at the upper left hand side of the page.  

This will take you to another page showing the Brookings weather forecasts.  On the same page, there will also be a map of Oregon and California with a green square hovering over Brookings.

About 1/4 inch to the left of the square, left click on the ocean.  This will take you to the latest ocean forecast details.

When the wind reads below 8 knots (2- to 5-knot winds are ideal) with a swell between 2 and 4 feet, it’s time to think about going fishing.

Springer Fishing on the Lower Rogue
Springer fishing on the lower Rogue River was fair to middlin’ last week, with some anglers hooking up with some hefty spring Chinook.

“The day before yesterday (Tuesday) there was a good bite and everybody had fish,” said John Anderson from Memory Makers Rogue River Guide Service on Thursday.

But on Wednesday, the river temperature went from a salmon’s ideal comfort zone of 50 degrees and shot up to 58 degrees, putting the fish off the bite.  But even so, Anderson still managed to get 4 definite take-downs on Thursday.

“We had two throwbacks today; had one on that popped off and we also had another bite that didn’t stick,” recollected Anderson.  “If the water temperature cools back down, it will get ‘em to bite.”

Anderson noted that there are far more wild fish than hatchery kings, so count down 18 days until June 1, when anglers will be able to keep both hatchery and wild Chinook in the lower Rogue.

Another local springer doctor concurs with Anderson’s diagnosis of springer fever.

“Tuesday was the last good day that we had last week,” said Jim Carey, owner of the Rogue Outdoor Store on Thursday.  “Then it was relatively slow.  However, during the past 3 days, I’ve seen a little bit of a pickup each day. But with most of the people I’m talking to, I’m telling them to wait till over the weekend.”

The Army Corps of Engineers, the entity that controls water releases out of Lost Creek Dam into the upper Rogue River, is currently projecting to keep the river at a steady flow of approximately 8,500 cubic feet per second, which has also been maintaining the river temperature in the 58-degree range.  

However every springer fisherman is hoping that the Corps will suddenly go off the grid and decide to bump up the water flows just enough to cool down the river temperature, which will then put the springers back on-the-move and on-the-bite.

“But no matter what, we’re in that prime-time situation where those fish should be moving through over the next couple weeks,” emphasizes Carey.

Don’t forget that both of Carey’s tackle stores in Brookings and Gold Beach also carries that awesome octopus bait that works so well on rockfish, lingcod and halibut.

“I think octopus is one of the better bottom fishing baits – hands down!” notes Carey.

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.