Mixed success for winter steelhead

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Central & South Coast Reports – Offshore conditions were prime on Wednesday with anglers out of Newport and Depoe Bay enjoying light winds and a flat ocean. Bottomfish did not disappoint either, with limits or near limits taken of both rockfish and lingcod. As of January 1, cabezon cannot be retained as part of a rockfish limit. The taking of cabezon will resume July 1, 2015.

Regulations regarding bottomfish limits in the New Year remain mostly unchanged. Anglers may keep seven rockfish and two ling cod 22 inches or longer per day. However, there will be a sub-bag limit of only one blue rockfish and no retention of copper, quillback or China rockfish. The allowance of one blue rockfish is due to its similarity to the common black rockfish. Offshore anglers should take the time to learn the difference.

There’s only so much accuracy possible in predicting ocean conditions off the Oregon coast, so check before making the trip. That said, marine prognosticators are optimistic about a friendly ocean through the coming weekend although swells will pick up starting Monday, January 5th.

Ocean crabbing remains open and while prospects are fair off the central Oregon coast, catches are fewer the further south when one puts in. Offshore crabbing out of Brookings has been described as “miserable.”

This is the time of year when lingcod will be moving into shallower water allowing rock and jetty fishers a shot at some larger specimens. Jigs equipped with plastic curly tails in black, white or motor oil are effective.

The recent freshet brought plenty of winter steelhead into the Alsea as a report on Tuesday this week indicated traps at the hatchery were stuffed with fish. Steelhead are being caught here as well.

Wild coho salmon fisheries on Siltcoos, Tahkenitch and Tenmile lakes closed today, January 1, 2015.

The catch-and-release fishery for wild steelhead on the mainstem Umpqua will be moving into the North Umpqua following rain storms in the past week. It’s rare to hook hatchery fish in these locations. The better chance for a hatchery keeper is on the South Umpqua with the best fishing in February and March.

Rock fishing at Coos Bay which shut off with runoff bringing silt into the bay, should return with conditions improving this week. Similarly, crabbing is expected to pick up once again as visibility improves and salinity levels return to normal. On the Coos River system, the West Fork Millicoma River is running fairly clear now and is the best bet for winter steelhead.

Water conditions on the Coquille River have improved and are now fishable. Three fin-clipped winter steelhead are allowed per angler per day.

Those of us who live on the Oregon Coast were water-aware last week as extreme high tides coincided with heavy rains and high river levels. The Corps of Engineers intended to ameliorate the impact by maintaining flows from Lost Creek Dam to no greater than 4,000 cfs. As torrents of rain fell, water volume got away from them, however, as it hit more than 21,000 cfs. On the other hand, it would have been disastrous if that dam hadn’t been in place. Currently, outflow from Lost Creek Reservoir is around 4,800 cfs which would be OK except the water is murky. This could affect water conditions far downstream. Flow at the old Gold Ray dam site is around 6,000 cfs with water temperature in the lower 40s thanks to cold weather here. Middle Rogue spawned-out fish have been replaced with fresh, bright winter steelhead but the water temperatures are in the mid-40s even here. On the lower Rogue, flows went from 30,000 cfs to the current 8,500 cfs over the past 10 days. Plunkers and plug-pullers are finding some success with winters. As of January 1, the entire Rogue is open to bait-fishing for winter steelhead. Also starting January 1, one wild steelhead may be kept per day up to five for the year. This regulation will apply to the middle and upper Rogue starting February 1.

Chetco flows are approximately 2,200 cfs as of New Year’s Day with the flows forecast to gradually moderate into the coming week. As long as visibility is decent, winter steelheading should be good as well. Catches improved slightly last week and will continue to improve into the New Year.

Water conditions are good with levels a little low on the Elk and Sixes. Boats are drifting for winter steelhead with mixed success. While these rivers boast late-running Chinook salmon, that run is about done for the year although there may be a few still around. Call 541-332-0405 for updated river conditions.

The latest reports indicate that Diamond Lake is not yet sufficiently frozen to allow for ice fishing but colder conditions will change that in coming weeks.