Rockfish on the Oregon coast

Central & South Coast Reports – This time of year, may anglers think of fishing rocks and jetties or boating nearshore for ling cod. While that logic is solid as these fish are moving shallower to spawn, charter boats out of Newport an Depoe Bay have been scoring well fishing deep water for lings.

We mentioned last week that the proposed rule to allow only a single blue rockfish in a seven-fish bag limit in 2015 became three by the time the bureaucratic dust had cleared. We mention it here by way of a reminder. In the future, however, look for further restrictions on the number of blue rockfish allowed in order that stocks may rebuild. Some are recommending that offshore anglers release all blue rockfish now to avoid further restrictions, even the possibility, albeit remote, of a total closure.

While China, copper, yelloweye and quillback rockfish are illegal to keep, expect to see one canary rockfish allowed as part of a limit starting in March of this year. We’ll share the date with readers as soon as it is announced.

Speaking of limits, who knew that offshore anglers out of Oregon ports were allowed 25 Opah per day? For a colorful (and printable) chart of ocean limits, see Random Links, below.

Reports for winter steelhead catches have been good from the mainstem and South Umpqua with steelhead running large. One report was of a 48-inch steelhead from the mainstem but that report was not accompanied by a photograph. Pulling plugs has been most effective this week.

Crabbing has been improving at Coos Bay this week with Dungeness hard and full of meat. Rockfishing slowed following the last spate of rain but has also been picking up over the past few days. Winter steelhead has been Decent on the Coos River with best results coming from the West Fork Millicoma although prospects are improving on South Fork Coos and East Fork Millicoma.

Anglers say so, professional guides believe it and ODFW fisheries biologists defend it: An early winter steelhead run on the Rogue River is an indicator of a strong run to come. That being the case, 2015 should be an absolutely outstanding winter steelhead season as the first fish showed at Cole Rivers hatchery on December 30th, the earliest in the 41-year history of the facility. So early in fact, the computer had to be re-programmed according to David Pease, hatchery manager, as there was no allowance for winter steelhead coming in December. Catches on the river so far this season seem to indicate a good run, indeed. Bank and boat anglers have been taking good numbers of fresh winter steelhead on the lower Rogue this week. Drift rigs and plugs have been drawing strikes. Flows on the middle Rogue was about 3,000 cfs at mid-day today, January 22nd with the forecast indication a gradual drop through the weekend and into the week to come. Plugs have been effective this week and catches have remained consistent. With most winters in this stretch returning to the hatchery on the Applegate River, best results have been coming from the stretch downstream from the mouth of that tributary. Winter steelhead numbers are building on the upper Rogue and while it’s still early, anglers are targeting them, landing a few here and there.

Boats out of the Port of Brookings have been blessed with excellent bottom fishing this January. Consistent limits of ling cod have often been comprised of larger fish which are nearshore as the spawn approaches. Lings have not been selective, either, as they are devouring every bait or lure thrown at them. Steelheading has been good as the Chetco has been recovering from rain storms earlier this week but level and flow will drop and water visibility will clear to combine for challenging conditions in the next few days. At this writing on Thursday, January 22nd, the Chetco is just below 3,000 cfs at Brookings and fishing well. The problems will come when the level drops below 1,000 cfs on Sunday as predicted.

Rain over the past weekend put some water and fresh steelhead into the Elk and Sixes rivers with reports of hatchery fish being taken on the Sixes. Winters are scattered now as water levels drop and clear.

The frozen surface at Diamond Lake is still too thin to allow for ice fishing. If the ice doesn’t firm up soon, the season could be a wash this year.