Central & South Oregon Coast Fishing Reports for April 21st

Crabbing is open along the entire Oregon Coast, although crabbers are averaging only two or three per day. With bays and estuaries recovering from series storms, better crabbing may be found there.

Bottom fishing is good enough to deplete a writer’s resource of synonyms for “excellent”. Yeah, it’s really that good. A report from Newport charter indicated limits of rockfish and ling cod for all.

If you’re going to fish the ocean in your own boat, crossing the bar is serious business. While links are usually at the bottom of this newsletter, this is important enough to share with all who may find themselves with the need to know. Check these out before it’s too late to do anything about it.
Bar Crossing Safety with Charles Loos & BMCM Dan Shipman, USCG (Ret):

Boats launching out of Depoe Bay, in search of bottom dwellers and a few Dungeness weren’t disappointed. Tacklebuster, a Dockside Charters vessel (541-765-2545), reported limits of a variety of rockfish as well as ling cod to 30 pounds. And very few crab. Here, a couple of Tacklebuster anglers fail to control their delight in showing off a couple of lings, legal and large.

Salmon fishing. In the ocean as Nature intended. While many believe it a God-given right, it really comes down to management (no heat or flames, please) and regulation. Herewith, a rundown of the final (almost for sure!) coho season regulations: “Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain (including Garibaldi, Pacific City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Florence, Winchester Bay, Charleston, Bandon and Port Orford) – Open now through October 31st for chinook, except: All salmon including hatchery coho June 24 through July 31 or a quota of 18,000 coho. Bag limit is two fish per day. Note: A non-clip coho season will be allowed Sept. 2-30 or a quota of 6,000 coho. Chinook fishing resumes Aug. 1 or after hatchery coho quota is caught.” Or, more succinctly, ocean coho fishing opens June 24th fin-clipped season with a quota of 18,000 fish or until July 31st. In addition, a non-selective (Coho) season for 6,500 fish starts September 2nd through September 30th or fulfillment of quota.

Now, about Chinook. North coast offshore anglers have little to be concerned about other than the weather and don’t get much mention in this section anyway. South coast ocean King hunters, however, are considering alternate pastimes. Like golf or something else less rewarding and satisfying as The Pacific Fishery Management Council set seasons Tuesday in Sacramento, ordering a season-long salmon closure from Humbug Mountain to Eureka, Calif., to protect Klamath River fall chinook. There will be no salmon fishing allowed in 2017 out of Gold Beach or Brookings.

And, with every reaction, an equal and opposite reaction occurs, though not always in a sensible direction is demonstrated as folks overreact to the above announcement, predictably panicking. And, in reaction to that panic, the voice-of reason may be read below:

As a result of the SCSB (South Coast Salmon Ban), this was posted on the Facebook Page from local guide group Wild Rivers Fishing, right at the tippy-top of the page: “NOT ALL SALMON FISHING IS CLOSED. This week I have received several phone calls regarding whether salmon fishing is open in Southern Oregon. There has been a lot of news coverage of the ocean salmon closures in far Southern Oregon and Northern California. Many people are confused by what they are hearing and reading. Salmon fishing will still be open all year on the lower Rogue River and Bay. Salmon season will be open this fall on the Chetco, Elk and Sixes Rivers. Salmon season will be open this summer and fall on the Coos and Umpqua systems. The closures you are hearing about are for commercial salmon fishing in the ocean south of Florence, Ore., and the summer recreational ocean season out of Brookings, Crescent City and Eureka. Our drift boat seasons on the coastal rivers will be normal. The October trophy ocean salmon season out of Brookings is still being proposed. The media often doesn’t have a clue to what it is talking about when covering fishery issues. NOT ALL SALMON FISHING IS CLOSED!

Yes it’s true, salmon fishing is not closed as evidenced by the Siletz River which has been open for springers since April Fool’s Day. This is where we’d really like to place an update, such as a fishing report – if we had received even one. Readers, can you help us out here?

There are plenty of Alsea River fans (short for fanatics, we believe) looking forward to fishing this weekend as the water level drops, and steelheaders are taking a few on spinners, bobber ‘n’ jig or by drifting cured roe. Go get ‘em, as the Alsea will closes at end of day on Saturday, April 30th.

South coast beaches have been producing good catches of barred and pinkfin perch with this fishery showing no signs of slowing. We’ve mentioned this opportunity a few times but it’s been a while since we’ve reminded those who have not sampled surf perch as table fare. Pinkfin and barred surf perch are great eating. Often bay perch, particularly rainbow and double particularly striped sea perch, the flesh of which reminded this writer of marshmallow cream. Try ocean perch, seriously. They eat like rockfish … almost. Berkeley Gulp! Soft plastics have been catching so many it seems unnecessary to bother with bait.

Author, publisher and prolific blogger, Pete Heley (peteheley.com) reports to us from Reedsport, reminding everybody, “Remember – FREE FISHING WEEKEND on Saturday and Sunday (April 22nd and 23rd). No License required to fish, crab or clam. No combined angling tag required to catch salmon or steelhead. This a great time for your out-of-state friends or relatives to visit.

Florence-area lakes being planted this week include Cleawox (1,325 12-inchers and 186 15-inchers); Alder (850 legals, 475 12-inchers and 36 15-inchers); Buck (425 12-inchers); Dune (850 legals, 675 12-inchers and 72 15-inchers); Georgia (450 legals and 75 12-inchers); Mercer (2,250 12-inchers); Munsel (3,150 12-inchers and 150 15-inchers); Perkins (325 12-inchers); Siltcoos Lagoon (775 12-inchers and 106 15-inchers); Siltcoos Lake (1,000 12-inchers) and Sutton Lake (1,500 12-inchers).

Despite heavy trout stocking for its size, anglers are catching very few trout out of Siltcoos Lagoon and trying to target recently planted trout in Siltcoos Lake is extremely difficult as the usual plant is 1,000 trout and the lake covers well over 3,000 surface acres.

Also, being planted this week are the Newport-area lakes with Big Creek Reservoir #1 getting 1,000 legals and 1,000 12-inchers and Big Creek Reservoir #2 getting 2,000 legals, 1,800 12-inchers and 200 15-inchers. Olalla Reservoir, near Toledo, received 1,000 legals and 1,250 12-inchers.

The ocean salmon seasons are now set and the harshest news is that there will not be any ocean salmon fishing out of Brookings or Gold Beach. There will be river fisheries on the Chetco and Rogue rivers, but they will likely be more restrictive than in past years. The Pacific Fishery Management Council set seasons Tuesday in Sacramento, ordering a season-long salmon closure from Humbug Mountain to Eureka, Calif., to protect Klamath River fall chinook.

The ocean all-salmon seasons start on June 24th from Ledbetter Point in southwest Washington southward to Humbug Mountain near Port Orford.

Fishing out of Columbia River ports under quotas for coho and chinook north of Cape Falcon, (near Manzanita), may last through Labor Day if numbers aren’t caught.

The salmon seasons and quotas are as follows:

Cape Falcon to Leadbetter Point (Columbia River ports) – June 24 through Sept. 4; or until quotas of 21,000 hatchery coho or 13,200 chinook are caught. Note: No early hatchery-only chinook season this year. Bag limit is two fish per day, but only one can be a chinook.

Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain (including Garibaldi, Pacific City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Florence, Winchester Bay, Charleston, Bandon and Port Orford) – Open now through Oct. 31 for chinook, except: All salmon including hatchery coho June 24 through July 31 or a quota of 18,000 coho. Bag limit is two fish per day. Note: A non-clip coho season will be allowed Sept. 2-30 with a quota of 6,000 coho. The regular ocean Chinook fishery will still be in effect after the hatchery coho season ends or the coho quota is met, until its normal closing date of October 31st.

A reminder of just how “fragile” some of the salmon season decision making can be, is just how close the decision was to keep the minimum size for cohos during the September ocean season at 16-inches. It was almost increased to at least 24-inches because two of the undersize chinooks kept by anglers last year, thinking they were legal cohos of more than 16-inches, happened to be Chinook salmon from the Klamath River – currently a very depressed run.

Fishing for spring Chinook salmon on the Umpqua River above Scottsburg has been very good, but the fishery has been complicated by a truck severely damaging the Scottsburg bridge. Anglers running jet-powered sleds are the least inconvenienced and anglers launching at Scottsburg Park with props can motor up to the bridge or slightly above it, but the heavy current and submerged boulders make this strategy quite risky. Anglers traveling from Interstate 5 can access the river east of Scottsburg but pretty much need to take out where they launch. The most-inconvenienced salmon anglers are the anglers in our local area that want to fish upriver of the Scottsburg Bridge. Other anglers much-inconvenienced would be Eugene-area anglers wanting to travel Highway 38 to fish the larger coastal lakes or Loon Lake. As of Monday, the bridge was open to one lane traffic with reasonable time delays.

As of last weekend, spawning crappies have not yet showed up at the old “Duckett’s Dock” at the upper end of Loon Lake.

Additional depressing news is that Horsfall Lake continues to have enough surface acreage to widely scatter any largemouth bass, yellow perch, or brown bullheads present in the lake and block easy access to Horsfall Beach, a popular surf fishing spot for red-tailed surfperch.

Anglers wanting to fish any of the shallow lakes that are common in the sand dunes would do well to concentrate their efforts on waters that have well-defined shorelines that fluctuate more depth wise rather than surface area-wise.”

Pete Heley works weekends at the Stockade Market & Tackle in Winchester Bay where he is more than happy to swap fishing info with anyone.

Spring Chinook started appearing in lower Rogue catches in the first week of April. This statement came directly from the river itself while thumbing its nose at lesser fisheries. Unfortunately, that early showing was followed by plenty of wild and wacky weather with water conditions following along those same lines. When water levels have allowed Pursuit of the Rogue Springer (movie due out in Spring, 2024) has produced some beautiful fish. (Although some might argue, “Beautiful Rogue spring Chinook? That’s the only way they come!”) No truer words but the movie thing is a fantasy unless someone kickstarts it or gets a gratuitous greenlight from a Hollywood pal. Just a thought. Tho0se things take time and time is what springer hopefuls will not have this weekend. Get there when the water flows are conducive or hang it up for another week or so. The lower Rogue will drop, stone-like Friday through Sunday (that’s April 21 through 23 for the calendarless angler), then blow out again, at least according to forecasts as that’s all any of us has to go on. The current rising water at Agness will crest at 11,000 cfs tonight, with the water volume in the process of dropping Friday morning. This process is predicted to continue through Sunday, after that, it’ll rise enough that the lower Rogue won’t fish until sometime in May. This is primarily a bait fishery so have herring or anchovies at the ready and plant yourself near the top of tidewater. Winter steelheading has been productive for anglers pulling plugs and bank fishers using side-planers with corkies and bait on the Grants Pass stretch from the City of Rogue River to Merlin. While the Army Corps of engineers has held outflow from Lost Creek Reservoir to 3,100 cfs for the past week or more, they started stepping it down a little each day this week to 2,500 cfs as of today, April 20th. With water fluctuating from mid-40s overnight to about 50 degrees in the ‘heat’ of the day, flows are 3570 at Dodge Bridge although levels will drop over the coming weekend. Hatchery counts at Cole Rivers as of Friday last reported a cumulative total of 1,420 winter steelhead which is 300 fewer than the 10-year average. Hey, they’re just numbers, right? Shake it off. While summer steelhead and spring Chinook have yet to make a confirmed appearance on the upper Rogue, there are plenty of winter steelhead in the Middle and Upper Rogue to make it worthwhile. A lower river springer would fill that bill as well.

“Five years of scale samples from spawning springers, as well as other factors, have created just enough data to create computer models for predicting wild fish returns over what used to be Gold Ray Dam and hatchery chinook returns to Cole Rivers. And it will be followed by 6,483 others before the run to the hatchery is over, give or take 1,800. They’ll be joined in the upper Rogue by 9,729 wild spring chinook, give or take 2,354. Those are the results of the first-ever preseason forecast for what anglers can expect during the much-anticipated spring chinook season, which is about to envelop the river community like no other run of fish does. The reason for the inaugural estimate is because, finally, biologists can.” See 1,621 springers headed to barbecues in Random Links, below, for the complete story with flair from Mark Freeman.

Readers are aware of a petition from Rogue Flyfishers Association, presented to Rogue Jet Boat adventures, requiring them to knock off the river trips. Yep, ban jet boats upstream of TouVelle State Park. One group wants a local business, Rogue Jet Boat Adventures, to do their bidding. While the course of events that followed may be intuited, here’s the spoiler regardless. Oregon State Marine Board staff recommend that the five-member board decline acquiescing to petition demand, suggesting some alternatives, such as education.

We’ll stick our collective necks out (often causing quite a stir, not to mention stares, at TGF World Headquarters) and predict winter has ended. At Diamond Lake, that is, where ice is melting faster than a pre-election political promise. Trout are tuned in to the change (really!) and are looking for sources of warmer water and aquatic or terrestrial life forms to consume. They’re getting’ busy.

The ODFW gets more excited that a stoner on 4/20 or a kid on Christmas Eve when a Free Fishing Weekend arrives. One of many Family Fishing Events is set for Saturday, April 29*, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Middle Empire Lake as part of Coos Bay’s annual Family Fun Day Families compete a clinic to learn about fishing. Afterwards, kids can fish an enclosure in the lake that is stocked with 2,500 rainbow trout. ODFW provides loaner rods, reels and tackle. See Random Links for more festivities.

*We’re confident the ODFW meant April 22nd. Trust us on this.