Central & South Oregon Coast Fishing Reports for Feb 10th

Go figure. The stretch of Oregon coastline where domoic acid levels rose to unsafe levels, causing the Powers That Be (Oregon Department of Agriculture) to close crabbing is less than 50 miles long, from Heceta Head (north of Florence) to Coos Bay. Still, better safe, as they say, although this closure is for an indefinite period. While Winchester Bay is included in the closure, Coos Bay, the ocean and bays south to California are still safe, as are bays and ocean from Heceta Head north to the Columbia River. Always call the shellfish hotline at 1-800-448-2474 to be certain it’s OK to harvest any mollusk, bi-valve or crustacean on the Oregon Coast.

Author and avid blogger, Pete Heley (peteheley.com) chimes in from Roseburg about crabbing closures, fishing opportunities and more as he writes, “The biggest thing this week regarding outdoor recreation in our area is that recreational crabbing is, once again, closed along part of the Oregon coast. The reason is the same as for previous closures – elevated levels of domoic acid and it now seems that such an emergency closure could happen at any time along a certain section of the Oregon coast – or for that matter along the California or Washington coasts, as well.

This closure affects the recreational crabbing from the North Jetty of Coos Bay northward to Heceta Head, about 14 miles north of Florence and the lower tidal portions of both the Umpqua and Siuslaw rivers. Portions of the Oregon coast still open to recreational crabbing include Coos Bay and the Oregon coast southward to the California border and the coast from Heceta Head northward to the Washington border. As of Feb. 9th, commercial crabbing closed to match the recreational crabbing closure.

Most of the yellow perch in our local waters will be spawning in the next five weeks. They usually start spawning when the water temperatures at their preferred depth reaches 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and is usually slightly deeper than the depth the sun’s ultraviolet rays penetrate. This can be only a few feet in a murky lake, but may be 20 feet deep or even more in an exceptionally clear body of water such as Woahink Lake.

As soon as the Coquille River reaches a reasonable clarity, striped bass should start biting and in the early spring most of them will be upstream of Myrtle Point. Stripers should also start biting on the Smith River when it clears and most of these fish will be in the lower four miles of the North Fork Smith or in the mainstem Smith from where the North Fork enters upstream to the falls. The Smith has less stripers numbers-wise, than does the Coquille, but a larger proportion of adult stripers.

Two weeks ago, the South Fork Coquille was producing excellent fishing for winter steelhead while the Smith was very hot or very cold for winter steelhead. February is usually the best month to fish for steelhead on Tenmile Creek and Eel Creek.

This week several lakes along the central Oregon coast received their first trout plants this year. These lakes were Cleawox (3,636 trout); Munsel (1,650 trout); Alder (1,022 trout; Dune (886 trout); Carter (750 trout); Lost (500 trout) and Siltcoos Lagoon (460 trout). Alder and Dune should offer consistently good trout fishing as they will each be stocked three separate times in the next six weeks – nearly 5,000 trout in two small lakes with a total surface acreage of five acres.

Loon Lake will receive its first trout plant this year at the end of February (2,000 trout) and Lake Marie will receive its first trout plant of the year in mid-March (1,500 trout). Coos County will receive its first trout plants of the year at the end of February when both Empire lakes receive 2,000 trout and Powers Pond, Johnson Mill Pond, Bradley Lake and Saunders Lake will each receive 3,000 trout.

Surfperch anglers are catching fish when conditions allow them to actually fish. The same can be said for jetty anglers.

Anglers wanting to get an early start on smallmouth bass should look for dead end backwaters – especially those with their upper ends farther upriver than where they enter the Umpqua. Don’t be put off by murky water, it warms up more quickly than does clear water.”

Yep, it’s true. Fishing for surf perch is really good, yielding limits (a generous 15 fish) to anglers who walk the beach and throw into the waves. But not too far. Don’t listen to that guy who says the big ones are out there. Oh, sure, they are occasionally but more often they’ll be in the breakers nearest shore. Similar to jetty fishing, it’s easy to cast over the fish where it’s a wasteland. The hardest part is catching a wind and wave break at this time of year.

Regulations for bottomfish (or groundfish, the term used by the ODFW) are mostly new for 2017. While we have mentioned the new rules, this rundown from the ODFW sums it all up and indicates what’s new and improved this year with updates on halibut following the bottomfish regs:

Recreational Bottomfish Fishery Regulations:
NEW—Descending Devices Are 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, and some anglers have developed homemade devices.
Bag Limits and Sub-Bag Limits
The marine fish (rockfish, greenlings, skates, rays, etc.) bag limit 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
NEW— There is no longer a sub-bag limit for canary rockfish
1 cabezon during open season (July 1- December 31)
Separate bag limits include:
Lingcod – 2 fish per day
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 = no length limit
Lingcod = 22 inches
Cabezon = 16 inches [No cabezon may be kept at this time, Ed.]

The ODFW announced the following proposed halibut dates for 2017:
Based on input received via phone, email, at last night’s public meeting, and an online survey, ODFW staff are recommending 15 fixed days for the Central Oregon Coast spring all-depth fishery, skipping weeks with adverse tides (morning low tides greater than -1.0 feet). The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will finalize these dates at their meeting on April 21.

Spring fixed dates: May 11-13, May 18-20, June 1-3, June 8-10, and June 15-17.

Back-up dates (if quota remains): June 29-July 1, July 13-15, and July 27-29.
Columbia River Subarea

All-depth: opens Thursday May 4, Thurs-Sun, every week through the earlier of the quota or Sept 30

Nearshore: opens Monday, May 8, every Mon-Wed through the earlier of the quota or Sept 30

Central Oregon Coast Subarea
Summer All-depth: opens Aug 4-5, every other Fri-Sat through the earlier of the quota or Oct 31

Nearshore: opens June 1, seven days per week through the earlier of the quota or Oct 31

Quota = 10,039 lbs. Open May 1, seven days per week, through the earlier of quota, or Oct. 31

It is mandatory to have a descending device onboard the vessel when fishing for Pacific halibut, and to use when releasing any rockfish species when fishing outside of 30 fathoms.
Daily bag limit: 1 Pacific halibut. Annual limit: 6. No length limit.
Pacific halibut possession limit: 1 daily limit at sea, 3 daily limits on land

Rogue anglers are holding out hope that the 2017 spring Chinook season will be good enough to make last year’s blah season a distant memory – and their hopes may just be realized as the groundwork for a hot springer season is being laid right now. It’s water and plenty of it. The freshets this year are of greater height and more frequent intervals which should lead to a marked improvement in catches on the Rogue. Speaking (or writing) of water, the lower Rogue is under plenty of it as of it at this time which is the evening of Thursday, February 9th. The lower Rogue is just over flood stage, flowing at roughly 60,000 cfs and nearly 19 feet deep. This would be too swift for plunking, but seriously folks, it’s going to get better – much better. At Grants Pass, the river has yet to crest but is predicted to do so early Friday morning at a flow of 21,00 cfs. Upriver is similarly afflicted by storms and too much water – for now. Winter steelhead fishing has been fair to good but the best is yet to come for the Rogue as those fish are joined by what is arguably the hardest fighting, best-tasting salmon that swims, the Rogue spring Chinook. And they’ll be making their arrival as the water drops in the coming week. Two weeks, tops. Sort of off topic but certainly of interest is the potential privatizing of Cole Rivers Hatchery on the Rogue. The Army Corps of Engineers has feelers out currently for potential buyers of the facility.

Chetco steelheaders have been having a good time with bright, fresh winter steelhead. At least they were until rain took all the fun away, and that’s sung to the tune of 30,000 cfs at Brookings as this is being written. There have been some fine winters landed (see below) and this will occur again as the river drops and gradually clears. Plunkers may have a shot as soon as Sunday, February 11th but the river is forecast to drop rapidly so plug pullers and side-drifters won’t have to wait much after that. Speaking of side-drifting, that what Steven Muroff from Boise Idaho was doing when he took this 18 pounder last week. (Curry County Pilot photo)

Diamond Lake is still reported as having six inches of solid ice upon which eager ice fishers are anxiously auguring which may not sound like a lot of fun but it’s way better than waiting for the lake to freeze. The ice holes are producing fair to good catches of decent-sized trout. Bait is working better than jigs, however.