CENTRAL COAST FISHING
Week of December 11th
In the Creel: Slow, slow, slow. Salmon and halibut fishing is closed offshore, river salmon are spawning, crabbing has been spotty, clammers are still stuck with bum tides, and a spate of storms has kept virtually everyone off the ocean. On the fast track, however, winter steelhead are beginning to appear in the rivers and some nice ones have already been landed. With an expected break in the weather during the week ahead, you may also have a shot at nailing some great bottom fish during the hot winter bite offshore. So, don your foulies, play your cards right, and there’ll be some fresh fish tales for your landlubber relatives when they visit for the holidays.
Salmon River: Fall Chinook fishing is slow as any remaining fish are on the spawning grounds. Winter steelhead are starting to show up in most coastal basins. The Salmon River does get a good return of wild winter steelhead and an occasional stray hatchery fish.
Siletz River/Bay: Winter steelhead season is just getting underway. A small number of chrome-bright fish have been caught from the lower river up to Moonshine Park. Fall Chinook fishing is slow as most remaining fish have moved onto the spawning grounds. Coho salmon are still being caught but anglers are reminded that the wild Coho fishery ended on November 30th.
Yaquina River/Bay: The winter steelhead run is starting to kick in with anglers getting into a few fish along the Big Elk as conditions allow. The fall Chinook fishery is essentially over for the season as most fish have already spawned. Some Coho salmon are still moving through the system but anglers are reminded that the wild Coho fishery ended on November 30th.
Beaver Creek: Recent rains should bring some early winter steelhead into the system, and fishing will improve over the next few weeks as more fish arrive.
Alsea River/Bay: Winter steelhead season is underway with reports of some steelhead being caught from the lower river up to the hatchery. Good numbers of fish typically start returning over the next few weeks. The fall Chinook run is essentially over for the year as most fish have already spawned. Some Coho salmon are still being caught but anglers are reminded that the wild Coho fishery ended on November 30th.
Central Coast Lakes: The wild Coho salmon fishery in Siltcoos and Tahkenitch Lakes has slowed down. Many fish have migrated up onto the spawning grounds or are in spawning condition. Small numbers of new bright fish will continue to pulse in through December. Areas to focus on are near the lake outlets or the major tributaries to the lakes.
Saltwater angling and shellfish harvesting…
Ocean Fishing, Bay Crabbing and Clamming:
* BOTTOM FISH The ocean is open to bottom fishing at all depths. Effort has been slow due to rough ocean and bar conditions. Last week before the storms, anglers out of Depoe Bay had good lingcod catches, and a few rockfish per person. The sport cabezon season remains open because there is quota remaining and will likely continue through December 31st.
* SALMON/HALIBUT Closed offshore.
* CRAB Bay crabbing remains open year-round but usually slows down in the winter. Crabs are in very good condition right now, if you can find them. In Yaquina Bay, for example, crabbing has been spotty in the bay and from docks and piers. Keep in mind that major rain events can dramatically lower the salinity in the bays which prompts crab to move lower in the bay or out to sea. Recreational ocean crabbing is open and reports say that few boats have been limiting, though the crab they’re pulling are of excellent quality.
* RAZOR CLAMS Razor clamming is still closed from the Oregon/California border to Heceta Head due to elevated levels of amnesic shellfish toxin (ASP) or domoic acid. All other Central Coast beaches remain open for razors. The next series of minus tides runs from December 19th to the 26th; unfortunately they all occur from sunset to well after dark. December Tide Tables.
* BAY CLAMS The best low tides are in the evenings or overnight for the remainder of the year, but even a +1.0’ or +2.0’ low can allow bay clamming opportunities, especially for purple varnish clams that are often found when the tide is as high as +4.0’. Sport clammers should be able to collect daily limits of cockles, gaper clams and butter clams from the popular sites in Siletz, Yaquina and Alsea Bays. For shellfish regs and identification, go here.
Commercial Fishing: The fleet has been tied-up in port most of the past week due to a series of severe storms battering local waters. Earlier, when they were getting out, the general consensus was that this year’s Dungies are fat, sweet and full, but are also few and far between. Maybe that’ll change when/if the storms fade away.
Fore-Cast: Seasonal December weather will continue for river, lake and bay fishermen over the next week – mostly wet and sometimes windy, too, but dry with some sunbreaks this coming weekend. River flows are high and will probably stay that way for a while. Offshore still doesn’t look good. Though the last of this week’s big storms should be history by Friday, winds are predicted to remain in the 15-25 knot range with choppy seas 10 feet or higher until at least Tuesday. Always check the latest Bar Reports before you venture offshore.
Notices to Mariners… Yaquina Head and Heceta Head lights are still dark; both are undergoing maintenance and are temporarily extinguished.
Fishin’ with Chris does not come with a warranty but, fortunately, the worst day fishing is still better than the best day working. Information is supplied by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, NOAA, and local fishermen. So… don’t blame me!
– Chris Burns