CENTRAL COAST FISHING
Week of February 25th
In the Creel: The herring have arrived in Yaquina Bay! This is a good time to pigeonhole some bait for summer halibut fishing. Suggested dates for this year’s halibut seasons have been announced (see Halibut below). Ocean salmon seasons are under discussion and we won’t know much about those until April. Winter steelhead fishing remains fair in the rivers, and trout fishing is great right now in the reservoirs as thousands of new rainbows are stocked. Razor clamming remains closed south of Seaside all the way to California, however all other clams are open along the Central Coast. Crabbing continues to be spotty, but is improving as the drier weather allows higher salinity levels to develop in the bays. This week’s Fish Tale: You might be a fisherman if… you have a herring dangling from your rear-view mirror because you think it makes a good air freshener.
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 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: Large numbers of Pacific herring showed up in Yaquina Bay last week to spawn and may be spawning in other estuaries as well. Schools may come and go throughout the spawning season, which can continue through March, and are often found in proximity to birds or sea lions. Jigging for herring is a great way to introduce kids to fishing. Use a multiple-hook herring jig from a dock or pier. If fishing is really hot, cut off some of the hooks to prolong the fun. As with all fishing opportunities, take only what you will use; the daily limit is 25 pounds. Many anglers catch herring this time of year to use as halibut bait; salmon, on the other hand, prefer a higher-quality herring found in bays later in the year. Meanwhile, 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 planted with thousands of new fish again 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 currently closed. 2016 seasons will be announced in April. Stay tuned.
* HALIBUT Fishing for halibut is currently closed. The 2016 nearshore season will open June 1st, and the suggested initial spring all-depth opening will be May 12th-14th. Dates won’t be finalized until April 22nd.
* 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 March 6th through 12th, with the lowest being -0.7′ on the 8th. 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: Warm weather has stirred up a hubbub of activity on the docks. As crabbing continues to slow down, some vessels are baiting and icing up for a go at sablefish, sometimes called black cod or butterfish. An expensive delicacy in many parts of the world, Americans are steadily acquiring a taste for these oil-rich fish. Locally, conditions are fairly normal along our coastal area. Good numbers of forage fish and feeding birds have been reported by crabbers traveling to and from their traps.
Fore-Cast: Bay and river fishermen will have mixed conditions over the next week with dry days and wet days in about equal measure. Offshore, winds could ramp up to gale force on Sunday, but otherwise the storm systems seem to be getting less severe. Swells averaging 10-15 feet are projected throughout the period. 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.
Notice to Mariners… We’re going all electronic; paper charts are no longer required to be carried. The US Coast Guard has issued Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) No. 01-16 which contains guidance on the use of electronic charts and publications in lieu of paper charts, maps, and publications. This guidance applies to US flagged vessels subject to US domestic chart, map, and publication carriage requirements contained in Titles 33 and 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The NVIC can be viewed here.
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