Central & South Oregon Coast Fishing Reports for April 7th

The Oregon Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Recreational Shellfish industry, tells us that the coast-wide closure of razor clams is the only shellfish restriction this week. Bay clams, mussels and crabs may be taken anywhere from the Columbia River to the California border. We hope the biotoxin craziness is over for a while.

We are grateful to hear that ocean crabbing has started to improve. Two charter boats out of Depoe Bay made dandy haul for clients on Tuesday this week when the weather cooperated on Tuesday this week.

Spring Chinook are in the Umpqua River and this location often gives up some dandies. As other south coast rivers, conditions have been challenging but the Umpqua has been cooperative, dropping and clearing from April 1 forward. That’ll change, of course, with the water rising over the coming weekend, but the impact won’t be as severe as elsewhere and whenever it drops, there may be a spring Chinook opportunity awaiting. Or something else as a couple of anglers discovered fishing the Elkton stretch earlier this week as they caught some dandy smallmouth bass. Here, Mark Phillips, of Los Angeles, caught this Umpqua River springer while fishing near Elkton with Brian Gill of “The Umpqua River Angler”. Photo from peteheley.com.

Alert Readers! Yes, all those of you who are kind enough to spot misspellings and gaffs in the newsletter; the same ones who would be quick to point out any errors if we ever made any (riiiiiiiiight ….). So, we were wondering, do any of you know how to spell the name of the town lowest on the Rogue? The USGS spells it with two of the same letters at the end while NOAA spells it with one and not for a lack of space. So, is it Agness or Agnes? Whichever you choose, that’s what we’ll go with.

Speaking of which, the lower Rogue River, where our weekly report usually commences, has dropped for the most part all week. Thing it, it’s not enough. At 10,600 cfs it is low enough to be considered plunkable at Lobster Creek and Huntley Park. Unfortunately, that’s as low as it’s gonna get for a while as dawn on Friday, April 7th, will illuminate a rising river, as will the sunrise on Saturday. While the Rogue is supposed to start settling down and dropping on Sunday, April 9th, again it is forecast to drop to a level and flow that still won’t allow spring Chinook fishing before it takes off again. And that’s this week’s story. For those who enjoy these overly-long explanations, you’re gonna be disappointed ‘cause it’s the same story at Grants Pass except the drop today is to 6,700 cfs when plunkers may grab a few hours of fishing before it all goes to hell again. It’s on the same schedule of non-fishability. So, what’s a fisher to do? Many have been targeting winter steelhead on the upper river and with periodic success and looking at today’s (April 6) data, it appears to be shaping up. Welp, ain’t gonna happen. No, sir, ‘cause Mother Nature’s prepping to open another can o’ Whoopass® which will compromise weekend angling plans. Yep, she’s gonna blow. Flows at Raygold, the old dam site, have started increasing with flows predicted to hit 8,800 cfs This coming Saturday night and start dropping by Sunday, April 9th. Those who get to the upper Rogue on Tuesday or Wednesday in the week to come should find fishable water and fish, as winter steelhead have been entering the hatchery at a rate of over 100 per week (but no springers – yet).

A Chinook was caught in the ocean out of the Port of Brookings over 240 feet of water on Tuesday, April 4th. This is the first ocean-caught salmon of 2017, OR is it? Please shoot us a note otherwise. All our addresses are below!

Friday, March 31st, was the last day of the season on the Chetco, Elk and Sixes rivers.

The ice is still stable. No, it’s deteriorating and can’t be trusted. It’ll still support the weight of an angler. It’s no longer safe to try it with rain and thawing. These are the reports we’re getting from Diamond Lake regarding whether or not it’s still possible to ice fish; conflicting, to say the least. Hey, we love fishing as much as anybody but c’mon; no fish, certainly not a hatchery trout, is worth risking your life. We advise caution and common sense. Don’t try it. Thanks.

Author, Publisher and blogger Pete Heley (peteheley.com) reports from Winchester Bay, “Western Oregon’s only scheduled trout plants this week were in lakes along the northern Oregon coast. But Cottage Grove Reservoir and Dexter reservoirs were slated to receive 3,000 and 2,800 legal rainbows respectively. Loon Lake and Lake Marie are each slated to receive 1,000 legal rainbows next week as heavy stocking resumes throughout western Oregon.

Ocean fishing for Chinook salmon, which has been legal since March 15th has received very little fishing pressure although a few boats have been fishing near the Umpqua River Bar hoping to intercept an early-arriving spring Chinook. Outside of a few springers hooked by bank anglers at Winchester Bay, most of the fishing pressure directed toward springers has been occurring near Scottsburg where more than a dozen fish have been landed.

Bottomfishing in marine waters deeper than 180 feet is now closed. Retention of cabezon is closed until July 1st when the daily limit will go to one cabezon, 16-inches in length or longer. The ten inch minimum size limit for greenling has been scrapped and any size greenling are now legal to keep – subject to the seven bottomfish daily limit. Anglers using sand shrimp or Berkley Gulp sandworms off the South Jetty at Winchester Bay have been doing very well on striped surfperch and fair on greenling. Anglers wanting to target the pinkfin run on the lower Umpqua River need to relax until early May.

Although access to Horsfall beach has been restricted due to highwater for most of the last several weeks, fishing the for redtail surfperch, locally called “pinkfins”, along the beaches that are accessible has usually been good. It seems like the number of surf anglers opting for using Berkley Gulp rather than sand shrimp has been steadily increasing.

While Coos Bay, especially near Charlston, has been the place to go for the area’s best crabbing, there has been some decent crab catches made last week at Winchester Bay.. One crabber caught six crabs slightly upriver of Winchester Bays East Basin entrance. However, that catch may be difficult to duplicate until the river drops and becomes somewhat saltier. Crabbers using crab snares with their fishing rods have been making decent crab catches inside the “Triangle” – especially along the south side.

The spring halibut openers will starting in May and it will be mandatory to have a descending device on board to allow the proper release of bottomfish hooked in waters deeper than 30 fathoms. There is no size restrictions and the limit is one per day and six per season. The possession limit is one daily limit while at sea and three daily limits on land.

The longest halibut reported checked by the ODFW in Oregon’s three subareas were: 59.1-inches for the Columbia River Subarea (in 2006); 68.9-inches for the Central Coast Subarea (off Florence in 2015) and 61.8-inches (off Brookings in 2013. Although info on season quotas is available on the ODFW website, this column will include that info prior to the actual openers.

April is a very good month for crappie fishing, with the I5 Interstate corridor between Eugene and Roseburg a good place to start looking for them. Along the Oregon coast, crappie seem to have a tough time competing with yellow perch. The upper end of Loon Lake can provide good crappie fishing, but last year the good fishing only occurred during the month of April. In 2016, the good crappie fishing at Loon Lake lasted into June.

Some of the Eugene-area reservoirs such as Cottage Grove, Dorena and Lookout Point reservoirs have produced crappies weighing more than three pounds – as did Fall Creek Reservoir back when it spent most of the year full of water and not just a creek.

Water temperatures in most of our local lakes are now in the low to mid-fifties and bassfishing is steadily improving. Taking surface water temperatures early in the morning will provide little useful data and only depress you. Air temperatures are slowly climbing, but remain cooler than normal. The murky backwaters of the Umpqua River warm quickly in the spring and should be ready to provide some decent smallmouth bass angling.

As soon as the Coquille River clears, it should be providing good smallmouth action and fair striped bass angling. Both fish species move around quite a bit, but the Arago Boat Ramp just east of Myrtle Point is a good place to start searching in the spring.

April 22nd and 23rd will be Oregon’s first “Free Fishing Weekend” this year and fishing licenses or tags will not be necessary to fish, crab or clam.

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

Here’s a couple of still fishing tips that will put more fish on the end of your line. Know the water and bottom composition. In the spring when the water is clear this is just a matter of looking. Typically you can see weed lines, rocks and small submerged islands just by scanning the water from a vantage point. This will give you an idea of what and where. I like to target weed lines where the break to deep water or any other transition change that these fish will use as highways throughout the day. Weed lines and weed beds are always good producers in the spring as the rising temps through the day will trigger various hatches that these rainbows will feed on. Another good area to target are shallow rocky bays. These spots will always be better on the north or northeast side of the lake because they see more sun throughout the day and are typically the warmest parts of the lake, thus more hatches, snails, leeches crawdads etc. The other areas are inflows and outflows, these are always a good shot in the spring.

Next would be what are you fishing. All of the different lakes vary in bottom structure and make up . Some are gravel, big rock or small, thick weed growth or sparse, mud etc. These are thing you as an angler should consider when picking a leader length to float your bait presentation on. For instance, in an area that has dense weed growth on the bottom you will need a longer leader to float the bait up and out of the vegetation. On a gravel or mud bottom a short leader will suffice. I like to keep it simple whereas on a clean bottom a foot to 18 inches of leader is perfect. The same math plus the height of the weed growth will give you your answer. So for 2’ of weeds on the bottom, a 3 to 3 1/2 feet will give me that same foot to foot and a half bait presentation above the top of the weeds. Basically just keep your bait up where the fish can see it, not down in the weeds where the fish have to root around to find it. As for bait pretty much everything will work on the right day. I like power bait tipped with a piece of night crawler for bigger trout and just power bait for the little guys. My favorite colors are chartreuse, orange, lime and Captain America all with the glitter. One advantage I have found is tying fluorocarbon leaders. This helps for two reasons, one the fish can’t see it and two because they can’t see it, you can get away with higher pound test. This really helps on larger fish.

Good Luck and Remember afternoons are usually better than mornings until our nights warm up.

New Rules for Wickiup Reservoir

BEND, Ore. – Fishery managers have announced two new rule changes that will affect the kokanee bag limit, and fall fishing in the Deschutes River arm of Wickiup Reservoir.

The first rule change eliminates the kokanee “bonus bag” that allowed anglers to keep up to 25 kokanee in addition to the regular 5 fish trout limit. Effective opening day, April 22, 2017, anglers must include kokanee within the 5 fish trout limit.

The second rule change will close fishing in the Deschutes River arm of the reservoir one month earlier from Sept. 30 to Aug. 31 and move the boundary from the West South Twin boat ramp to Gull Point. The remainder of the reservoir will continue to be open for fishing until Oct. 31.

According to Brett Hodgson, ODFW fish biologist in Bend, the Deschutes River arm is an important spawning area for kokanee and trout.

“We don’t stock Wickiup Reservoir – the entire fishery depends on the natural production of kokanee, brown trout and Redband trout,” Hodgson said. “We need to take management action to ensure this natural production sustains a fishery.”

Under a new water management regime, water in the reservoir is drawn down earlier in the summer. This will concentrate fish in a smaller area near the unscreened outlet and make them more vulnerable to both fishing pressure on the spawning grounds and escaping from the reservoir downstream into the Deschutes River. This will limit the annual production of kokanee and trout. Kokanee begin their spawning migration in late August.

“These fish are vulnerable to anglers who target the spawning kokanee and the trout that follow the kokanee upstream to feed on their eggs,” Hodgson states.

The storage and release of water from the Reservoir has been altered to help protect listed spotted frogs downstream, and to improve the ecological function of the Deschutes River, he said.

“It may be a while before we know what impact the change in water management will have on the spotted frog,” Hodgson said. “But in the meantime we need to be proactive in protecting spawning fish to conserve Redband trout populations and to maintain the robust and diverse recreational fishery.”

Commercial Salmon Fishing Update

4/10/17 COMMERCIAL TROLL SALMON ACTION NOTICE (corrected): The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in consultation with the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), the State of Oregon, the State of California, and fishery representatives met this morning in Sacramento, California and have taken the following in-season management action to the scheduled April 15 commercial troll Chinook salmon openings off Oregon:

ACTION TAKEN: The commercial troll salmon fishery scheduled to open on April 15 in the area from the Florence South Jetty to Humbug Mt. will close to commercial troll salmon fishing for the period of April 15-30.

RATIONALE: Fishery managers and industry representatives agreed that this closure was needed to reduce impacts on Klamath River fall Chinook. The forecast abundance of Klamath River fall Chinook is extremely low, and most other Chinook salmon populations that contribute to fisheries South of Cape Falcon are forecast at poor to fair abundances. Within the commercial troll salmon season alternatives which are still in development and are anticipated to be finalized by April 11, the area from Cape Falcon to the Florence S. Jetty will be open for the period of April 15-30 as well as other periods over the course of the summer and fall.

The PFMC commercial troll seasons will not have any open seasons south of the Florence South Jetty in 2017. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will be considering options for limited state waters seasons off of the Elk River at Port Orford and the Chetco River at Brookings at their meeting in Klamath Falls on April 21st.

Anglers continued to catch limits or near-limits of rainbow trout at Garrison Lake. Be sure to look for orange spaghetti tags under the dorsal fin. ODFW encourages anglers to report these tags to get a better handle on the fishery. It could result in ODFW stocking more trophy fish.

And some tags are worth money.

“The reward tags are worth $50,” said Todd Confer, district fisheries biologist. “Fishermen aren’t required to turn in the non-reward tags, but we encourage people to because that will improve the information we’ll get from this study.” “We’ve put 600 2-pounders in the lake, and we’ve got 300 3-pound-plus trophy fish, as well.”

The 2-pounders are 15 to 16 inches in length; the 3-pounders are 18 to 19 inches long.

The non-reward tags have a four-digit number followed by an ODFW phone number.

“The reward tags are the same,” Confer said, “but if you roll the fish 180 degrees from our phone number, it says ‘Reward – $50.’”

“We’re actually not done tagging the trout,” Confer said, adding that ODFW plans to tag 400 more 2-pound fish. “So there will be about 700 non-reward tags and 70 reward tags.”

Trophy Trout And $50 Reward tags Await Willow Creek Anglers.

In April and May the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will be releasing a total of 1,500 trophy-sized trout into Willow Creek Reservoir near Heppner. One hundred and fifty fish will be marked with brightly-colored tags, 15 of which will be worth a $50 Visa card to the anglers who redeem them.

The fish tagging program is a part of ODFW’s efforts to better manage the trout fishery, according to Bill Duke, ODFW fish biologist in Pendleton.

“The tag reward program allows ODFW to monitor the success of its trout stocking programs using far fewer staff hours in the field,” Duke said. “We want to be sure these fish are being caught by anglers.”

The lucky anglers who catch a fish with a special reward tag, as indicated by a 4-digit number on the tag, must turn in the tag to the ODFW John Day Watershed Office at 73471 Mytinger Ln., Pendleton, Ore. 97801 to claim the $50 Visa gift card. The tag may be turned in by mail or in person. Anglers who catch any tagged fish are asked to report their catch.

Fish with reward tags can be harvested or released and still be eligible for prize money. If the fish is going to be released, cut the tag off rather than pull it out.

Anglers can report non-reward tags in person, by mail or by phone (541) 276-2344.
Look for ODFW “Tag Team” posters at boat ramps and popular fishing locations for more project or contact information.

This evaluation project, like several others throughout the state, is funded through a grant from the ODFW Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program.