Central & South Oregon Coast Fishing Reports for 12/30

Heading into a new fishing year, it’s worth mentioning that rockfish anglers can venture past the 20-fathom line but then again, lingcod and rockfish catches have been so good nearshore, few have ventured further. Anglers may still keep one cabezon a day as part of their seven-fish aggregate limit.

While bottom fishing is great in the winter, offshore conditions usually do not follow suit. With an arctic front sue to hit the Pacific Northwest on Monday and meteorologists telling us it’ll be with us for a while, logic told this writer that the ocean should be laying down. Surprisingly, that is not the case until the Wednesday, January 4th forecast when both surf and wind are predicted to be light. But that’s a bit too much in the future to guess what the weather in this part of the country is gonna do.

ODFW sez, Recreational crabbing is open coast wide now that domoic levels off the Central and North coastal areas finally have dropped into the safe-to-eat zone. Razor clamming, however, remains closed along the coast because of domoic acid. Bay clams and butter clams are available coast wide, and mussels are finally open coast wide

As we have written regarding Weyerhaeuser acquiring land by which anglers have historically accessed fishing areas, readers may recall the concern we expressed regarding that company buying up the Canyon stretch of the Siletz River. In a letter to a one of the state senators, Weyerhaeuser stated their intent to keep the fire access and weekend recreational access available at least through 2017. Faint assurance for the long term.

Siuslaw steelheaders have reason for optimism as this is the time of year when fishing for winters really gets interesting. Start above Mapleton and hold on tight.

Author, publisher and prolific blogger, Pete Heley (peteheley.com) reports to us from Reedsport, “Recreational crabbing is now open along the entire Oregon coast, but because of high river flows and muddy water, the best crabbing is currently in the ocean and in Oregon’s larger bays which are currently saltier than the river systems. Right now commercial crabbing is open from Cape Blanco to the California border. The rest of the Oregon coast will reopen to commercial crabbing on Jan. 1st, 2017.

“Regulation changes regarding rockfish will take effect on Jan. 1st – such as mandatory use of descending devices when fishing in water more than 30 fathoms deep. No more than six black rockfish may be included in the daily limit of seven bottom fish. No more than four blue/deacon, china, copper or quillback rockfish may be retained as part of the seven fish daily limit. With the exception of Pacific halibut, marine flatfish such as sand dabs and flounder still have a 25 fish daily limit, but fish such as skates and rays, although flat, are considered part of the seven fish daily limit for marine bottom fish.

“Lingcod still have a separate two fish daily limit and the minimum length for legal retention is still 22-inches. The minimum length of ten inches on greenling will no longer be in effect after the first of the year. Greenling will still be included in the seven fish daily limit for marine bottom fish.

“Bottom fish anglers need to be aware that the current daily limit on cabezon of one fish at least 16-inches in length will cease at the end of December. From Jan. 1st through June, cabezon will not be legal to keep. The open season on cabezon runs from July 1st through December.

“Another potential world record spotted bass was recently pulled from northern California’s Bullard’s Bar Reservoir. This fish weighed 10.80 pounds. An even larger spotted bass of nearly eleven pounds was caught from the reservoir about a year ago, but still has not been certified as a world or state record. There were some discrepancies with that fish in that no California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife employees were available to witness the weighing, but a further hindrance to certifying the fish was that the angler who caught the fish tried to hide where he caught it.

“This angler does not believe an angler should be required to reveal where he caught a really impressive fish – unless he wants it certified for a lake, state, national or world record. A lucky angler should not be allowed to have it both ways. I also do not believe that fish from private waters should be eligible for any official record consideration.

“This coming weekend (Dec. 31st, 2016 and Jan. 1st, 2017) will be a “free fishing weekend”. People will be allowed to fish, crab or clam open Oregon waters during the two days without having to purchase a fishing or shellfish license. A combined Angling Tag, commonly called s “steelhead tag” will also not be required for the two days, but daily limits are still in effect.

“Winter steelhead fishing is in full swing and there are good numbers of fish in all local streams that host runs. Although some anglers use lures or flies, most use bait, with roe or sand shrimp being most popular. The most effective strategy might be simply keeping track of which streams are in peak fishing condition when the trip actually occurs.

“With the exception of the Umpqua River, most local streams fish best when they are not high and muddy. Tenmile Creek has been fairly high, but not muddy and fishing showed an improvement at Spin Reel Park last week. Eel Creek, which opens to steelhead fishing on Jan. 1st may be high, but almost certainly will be clear. As for the Umpqua, some of the river’s largest steelhead are caught by bank anglers plunking bait during high, muddy river flows.

“I received a most interesting letter last week from Bob Murphy of Yoncalla. It seems that Bob and his two children (Stephanie and Ivan) decided in early April to see if they could catch a thousand fish during 2016.

“They mostly fished for bass and panfish in Cottage Grove Lake with several trips to Cooper Creek Reservoir in Sutherlin and single trips to several other waters. Many of the fish were released and many of the fish were small – but not all of them. Stephanie landed a 14-inch crappie and Bob landed a 20-inch smallmouth bass with a 17-inch girth. Both the crappie and the five pound three ounce smallie came from Cottage Grove Lake.

“Although they caught 825 of their fish at Cottage Grove Lake, their one-thousandth fish, a ten inch largemouth, came from Cooper Creek on August 27th. By mid-November they had landed well over eleven-hundred fish and almost certainly would have caught more if they hadn’t spent considerable time measuring and documenting their catch.

“Congratulations to the Murphy family for finding an interesting way to make their family outings even more fun.

“Offshore bottomfishing is productive and open through March of 2017 when it will only be open at depths less than 30 fathoms (180 feet).

Beginning on January 1st, there will be a number of changes regarding bottomfishing. The changes are listed on the ODFW website under marine resources. They include:

Any vessel fishing for, or possessing, bottom fish in the ocean must have a functional descending device onboard, and use when releasing any rockfish outside of 30 fathoms. Functional descending device means one that is ready to be used. There are a variety of commercially available descending devices, ranging in price from $5 to $60. Additionally, some anglers have developed homemade devices.

Information on rockfish recompression and descending devices including videos
Bag Limits or Sub-Bag Limits

Marine fish (rockfish, greenlings, skates, rays, etc.) remains at 7 fish per day.

Of the 7-fish marine daily bag limit, no more than the number below are allowed:

NEW— 6 black rockfish
NEW— 4 blue/deacon, China, copper, or quillback rockfish combined
Not new— 1 cabezon during open season (July 1- December 31)
NEW— There is no longer a sub-bag limit for canary rockfish.

“Not new— Lingcod 2 fish per day

Not new— Flatfish species, other than Pacific halibut, 25 fish per day. Skates and rays, although flat, are not included in this group; rather, they fall under the 7-fish marine bag limit.

Minimum Length Limits

NEW— Greenling = none
Not new— Lingcod = 22 inches
Not new— Cabezon = 16 inches

There is a whole lot of reminiscing on the Diamond Lake Resort Facebook p-age and pictures from warmer times of the year. Yep, no ice fishing yet.

The Rogue River has been getting some early winters with more fish entering during the storm a week or so ago. Lower Rogue levels are still a little high at 8,200 cfs but will be coming down nicely over the weekend. As that occurs, fishing for winter steelhead will pick up around Agness. The middle Rogue, currently at 4,000 cfs and dropping, has been fairly productive for boaters dragging plugs. There are a few summer steelhead in the mix but you’ll have no trouble telling a summer apart from a winter fish at this time of year as the winters are in fresh and bright and the summers are not! While it’s still a summer steelhead show on the upper Rogue, those fish are getting long in the tooth and with winters downriver, are of little interest now. One outdoor writer in a Southern Oregon newspaper predicted that a winter steelhead will be landed on the upper Rogue before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve! That would be a fish to catch. Water out of Lost Creek Reservoir has been steady all week at 1,965 cfs.

Winter steelheading on the Chetco River was just getting underway when the freshet hit. This should be a good bet for the next several days as the water drops but bundle up ‘cause it’ll be cold.