A Few Options For SW Oregon

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Central & South Coast Reports – When boats were able to get out of Depoe Bay and Newport earlier this week, limits of ling cod were the rule with a handful of rockfish to sweeten the catch.

From a January 9th bulletin, “Starting this Thursday, Jan. 15, the bag limit of seven rockfish will remain the same. However, of those seven rockfish, only three may be blue rockfish. ODFW’s original recommendation to the Commission was that only one blue rockfish would be retained. But according to Patrick Mirick, ODFW’s assistant groundfish project leader, public input at the meeting (most of which was by charter boat operators and letters written to the Commission), convinced the commission to increase the blue rockfish take from one to three.”

In addition, starting today, Jan. 15, the retention of copper rockfish, quillback rockfish and China rockfish will be prohibited along with the already-forbidden canary and yelloweye rockfish. The fine for any of these is guaranteed to ruin any angler’s day. However, thanks to a recovery of ocean stocks, the retention of canary rockfish will be allowed in March of this year for the first time since 2004 according to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. A date when this will occur has not yet been divulged.

Despite concern heard from some offshore fishers that all red rockfish will be off limits, vermilion rockfish may still be retained in 2015.

Anglers should make note that the difference between blue and black rockfish is slight. The new regulations should be more than enough motivation for offshore anglers to learn the distinctions to be certain they can identify different species. One such resource is here.

With estuaries recovered from the last round of storms, crabbing inside bays and in the ocean just outside has been improving. Ol’ Mom Nature won’t let that situation endure for long though, as another round of fronts will bear down on the coast over the next several days. With storms approaching, launches from Oregon ports for offshore fishing will not be an option until late in the coming week.

Razor clams remain closed from the Oregon/California border north to Heceta Head (north of Florence) due to elevated levels of domoic acid. The closure includes razor clams on all beaches, rocks, jetties, and at the entrance to bays in this section of the Oregon Coast. Opportunities to collect razor clams are still available along Oregon beaches north of Heceta Head. Mussels are open along the entire Oregon coast.

Crabbing has been slow in Winchester Bay and the freshet due in the next few days will do nothing to improve the outlook. While the bulk of winter steelhead hooked on the mainstem Umpqua are inevitably wild, a few hatchery fish were hooked here over the past week. Winter steelhead numbers are building on the North Umpqua as well but this is also primarily a catch-and-release fishery as the North receives wild fish almost exclusively. While the run won’t peak until February and March, hatchery steelhead are already available on the South Umpqua where the smart money bets on a keeper for dinner.

Coos Bay crabbing has been slow as has rock fishing from the jetty. It won’t get better with the next round of storms due over the coming weekend. Winter steelhead have been entering the Coos system over the past few weeks with the West Fork Millicoma River is running low and clear but the East Fork Millicoma and South Fork Coos rivers holding the most promise. This will change starting today as rain pushes the rivers out of shape.

Winter steelheading has been fair to good on the Coquille system over the past week. The Powers Fork of the Coquille River receives good numbers of hatchery smolts, some of which will be returning as adults in the coming weeks. It’s a good bet as the rivers recover.

Whether accurate or not, local wisdom holds that a late run of winter steelhead means nothing but an early run is an indicator of great season ahead. While winter steelhead were drawn into the entire length of the Rogue River by precipitation in late December, the lower river has been most productive by far with both bank and boat anglers scoring. Side drifters and plug pullers have been picking up the better numbers, however. Even when water levels dropped to low, steelheading remained decent around Agness. You can find a live cam where anglers can check water conditions on the lower Rogue. The middle river was producing fair numbers below the mouth of the Applegate River earlier this week with plugs drawing the most strikes. Precipitation starting today should improve water temps on the upper river and, as conditions improve, so will the steelhead bite. Cole Rivers hatchery is already seeing above-average numbers of winter steelhead for this time of year. It’s unfortunate that off-color water from Lost Creek Reservoir had just started to clear this week and now another round of rain storms will muddy up the water once again.

One guide boat on the Chetco took clients across the bar after successfully drifting the lower river. This put them in a rather exclusive group having caught winter steelhead, ling cod and rockfish all in the same day. With ling cod moving into shallow water to spawn, they are becoming more aggressive, readily biting a mix of jigs, leadfish, herring, shrimp flies and kelp greenling. The hot bite has been near Chetco Point over the past few days for lings running 10 to 18 pounds and rockfish to eight pounds although Bird Island to Mack Arch has also been productive. The bottom fish bite got hot in the first week of January and shows no sign of slowing

Only light rain has been falling in southwest Oregon, keeping the Elk and Sixes below optimum levels. That should change in the next few days. Steelheading has been fair to good when there has been decent water in these systems.

Diamond Lake started to freeze in the first week of January but Oregon rain fell on the surface, turning it to mush. When the surface freezes hard enough to create a safe fishing surface, ice fishers can use Power Bait or worms to try for an eight-fish limit, one of the more generous in Oregon.

Other opportunities to catch trout, a pastime made more appealing when southwest rivers are out of shape, may be had at Garrison Lake, Lake Selmac, Expo Pond, Willow Lake or Lost Creek Reservoir.