CENTRAL COAST FISHING
Week of March 17th
In the Creel: The ocean may finally be cutting us a break with salmon and bottom fish angling possible offshore for at least a few days, though halibut is still closed. Steelies remain slow to fair in the rivers but the reservoirs are brimming with rainbows. Any serious clamming is over for a while as the next minus tides don’t occur until the first week of April. Crabbing should be improving in the bays if the rain holds off and allows salinity to increase. This week’s Fish Tale: A ‘rod’ is defined as “An attractively painted length of fiberglass that keeps an angler at a safe distance from fish.”
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. 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 in the Big Elk. Casting lures or bobber fishing are the best techniques for this river.
Alsea River/Bay: Winter steelhead fishing is slow to fair. 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 spring trout stocking program is in full swing. Big Creek and Olalla Reservoirs are being restocked with several thousand rainbows again this week. You can peruse the stocking schedule here.
Saltwater angling and shellfish harvesting…
Ocean Fishing, Bay Crabbing and Clamming:
* BOTTOM FISH No action to speak of offshore this past week due to the extremely rough weather. During safe weather windows, like right now, winter is a great time for bottom fishing: rockfish can be large and daily limits of lingcod are not unusual. Several handouts – including ‘What Can I Keep, and How Many?’ plus species identification tips – are available on the ODFW sport groundfish webpage here.
* SALMON The spring recreational Chinook salmon fishing season from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain, including Central Coast waters, opened as scheduled on Tuesday and runs through April 30th. This season is open for all salmon except Coho, with a bag limit of two salmon per day, and minimum sizes for Chinook at 24 inches or larger, and steelhead at 20 inches or larger. Anglers are restricted to no more than two single-point barbless hooks when fishing for salmon, and when fishing for any other species if a salmon is on board the vessel. Seasons from May 1st, 2016 through April 30th, 2017 are currently being developed. Season alternatives will be reviewed and a final season recommendation made at the Pacific Fishery Management Council public meeting in Vancouver, Washington, on April 13th.
* 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.
* SURFPERCH This is a diverse group of fish that provides a variety of angling opportunities. Spring is traditionally the time when marine perch species like Pile Perch and Walleye Perch are found in good numbers in Oregon estuaries; Striped Seaperch are found year-round in rocky areas like jetties; and ocean surf is the place to find Redtail Surfperch and Silver Perch. For details on how to catch these guys, see ODFW’s Surfperch Fishing page. The bag limit for surfperch is generous at 15 per day. However, a lot remains unknown about the status of surfperch populations off the Oregon Coast, so, as usual, take only what you will use.
* 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 doesn’t begin until April 5th, running through the 12th, with the lowest at -1.4′ on the 9th and 10th. 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 +2.0. 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: Oregon commercial salmon seasons are largely managed for impact on Central California stocks. Due to the drought and other issues, the Sacramento and Klamath Rivers salmon survival rate was low. Estimates forecast less than half of last year’s run is expected. Not looking great for local trollers. However, the Oregon commercial salmon season opens April 8th for Chinook only, from Cape Falcon to the California border. Price per pound to the fishers should be $7.00 or better based on the winter King salmon season in Alaska, which recently closed for the year. Many Oregon salmon swim north and are found in Alaska and Canada. Meanwhile, most crabbers are now anxious to finally get back out, ‘run the gear’ and get re-baited. Several were seen offshore yesterday and last night in the subsiding swell. And this final note — the chain-smoking, coffee slurping star of ‘Deadliest Catch,’ Captain Sig Hanson, has survived a heart attack. Welcome back.
Fore-Cast: Bay, reservoir and river fishermen get a couple days of sunshine before hauling out the raingear again. Offshore fishing and crabbing will finally be possible for the next few days as the ocean takes a break from battering us senseless. 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