We’ve had a ton of fun around here the past week. Hunter and I spent a couple days shooting sea-ducks out of kayaks, Keifer and Trenton have been catching steelhead, and Captain John took out some clients and landed an honest to goodness 40-pound lingcod! The ocean is still grumpy and lumpy and the opportunities to get out have been sparse but, my oh my, folks that have gotten out are bringing in limits of very nice lingcod and a good mix of rockfish.
Steelhead has still been up and down, with the slower days outnumbering the good. But folks are still catching fish with some effort. Don’t forget the Basin Tackle Steelhead Clinic in conjunction with the ODFW on Saturday, Feb. 11. Call any time for more info.
Here’s the bad news, crabbing has been shut down north of Coos Bay to Florence since Wednesday, Feb. 1. Hopefully it reopens soon but also keep in mind that this does NOT affect Coos Bay, Charleston, and all points south at this time, so we are still catching crab locally.
Let’s go back to the kayak hunting trip that Hunter and I did last week. Our main target was the super-fast, super-tough seabird called the surf scoter. I have to admit that our first day out was something I wanted very little to do with. It involved getting up at 5 a.m. (on the one day a week I can sleep in if I want), driving to the shop to load kayaks, donning thermal gear, waders, and life vests, and then transporting the kayaks to a launch spot in the pitch black. Once all this was done we would be “rewarded” with wind, waves and an almost freezing cold morning complete with wet hands and fingers that wouldn’t move after a while.
Well it turns out that, hands down, this was one of the best things I have ever done! In fact, I had so much fun and was so excited that I couldn’t sleep that night in eager anticipation of doing it again the next morning and was up at 3 a.m. getting my coffee and shotgun ready. I am still grinning from ear to ear and it’s been a week since we were out there.
While floating in the bay with wind and waves a small group of surf scoters would fly by every few minutes, and let me tell you, they are seriously fast. On average, ducks fly 40 to 60 mph at top speeds and I would not hesitate to say these are at the top of that range. Shots had to be taken fairly close for waterfowl because the lead on them was pretty wide. It’s been a few years since I’ve shot ducks, but after a box of shells it all started coming back. I even pulled off a triple!
There wasn’t one singular part of this hunt that made it so amazing; it was a bunch of factors combined. The whole time out there you are looking for other watercraft, monitoring the waves around you, trying to work the wind to your advantage, keeping your shots safe, paddling or pedaling your kayak and then making crazy shots by contorting your body because the duck is where the duck is and that’s the shot you’re given. Serious fun. I’m counting the days until the season opens again and in case you’re wondering it’s 240 days, 2 hours, 54 minutes according to Google as I sit here writing this.
The surf scoter is pretty large for a duck, weighing in at a little over two pounds. The hide on these suckers is akin to that of a goose, and overall they are pretty fatty. Considering they make their living in the cold Pacific Ocean it kind of makes sense.
These birds are mostly black with a candy corn looking bill that makes folks often think they are looking at puffins. They look so “puffin-like” that the poppers and jerky we made out of them are being referred to as “puffin jerky” and “puffin poppers.”
Seriously, I know that’s all kinds of wrong so please don’t call or write, it will probably only encourage me to say even worse things.
Puffin … er … I mean scoters are true surf birds and will dive up to 30 feet to feed on insects, plants and most of all mollusks. During the summer mating season these tough and tasty creatures will lay six to nine eggs in a shallow ground nest along freshwater lakes in northern Canada and Alaska.
Living up to 10 years, the surf scoter has few natural enemies besides the Basin Tackle Bird Hunting Team and, is actually one of the least studied of all the North American waterfowl.
So, whether you are bagging birds or reeling in a 40-pound lingcod, I hope to see you out there.
Rob Gensorek is the owner of Basin Tackle www.basintackle.com in the Charleston Marina and can be reached by phone at 541-888-FISH, by Facebook at Basin Tackle Charleston, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rob’s fishing reports can be heard daily at 6:20 a.m. and 4:20 p.m. on KRSB Best Country 103 out of Roseburg and his Basin Tackle Outdoor Show can be heard Wednesdays at 3 p.m. and Saturdays at 6 a.m. at kwro.com. In addition to all this, he sometimes actually gets out and catches a fish or two.