Offshore conditions over the weekend and early into the coming week are not encouraging for ocean launches but it’s worth keeping an eye on your favorite data site as conditions (particularly Oregon coastal conditions) can change rapidly.
For skippers who have been able to get out this week, bottom fishing remains excellent, producing limits of ling cod as they’re moving into shallow water to spawn as well as limits or near-limits of rockfish. Be certain to review bottom fishing regulations because there not only bag limits but also hardware requirements have changed for 2017. Don’t forget crab pots to drop in 300 to 40 foot of water on the way out; you won’t regret it. Ocean Dungeness are plentiful, large, hard-shelled and chock-a-block with meat.
We were privileged to see a dandy photo of a 30-inch hatchery hen taken earlier this week on the Siuslaw River. This chrome beauty in all its glory was loving laid on a sun-dappled, snow-covered riverbank to create a lovely composition. This fine specimen couldn’t resist the ‘lure’ of an angler’s spinner. Incidentally, given the remarks of some winter steelheaders which indicate they use everything but, for goodness sake get some spinners for winters or try throwing the ones you’ve got. They’re accounting for a significant percentage of fish this season!
Every week, Pete Heley’s Outdoors (PeteHeley.com) appears here for our readers to enjoy. This week, even Mr., Heley is taken aback by events affecting Oregon anglers and it ain’t over. From Reedsport, he reports this week, “When the ODFW Commission met last week and adopted a plan that will allow the continuation of commercial gill netting in the summer and fall, many of Oregon’s anglers felt betrayed. The decision also increases commercial fishing in the fall and makes it unlikely that Oregon’s and Washington’s Columbia River regulations will exactly match up.
“The disappointing decision prompted Steve Godin, our local fisheries activist and the current president of Oregon Coast Anglers, to fire off a quick email. Steve’s email was directed to Richard Hargrave and since I feel that he was somewhat eloquent, I’ll repeat the meat of the email in its entirety.
““With all the effort to remove Gill Netting form the Columbia River I was disappointed to read that the ODF&W Commissioners had elected to allow continued Gill Netting on the Columbia River. There must be some rational for doing this! I’ll describe my response from an angler’s perspective. I pay all my fees required to fish in the Great State of Oregon, which includes the Columbia River Basin Endorsement $9.75. The Columbia River Basin Endorsement was enacted to reimburse the Oregon Government for revenue lost by eliminating commercial fishing on the Columbia River. Now, you have reinstated commercial fishing on the Columbia River. So, I think, as many of the anglers, who fish the Columbia River Basin, the endorsement should be eliminated and those who have paid, it should be reimbursed.”
“My feeling on the subject is that the ODFW collected money under false pretenses. As for Steve’s hoped for reimbursement, past history indicates that it will never happen. When anglers who purchased 2-rod licenses lost the use of those licenses for three months on the three largest lakes along the Oregon coast because they had coho salmon seasons, there were no reimbursements – even for non-salmon anglers. The cost for a combined angling tag for salmon, steelhead, halibut and sturgeon did not go down when sturgeon were essentially removed from it.
“Managing Oregon’s fish and wildlife is not an easy job and reducing outdoor opportunities or bag limits is quite similar to raising prices – they both reduce the value received from the money spent by individual anglers. To be fair, one should be as vocal about ODFW actions one agrees with as they are about actions they don’t. It’s far too easy to just gripe. Now for some of the details of last week’s ODFW decision.
“Spring and summer Chinook Endangered Species Act (ESA) impacts will be allocated 80 percent for recreational fisheries; 20 percent for commercial fisheries. Commercial fishing with tangle nets allowed on the mainstem river in the spring and large mesh gillnets in the summer. Fall Chinook ESA impacts will be allocated 66 percent for recreational fisheries and 34 percent for commercial fisheries. Gillnets will be allowed in Zones 4 and 5 and coho tangle nets will be allowed in Zones 1 through 3.
“The Young’s Bay “control zone” fishery closure will continue.
“Removal of the barbless hook requirement for lower Willamette River and Oregon off-channel recreational fisheries.
“Continued enhancement in off-channel areas for commercial harvest.
“The Commission also set by rule the 2017 average market price per pound of each species of fish commercially-harvested in Oregon. These values are adopted every January and are used to assess damages in criminal cases associated with the unlawful taking of food fish.
“Hunters who purchased deer or elk tags have until Jan. 31st to report their results even if they didn’t actually hunt. Failure to do so will mean paying a $25 penalty when purchasing their 2018 hunting license. Don’t be surprised if in future years if there is a financial penalty for failing to report hunting results of cougar, bear, pronghorn or turkey hunts – or for not sending in one’s combined angling tags. I know it’s a little trouble, but give the ODFW the information they need to better manage the resource.
“Some of the things I would like to see the ODFW make happen for future years are:
“(1) – Reopen Mill Creek to fishing.
“(2) – Tweak the fishing days on spring and summer halibut openers to make them equally fair for people working a normal (Monday through Friday) work week.
“(3) – Post the trout stocking schedule on the ODFW website in a more timely fashion (Jan. 1st would be a good choice) and include special plants of broodstock or other trout species.
“(4) – Reopen the Soda Springs section of the North Umpqua River to fishing to reduce smolt mortality due to predation by brown and rainbow trout.
“(5) – Begin trout plants in Fords Pond now that it is managed by the city of Sutherlin and no longer under private ownership and restricted access.”
Despite river levels once again hitting Flood Stage as recently as January 19th, a break in precipitation has allowed Rogue flows at Agness to drop, then drop some more to provide steelheaders decent conditions for the coming weekend and beyond. Water depth at Agness was 7.66 feet while flows were 12,800 and dropping on Thursday, January 26th. While only a couple additional winter steelhead had shown at the Cole Rivers Hatchery Facility as of this writing, that winter fish are entering at all is indicative that the Rogue has fish throughout. Visibility may be a challenge at various locations on the river as outflow from Lost Creek Reservoir has dropped to 1,480 cfs which means most of the river flow is from adjunct tributaries which can be subject to turbidity but without rainfall, shouldn’t contribute heavily. The Army Corps of Engineers have either run into some problem or are late getting the reservoir filled as this was scheduled to occur early this week. Regardless, the upper Rogue has been fishing better than the Agness or Grants Pass stretch and is worth the trip. OK, we got just a little inside information. Don’t forget to take a couple of the MagLip plugs in 3.0 or 3.5 ‘cause they just flat-out catch steelhead here.
Sure, rain over the past week pushed lower Chetco flows over 20,000 cfs but now that the south coast has been blessed by relief from storms for a while (a while equals (‘til Feb. 1. More later), the Chetco is a lamb, flowing along at 3,200 cfs near Brookings. Water and flow will be dropping into the coming week with winter steelheading good during the last period when it was fishable. Now, about that next storm front. While predictions aren’t as accurate four days out (they call them ‘trends’ or some such) there’s a storm a-brewin’ and while it’s not predicted to raise water levels to levels we saw at mid-January, by February 3rd, it will make its presence known.
Now that the surface of Diamond Lake has been frozen for a while no slowing in ice fishers’ enthusiasm over the past week. Catches have been fair to good with no complaints from the participants who seem to be having fun no matter what. As of Wednesday this week, there were no rooms available at the lodge but there is a waiting list for the weekend. Not pimpin’ … just letting you know.