CENTRAL COAST FISHING
Week of February 11th
In the Creel: There’s a new rockfish on the block; see the Bottom Fish section below. Meanwhile, winter steelhead has slowed down a little, but could pick up if enough rain falls to push river levels higher again. The local reservoirs are being stocked with rainbows this week, so maybe take the family trout fishing over the holiday weekend. Crabbing has been spotty to fair in the bays and ocean, while clamming tides have been only marginal at best. Razor clamming is still closed along the Central Coast, anyway. This week’s Fish Tale: The definition of ‘reel’ is “a spool or drum designed to store tangled fishing line.”
Salmon River: Winter steelhead fishing is fair and fish can be found throughout the mainstem as river conditions allow. Casting lures, bouncing the bottom or drifting jigs or bait under a bobber are good techniques to consider.
Siletz River/Bay: Winter steelhead fishing is slow to fair for both bank and boat anglers. River conditions should remain low and clear for most of the week ahead. Side drifting, bouncing the bottom or bobber fishing can be productive.
Yaquina River/Bay: The winter steelhead fishery is slow to fair in the Big Elk. During low clear conditions, anglers should use smaller presentations and focus on deep holding water. Anglers are reminded that there is a lot of private property along the Big Elk. Casting lures or bobber fishing are the best techniques for this river.
Alsea River/Bay: Winter steelhead fishing is fair to good. During lower clear flows, it’s better to focus efforts in the middle to lower river sections. Casting spinners/spoons, or floating bait or a jig are good options.
Central Coast Reservoirs and Lakes: ODFW’s 2016 trout stocking program is underway. This week, Big Creek Reservoirs are getting about 3,000 rainbows, and Olalla Reservoir around 2,000 fish. You can peruse the stocking schedule here.
Saltwater angling and shellfish harvesting…
Ocean Fishing, Bay Crabbing and Clamming:
* BOTTOM FISH There’s a new rockfish on the block. Deacon rockfish is a newly identified species that was formerly referred to as the solid version of blue rockfish. What does that mean for you? Nothing in 2016. Every rule that refers to blue rockfish (like the daily bag limit of 3) now applies to blue rockfish and deacon rockfish combined. During safe weather windows, winter is a great time for bottom fishing: rockfish can be large and daily limits of lingcod are not unusual. Because of El Niño, anglers this winter might also run into uncommon or unusual species. 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.
* GENERAL SHELLFISH NOTE: A couple of regulations were inadvertently left out of the 2016 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulation booklet. (1) The daily bag limit for shrimp (edible) is 20 pounds in the shell; may be taken by traps, pots or rings. (2) Each razor clam digger (as with all clams) must have his or her own container, must dig his or her own clams, and may not possess more than one limit of clams while in the digging area (except under a Disabled Clam Digger Permit).
* CRAB Recreational crab harvesting from the ocean, and in bays and estuaries, is open from the Columbia River to the California border. Ocean crabbing out of Newport was slow last week; crabbing in the bays for both Dungeness and red rock crab was up and down. Bay crabbing is best when there is not a lot of rainwater runoff to dilute salinity. It is always recommended you eviscerate crab and discard the ‘butter’ (viscera or guts) prior to cooking. The consumption of crab viscera is not recommended. Crabbing was fair to good last week on the Central Coast from the ocean and in the bays.
* RAZOR CLAMS The recreational harvest of razor clams is closed from Tillamook Head (south of Seaside) to the California border for elevated levels of domoic acid. This includes all beaches and all bays. The recreational harvest of razor clams is open from the Columbia River to Tillamook Head, so the the very productive Clatsop beaches are available for digging.
* MUSSELS The recreational harvest of mussels is open along the entire Oregon Coast from the Columbia River to the California border.
* BAY CLAMS Harvesting of bay clams is open along the entire Oregon Coast. The next minus tide series is February 20th through 22nd, with the lowest only -0.2′. It’ll be the first week of March before the next minus tides after that, and they also won’t be very low. But, several bay clam species can be found even when low tides aren’t so low: softshell and purple varnish clams occur primarily above +1.0, and cockles, butters and gapers can be found at tides as high as +1.0. For the complete 2016 Tide Tables (in PDF format), click here. See ODFW’s bay clam webpage for more information on where and how to dig, clam identification, etc., here.
Commercial Fishing: Crabbing continues with the fleet getting a few days of decent weather. Locally, most crab is held in seawater tanks until delivery. Dead crabs are not accepted by buyers. Our West Coast Dungeness have become a delicacy in today’s hungry global market and value per pound has already hit $5.00 to the fisherman. As the catch dwindles, expect prices to rise higher. In California the coastwide closure continues due to the same neurotoxin that delayed the Oregon opener an extra month. Normally, the California catch is worth $60 million or more. SBA disaster loans are now available to boats and businesses affected by the closure.
Fore-Cast: Too bad the sunshine and 70-plus temps didn’t last. River and bay fishermen will be back to raingear and slowly rising water levels again this week. Offshore, the flow is southwest so system after system are expected, though no real barn-burners are on the horizon. Seas will probably stay around 10-15 feet with southerlies 10-20 knots gusting 25-30 at times at least through next week. Of course, these conditions are subject to rapid change this time of year, so 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