Central & South Oregon Coast Fishing Reports for Dec 16th

Irony being what it is, an unexpected, entertaining and often frustrating little creature, I was amused by the surf forecast on Thursday, December 14th, which indicated swells from two to three feet basking in four-to six mph breezes. Perhaps “basking” is the wrong term when beach temperatures are barely above freezing, but it looks pretty decent on Friday as well, with conditions starting to deteriorate over the weekend. It goes to hell in the coming week, of course, when it’ll actually be possible to drive over the coast range.

When Charter boats have been able to get out to the ocean from central Oregon ports this week, fishing has been excellent. Limits of large ling cod and black rockfish have been the rule rather than an exception and boats have returned early to port with happy, if chilly, anglers on board.

Standing on the frosty sand at Batendorf Beach on the south side of the Coos Bay entrance may not sound like a good time to a lot of folks, but if you find your steelhead game lacking, casting for surf perch could spell relief. One surf caster was spotted his limit on Monday this week, caught using sand shrimp, which bait combines effectiveness with a frustrating level of delicacy, often resulting in the bait being flung further than the lead. Nonetheless, it catches fish but so do more durable baits such as mussels. night crawlers and Berkeley Gulp! soft plastics in appropriate sizes.

TGF wrote about the proposed regulations for offshore fishing in 2015. Those regs have now been finalized and linked up in Random Links for your reading … pleasure? Incidentally, TGF favors the use of descenders by all.

Once again this week, Author, publisher and prolific blogger, Pete Heley (peteheley.com) reports to us from Reedsport, As I am writing this on Sunday, crabbing remains closed for our area. Some, but not all of the crabs recently tested were safe. By safe, the Oregon Department of Agriculture considers a reading for domoic acid of 30 parts per million for crab viscera (guts) and a reading of 20 parts per million for crab meat. Most of the tests involve the crab guts.

The most disappointing facet of the current crabbing closure is that crabbing was quite good when the closure started and because of high muddy water will be much tougher when the fishery inevitably reopens. Ocean crabbing can be a productive winter option when conditions permit – which isn’t that often.

Ocean and bar conditions have also limited fishing opportunities for lingcod and rockfish which can be quite good during the winter months.

Peak fishing for winter steelhead is fast approaching, but so far the fishing has been disappointing. The Umpqua River, which usually has fair numbers of winter steelhead by mid-November is producing fish, but most of the fishing pressure seems to be at Sawyers Rapids. Other area streams are still waiting for their peak runs.

Most of the fishing pressure on Tenmile Creek takes place near Spin Reel Park, since almost all of the keep-able fin clipped steelhead head up Eel Creek while most of the wild fish journey past the Tenmile Creek/Eel Creek confluence to spawn in in tributaries of Tenmile Lakes. As of last Saturday, there were three winter steelhead in the STEP holding pen on the upper end of Eel Creek. By the time Eel Creek opens for steelhead fishing on January 1st, there should be fair numbers of steelhead in the stream.

It’s important for Eel Creek and Tenmile Creek to have steelhead in them, since they almost never muddy up and are essentially an “insurance policy” against heavy winter rains that can muddy the water in other local steelhead fisheries.

Recent catches of yellow perch indicate that they may spawn earlier than normal this year. Most of the recent catches of larger perch have been females since they need to feed heavily to aid in the development of their egg masses. Most of the perch taken recently have been found to have small perch in their stomachs.

Since none of our local lakes have been stocked with trout since mid-October, trout anglers need to concentrate their efforts on the larger coastal lakes. These lakes host sea run trout and have native trout. Anglers have a more difficult time targeting the trout planted in them and the trout planted in the larger lakes are less likely to be quickly caught and far more likely to carryover. With cold winter water temperatures, still-fishing with bait on or near the bottom is usually more effective than trolling.

Hunting, fishing and other ODFW licenses for 2017 are now available for purchase. The prices are the same as for 2016. If purchasing a license as a gift, one will need to know how to correctly spell the first and last names of the intended recipient as well as their date of birth. If purchasing a yearly license or tag for someone 12 years old or older, their social security number will need to be in the system. The documents need to be signed by the intended user before actually using them. Every year numerous youngsters are unable to purchase yearly ODFW documents because they do know their social security numbers.

The Wells Creek Inn, which has sponsored a Spring Chinook Fishing Contest for approximately 20 years has recently changed ownership. According to restaurant employees, the new owners intend to keep changes to a minimum and they definitely plan to continue the contest.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) announce the opening of the commercial crab season from Cape Blanco (just north of Port Orford) to the OR/CA border is set for Dec. 18.

“We have consistently taken a very precautionary approach when opening our crab fisheries,” said Caren Braby, ODFW Marine Resources Program Manager. “Recent test results have consistently shown low bio-toxin results on the southern end of the state and decreasing levels in ports north of this area indicating they are of excellent quality, safe for consumption and ready for harvest.”

The two agencies also announced the immediate opening of the recreational bay and ocean crab fishery from Tillamook Head (just south of Seaside) south to Cape Lookout (just south of Netarts Bay) effective Dec 10. Recent test results met the criteria to remove the shellfish health advisory in this area. All recreational harvest from Tillamook Head north to, and including, the Columbia River remains open. All recreational harvest of Dungeness crab from Cape Lookout to Cape Blanco remains closed due to elevated levels of domoic acid.

“We are excited to be able to open up another section of the coast for recreational crabbing as we see bio-toxin levels decrease and stay below alert levels, Braby said. “We hope this trend will continue and allow us to open the remaining areas for recreational crabbing and commercial harvest soon.”

Opening of the commercial Dungeness crab season along the other areas of the Oregon coast is still delayed due to concerns about domoic acids levels in the central section of the coast. ODFW will continue to work closely with ODA and the Oregon commercial Dungeness crab industry to test crab in central section of the coast. In close coordination with ODA, fishery managers from Washington and California and the Oregon commercial Dungeness crab industry, ODFW plans to evaluate options for opening the commercial season once additional domoic acid test results are available.

It is recommended that crab always be eviscerated prior to cooking. Evisceration includes removing and discarding the internal organs and gills.

Despite the delay, crab and shellfish products sold in retail markets and restaurants remain safe for consumers.

Domoic acid or amnesic shellfish toxin can cause minor to severe illness and even death. Severe poisoning can result in dizziness, headaches, vomiting and diarrhea. More severe cases can result in memory loss and death. Shellfish toxins are produced by algae and originate in the ocean. Toxins cannot be removed by cooking, freezing or any other treatment. For more information on toxin closures, call ODA’s shellfish safety information hotline at (800) 448‐2474 or visit the ODA shellfish closures web page.

The Rogue River level at Agness rose from a depth of six feet to nearly 25 feet, and perhaps higher as it’s rising as this is being written the afternoon of December 15th. While flows were relatively moderate 10,000 cfs as the sun rose on Wednesday this week but it started increasing mid-day, continuing overnight with current measurements indicating 10,000 cfs with apparently more to come. River forecasts indicate that steelheaders will see a moderation of level and flow through the weekend with water fishable as soon as anglers are able as color should come around rather quickly in cold weather. An educated guess will put steelheaders back on the water by Sunday with good conditions over the week to come. Flows at Grants Pass are following those at Agness almost to a lick although the peak will be more like 50,000 cfs. The middle Rogue has been slower than areas up and downstream, so try elsewhere for better results. Egg imitations are still fooling a few summers here although few are even trying. No bait is allowed downstream of the Shady Cove ramp, there is far less pressure but also fewer steelhead in this stretch. The Rogue above Shady Cove has remained the best producer, both of summer steelhead and of coho, some of which are still bright-ish. Water has been flowing out of Lost Creek Reservoir at a rate of 2,800 cfs most of this week although it dropped to 1,700 cfs on Thursday this week. Cured eggs have been taking the greater number of fish here with yarn balls soaked in attractant liquid a close second. Drift-boaters devoted to pulling plugs have been hooking a few nice summers as well as coho here.

Anglers fishing the Chetco had been showing photos of a couple of nice winters. That was prior to the non-secret storm which blew it up. Good news is that it’s dropping faster than some other coastal rivers and should fish this weekend.

On the morning of Thursday, December 15th, the Sixes River was flowing high, fast and muddy but will drop and clear rapidly as precipitation stops. The Elk River was in fair shape but is expected to improve.

The air temperature at Diamond Lake fell to zero last week, which started the transformation of the lake’s surface to ice. Don’t pack your auger just yet, though, as it’ll take more below-freezing temps and time to make the surface safe to walk on. If that occurs at all, of course, but we’re hoping it’ll happen in 2017. The very few trying in frigid temperatures have taken a few trout on bait in shallow water but we recommend waiting a while for results to improve – in warmer or colder weather.

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