Anglers casting for surf perch from area beaches have continued to take good numbers of large fish. See a related story in the Gold Beach/Rogue River section, below.
The most common surfperch you’ll encounter is the redtail or pinkfin surfperch. Aptly named, you’ll know when you see one. There are also barred surfperch which are similar but lack the festive coloration. In bays you can catch rainbow, pile and walleye but don’t bother if it’s at all possible to fish the surf. Redtail and barred surfperch knock the others out of the water from a culinary standpoint as they have firm, snow-white, flaky flesh after cooking while the best you can expect from bay perch is not too mushy. We ran over how to spot a decent surfperch location in last week’s TGF. The following is a tutorial from the ODFW. While it’s from 2010, a bag limit of surf perch remains 15 and their advice to limit your catch rather than catch your limit still stands. Also, the ODFW article only mentions sand shrimp for bait and that is absolutely the best but you’ll cast those delicate critters off flinging out into the surf. Try squid of sandworms as well. And the popular Berkeley Gulp baits weren’t so popular in 2010. Try ’em; they work! Regarding tackle, this writer usually use a nine-foot spin rod intended for Chinook bobber fishing (rather than a heavy 12-foot surf rod). If the surf is light, an 81/2 foot salmon or even steelhead rod will increase the fun factor. Here’s the tutorial.
Ocean crabbing has been pretty crummy for weeks but it is somewhat better in bays and estuaries. Rain this week was not sufficient to slow bay crabbing. You’ll catch Dungeness, the limit for which is 12 males 5 3/4 inches measured behind the ‘horns’ (get a crab gauge; too small is really expensive as is keeping a female) and native red rock crab the limit for which is 24 without a size limit but you’ll want to keep only the larger ones.
“Preseason estimates of chinook and fin-clipped coho salmon in the ocean are high enough that salmon anglers are on the cusp of seeing a summer saltwater salmon season nearly identical to 2014, when Brookings regained its spot as the top chinook port after a one-year hiatus. But El Nino currents forming in the Pacific are due in 2016 and threaten to disrupt the cold-water patterns needed near shore to draw in the bait fish that in turn draw chinook and coho.” Read more here.
Anglers on the Umpqua mainstem have shifted their focus to spring Chinook, particularly following the precipitation of earlier this week. Water levels are now dropping and clearing, increasing angler optimism. According to 2015 regulations, fall run Chinook must be tagged as springers starting in July on the lower Umpqua River. Some follow-up with ODFW biologist Laura Jackson by Oregon outdoor writer Pete Heley indicated that it was an oversight and would be corrected prior to the arrival of fall Chinook. Incidentally, the few springers that enter the South Umpqua is the reason that river is closed for part of the year, according to Heley. The closure is an effort to protect this diminutive run. There should be some refinement to these regulations, however, giving smallmouth bass anglers greater access during one of the peak times for their quarry. Fresh hatchery winter steelhead are currently available on the South Umpqua.
Boats launching out of Charleston have been taking quick limits of large lingcod in both shallow and deep water haunts. Catches of rockfish have also been good. Although most winter steelheaders who have been targeting the Coos system have hung up their gear for the season, this week’s freshet should have put a few fresh fish amongst those less desirable. It’s certainly worth a shot if you’re in this area. Steelheading will remain open here through the month of April.
Two to three pound redtail surf perch have been common in the Gold Beach area. Four pounders have been taken occasionally and reports of a few approaching the Five-pound mark. Some anglers have been catching them at a rate of nearly one every minute. Even more remarkable is that the International Game Fish world record for redtail surfperch is a one pound, four ounces, taken a couple of years ago in California. Want your name in the record books, even if only for a short while until the next Gold Beach area surf caster betters the weight? Somebody’s gonna do it. If this writer could only get away to make the trip, that’s the name that would appear, albeit briefly.. The bar at Gold Beach is one of the most treacherous on the coast. When boats have been able to cross recently, limits of lingcod have been landed in short order, followed by good catches of colorful (but mostly black) rockfish. Despite low water over the past weekend, boaters caught spring Chinook every day on the lower Rogue although bank fishers had a tough time in those conditions. Rogue level and flow peaked overnight on Tuesday this week and have been dropping and clearing since, making this weekend a great time to hit the river for steelhead or salmon. Rain this week boosted levels and ensured that fresh springers will continue entering daily. Water levels will return to pre-freshet levels by Saturday, March 28th according to NOAA forecasts so the sooner the better for early season Rogue River salmon. While winter steelheading is winding down on many south coast rivers, this time of year is historically the peak of the run on the Grants Pass stretch of the Rogue. Water temperatures have dropped to the lower 40s following the passage of the storm front. Winter steelhead are scattered throughout the upper Rogue. The hatchery facility reports over 1,100 winter steelhead collected, a ten-year record by a wide margin.
Waters of the Chetco crested overnight this week on Tuesday, March 24th. With the water steadily dropping and the possibility of new fish enticed into the river by this freshet, steelheaders may as well give this one last shot as the Chetco closes to steelheading at sundown on Tuesday, March 31st. Expect the majority of fish to be spawned-out downrunners but there’s always a chance of hooking a fresh, bright one.
Diamond Lake received a foot of snow from the passing storm this week but most has melted and it should be only a memory by the weekend.