Central & South Coast Reports for March 18th

When the water does calm down, lingcod are spawning and aggressive. Anglers can keep up to one canary rockfish as part of the seven-fish bottom fishing aggregate limit, but anglers should release canaries to ensure the quota is not filled, which could close the bottom fishing season.

RECREATIONAL OCEAN SALMON ACTION NOTICE: The National Marine Fisheries Service in consultation with the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the State of Oregon, the State of California, and fishery representatives has reviewed the recreational Chinook salmon seasons adopted under the 2015 regulation setting process, and the season scheduled to be open for Chinook salmon from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. will be open as scheduled for the period of March 15, 2016 through April 30, 2016. This season is open for all salmon except Coho Salmon, with a bag limit of two salmon per day, and minimum sizes for Chinook Salmon 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.

Anglers fishing in ocean waters adjacent to Tillamook Bay between Twin Rocks and Pyramid Rock and within the 15 fathom depth contour are reminded that only adipose fin-clipped Chinook Salmon may be retained or on board while fishing prior to August 1. Seasons from May 1, 2016 through April 30, 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 by April 13.

Tradewinds Charters out of Depoe Bay made the first trip of 2016 today, March 17th. Begorrah! (an Irish slang term meaning “Sure and by God.” “Faith and begorrah, ’tis a grand day to be alive! by God!”) They report that ling cod catches provided all with limits and the plenty of rockfish were landed as well. The crab posts that were dropped won’t be picked up until tomorrow so perhaps we’ll have fresh, ocean caught Dungeness for all our readers. Reports, that is.

While it ain’t perfect, the surf forecast for the next few days us certainly an improvement over what we’ve been seeing. Friday, March 18th will definitely be the best day for surf perch fishing with low swells at long periods. The prediction for time between swells remains between 16.5 and 18 all weekend, but swells will climb to seven feet or better. Still ….

It is with great delight that we welcome out latest contributor: an author, blogger, newspaper columnist and outdoorsy kinda guy, Pete Heley, PeteHeley.com, who has agreed to share his thoughts on this space weekly.

This week, Pete writes, “It was a heavy blow to one of the major reasons that I am proud to be an Oregonian. But last week Oregon became the first state to be fined by federal regulators for failing to properly address coastal pollution from various sources such as agriculture and logging when the state’s plan to deal with such pollution was found to be inadequate. The Oregon Board of Forestry began crafting the rules for the required plan last year, but the proposed bill did not reach the floor of the Oregon Senate.

“There was a surprising amount of commentary on one of the Northwest’s leading online fishing sites last week regarding fishermen clipping the adipose fins of wild steelhead in the hopes that the fish would return in a few years and be caught by the offending angler, or one of his friends and be a keep able steelhead with a completely healed scar where its adipose fin used to be.

“The absurdity of this line of thinking boggles the mind. Not every steelhead is able to return to the ocean after spawning. Even fewer manage to survive long enough to spawn again – especially if they are physically impaired and need some of their physical reserves to be able to return to and survive in the ocean. The odds of the offending angler, or anglers of actually catching the returning steelhead are akin to winning the lottery – and there is always the possibility of the ODFW deciding to address the problem by making all of a river’s steelhead off limits for retention. Let’s hope this illegal tactic ceases – and right now.

“Don’t count on the states of Oregon and Washington following suit, because they frown on unnecessary handling of fish in general and sturgeon in particular, but Idaho has recently set two state records for catch and release white sturgeon. On Feb. 6th, an 80-inch white sturgeon from the Snake River became Idaho’s first catch and release state record for white sturgeon. Then, less than a month later, on March 3rd, an 83-inch fish, also from the Snake River, replaced that record.

“Many of western Oregon’s avid anglers are now aware of the relatively strong smallmouth bass fishery in the Coquille River, but most of them don’t realize that the fishery extends all the way up into the first few miles of the South Fork Coquille. Other developing smallmouth fisheries include Woahink Lake Which now has good numbers of small mouths – but very few smallies weighing more than a pound. Eel Lake’s smallies, while pretty much an incidental fishery, seems to have some larger fish. A few smallmouth measuring more than 18-inches were caught last year. Dorena Reservoir, especially near the dam, seems to have a growing population of smallmouth bass with fish to four pounds taken last year. Smallmouth bass to nearly two pounds were reported last summer in New River, a shallow lagoon-like waterway connected to Floras Creek, the outlet to Floras Lake.

“Spring Chinook catches were reported last week upriver as far as the North Umpqua-South Umpqua confluence. It’s still early in the season and fishing is expected to improve with a decrease in rainfall and clearing water. Salmon to 40+ pounds have already been caught. Two weeks ago, a spinner flinger landed a Spring Chinook at Half Moon Bay in Winchester Bay. The ocean season for Chinook salmon measuring at least 24-inches in length opened March 15th with little fanfare.

“There should be uncaught planted trout in virtually all of our area’s fishing spots that are stocked. Cold, wet and stormy weather has done a good job of keeping fishing pressure low.

“Pre-spawn crappie should be biting with the arrival of more stable weather. Our area’s best crappie fisheries include Loon Lake, Ben Irving Reservoir (near Winston) and Cooper Creek Reservoir (in Sutherlin). Local waters that give up rare or incidental crappie catches include: Beale Lake; Butterfield Lake; Cleawox Lake; Eel Lake; Empire Lakes; Saunders Lake; Siltcoos Lagoon; Siltcoos Lake; Sutton Lake; Tahkenitch Lake; Tenmile Lakes; Triangle Lake and Woahink Lake.

“Fern Ridge is the best known crappie producer in the Eugene area, but Fall Creek Reservoir, Cottage Grove Reservoir, Dorena Reservoir and Lookout Point Reservoir have all produced crappies weighing more than three pounds. Tidegates on tidal areas of the Coquille River often harbor crappies and Fat Elk Slough and Johnson Mill Pond also have crappie fisheries.”

After storms tore through southwest Oregon over the past weekend, the freshet that reached crescendo mid-day on Monday this week at well past the ‘Alert’ stage and halfway to flood level, at which point the water mercifully stopped rising and has been dropping since. Plunkers have been using pink pearl and black & white Spin & Glos here with success. When water conditions have allowed fishers to fish and has been clear enough to allow the quarry to find the offerings, fishing has been good, particularly with springers entering the equation. A mix of spring Chinook and winter steelhead will be in the lower river this weekend. On the Grants Pass stretch, while it’s too early to count on spinners, winter steelheading has been the best on the river. Side-drifting and pulling plugs has been consistently taking fish. With the Applegate, a Rogue tributary, often coming into shape before the Rogue, winter steelheaders taking advantage of better water conditions have been catching fish. In particular, fly anglers drifting or swinging colorful patterns have been doing quite well. Counts of winter steelhead are well over the 200 mark and that’s a very good number as this is still considered quite early in the run for the Rogue River.
Skip the upper Rogue for a while as the middle and lower sections hold far more promise of success.

Water and flow at the Chetco River have been mostly high, with plunkers grabbing a chance in those brief moments when the level has dropped a bit and visibility has improved a skoosh. Through Friday and then over the coming weekend, flows are forecast to dip into actual fishable levels (sliding from 5,000 to 3,800 cfs) and barring unlikely muddy water, there are plenty of fish here to catch. Plunking will be applicable only on Friday, after which, drift baits of cured eggs from bank or side-drifting, throw spinners and fly fishers have a decent shot on Sunday with large streamers. Drink is in and enjoy, for come Monday, March 21st, the Chetco is due to rise again.

Garrison Lake will be a good alternative to river fishing for some time to came as the ODFW, in stepping up its ‘Trophy Trout’ program will be planted these foot-long rainbows last week and will keep the goodness coming with 200-fish stocks hitting the water here every two weeks or so into mid-April.

Just last week, March 7 – 11, ODFW planted 200 trophy rainbow trout, and the trout liberations are going to keep on coming this month and through April. “And there’s another 200 trophies going in the week of March 21,” said Todd Confer, district fisheries biologist on Thursday. “Another 200 trophies are going in the week of April 4, and another 200 trophies are going in on the week of 4-18.”