WEATHER IN LINCOLN COUNTY

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Fishin’ with Chris

Chris Burns - Fishing

CENTRAL COAST FISHING
Week of February 18th

In the Creel: With the ocean rough and low tides not all that impressive, how ’bout taking the family trout fishing this weekend. The local reservoirs were stocked last week and the rainbows are ready for catchin’ and eatin’. Otherwise, winter steelhead fishing in the rivers remains slow to fair with the Alsea being the most productive recently. Crabbing has been in a bit of a slump, but should pick up once the rain backs off a little and the bays’ fresh-to-salt water ratio improves. Clamming (except for razors) is still open along the entire coast but the tasty little bivalves are mostly beyond reach out past the low tide line with no seriously-minus tides until April. This week’s Fish Tale: Redneck Fish-Measuring Tape…

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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. Recent rains should help to move in some new fish and spread out the run. River conditions should remain good for most of the week. 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. 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. Big Creek and Olalla Reservoirs were already planted with thousands of new fish last week. You can peruse the stocking schedule here.

Saltwater angling and shellfish harvesting…

Ocean Fishing, Bay Crabbing and Clamming:

* BOTTOM FISH During safe weather windows, winter is a great time for bottom fishing: rockfish can be large and daily limits of lingcod are not unusual. Deacon rockfish is a newly identified species that was formerly referred to as the solid version of blue rockfish. Every rule that refers to blue rockfish (like the daily bag limit of 3) now applies to blue rockfish and deacon rockfish combined. And, because of El Niño, anglers this winter might also run into other 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. 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 we have any more minus tides, but they also won’t be very low. However, 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: Crabbers are retrieving their traps for this season, which usually indicates that the catch per pot has fallen below costs and overhead. Each trap involves hours of labor to build, ropes must be carefully measured and spliced and then buoy painting, etc. Each crabber has their own buoy colors which are usually also painted on the trap entrance tunnels. Also each has an identification tag. To lose pots is a real blow to the owners and there are many ways that they can vanish. Some of the guys throwing in the towel will gear up for shrimp, black cod and other fisheries. California is slated to open its crab season soon if tests go well. On the horizon is the commercial salmon opener. On the 25th of this month is the yearly meeting and a glimpse of what the season may look like. Trollers are readying themselves for what may be a very restrictive season. One must always see the big picture and do what’s best for the fish.

Fore-Cast: Blustery winds and more rain will be in the cards for bay and river fishermen over the next few days, but it looks like things may start drying out next week. Offshore, we’re back to building seas and a howlin’ breeze through the weekend with improving conditions quite possible next week. Of course, 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

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