A huge rush of Silver Salmon - also known as Coho Salmon - is swimming along the Oregon coast this summer.
Oregon fishery managers peg the "run" of coastal Coho at more than a million fish this year.
Grant McOmie reports that lucky licensed anglers - with rods and reels in hand - are trying their luck on the ocean waters as the best fishing of the summer season gets underway.
There is an old fishing adage that goes, "You should have been here yesterday!"
The assumption being - the fish are always more eager to bite - the day before you decide to go fishing.
So when I stepped aboard John Krauthoefer's (Firefighter's Guide Service: 503-812-1414, Johnguides@earthlink.net) boat at Garibaldi Marina for a day's adventure on the big blue Pacific Ocean and heard:
"The fish are here - no doubt about it," noted the longtime Oregon fishing guide. "Every place we went yesterday we had a bite...there were three guys in the boat and we dumped the fish in and were done 35, 40 minutes later...it was great fishing!"
His report sounded fantastic and yet my heart sank a bit!
That's because it has been my history that whenever I hear such a solid report of angling success that occurred the day before - it is usually followed by nearly the opposite when I step aboard the next day.
While Krauthoefer fishes the ocean each summer, he insisted that he hadn't seen ocean Coho salmon fishing like the past month in a long time.
As we sped across Tillamook Bay toward the ocean he was convinced that our fishing adventure would be every bit as successful as the day before.
"The fish are here and we're going catch a bunch," he confidently told us.
We soon found ourselves less than five miles from shore in water less than two hundred feet deep.
We fished with divers, flashers and herring for bait on barbless hooks - all of it played out just twelve to fourteen "pulls" (a pull = distance from the reel to the first line guide) behind the boat.
As it turned out, our combination of tactics and techniques added up to one of my most amazing ocean Coho salmon trips ever.
"There's one," I shouted. Sure enough, the bait had not been in the ocean more than thirty seconds when my rod doubled down and pulsed from a hard charging Coho that had grabbed the herring bait.
"There's another one, there's another one," came shouted replies in unison from angling partners, Birt Hansen and Joe Watkins.
Krauthoefer noted that there has been a remarkable turnaround for Coho Salmon this summer.
In fact, we hadn't had our baits in the water ten minutes and we had hooked and landed four salmon.
Krauthoefer nodded with a knowing smile and added, "We've gone from a Coho bust two years ago to a salmon surplus this summer."
He added that the summer forecast for Oregon's Coho population is pegged at more than a million fish.
Anglers are allowed to keep three hatchery Coho per day.
Fish splashed and nets flew from boats all around us as we trolled within sight of Twin Rocks, just north of the entrance to Tillamook Bay.
Our fishing rods danced as well - one after the other - as the Coho bite turned aggressive.
We were on a sure course toward our limits of three hatchery Coho salmon per angler.
You can tell the Coho are hatchery fish by the missing adipose fin; that's a half-moon shaped fin located immediately behind the dorsal fin. (The adipose fin is clipped off at the hatchery when the fish are babies.)
John called it a return to the good old days of ocean fishing that reaches back to the 1970's: "Managers have given us a quota of 110,00 along the central coast and the way it's looking they're pretty much right on track."
It was a rare day off for Joe Watkins because he's usually found at the ODFW North Nehalem Hatchery where he manages the production of baby fish.
He said that the salmon smolts (juvenile salmon) were in fine shape when they went to the ocean two years ago:
"It's true and it really takes a lot of dedicated workers, hatchery volunteers and paid staff. It's the same on the natural production side for wild Coho. They are rebounding big time. Their success allows us to have large harvest quotas like we have this year."
Not only is there a greater abundance of Coho, but the fish are bigger than usual - on average two pounds larger - for this time of year.
"Right now, these fish are running 7-8 pounds apiece on average," noted Watkins. "That's a quality fish and they'll just continue to grow and put on another pound per week."
As my angling partners began to note their limit catches - one after the other - on their catch cards, I felt a bit snake-bit: I had lost four Coho salmon in a row.
Krauthoefer noted, "Well, sometimes they just come off. Coho are real erratic and they dart all over the place and are unpredictable, but a ton of fun to catch."
Finally, my wait ended as my fishing rod doubled over and throbbed down hard.
I wrestled it from the rod holder and held on for dear life.
"Oh, it's a nice one John," was all I could mumble as I prayed the hooks would hold tight.
Finally, time and patience held as I brought the large Coho to the side of the boat.
John slipped the net under the gleaming ten-pound fish.
"Wow! Now that's some kind of a keeper!" noted Hansen
There were plenty of keepers to go around as we ended the morning's fishing trip with Coho limits for everyone.
If you like to fish for salmon, you really should be there.
So get out there - right now!
You might consider making the "Ocean Coho Salmon Fishing" adventure a part of your entry in a unique travel contest. It's called the Oregon 150 Challenge and it offers a unique dream vacation as a grand prize.