Let me introduce you to the Oregon Coast. This had begun as a tutorial on a specific fishing area, but has quickly expanded. This first part is focusing on the gear that we use here in the PacNW when bottom fishing on the coast. We’re going to be targeting Rockfish, Lingcod, Cabezon and Greenling. Bottom fishing on the Oregon Coast is an excellent, often fast paced fishery. So let’s get started with the tackle.
There are a good number of options when choosing the tackle you want to use when fishing out of Depoe Bay, and much of the Oregon coast as well. Most find that the standard salmon gear they already have is perfectly suitable, but if you do much fishing off the coast, you might want to put together an outfit specifically for bottom fishing. When I first started fishing saltwater I was using my Okuma Celilo backbounce salmon rod rated for 1-8oz. This rod was great and I could feel every bounce on the bottom, and every hit on my bait. I had it paired to an Abu Garcia Ambassador 5600 level wind that was spooled up with 65# braid. I’ve since put that as a backup in my boat and use it mostly for winter sturgeon and salmon. I now use a Shimano Saguaro rod which was made for vertical jigging. It’s pretty similar to a Trevala rod, but much more manageable for those that are budget minded. I have it paired to a Daiwa Sealine 47H, also spooled with 50# braid. In either case, you can easily get into a suitable setup for less than $200, including line.
Attached to the 50# braid mainline, I always use 40# test monofilament or fluorocarbon. With this type of fishing, I don’t think one is better than the other. I make four to six foot long leaders with two dropper loops tied fairly equally spaced between the each end of the leader. One end of the leader gets a perfection loop, and the other gets a heavy duty duo-lock snap.
Attached to that duo-lock snap is all the weight, and the main lure for the lingcod. Wind, current and depth will ultimately chose what you’re fishing with. Generally I’ll be using 2.5-4oz jigs when I’m fishing in less than 60 feet of water on an average day. If things pick up, be it current, wind, or depth, then I move up to six or eight ounce tackle. Heading out with an assortment of three and four ounce jigs will usually suit you for 80% of the fishing days on the Oregon Coast.
I can’t say I have a favorite yet, but I like big plastic swimbaits and grubs just as much as I like diamond bars and just plain torpedo sinkers. Plastic shad-body swimbaits are great, and I rarely use anything under four inches, and six to eight inches is definitely preferred, and from time to time I’ll even rig up the big 11’ baits. Pictured at top is a big eight inch Powerbait grub. It’s all I had at the time of writing, as I definitely prefer to use either Boneyard Baits or Kalin’s. Boneyard is one of the only manufacturers of the BIG baits like 12” shads or 11” grubs that I know off. Below the grub is a 7” Smelly Bait Herring. My favorite of all the swimbaits is the 6” King Cocahoe. I dunno what it is, but something about this particular swimbait makes it a proven lingcod bait. The shad on the black jig head is has caught cabezon over and over again – including the same fish twice. The last two I don’t recall much more about.
But it’s not always about plastics. Lings tend to like anything banging on the bottom, and that’s where the torpedo sinkers and diamond bars come into play. I like the torpedo sinkers because they’re inexpensive. For the price of the one, four ounce diamond jig on the bottom, you can pick up a couple four ounce torpedo sinkers and a pair of 2/0 double hooks. I like the double-hooks because you don’t need to worry about fastening split rings onto the eye of the torpedo sinker. Just slip the double-hook through. I’ve never had one slip off. I’m not exactly sure what makes the diamond bars so expensive, other than the flashy finish. If you need flash, you can heat up the torpedoes with a heat gun. Not a perfect solution, but it works some. If you have heavy enough gear, you can run some of the larger ten ounce varieties, and if you’re in deeper water, even bigger than that. Another favorite, when I find them, is a four ounce Kastmaster casting spoon. They’re great on the jig as well, and their flutter is very unique. I do change the hook on them, as the factory hook can easily bend. I like the Kastmasters, but at over $10 each, they can get more expensive than the diamond bars in a hurry.
Now, with the dropper loops that we have tied on, we start targeting the rockfish. Using a loop-to-loop connection I thread on either a cheap shrimp fly or a 4/0 single point hook. The shrimp flies work great on their own, but I’ve also tipped them a bit with a Gulp shrimp, belly strip, or steelhead worm. Scent oils and gels will work well for you too. On the plain hooks I like to use squids – or as we call in them in the PacNW, Hootchies. They’re traditionally a salmon lure, but anything that likes squid will take them as well.
I’ve not spoken much about color. These fish aren’t picky eaters. If it bounces off the rocks right, or moves right, its food. That said any color will work so long as it’s white or glows in the dark. I try to get as lightly colored, or glowing any time I’m shopping for baits. Shrimp flies pretty much only come in blue or orange, and I’ve not seen that either color works better than the other.
There’s a lot of excitement to be had when fishing three different lures on a single line. Double and triple hookups are not uncommon, and a great way to find fish. If you find yourself with a double or a triple, hurry back and pass through that same spot. Odds are it will happen again. Also be prepared for hitchhikers. It’s fairly common for big lings to be attracted to thrashing rockfish and suspect them for an easy meal. Hitchhiking lings will hold on all their way up to the boat, but if their head comes out of the water, they’ll let go and swim away. Lip grippers or a blunt gaff behind the gill plate will help keep them from running away. If you keep your fishing in shallower water you’ll keep out of the yelloweye and canary rockfish which are prohibited, and will likely need to be vented for successful release. All others can be caught and released into hot oil, as they are quite tasty.
Safety First! Always wear a PFD. Oregon Coastal waters are cold. Always have a VHF radio with fully charged batteries (backup batteries are good too). Most charter captains definitely appreaciate a flag, and you’ll be fishing along side them in several places on the coast. Air horns are an also must have item at many locations across the coast. Know where you’re going and be prepared.
Good luck out there and tight lines!