By Paul LeFebvre | 11/06/2011
Fall Chinook salmon fishing on the Southern Oregon Coast is mostly a troll fishery. While some of our coastal streams remain barren of fall Chinook until later in the year due to low and clear water conditions, the Lower Rogue River, Coos system and Coquille River provide consistent action for kings in the 15-40+ pound class beginning early in the summer.
Early fall Chinook are typically caught using trolling techniques in the estuaries of these systems. Anglers rig anchovies, sardines and herring in a manner that yields a life-like spin that is very attractive to large Chinook fresh in from the ocean.
Over the years I’ve tried many cures and/or brines searching for the magic elixir that will cause the big kings to prefer my offering over all other spinning anchovies kings see in the course of a day.
In the mid 80’s guides on the Rogue River estuary tended to cure their anchovies in a super saturated salt solution overnight. Although this brine was quite popular, the technique seemed to give way to the use of fresh baits laid on ice. With the emergence of dyes in the tackle industry a combination of fresh, salt cured and dyed baits became somewhat popular in the early 2000’s.
Bait is often wasted with super saturated salt brines as the salt “cooks” the bait and hardens it to the point of causing it to be unattractive (wrinkled) in the eyes of the angler, and no doubt, the fish. The longer the baits are in the salt brine the more the scent is altered. Most of the anchovy’s juice winds up in the form of brown liquid.
For the most part I have been carrying a combination of Pautzke’s Nectar Cured anchovies (see 08/2010 Fire Blog) and fresh anchovies/sardines to mix up the presentation over the course of a fishing session. What fresh baits I have left are always committed to the Pautzke Nectar for the next fishing session.
ENTER ANDY MARTIN of Wild Rivers Fishing...
An Oregon State Beavers fan, Martin is a good friend of mine and a well known Southern Oregon Guide and author. Martin fishes Alaska in the summer and returns to the Southern Oregon Coast in September to target Chinook. Often we collaborate on fishing methods, strategies and tactics. Sometimes we’ll fish in separate boats, but work together to help each other locate feeding kings. This was the case on September 30th when Martin and I opted to troll the Rogue for kings and silvers.
One key to fishing the Rogue Bay, and other estuary systems on the coast, is to time your fishing days with calm seas assuring that bar conditions are favorable for salmon to enter the river. Such was the case during the week of September 30th, 2011 when 15 foot seas kept the bar less than ideal…until Friday when they laid down and the ocean glassed off.
On Friday, September 30th, after franticly finishing a bunch of paper work at home, we arrived at the bay a bit late. Martin had dropped off a care package of products for us to try and report back on including two bottles of Pautzke’s Fire Brine in blue and chartreuse. Martin began whacking and stacking fish immediately. We had one silver and two stripped baits to our name whereas Martin had three fish in the box, including two kings!!! He also released several Silvers… “What the heck are you doing Andy – are you using the cured baits?” “You bet. The Fire Brine, said Andy, use the green!!”
We frantically found a water bottle, cut the top and dropped six frozen baits into the water bottle vertically before pouring in the chartreuse Fire Brine. While continuing to troll another hour with no results we let the baits brine in the bottle. I was worried that the anchovies would not take a set if they were not brined overnight. Meanwhile, after only an hour we looked at the baits and it seemed that they were stained and possibly fully cured. I couldn’t tell, yet. With Martin putting yet another fish in the box we were becoming desperate.
I figured we had nothing to lose and rigged one of the anchovies sitting in the Fire Brine. Surprisingly, we hooked a fish on the first pass above the bridge on Tony’s Rod.
Almost immediately, we put the Fire Brined brined anchovies on all rods and hooked up fresh kings on the next four passes including a 28.5-pound hatchery beauty I landed. Add in a few more silvers one more thumbed king and we have another double-digit banner day! All on Fire Brined anchovies!!
Once again fishing presents us with a dilemma – coincidence or not? One in row is not a trend. However, I, for one, have worked with Pautzke products and I believe in them. I am getting more of this brine in a hurry or I’ll be raiding Martin’s garage! Further, when most blogs tend to describe methods and processes for curing or scenting, here is the formula; place baits in Fire Brine – soak for a minimum of an hour or so and start fishing. Complicated, huh?
A trend is developing here on the Southern Oregon Coast. After Martin’s and my somewhat spectacular outing of September 30th Martin used the Fire Brine in the ocean bubble season off the Chetco River and caught more kings than most other boats. Jeff Fischer, a local guide and excellent fisherman heard about the success and fired up the Fire Brine to lead the tournament into the last week. Martin’s first 50-pound fish of the season in the Chetco River estuary was taken on a chartreuse Fire Brined herring!
There are many more applications for Fire Brine such as Kwick Fish wraps and further experimentation with the orange and red spawning colors for upstream, non-estuary migrating salmon. Further, I can’t wait until next Springer season so stayed tuned to this blog for more Fire Brine results.