Central & South Oregon Coast Fishing Reports for Sept 30th

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Be careful not to exceed to 20 fathoms (a mere 120 feet) when fishing for rockfish of any variety or ling cod, most of which are of the toothy variety. Additionally, don’cha dare go deeper in search of halibut as that’s verboten as well. At least it is through tomorrow (which is important to note for halibut fishers, more on that follows). This is because the restriction on bottom dishing will be lifted on Saturday, October 1st, on which day and for the rest of the year, boaters may fish whatever depth they please in search of rocks and lings. It’s good thing.

Although 12% remained in the All-Depth Halibut quota for the central Oregon coast, and fishing is open Friday, September 30th and Saturday, October 1st. And, unless some additional scheduling wizardry occurs, these two days are the last shootout for deep water ‘buts this year. That ol’ Deb’l South Wind may make yet cause a washout this weekend so stay tuned. Central coast nearshore halibut season is scheduled to remain open through October but with just 4% remain as of the last report on September 25th, we’re thinking it won’t go the distance. On the other hand, the South coast fishery, with no depth or distance restriction, is likely to continue through October 31st as 46% of that quota remains to be caught.

Boats launching out of Newport to cross the Yaquina Bay bar have been traveling about a mile north of the jetty to drop post in 60 or so feet of water. Results have been remarkable lately with ocean crabbers telling of releasing many more legal-sized crab than they kept and the ones retained of remarkable size and chock full o’ meat.

There has been some question regarding the wild coho fishery at Siltcoos and Tahkenitch lakes (with the former generally more productive). Small wonder since these regulations weren’t included in the 2016 fishing regulations booklet. Here’s the straight poop, applicable to both lakes:
Open for coho salmon Oct. 1 – Dec. 31

• 1 wild adult coho and 1 jack coho may be harvested per day
• No more than 5 wild coho, in aggregate from both the Northwest and Southwest angling zones, may be retained per year.
• Coho angling allowed upstream of Hwy 101 bridge, downstream of the first road crossing on Mallard Arm, and downstream of the 059 bridge on the five-mile arm.
• Closed to two rod angling for all species during coho season.

Waters of the Siuslaw River have been getting fairly crowded lately. Particularly and predictably, weekends are far worse. The attraction is the Coho run although many of the piscatorial participants seemed to have missed the memo. Reports of trollers spending six or seven hours for two fish to the boat are common.

It seems Chinook fishing has slowed this week for those tossing spinners at Half Moon Bay, a sometimes productive area in Winchester bay for bank fishers. Only a couple of coho were reported over the past weekend. Smallmouth bass remaining willing upstream, particularly for bait anglers. On the North Umpqua, those familiar with it are catching some dandy steelhead although there is still a cadre of anglers to whom the North Umpqua is an enigma.

Fishing guru, blogger, author and publisher Pete Heley (peteheley.com) once again graces us with his presence and knowledge as he reports from Reedsport, “All-depth bottomfishing reopens in marine waters deeper than 20 fathoms (120 feet) on Saturday, Oct. 1st. Expect ling cod and rockfish angling to be very good. This restriction was intended to last through the end of the calendar year, but bottomfish anglers did a better job than expected of releasing unkeepable species of rockfish at proper depths by using descenders. If bottomfish anglers continue to effectively release deep-water bottomfish there may be less closures and restrictions in the future.

“Local fishing activist, Steve Godin, is working to make sure that all local tackle retailers will have a supply of descenders by the time the all-depth bottomfishing season reopens.

“As of Sunday, Sept. 18th – the last catch data available as I write this column, 3,351 ocean coho salmon had been caught and retained – or 44.7 percent of the quota of 7,500. The catch has been running about 15 percent of the quota per week – or slightly more than two percent per day. So by the time you are reading this on Wednesday, Sept. 28th, about 65 to 70 percent of the quota should have been caught and kept. The present rate of coho catch would have to show a major increase for the ocean coho season to close prior to September 30th..

“On a positive note, a surprising number of finclipped coho salmon were caught in the lower Umpqua River last week. Salmon have started stacking up below Winchester Creek in the “Mud Hole” where spinner and spoon flingers have caught mostly coho salmon and anglers fishing bobber and bait (sand shrimp or salmon roe) have started catching mostly jack Chinooks, but a few adult salmon as well. One can reasonably expect this fishery to really take off over the next few weeks and it will be interesting to see how much fishing pressure the spot receives – especially when many anglers will have the option of fishing two rods this year.

“We can probably blame it on the drought conditions in most of California, but this year the southern Oregon coast has produced far fewer Chinook salmon than has Oregon’s north coast. For at least the last few decades the southern portion of the state has dominated Chinook salmon catches along the Oregon coast. This disturbing “trend” may be long-lasting and is a prime example of how conditions in a nearby state can adversely affect an Oregon fishery.

“Crabbing in the ocean remains very productive when conditions allow it. Most ocean sport crabbers are crabbing at a depth of at least 50 feet with a few going as deep as 80 feet. In past years most ocean crabbers crabbed at depths of 25 to 35 feet. Some are still crabbing at the shallower depths – most likely because they are unwilling to add rope to their crab pots – and they are catching crabs – just not as many as those placing their crabbing devices in deeper water.

“Last week Mardon Resort on southeast Washington’s Potholes Reservoir hosted a rather unique fishing contest. The “Marathon Dock Fishing Contest ran from Friday at 6 pm until Sunday at 11 am and more than 150 dock=bound anglers caught hundreds of fish – some of them good-sized, but the most impressive fish caught during the contest were a 14-pound channel catfish and a nine-pound walleye. Forty eight hundred dollars were awarded in cash prizes for the heaviest fish taken of ten different fish species (bluegill, bullhead catfish, carp, channel catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, walleye and yellow perch).

“This coming Saturday (Oct. 1st) is National Hunting and Fishing Day and a good time to do one or the other – or both.

“The next and last trout plants for our area will take place during the second week of October in Bradley Lake (800); Butterfield Lake (600); Lower Empire Lake (2,000); Upper Empire Lake (2,000); Powers Pond (1,300) and Saunders Lake (1,300). All rainbow trout scheduled for stocking are the 14-inchers the ODFW refers to as “pounders”. Bradley Lake is also slated to receive to receive 800 pounders during the fourth week of October.

“One can expect fishing for largemouth bass on our local lakes and for smallmouth bass on the Umpqua and Coquille rivers to be very good over the next few weeks. As fall progresses, the best fishing will occur in the afternoons.”

In addition to providing some pretty good results for trollers targeting salmon, Coos Bay crabbers have been scoring this week. The percentage of softshell has narrowed while the quality (and number) of large legals has improved.

Over the past week, while the bar was often good, a persistent south wind prevented launching from Gold Beach. On the rare day when boats could cross, fair to good numbers of rockfish and consistent ling cod limits rewarded anglers with limits. Jigs tipped with soft plastic tails have been responsible for hooking bottom fish. Trolling in Rogue Bay has been fair to great (typical of fall Chinook fishing) with a few coho taken as well. Rogue Spinner Rigs with smaller-sized anchovies are accounting once again for the majority of hookups. For two weeks now, the Corps has scheduled lowered water flows to be released. Starting over two weeks ago and scheduled through September 29th (or possibly longer), the Corps dropped release levels from Lost Creek into the upper Rogue River to 1,150 cubic feet per second. This will mean low flows river-wide. Fly fishers are enjoying the skinny water in the lower Rogue, as usual, as more steelhead jacks and adults show up on the lower river for their entertainment. Meanwhile, gear-anglers’ forays into the lower Rogue have been challenging with algae fouling hooks and lures and hampering efforts. Chinook fishing has slowed on the middle Rogue although plugs are still taking a few and steelhead in this stretch are being taken with regularity on bait. In the coming weeks, those half-pounders and adult steelhead will be in the Grants Pass stretch. Hopefully, weather and water conditions will cooperate as well. Upper Rogue anglers are thigh-deep into the fly-fishing only scene and have been doing all right but that restriction is lifted October November 1. The upper Rogue will remain a ‘no bait zone; but hardware and lures of all description may be used as of that date.

The ODFW calls it the “2016 Chetco River Fall Chinook State Waters Terminal Area Season.” Many locals refer to it as “The Chetco bubble fishery”. We know it as the “Chetco Hawg Season” and for good reason; big Chinook will be caught. While this has been a 10-day fishery in seasons past, this year it will encompass two weekends starting Saturday, October 1st through Monday, October 3rd then close for 4 days only to open again Saturday and Sunday, October 8th & 9th for a total five-day season. Despite this mini season without reason, optimism is high as plenty of large salmon – estimated as many as 40, have been caught in Che4tco Bay of the past couple of weeks. If they’re coming in, they’re out there, just as we could be starting Saturday! Jacks are usually the first to make an appearance in Chetco Bay but not so this season, in yet another unusual twist to the fishery this year, adult Chinook – many of them quite large – were the first to be seen – and caught here. Bottom fishers tell us they have been marking salmon just outside for a while as well.