Central & South Oregon Coast Fishing Reports for Dec 22nd

The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announce that the ocean and bay recreational crab fishery is now open in all areas along the Oregon coast. Recreational crabbing was previously closed in many areas due to elevated levels of domoic acid in Dungeness crab viscera. The most recent tests show levels of domoic acid are safe in all areas tested. It is recommended that crab always be eviscerated prior to cooking. Evisceration includes removing and discarding the internal organs and gills.

While coastal bays are now open for clam digging, no razor clams may be harvested from any Oregon beach.

Offshore winter bottom fishing can be daunting. Not catching the fish, necessarily; just getting out to the fishing grounds this time of year can be a challenge with seasonal wind, wave and precipitation. Ah, but once out, the fishing is easy. This week, when boats have been able to get out of Depoe Bay, they scored consistent limits of large, toothy ling cod and plenty of rockfish.

Diehard (figurative phrase) beach fishers have continued to cast for pinkfin surf perch and reports this year indicate this has become a year-‘round sport. It seems the only limitation is when the wind is fierce (always a tough challenge; anglers know how high wind blows [also figurative as it sucks, too]) high waves or a wicked cross-current that yanks your terminal tackle in order to send it rapidly north or south. However, those who chase these fishes are rewarded with decent numbers whenever these elements are fairly calm. Various baits are effective as are Berkeley Gulp! Plastic baits shaped like grabs, shrimp or sand worms with camo a favorite color. Or is that a non-color? No matter ‘cause it catches surf perch!

Some anglers gave it a try at Thanksgiving but the Siuslaw wasn’t quite ready to give up its seasonal goods. Recently, winter steelheaders on the Slaw have been hitting fish and the pace has been picking up. Water levels remain a bit high from the storm from which passed here on the 21st but the river has been dropping since that date. Weekend anglers will find good and improving conditions, more winters in the system and may look forward to this run reaching its peak in January. Read a detailed treatise on what to use and where to fish on the Siuslaw in Random Links.

Author, publisher and prolific blogger, Pete Heley (peteheley.com) reports to us from Reedsport, “Recreational crabbing for our local area finally opened last Friday. The entire southern Oregon coast is now open from the Oregon-California border northward to the North Jetty of the Umpqua River. In other words, from the Umpqua’s North Jetty north to about Tillamook (Cape Lookout), a distance of about 140 miles is still closed to crabbing. So popular crabbing spots like Florence, Waldport and Newport remain closed to crabbing until further notice. Charleston and Winchester Bay are now open for crabbing, but someone attempting to crab out of Winchester Bay would need to head south or due west to be crabbing in open waters. The few crabbers that actually ventured out into the ocean last weekend reported fair to good success. Commercial crabbing has reopened along the southern Oregon coast. Quite often, commercial crabbing remains closed until the entire coast is open to avoid concentrating commercial crabbing effort on a relatively small area.

“While recent tests for marine toxins in shellfish in our area have shown safe levels of domoic acid, test results have fluctuated greatly and quickly. So there may be more closures regarding shellfish in the months ahead. Right now the entire Oregon coast is open for mussels and bay clams and closed for razor clams.

“Beginning Jan. 1st in 2017, any vessel fishing for, or possessing, bottomfish in the ocean must have a functional descending device onboard, and use it when releasing any rockfish outside of 30 fathoms. A functional descending device means one that is ready to be used and easily accessible. Ocean fishing for lingcod and rockfish has been good when ocean and bar conditions have allowed it.

“No trout have been planted in any lakes along the Oregon coast for two months, but some of the larger lakes have carryover, native and searun trout. Diamond Lake now has an ice cover which may be thick enough for ice-fishing. Make sure to check at the resort before actually venturing out on the ice. When fishing, make sure to release any tiger trout caught – they’ll barely be eight inches long anyway.

“Last week’s cold snap almost certainly slowed fishing success for yellow perch and had them seeking deeper water. In Siltcoos, Tahkenitch and Tenmile lakes anything over 15 feet qualifies as deeper water. Bullhead catfish and some bass will be at similar depths. Expect slow action and very light bites.

“Hunters have until January 31st to report their hunt results – even if they did not use their tags – and for hunters that purchased deer and elk tags, not reporting could mean your next hunting tag could come with a $25 surcharge.

“Another “free fishing weekend” is coming up. This one will be Dec. 31st and January 1st. Fishing and shellfish licenses won’t be necessary and steelhead anglers will not need combined angling tags. Unless there are last minute changes, there won’t be any harvesting of razor clams in Oregon, or crabs in the area along the Oregon coast that remains closed to crabbing.

“Once again, 2017, fishing licenses and tags make great holiday gifts and have been available for purchase since Dec. 1st.

“In a decision many Oregon hunters will applaud, Colorado officials will proceed with a controversial plan to kill dozens of mountain lions and bears to bolster the state’s declining mule deer population.

“Last week’s vote by Parks and Wildlife commissioners authorizes specialized contractors to kill up to 25 black bears and 15 mountain lions per year across two regions in the central and western parts of Colorado. The project will run for three years, to be followed by a six-year study of how deer populations respond to fewer predators.

“The population of Colorado’s mule deer, a prized quarry of hunters, has dropped sharply in a puzzling, decades-long decline to about 450,000 animals, which state officials said was about 110,000 fewer than there should be.}

“A 2014 state study tied the decline to seven factors, including predators, whose numbers have swelled because of a “decline in frequency of severe winters.”

“Critics, however, said the state should focus first on the human-led destruction of mule deer habitat.
“The decline of mule deer in western Colorado and around the west is obviously a complex issue with complex causes,” Brian Kurzel, Rocky Mountain regional director for the National Wildlife Federation, told The Huffington Post. “By far, the greatest issue — and one that I think deserves the most attention in any science-based study — is habitat quantity and quality.”

“Kurzel pointed out that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management recently approved 15,000 new oil and gas wells in a patch of western Colorado sometimes referred to as “the mule-deer factory,” where the herd has declined to about 30,000 from more than 100,000 in the early 1980’s. Though state officials have acknowledged oil and gas development affects mule deer populations, they didn’t oppose the federal decision. Other factors, including highways (which disrupt migratory corridors), residential growth and human recreation are also curbing the mule deer population, Kurzel said.

“State Parks and Wildlife officials don’t necessarily disagree. They pitched the $4.5 million predator-culling program as a way to gather research for later decisions. The state budget ― and the contribution of deer hunters to it ― also may be a factor. The Denver Post reported that Colorado Parks and Wildlife gets 90 percent of its funding from hunting and fishing licenses.

“The department denied that its plan to kill predators of animals prized by hunters is influenced by money, but there’s no question more diversified funding would be a good thing, especially if deer populations continue to decline.

“NEW-Descending Devices Mandatory

“Any vessel fishing for, or possessing, bottomfish 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. More information on rockfish recompression and descending devices can be found at: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/recompression/index.asp

“Bottomfish Season Structure

“The recreational bottomfish (groundfish) season is scheduled to be the same as the last several years, with fishing allowed at all depths January 1-March 31 and October 1 –December 31. April 1- September 30 will be restricted to fishing shoreward (or inside) of the 30 fathom regulatory line. The seasonal depth restriction is in place to limit impacts to yelloweye rockfish. Cabezon will once again be open July 1- December 31 with a 1 fish sub-bag limit.

“Bag Limits or Sub-Bag limits

“Marine fish (rockfish, greenlings, etc) remains at 7 fish per day

“Sub-bag limits

NEW – 6 black rockfish; out of the 7 fish marine bag, no more than 6 may be black rockfish
NEW – 4 blue/deacon, China, copper, or quillback rockfish combined
1 cabezon, during open season (July 1- December 31)
NEW – Removed the canary rockfish sub-bag limit; part of the regular 7 fish bag limit
In large part due to the conservation measures by all fishery sectors for the last 14 years, canary rockfish was declared rebuilt in 2015 based on a federal stock assessment. This allows for additional harvest. ODFW will continue to monitor catches of canary rockfish to make sure the Oregon recreational quota of 75 mt is not exceeded. For reference, the quota in 2016 was approximately 12 mt.
Lingcod remains 2 fish per day
Flatfish species, other than Pacific halibut, remains at 25 fish per day. Notes skates and rays are not “flatfish”, they fall under the 7 fish marine bag limit.
To assist anglers with these bag and sub-bag limits ODFW has updated the handout titled “What can I keep and how many?” available for download by clicking on here. It is intended to be a visual aid to assist anglers.

“Length Limits

“Lingcod minimum length = 22 inches
Cabezon minimum length = 16 inches
NEW—Greenling minimum length – removed

“Additional information can be found on the ODFW recreational bottomfish webpage or by calling the Marine Resources Program at 541-867-4741”

Just one week ago today, flows at Agness on the lower Rogue River reached 100,000 cfs and that does not good fishing conditions make, so to speak. That was then and steelheaders will be pumped about the conditions this week and through the Christmas weekend. River flows are now 10,700, still swift but a tenth of what they were Thursday a week ago. Winter steelheading has been worthwhile here and as the river comes into shape, fishing is expected to be good on the lower Rogue. While flows are a more moderate 4,770 cfs at Grants Pass, action is slow and isn’t expected to improve until tie run works its way up to the middle Rogue. On the upper Rogue, summers and coho were being caught at last report but the latest freshet may well have finished up that fishery. Outflow from Lost Creek Reservoir has been 3,300 cfs most of this week.

Chetco level and flow at Brookings were the highest on record Thursday, December 15th. What a difference a week makes, especially a week without another storm front passing through. As of mid-day on Thursday, December 22nd, Chetco Flows were a fishable 2,230 cfs with the water depth about 3.5 feet at Brookings and beautiful color. Fresh winter steelhead are in and well-distributed. Steelheaders should expect a slight, moderate rise in level and flow over the weekend but nothing that should affect fishing to any great degree.

As reported here previously, ice has been forming on the surface of Diamond Lake although rain passing through has deteriorated the surface to slush which was followed by more freezing temperatures. Whew! The current update is that no one is fishing, even though open spots remain. Apparently, everyone is waiting for ice fishing. We’ll be keeping track of conditions here.

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