CENTRAL COAST FISHING
Week of December 3rd
In the Creel: With the ocean on the fritz, river fishing is where it’s at. Winter steelhead are starting to show up now and chances of catching a chromie are getting better with heavier rain moving these fish into the rivers. Wild Coho is now closed in all of the Central Coast river systems. Ocean crabbing reopened this week, but it doesn’t look like many boats will get out due to the stormy conditions. If you can get offshore, rockfish and lingcod limits are pretty common these days. Razor clams remain closed border-to-border and the next minus tides for bay clamming are all after dark. This week’s fish tale: Catch any? Well, I just need two more to get to an even number.
Salmon River: The fall Chinook fishery is very slow with most fish actively spawning or already spawned out. Winter steelhead season tends to kick in this time of year. A small number of fish are likely in the system now and look for the numbers to steadily increase over the coming month. Casting lures, bouncing the bottom or drifting jigs or bait under a bobber are good techniques to consider.
Siletz River/Bay: The fall Chinook fishery is slow. A small number of new fish may be found in the lower river but most remaining fish are actively spawning or spawned out. The wild Coho fishery is now closed for the season. Winter steelhead season is just getting underway. This time of year typically sees the first few fish entering the river. Best chances early on during lower flows will come from below the town of Siletz. Side drifting, bouncing the bottom or bobber fishing can be productive.
Yaquina River/Bay: Anglers are having very little success for fall Chinook in the upper section of tide water. Most fish are now on the spawning grounds. The winter steelhead run is now underway. The Big Elk tends to start seeing fish this time of year in small numbers. Look for the next good rain event to get the fishery going. The wild Coho fishery is now closed for the year.
Alsea River/Bay: The fall Chinook fishery is very slow. Most remaining fish are actively spawning. A small number of new fish may enter the basin over the next couple weeks. Winter steelhead season has arrived. The best chances to hook a chrome steelhead at this time would be in the lower section below Five Rivers. Tossing spinners, or floating bait or a jig are good options during low clear flows.
Central Coast Reservoirs and Lakes: The Coho salmon fisheries in Siltcoos and Tahkenitch lakes are slow to fair, even though this time of year is typically the most productive. Recent rains and big tides should help move new fish into 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. Anglers that were able to get out on the ocean during the brief weather window returned to the docks with good catches of rockfish and lingcod (limits of the latter out of Newport). More blue rockfish are being caught than black rockfish. Newport anglers were also running into Pacific mackerel, an offshore pelagic species; ‘Pac macks’ range as far north as Alaska but are only common south of Monterey Bay, California. Several handouts – including ‘What Can I Keep, and How Many?’ plus species identification tips – are available on the ODFW sport groundfish webpage here.
* SALMON Ocean salmon fishing is now closed.
* HALIBUT Fishing for halibut is now closed.
* CRAB All crab harvesting is closed from Heceta Head to the California border for elevated levels of domoic acid in crab viscera (guts/butter). Crab harvested recreationally from Heceta Head north to the Columbia River do not fall under this closure, although it is recommended that crab always be eviscerated prior to cooking and eating them. Evisceration includes removal and discarding of the internal organs and gills. Ocean crabbing reopened on December 1st. Crabbing in the Central Coast bays is very good right now and should remain that way well into December.
* RAZOR CLAMS All razor clam harvesting remains closed along the entire Oregon Coast from the Columbia River to the California border due to elevated levels of domoic acid. This closure includes all beaches and bays.
* MUSSELS Recreational and commercial harvest of mussels is closed from the mouth of the Yachats River to the California border due to elevated levels of domoic acid; the closure applies to mussels on all beaches, rocks, jetties and bay entrances. Mussel harvesting remains open from Yachats to the Columbia River.
* BAY CLAMS Harvesting of bay clams is open along the entire Oregon Coast, however, the Oregon Health Authority has an advisory in effect for recreationally harvested softshell and gaper clams due to arsenic contamination. Read the softshell/gaper advisory here. The next minus tide series is December 10th through the 15th, with the lowest at -0.8′ on the 12th and 13th; all of these minus tides will occur after dark. Click 2015 Tide Tables for the entire year’s tables. See ODFW’s bay clam webpage for more information on where and how to dig, clam identification, etc., here.
Commercial Fishing: The big thing now is getting ready for opening day of the crab season. There’s almost always a delay past the possible December 1st opening due to price haggling, weather and ensuring a positive meat-to-shell ratio. But this year, the fleet is also waiting for results of testing for domoic acid. Meanwhile, the hagfishers continue to deliver product and those after other species are on hold for ‘workable’ weather conditions.
Fore-Cast: No joy offshore for the next week or better as high seas and strong winds will be the rule rather than the exception. On the rivers and bays, raingear will be imperative most days through next week. Always check the latest Marine Forecast and Bar Reports before you venture offshore.
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