CENTRAL COAST FISHING
Week of March 12th
In the Creel: If you wanna hook into a winter steelhead, you’re probably gonna have to wait until next winter. With the rivers dropping to low and clear, the bite is fair at best, poor at worst. The commercial salmon troll season has been delayed (see Commercial Fishing below). Trout fishing is great in the stocked reservoirs and rockfish are jumpin’ in the boat offshore. After a brief lag, lingcod seem to be hungry again, too. Razor clammers can’t find a tide with both hands, but bay clammers have been scoring bigtime. Crabbing is still in a slump for recreational pots and the big commercial boys aren’t fairing much better. In fact, it’s so bad (how bad is it?) some of the fleet is re-gearing for slime eels (shiver). By the way, if your kids are named Suzuki and Evinrude, you might have a fishing problem; it’s time to seek help.
Salmon River: Winter steelhead fishing is slow to fair. River conditions are low and clear. Anglers should focus on the deeper holding water. The river is open to harvest of wild winter steelhead through March 31st.
Siletz River/Bay: Steelhead fishing is slow as river conditions continue to drop and clear. New fish will continue to move in though this time of year tends to produce a good percentage of native fish. Bank fishing in the upper gorge area or floating the lower reaches will produce the best results until the next good rain event, maybe this weekend. Typical steelhead tactics apply such as side drifting, bobbers and jig/bait, or casting spoons or spinners. Lincoln County Commissioners have selected the winning bid for the creation of a new boat launch park on the Siletz River, about 5 miles north of the town of Siletz. Officially it’s at milepost 20.5. The new boat launch park will come with lots of parking, restrooms, a play area for the kids and a trailhead for walking along the river.
Yaquina River/Bay: The winter steelhead fishery is slow in the Big Elk. River conditions are low and clear. The fishery is typically very slow for the rest of the season. Anglers are advised to watch for private property. Typical steelhead fishing tactics apply but the Big Elk is bedrock dominated and does have a lot of snags.
Alsea River/Bay: The winter steelhead fishery has slowed down as river conditions are low and clear. Look to fish the deeper holding water and use smaller, more subtle presentations. This time of year more native fish tend to show up in the catch. Casting lures, bobbers and jig/bait or drifting beads along the bottom can be effective techniques.
Central Coast Reservoirs and Lakes: The rainbow trout stocking program is underway with the Central Coast reservoirs already well-stocked. They’ll be replanted multiple times until early June. Be sure to check out the 2015 stocking schedule here. Fishing for the various warm water fish species can be productive during the winter months. Anglers may need to target different areas of a lake (typically deeper) versus when fishing more shallow areas in the spring or summer.
Saltwater angling and shellfish harvesting…
Ocean Fishing, Bay Crabbing and Clamming:
* BOTTOM FISH Charters are coming back into Depoe Bay and Newport with limits of rockfish and lingcod. This year’s winter bite has been smoking’ hot. From ODFW, a new rule, effective March 11th – anglers may retain only one Canary rockfish as part of the 7-fish marine daily bag limit but are urged to avoid Canary rockfish (retaining one if caught incidentally) and to recompress any that are released. Be aware, too, of the new regulations for blue, copper, quillback and China rockfish. Check out the ODFW sport groundfish webpage here.
* SALMON Closed. The first of the two salmon season-setting meetings by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) is being held at the Hilton Vancouver Washington through today, March 12th, (301 W. Sixth Street, Vancouver, Washington). This meeting will establish a range of alternatives for further review. The final season-setting meeting will occur at the DoubleTree Hilton Sonoma in Rohnert Park, California from April 10th-16th (One DoubleTree Drive, Rohnert Park, California). For more information, see the ODFW Ocean Salmon webpage, here.
* HALIBUT Closed. The staff-recommended 2015 season dates are now available here.
* CRAB During the winter months, crabbing for Dungeness in the bays can be really slow. But, even in this lean part of the season, you have a better chance of landing some crab by learning good techniques; go here for help.
* 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 tide series doesn’t begin until Wednesday, March 18th, and the lowest is only -0.7’. Click 2015 Tide Tables for the entire year’s tables.
* MUSSELS Mussels are open along the entire coast. They’re fairly simple to harvest even in moderately low tides (see Tide Tables above).
* BAY CLAMS Central Coast 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. Low tides as high as +1.0’ to +2.0’ can still allow clamming opportunities, especially for purple varnish clams that can sometimes be found when the tide is as high as +4.0’. See ODFW’s bay clam webpage for more information on where and how to dig, clam identification, etc., here.
Commercial Fishing: The National Marine Fisheries Service has announced that the area between Cape Falcon and the Oregon/California Border (including Central Coast waters) will not open for commercial troll salmon fishing for the period of March 15th through March 31st. The area will open for commercial troll for Chinook salmon fishing within this area for the period of April 1st – 30th. Read details here. Meanwhile, a few more boats have rigged for hagfish (slime eels), which further indicates just how poor crabbing is. The small octopus bloom is still part of the picture, too. However, it appears that they are a species that doesn’t get very big. It might be prudent to stock up on white cuttlefish hootchies as there are still reports of a salmon or two around. As if hagfish weren’t strange enough, a market for gooseneck (or goose) barnacles is on the horizon. More on that later…
Fore-Cast: It appears ocean fishermen could have reasonable conditions Thursday and Friday with variable winds 5-15 knots, but the weekend looks snotty as southerlies build to 20-25 knots gusting 30 and combined choppy seas run 9 feet at 9 seconds. Nor’easters are expected on Sunday, 20-25 knots, relaxing to 10-15 knots on Monday, and possibly lighter breezes on Tuesday and Wednesday. River and bay fishermen should expect rainy periods mixed with some sunshine and generally light to moderate winds during the week ahead. Always check the latest Marine Forecast and Bar Reports before you venture offshore.
Notices to Mariners… None this week.
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