Central & South Oregon Coast Fishing Reports for March 17th

Ah, the winter sea! So productive yet so formidable at this time of year. When wind and wave allow safe launches and returns, a good time will be had by all. Keep a close eye on sites which keep an eye on offshore conditions for you. There are some decent days in the forecast, like 2.5 foot swells at 16-second intervals in 11 mph breezes at Noon on this coming Tuesday but hey! Those conditions transform to daunting 16 footers at 11 seconds with a 32-mph wind by 2 PM. Be careful out there!

Depoe Bay charters over the past weekend took near-limits Saturday including good numbers of ling cod with weather cutting efforts short. On Sunday last, limits were universal for rockfish and ling cod with only Dungeness catches falling short of the legal maximum number – by quite a bit, actually.

Crabbing has slowed with offshore commercial efforts impacting recreational takes. Unfortunately, there isn’t an inshore alternative now as heavy freshwater flows are pushing Dungeness either low in the estuary or out to sea.

According to the ADA this week, harvesting of mussels, bay clams, is OPEN from the Columbia River to Cape Arago. Recreational crabbing remains OPEN along the entire coast from the Columbia River to the California border. Razor clamming is closed along the entire coast because of domoic acid. Bay clams and butter clams are available coast wide, and mussels are now closed south of Cape Arago near Charleston. The recreational harvest of mussels is CLOSED from Cape Arago (south of Coos Bay) to the California border for elevated levels of paralytic shellfish toxin. Shellfish hotline: 1-800-448-2474. http://www.oregon.gov/oda/programs/FoodSafety/Shellfish/Pages/ShellfishClosures.aspx

Author, publisher and prolific blogger, Pete Heley (peteheley.com) sends us this from Reedsport, “It seems that there are increasing reports of spotted bass being caught in Cottage Grove and Dorena reservoirs. However, it seems that the only spotted bass population acknowledged by the ODFW resides in Lost Creek Reservoir. Lost Creek has spotted bass for about ten years, but the population hasn’t taken over even though the reservoir’s drastic water level changes would seem to favor the spotted bass. So far no big spots have been reported taken at Lost Creek, but a few spots to at least four pounds have been reported taken from Cottage Grove and Dorena reservoirs – as well as smallmouth bass to at least five pounds. Since none of these waters contain kokanee, the common factor when it comes to producing truly outsized spots and smallies, don’t expect any record breakers.

After a brief respite, trout stocking along the Oregon coast resumes on a very strong note. Trout plants for the Big Creek Reservoirs in Newport last month were delayed due to dam construction and if those trout are added to the trout scheduled to be planted this week, there are going to be a lot of trout swimming around in those small reservoirs.

In Coos County, both Lower and Upper Empire Lakes are each slated to receive 1,500 12-inch rainbows this week. Although the plants are seldom announced, both Saunders and Butterfield Lakes have each received plants of adult winter steelhead from the STEP fish trap in Tugman Park at Eel Lake.

Even closer to home, this week Lake Marie is slated to receive its first trout plant of this year consisting of 2,000 legal rainbows. Also this week, Loon Lake will receive its second trout plant – this one consisting of 1,500 legal rainbows. Roseburg-area waters being planted this week include Cooper Creek Reservoir (1,500 legals); Galesville Reservoir (2,000 legals) and Plat “I” Reservoir (1,000 legals).

The Roseburg-area waters being planted will be muddy, as will Loon Lake, but the small amount of water on Loon Lake above where the Lake Creek inlet enters the lake will be less muddy. Lake Marie will be clear and fishing off the trail that surrounds the lake should be easier this year due to a major clean-up project courtesy of the quite active fishing club, the Oregon Coast Anglers.

The first Umpqua River spring chinook was caught about two weeks ago in the Scottsburg area and last week the Rogue River gave up its first springer this year. Very muddy water should keep fishing pressure light for the next few weeks. Although not many springers are hooked at Half Moon Bay and off the South Jetty, the influx of seawater during high tides should allow the lowermost Umpqua River to be clear enough to fish long before the river clears farther upstream clears.

Bottomfishing in waters deeper than 180 feet deep (30 fathoms) will end at midnight on March 31st. More shallow marine waters will remain open all year, but cabezon of 16-inches in length or longer won’t be legal to keep until July 1st.

A friend of mine fishing for yellow perch off the fishing dock at the county park on South Tenmile Lake last week reported that a fellow angler told him that a state record perch had been caught there a couple of weeks ago. But the state record yellow perch remains a two pound two ounce fish caught 46 years ago – so the fish in question was either a figment of the dock angler’s imagination or not turned in for state record consideration.

The timing is right to catch a record perch. Although some perch in western Oregon have already spawned, many are at their maximum weight for the year. However an angler will never receive credit for catching a state record fish without first getting it officially weighed on an accurate scale such as those used by supermarkets. Then he needs to get the names and addresses or phone numbers of any witnesses to the weighing, take a good color photo and then send the info to the Oregon Bass and Panfish Club which is currently in charge of keeping records for Oregon’s warmwater fish.

The 4-3 decision by the ODFW Commission to continue allowing gill netting in the Columbia River has resulted in very heated responses in the community thread of ifish.net. It seems that the commissioners voted to ignore the very purpose of Columbia River Enhancement Plan, then when directed by the governor to move to compliance with the state of Washington which remained closer to the intended purpose of the Columbia River enhancement Plan, did not. Instead, the Oregon Commission wrote a letter to the Washington Commission urging them to move toward their position.

While Oregon’s governor finally seems to be on the right side of this controversy, she remains complicit because of her ODFW Commission appointments. Please follow the online thread on ifish.net for more detailed information and don’t blame the ODFW in general. Most ODFW employees do not agree with the commissioners vote, yet are taking much of the heat for it.

As for me, I find it reprehensible that the commissioners have not only reneged on the CRE Plan, but are attempting to convince the WDFW commissioners to do likewise. It seems that the entire amount of money collected on Columbia River Enhancement fishing license surcharges is at risk of being refunded via a class action suit.

There is a ODFW Commission meeting in Salem this week that will address the controversy – and hopefully do something about it.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet Friday, March 17 at the Benton County Fairgrounds (Guerber Hall, 110 SE 53rd Street, Corvallis) to reconsider their rules on Columbia River Fisheries Reform adopted Jan. 20.

Friday’s meeting starts at 8 a.m. and follows this agenda http://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/minutes/17/03_march/index.asp

On Thursday March 16, Commissioners will tour several projects in the area including Bald Hill Farms, EE Wilson Wildlife Area, Smithfield Oaks and the Buena Vista Ramp Boat Project. Members of the public are welcome to join the tour but must provide their own transportation and lunch. Meet at the Holiday Inn Express, 781 NE 2nd Ave, Corvallis by 8:30 a.m. on Thursday to join the tour.

On Friday, the Commission will revisit the rules it adopted in January for the long-term management of lower Columbia River salmon fisheries. On Jan. 20, the Commission adopted fisheries reform rules designed to improve the economic returns commercial fisheries relative to both an economic baseline and to pre-policy allocation and gear shifts. Rules enacted eliminated gillnets from spring fisheries but not in other seasons, and differed substantively from the policy adopted by the State of Washington.

At next week’s meeting the Commission will act on a request from Governor Kate Brown to reconsider its January decision. The Governor’s letter to Commission chair Michael Finley stressed the importance of concurrence with Washington regulations, and of adopting policies that better align with the guiding principles of Senate Bill 830. ODFW staff will update analyses and provide a recommendation for Commission action, which can be found on the ODFW website.”

3/12/17 COMMERCIAL TROLL SALMON ACTION NOTICE: 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 Vancouver, Washington and have taken the following in-season management action to the scheduled March and April commercial troll Chinook salmon openings off Oregon:

(1) The commercial troll salmon fishery scheduled to open on March 15 in the area from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. will remain closed to commercial troll salmon fishing for the period of March 15 through at least April 14.

(2) The commercial troll salmon fishery scheduled to open on March 15 in the area from Humbug Mt. to the Oregon/California Border will remain closed to commercial troll salmon fishing until further notice.

RATIONALE: Fishery managers and industry representatives agreed that this closure was needed to reduce impacts on Klamath River fall Chinook in order to provide more flexibility in other season options that are currently under development. 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, there are two potential April 15 openings: (1) Cape Falcon to the Florence South Jetty, and (2) Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. These two early season alternatives are anticipated to be included with the season alternatives that will be considered early in the April PFMC meeting in Sacramento, California.

Seasons from May 1, 2017 through April 30, 2018 are currently being developed. Season alternatives will be reviewed and a final season recommendation made at the Pacific Fishery Management Council public meeting in Sacramento, California on April 6 through April 10.

3/12/17 RECREATIONAL OCEAN SALMON UPDATE: The season for Chinook salmon in ocean waters from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. will open as scheduled for the period of March 15, 2017 through April 30, 2017. This season is open for all salmon except Coho Salmon, with a bag limit of two salmon per day, and minimum sizes of 24 inches total length for Chinook Salmon, and 20 inches total length for steelhead.

Anglers are restricted to no more than two single point barbless hooks when fishing for salmon, and when fishing for any other species if a salmon is on board the vessel.

Anglers fishing in ocean waters adjacent to Tillamook Bay between Twin Rocks and Pyramid Rock and within the 15 fathom depth contour are reminded that only adipose fin-clipped Chinook Salmon may be retained or on board while fishing prior to August 1.

Seasons from May 1, 2017 through April 30, 2018 are currently being developed. Season alternatives will be reviewed and a final season recommendation made at the Pacific Fishery Management Council public meeting in Sacramento, California from April 6 through April 10.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council the three options it is considering include:

•May 27 to July 9, plus Sept. 2 to 4, for a total of 47 days,

•May 27 to 30, June 1 to 30 and July 1 to 4, for four days a week, for a total of 38 days, or

•May 27 to 31 and June 24 to July 4, for a total of 16 days.

Additional information can be obtained at www.pcouncil.org.

The Rogue River at Agness is blown out at 12,400 and looks to forecasters of such things to best it’s gonna be for a while. A similar story can be tracked at data points heading upstream and the forecasters say, “That rivers gonna be rising.” But seriously, yeah, and through the foreseeable future. On Saturday, March 11th, storm precipitation pushed the outflow from Lost Creek Reservoir from a common 2,300 cfs to 3,600 cfs as of this writing on March 16th in an effort by Army Corps of Engineers to regulate levels of the impoundment should it be needed for flood control, which danger should nearly be passed.
At the latest report, Cole Rivers Hatchery had fewer than 350 winter steelhead at the facility although that’s about a third greater than the 10-year average.

Chetco flows darned near dropped to levels at which drift boats can ply their piscatorial wares on Wednesday, March 16th as it appeared to be heading toward 4,000 cfs. Alas, today the water is yet again increasing in flow, measure 4,740 at 10:30 AM as more water poured into the system. It will be up and down in the coming week with plunkers having the best shot at a hookup.