CENTRAL COAST FISHING
Week of December 10th
In the Creel: The ocean has been off-limits over the past week due to stormy weather, and it doesn’t look like there’ll be a break for several days. Rivers are running really high this week with several inches of rainfall, which will make angling a challenge. The good news is that increased flows should really start moving the fish around and making them active. The bad news is that lots of fresh water is flooding the bays which will chase the crabs offshore. Clamming is being hampered by closures and storm surge pushing the low tides up 2 feet or more above predictions. So, pour another eggnog and wait for Santa to bring some decent weather. This week’s Fish Tale: “Fishing is described as spending hundreds of dollars on gear just to back up your lies.”
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. Rough conditions kept anglers off the water last week. Otherwise, during safe weather windows, winter is a great time for bottom fishing – rockfish can be large and lingcod limits can be had. Because of El Niño, anglers this winter might also run into uncommon or unusual species. The last time Newport anglers were able to get out they caught some Pacific mackerel, an offshore pelagic species. ‘Pac macks’ range as far north as Alaska but are only normally 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 current minus tide series runs through the 15th, with the lowest at -0.8′ on the 12th and 13th; but all of these minus tides will occur after dark. Also, storm surge has pushed these tides up about 2 feet from normal predictions, so be extremely careful if you plan to dig clams in the bays. 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 commercial crab season has been delayed until the ocean settles down and toxin (domoic acid) reports come in. For now, it’s wait in port with a load of pots for the starting gun.
Fore-Cast: River and bay fishermen can expect rainy days over the next week. Offshore, it’ll be several days before ocean conditions subside enough for anyone to get out. Huge seas and storm force winds have been the rule rather than the exception. 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