Central & South Oregon Coast Fishing Reports

Rockfish were a little slow out of Depoe Bay on Tuesday this week but the Lings continued to provide limits. Bottom fishers must now stay within the 20 fathom curve which means no fishing deeper than 180 feet. While anglers can keep up to one canary rockfish as part of the seven-fish bottom fish limit, most are choosing to release them. This because only a limited number of canaries may be retained (yeah, there’s a quota) which number, when met, will close the season. That’s not the canary rockfish season, that’s the whole fishery which will cease if the bottom fishers hot the canary rockfish quota. Think about that if you catch one!

Ocean crabbing has been slow on the south coast, and good on the central coast. Estuary crab catches have very low along the entire coast.

The second round of Halibut fishing Thursday, Friday and Saturday. In the first round, success was mixed, with some boats limiting out very quickly and others scratching all day. For those who did hook up and land a halibut, there was a decent grade of fish, with at least two fish measuring over 50 inches landed. The next opening is this Thursday-Saturday May 19-21. Additional fixed dates are: May 26-28, and June 2-4. After June 4, back-up dates may be available if quota remains.

While mid-coast offshore salmon fishing has been open (for Chinook) since the 15th of March, there has been little to show for it. The ODFW stated today on their website that this is due to a lack of participation as ocean anglers are taking advantage of a wide-open fishery for rockfish and lings. We can’t help but think that if there was a similar “wide open” fishery available for ocean Chinook, offshore fishers would take advantage of that as well.

The all-salmon-except-coho ocean salmon season begins on May 28 in the Oregon Klamath Management Zone, which is an area from Humbug Mountain south to the Oregon/California border. This area includes the ports of Brookings Harbor and Gold Beach. During this period, which lasts through June 24, all coho must be released. But starting June 25, anglers will be allowed to retain hatchery coho in an area from Cape Falcon south to the Oregon/California border, which includes the ports of Brookings Harbor and Gold Beach.

Coho seasons will have reduced quotas of 26,000 fin-clipped coho in the hatchery mark selective season from June 25 through August 7, or until the quota is reached whichever comes first.

Many are still pursuing pinkfin surfperch up and down the coast. Surf casters have continued to pick up a few but reports overall indicate the action has slowed for the first time in many weeks. It remains to be seen if it picks up again but one surf fisher asked if it was different in post spawn, to which this writer replied, “We’ll see ’cause the spawn hasn’t occurred yet!”

Pete Heley, TGF weekly contributor, writer, blogger and self-publisher of books on fishing in Oregon and Washington, reports, “Family fishing is coming to Waldport on Saturday, May 21 when the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and First Baptist Church of Waldport will host a free fishing event at Eckman Lake.

“The fishing event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for youth ages 17 and younger. Each participant will be able to catch two rainbow trout from the fish enclosure and fishing gear and instruction will be provided free of charge.

“This is the most fun-packed family fishing event on the Mid Coast,” said Christine Clapp, ODFW biologist.

“The First Baptist Church of Waldport hosts a carnival for children of all ages, and the fishing event is just across the street at Eckman Lake. Families are guaranteed to make memories that will last a lifetime!”

“The event carnival is complete with bouncy house, obstacle course, target practice games, cotton candy and lots of other fun activities. Kids can also make their own fishing lures and flies, get some extra cast practice with a backyard game, and learn about fish anatomy and physiology while volunteers clean their catch.

“Eckman Lake is located about 2.5 miles east of Waldport on Highway 34. The family fishing area will be set up at Nelson State Recreation Area across from the First Baptist Church parking lot.

“The event is open to everyone, and no pre-registration is required. Participants should register at the church upon arrival to get their loaner fishing pole and goodie bag. Anglers 11 years old and younger do not need a fishing license, but 12-17 year olds will need a youth license, which can be purchased for $10 at any ODFW license agent, ODFW office or on-line at ODFW’s website (www.odfw.com). Licenses will not be sold at the event. The youth license includes angling, hunting, shellfish and the Columbia River basin endorsement.

“I started a fishing trip to Loon Lake last week with great anticipation – even though one of the swim fins I chose to use had a small tear in it.

“After all, I had been using these fins for five weeks after the tear first appeared without any problems or a noticeable increase in the size of the tear – and I had been using my “River Rat” for 15 years without disappointment.

“This trip was different. Within 20 minutes the swimfin tear grew dramatically – to the point where I had to repeatedly re-secure the fin on my foot – which required me to lean forward in my River Rat. On my previous trip, the hinged tops to the wells on the device had simply worn out – leaving four small holes about an eighth of an inch in diameter above the waterline on the “rat”.

“However, hindsight showed me that these tiny holes were not above the waterline while I was leaning forward re-securing my right swimfin.

“So now I am paddling along on the road side of Loon Lake along an extremely brushy stretch where I cannot access the bank with a considerable amount of water that has “sneakily entered the River Rat when the right fin gives up completely.

“For those of you unfamiliar with using swimfins, using a single fin is completely different than using a pair. What you can do gracefully with two fins is impossible with one. As I struggled along with one fin, the water inside the River Rat started sloshing back and forth – and weighed enough to threaten to topple me each time it went from one side of the inside of my rat to the other.

“The more I struggled to use the single fin, the more severe the water sloshing back and forth became – until I ended up in the lake minus a lot of fishing gear. I was wearing neoprene chest waders and was able to recapture my rat and drag it to a log about 60 feet from the bank – where I was able to, once again, sit in the water-filled device. But as soon as I tried to use the single fin that was still attached to my left foot, I found myself atop a “bucking bronco” and quickly found myself dealing with a lot more of Loon Lake than I wanted too.

“So once again I find myself on the outer edge of a downed tree, with a broken fishing rod in my hands and still minus the two rods and reels I lost during the first time I was capsized.

“Besides the fact that I could not see a way to reach the road through the thick shoreline brush, what kept me standing on a submerged tree branch, chest deep and about 40 feet from shore in Loon Lake was that I thought the digital scale, digital camera and cell phone in my chest pockets might still be good.

“Surprisingly. a man walking along the road saw me and agreed to contact Dwayne Schwartz who was fishing out of a polyethylene pontoon boat a half mile up the lake.

“Waiting was tough, since I had no way to know if the man was able to contact Dwayne, but when I saw Dwayne paddling towards me while not fishing, I knew he had got the message.

“When Dwayne reached me, I handed him my broken fishing rod (complete with reel and my electronic devices. Dwayne then towed my water-filled River Rat to the East Bay Campground where he was able, with difficulty, to haul the rat out of the water and place it upside down so that the water could drain out of it.

“In the meantime, I was able to swim to a shallow area next to shore and remove my chest waders and swimfin. I chose to remain standing in shallow water since the bushes I would have to actually reach shore appeared to be poison oak. But the water was shallow enough so that I could empty the water from my chest waders and I was sure I could get into my River Rat without putting more water into it.

“Dwayne returned with my now empty River Rat and was able to tow me to the campground. Besides losing more than $400 worth of gear (all my electronic devices were kaput), the most regrettable thing was having to cut a fishing trip short when the bass were on a good bite”

While Pete caught some nice bass at Loon Lake, equipment malfunctions aside, we liked this photo of seven-pound, 12 ounce Cooper Creek largemouth he caught recently. It was released, of course!


Since Pete Heley is from Reedsport, it seems appropriate to mention here that in addition to spring Chinook, the Umpqua River offers the best shad fish currently available anywhere in Oregon. That is to say it’s good here and lousy (so far) elsewhere. One lady to 35 in a few hours’ fishing here. Most years, Cleveland Rapids is recommended but so for this season, Yellow Creek has been the place to fish for ’em

The Pacific halibut season in the Southern Oregon Subarea (from Humbug Mountain south to the Oregon/California border opened on May 1. Boats frequently launch from either the Port of Brookings Harbor or Gold Beach in an effort to land a giant flattie. Anglers may pursue halibut seven days a week through October 31 or a remarkable quota of 8,605 pounds is met, whichever comes first but anglers need to be aware this is what’s called a use-it-or-lose-it quota. This means that if the catch this season is far less than 8,600 pounds, a quota of this magnitude will not be offered again. So go get ’em.

Although the Rogue River has been dropping at Agness, it is forecast to remain at roughly 4,000 cfs though Friday and Saturday then start rising slightly on Sunday. Spring Chinook catches picked up over the course of the week for both bank and boat anglers but it’s still slow given the time of year.
Boat anglers are using spinner/anchovy rigs as well as plugs either or both of which have had best results over gravel. Little is happening on the middle river as evidenced by the wide-spread non-participation of anglers on this stretch of the Rogue. Lost Creek Lake at the headwaters of the Rogue is holding steady at six inches from full and likely will stay there, because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to release inflows and keep the lake this way. Counts of spring Chinook are less than half of the 10-year average at Cole Rivers Hatchery although this calculation is effected by the very large early return last year during drought conditions. In the upper Rogue, spring Chinook fishing has been good this week thanks to decent water conditions combined with overcast skies, some drizzle and improved returns. Boats are pulling plugs or back-bouncing roe or egg and sand shrimp combos. Migration lanes have been most productive and this tactic of sitting on these routes will continue to be effective. Hatchery fish are a minority percentage but the ratio should improve as the run continues.

Boats launching out of Brookings Harbor are returning with a variety of rockfish species including vermilion rockfish, black rockfish, and, occasionally, yellowtail rockfish. These fish are hitting jigs but fishing these lures within a foot of the bottom has been critical to hooking up.


Along with a limit of ling cod, Soon Ae Phillips of Brookings caught this beautiful vermillion rockfish. Photo by Larry Ellis.

Diamond Lake Resort reported on their website, “Water temp yesterday was 54 degrees. We are starting to see limits of fish. Mostly in 23 feet or deeper water. Rainbow, yellow corn and garlic power baits seem to be working best.”

The Applegate, Chetco, Coos, Illinois, Rogue, and Umpqua rivers will open for trout fishing on Sunday, May 22nd. The Chetco and Elk rivers are closed for the season.