Central & South Oregon Coast Fishing Reports for March 24th

From Newport to Brookings, right now is the best possible time to target ling cod. They are at the peak of their season and can, have and will be caught off rocks and jetties now that they have entered shallow water to spawn. Limits are de rigueur.

Jon Connolly from Grants Pass was fishing with his son Bradley last week out of the Port of Brookings Harbor when the two limited out on lingcod, one of which was this hefty 25-pounder. The pair also caught 11 rockfish. Photo Credit: Larry Ellis

Rockfish anglers have new bag limits for 2017. Anglers can keep no more than six black rockfish as part of that seven-fish aggregate limit. Also, there’s a new, combined, four-fish sub-limit for a combination of blue/deacon, China, copper and quillback rockfish. Rockfish anglers must carry at least one descending device and use it when releasing any fish caught in 30 fathoms of water or deeper. Pictured is the previously protected and forbidden Canary Rockfish, of which anglers may keep up to seven – the full rockfish limit.

The recreational harvest of razor clams as well as Mussels is closed from the Columbia River to the California but remains open for Bay Clams but probably not worthwhile ’til after the flood, so to speak.

Anglers are reminded of the upcoming Spring All-Depth Halibut season, open days for which be Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the Central Coast Sub-Area which is from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain. A good season is expected with a quota of 51,712 pounds. The opener for this fishery will be May 11th through 13th.

Whenever there’s a day when the surf lays down a bit and ocean breezes tame, there will be surf perch to catch and it doesn’t matter what part of the coast you’re on. Find a steep beach where waves are breaking closer to the beach, indicating deep water. Cast natural baits like sand shrimp or mussels but results seem to be just as good on Berkeley Gulp soft plastics.

Author, publisher and prolific blogger, Pete Heley (peteheley.com) reports to us from Reedsport, “Outside of continued cool, often rainy weather, most of the news this week has been good.

The ODFW Commission reversed their earlier vote regarding Columbia River gillnetting by a unanimous 7 – 0 vote and may now be considered “back on the reservation”. Kudos to the Washington Fish Commission for refusing to agree with the earlier vote of the Oregon Commission. Even better, the portion of salmon allotted to sport anglers was increased. Newspapers and various online fishing forums are giving this subject the in-depth coverage it deserves.

It was decided that the first of Oregon’s “free fishing weekends” this year will be April 22nd and 23rd – a weekend when there should be multiple fishing options. The regular “free fishing weekend”, before Oregon added additional such weekends will be June 3rd and 4th this year – also a good time to fish and that date should offer better crabbing.

Also, it appears that Soda Springs Reservoir, a 25-acre reservoir on the North Umpqua River will reopen to fishing next year. The reservoir has been closed the last few years following work on the dam that opened up several miles of the North Umpqua above the reservoir for salmon and steelhead spawning. The proposed regulation change was made after fisheries personnel observed large trout, mostly brown trout, feeding on smolts. Sometimes common sense does prevail.

The ocean Chinook salmon season opened as usual on March 15th. However, the season is “locked in” only through April at which time there will be an evaluation and the season may not last until its usual Oct. 31st closure.

A number of Coos County waters will be stocked with trout this week. Bradley Lake, Butterfield Lake and Saunders Lake as well as Johnson Mill Pond and Powers Pond will each receive 3,000 legal rainbows. Trophy rainbows of 15-inches or slightly longer will also be stocked, with 200 going into Bradley, 150 into Powers Pond and 50 into Johnson Mill Pond.

Also being stocked this week are Eel Lake with 2,500 legal rainbows. Both Upper and Lower Empire Lakes are each slated to receive 1,000 14-inch rainbows and 250 trophy rainbows.

Anglers visiting the northern Oregon coast should be aware that virtually all the area waters that receive trout plants between Tillamook and the Washington border will be stocked this week.

Bottomfishing in Marine waters deeper than 180 feet will close at the end of March.

Warmwater angling has been very disappointing with unusually cool water temperatures and inconsistent, often miserable weather. As of last week, many of the walkways to docks adjacent to coastal boat ramps have been under water. Horsfall Lake, which almost dries up every fall is now full to the point where it is blocking access to Horsfall Beach.

At least the days are getting longer.

Noted Reedsport lure maker, Jason Saunders, recently expanded his fishing horizons by catching this impressive skate:”

Pete Heley works weekends at the Stockade Market & Tackle in Winchester Bay where he is more than happy to swap fishing info with anyone.

Will this ever end? All sports writers are sick of trying to find a new way to phrase ‘high water.’ And this effort is mostly in vain. Over the week to come, f’rinstance, the Rogue at Agness will be vary from 17,000 to 23,000 cfs. It’s not bad enough that the Rogue is higher than hell but water fluctuation deals a whole ’nother kind of bad hand to steelheaders. On the Grants Pass stretch, anglers will find the water height at six feet tomorrow (Friday) morning but it’ll be 7.3 feet by Saturday, March 25th. That a difference in flows from 9,000 to 12,000 cfs. Not good. Even flow at the old Gold Ray Dam site will be between 8,000 and 10,000 cfs. Flows out of Lost Creek Reservoir have been steady at ~4,700 cfs. High water river-wide. It’s bad enough that even plunkers are getting discouraged yet may be successful in the Dodge Bridge stretch where flows should remain in the 6,000 cfs range. That’s high for the upper Rogue bus should be plunkable. Try to stay in Migration lanes and consider on o’ those MagLip plugs in 3.0 or 3.5 sizes. Gold has been most popular here. On another topic, the first spring Chinook of the year was landed on Tuesday last week by a plug-puller on the lower river. Prepare for springers in the river when the current high water drops to fishable levels. It will be on, barring further wet spring surprises.

Chetco water levels are too high to fish and may not recover ‘til April. Why this is relevant now – Many south coast rivers will be closed to winter steelheading at the end of day on March 31st. Should the river drop sufficiently to fish before the deadline, end-of-March fishing is expected to be slow although a fair number of spawned-out steelhead are likely to be hooked. These are easily identifiable as the body cavity will be caved in, giving these fish a snake-like appearance. While often aggressive, they are not fit to take home. Release ‘em to return next season.

“There’s a pot of gold in Empire Lakes,” according to the ODFW, “A $50 VISA gift card goes home with anglers who catch a specially tagged rainbow trout here. Anglers who harvest trout with a specially marked four-digit tag number will receive a $50 VISA gift card when the tag is brought to the Charleston ODFW Field Office. All other tags can be reported by calling the field office or using this online form.

Empire Lakes is a popular coastal rainbow trout fishery, and ODFW biologists need anglers to help them keep it that way by reporting tagged fish they catch. ODFW is tagging 500 legal-plus (12 to 13 inches) hatchery rainbow trout through June. Fisheries biologist Gary Vonderohe asks anglers to report tags on fish they catch even if they don’t harvest them.” With the prize at stake, trout fishers will call in all the tags to see if theirs is a winner. Clever and crafty.

Although a recent report for Diamond Lake indicated a stable surface, the air temperature has been above freezing so calling the resort for an update would be a swell idea. If it’s a no-go for ice fishing, you could always try this: