CENTRAL COAST FISHING
Week of December 18th
In the Creel: The focus now is mainly on winter steelhead as more start entering the rivers. Most all salmon fishing is either closed or the fish are in rough spawning condition. Offshore, if you can get there in current ocean conditions, could produce some great catches of rockfish and lingcod. Bay crabbing is in a slump due to too much fresh water, but ocean crabbing can produce a handful of beauties, though probably not limits. Some of the commercial crab fleet, mostly the bigger boats, are pulling up stakes and heading to Alaska searching for higher numbers of crustaceans. And, the evening and nighttime minus tides are keeping clam shovels in the shed instead of digging in the sand. There will be no report next week as we enjoy some family and friends holiday time. With slow fishing and uncooperative weather right now, you might want to consider doing the same. Happy Holidays!
Salmon River: 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 underway with a small number of steelhead being caught from the lower river up to Moonshine Park by both bank and boat anglers. This time of year is typically slow to fair for winter steelhead. 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 now along the Big Elk as conditions allow. 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 angling will improve over the next couple of weeks as more fish arrive.
Alsea River/Bay: Winter steelhead season is underway with reports of some being caught from the lower river up to the hatchery. Good numbers of fish typically start returning over the next couple of weeks. 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 is slow. Most fish have migrated onto the spawning grounds. It is possible for a small number of new bright fish to be available through the end of the season on December 31st.
Saltwater angling and shellfish harvesting…
Ocean Fishing, Bay Crabbing and Clamming:
* BOTTOM FISH The ocean is open to bottom fishing at all depths. This time of year, whenever the weather permits, bottom fishing can be great fun and very productive. Charter fishing trips are an especially good bet for visitors to the coast, making an ocean fishing experience easy and enjoyable with expert crews to help provide and rig gear, and find good fishing spots. This month is also ripe for deep water lingcod, and cabezon is open through December 31st.
* SALMON/HALIBUT Closed offshore.
* CRAB Weather permitting, go crabbing! Ocean-caught crabs are big and full of meat this year, although crabbers might have to pay their dues in patience — many crabbers are reporting slow catch rates, but excellent quality. When conditions allow, recreational ocean crabbing can be a good bet during the winter. Bay crabbing can also be very good this time of year. Keep in mind, though, that major rain events can dramatically lower the salinity in the bays pushing crab to lower in the bay or out to sea.
* 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 minus tides begin Friday, December 19th, and run through the 26th; unfortunately they start by occurring at sunset and then advance to well after dark. December Tide Tables.
* MUSSELS Mussels are open along the entire coast. These tasty treats can be fairly simple to harvest if you have the tides (see Tide Tables above).
* 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 most unusual thing we’re hearing about is an amazing amount of small octopuses in the crab pots. One guy cooked up twenty or so and said they were very good. Another report was that bigger ones were out deeper, but they were a whitish color and seemed weaker than usual. Otherwise, some of the ‘big gun’ crabbers are in the process of bringing in their pots, or ‘stacking out’ as they say. The cards are now stacked in favor of the smaller operations as the bigger catches are only out in the 20-30 fathom zone and close to home as well.
Fore-Cast: River, lake and bay fishermen are going to need heavy duty raingear over the weekend ahead, and probably into next week; lots of rain is headed this way. This may also cause rapid rises in the rivers, so be careful on the banks. Offshore, we can’t get a break. Another round of SW gales is headed for the Central Coast over the next few days along with seas up to 20 feet. The good news is that there could be a change to cooler and lighter NE winds and lower seas by late next week. Always check the latest Bar Reports before you venture offshore.
Notices to Mariners… Yaquina Head, Heceta Head and Cleft of the Rock lights are dark; they’re undergoing maintenance and 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