CENTRAL COAST FISHING
Week of January 8th
In the Creel: With record high temperatures and fairly light winds, it’s been more like summer fishing than winter. Anglers looking for winter steelhead have had terrific weather days, even if recent rains pushed the rivers high and muddy for a while. The ocean finally cut us some slack and lots of boats have been out catching bottom fish and lingcod. Bay and ocean crabbing is slow and clammers remain hampered by the best tides showing-up after dark (the first daytime minus tide for the year occurs at 7:44am on March 21st, just in case you’re keeping track). But before you dig a clam, pull a crab pot, bait a hook or cast a lure, take the time to read through ODFW’s just-released 2015 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations. There are several bag-limit and season changes this year. Click here for your downloadable copy.
Salmon River: Winter steelhead fishing is starting to pick up in many coastal basins. The Salmon River is now open to harvest of wild winter steelhead (January 1st to March 31st). Anglers are advised to read the new regulations (see above) as there are harvest restrictions and new deadlines in effect.
Siletz River/Bay: Steelhead fishing is slow to fair but should start to get better in the coming weeks. Fish can be found throughout the river for both bank and boat anglers. River conditions should be good through the weekend.
Yaquina River/Bay: The winter steelhead fishery is fair to good now in the Big Elk. River conditions should remain in decent shape through the week. You’re advised to watch for private property. Typical steelhead angling tactics apply but remember that the Big Elk is bedrock-dominated and does have a lot of snags.
Alsea River/Bay: The winter steelhead fishery has been producing fair to good results recently. Best fishing this week would be in the middle to lower reaches of the Alsea as the flow drops and river temperatures warm up.
Central Coast Lakes: Not much action right now with most of the seasonal fisheries over and no new fish arriving or currently being planted. The 2015 stocking schedule for Central Coast lakes is expected to be announced in March and we’ll let you know as soon as it’s available.
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. The New Year brought about good ocean conditions for several days, which many fishermen took advantage of. Reports from the docks indicate that the rockfish bite was a bit hit-and-miss with half to full daily bag limits, but many anglers were able to limit out on nice-sized lingcod fairly quickly and easily, including some real beauties taken close to shore. With relatively benign ocean conditions forecast for the next few days, things are looking good for some bottom fishing this week. Cabezon is now closed and reopens on June 30th.
* SALMON Closed.
* HALIBUT Closed. The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) will set 2015 quotas for all areas in late January 2015. More information on the 2015 seasons will be available after that time.
* CRAB Sport ocean crabbers are reporting low catches, and bay crabbing remains slow as well. Keep in mind that major rain events dramatically lower the salinity in some bays and prompt crab to move lower in the bay or out to the ocean.
* 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. During the winter months, pay close attention to the surf forecasts and be on the beach one to two hours before low tide. If the forecast calls for combined seas over 8 or 10 feet, razor clamming can be very difficult because the clams tend to show much less in those conditions. The next minus tide series begins Sunday, January 18th, and runs through the 23rd. The series starts with the tides occurring at sunset and then advancing to well after dark. And they’re not all that low, the lowest being -1.5’. Click 2015 Tide Tables for the entire year’s tables.
* MUSSELS Mussels are open along the entire coast. These tasty treats can be fairly simple to harvest in even moderately low tides (see Tide Tables above).
* BAY CLAMS Low tides as high as +1.0 to +2.0 feet can still allow clamming opportunities, especially for purple varnish clams that can sometimes be found when the tide is as high as +4.0 feet. There are limited but good bay clamming tides during daylight hours this month, looking best for a few days around mid-month and again during the last week of January (see Tide Tables above). 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: Warmer water of 56-57F was the norm for last month, and summer critters like sunfish were spotted. As for squid and octopus, some seem to still be around. Also, the fleet reports large bait-balls over lots of turf, which is a good sign for next salmon season. The bigger bait-balls have been visible under crabbing lights at night recently. Catches are generally still mostly slow in the crab fishery. Washington State opened for crab recently which has pushed the value down to $4.00 or so a pound. But, one or two per pot can still be a paycheck ‘til the next fishery. There has been a strong showing of sanddabs, flounder, and other flatfish in the crab gear as well. Dabs are great eating and a huge sport fishery in California. The limit is 25 a day! If you don’t want to eat them, you should know that sanddabs are great lingcod bait (to a ling, it’s a cookie).
Fore-Cast: Bay and river fishermen will find some decent days ahead, with some sunshine, some clouds and some rain, but no big storms are headed this way in the near term. If you want to fish offshore, most of the week ahead should be doable. Variable winds of 5-15 knots are projected with swells 5-6 feet through at least Wednesday. Go get ‘em while it’s hot! Always check the latest Bar Reports before you venture offshore.
Notices to Mariners… Yaquina Head, Heceta Head and Cleft of the Rock lights remain dark while repairs and restoration work continue.
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