Southwest Oregon Fishing Reports December 22nd, 2017


Shore and estuary anglers may fish for surfperch, flatfish species like starry flounder and sanddabs, and baitfish (herring, for example).
Anglers from Winchester Bay are reporting good surf perch fishing in the Triangle and south jetty areas.

With the Chetco, Elk and Winchuck rivers running low and clear, anglers may want hit Garrison Lake for some trout fishing.
Expo and Reinhart ponds will be stocked this week in time for Christmas.
Winter steelhead should be arriving to Coos and Coquille rivers.
Winter steelhead fishing is picking up on the Umpqua.
Trolling for wild coho and holdover rainbow has yielded some quality fish in Tenmile Lakes.


Low and clear. Anglers may find some early steelhead holding in the lower river waiting for the next good rain.   There are a few fresh Chinook holding in some of the deeper holes, but most salmon have started to spawn.

COOS RIVER BASIN: Dungeness crab, bay clams, rockfish, steelhead

Streams and rivers are now closed to trout fishing until May 22, 2018.

The rivers in the Coos Basin are low and clear but should change with the next rain. Steelhead anglers are reporting an occasional steelhead being caught. Fishing should pick up with the next significant rain. Anglers fishing the South Fork Coos River above Dellwood will need a permit from Weyerhaeuser, which allows the angler to access up to the Seven Mile Bridge. Permits can be obtained at Weyerhaeuser’s Coos Bay office. In the Coos Basin, 1 additional hatchery steelhead may be retained per day for a total aggregate of 3 adult fish harvested daily.

Recreational fishing for bottomfish is closed through Dec. 31 because the quotas for several species have been reached. Recreational fishing for bottomfish wil re-open on Jan. 1 in the ocean along with bays and estuaries. The daily bag limit will be 5 marine fish plus 2 lingcod. There will be no retention of cabezon until July 1.

Crabbing and clamming updates can now be found in the Crabbing and Clamming section of the Recreation Report.

COQUILLE RIVER BASIN: crab, trout, steelhead

Streams and rivers are now closed to trout fishing until next spring.

The steelhead rivers in the Coquille Basin are running low and clear. Steelhead anglers have been plunking in the tidewater sections of the Coquille River near the town of Coquille in hopes of the first returning winter steelhead. In the Coquille Basin 1 additional hatchery steelhead may be retained per day for a total aggregate of 3 adult fish harvested daily.

Beginning Jan. 1, anglers will have the opportunity to harvest 1 wild steelhead per day, 3 for the season from the East Fork Coquille River. The open area for steelhead fishing in the East Fork remains the same as in past years. These regulations are listed in the 2018 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.


Fishing may be difficult considering the winter storm warnings. The good news is that ice fishing may be around the corner.

Diamond Lake has been stocked with tiger trout. These fish are intended to assist in controlling illegally introduced tui chub. Tiger trout are catch-and-release only and need to be released immediately and unharmed if caught.

ELK RIVER: Chinook

Low and clear. Anglers can check river conditions by calling 541-332-0405. The best river height to drift the river is 5.2 feet and dropping.

Rogue River, lower: winter steelhead

Low and clear. A few steelhead are spread throughout the lower river. This is a good time to try and catch a steelhead fly-fishing or with spinner fishing.

Rogue River, middle: coho, steelhead, trout

Summer steelhead are available, but cold, clear water is making fishing challenging. Anglers should down-size their tackle and work their offerings slowly along the bottom. The river is also open for trout fishing. Five hatchery trout may be harvested per day. Wild trout must be released unharmed.

As of Monday morning, the flow in Grants Pass was 1780 cfs, the water temperature was 40oF, and the clarity was 1 NTUs. Rain from a cold front this week is expected to cause the river to rise, but will be followed by more cold weather. For those interested in checking conditions before getting on the river, the City of Grants Pass Water Division’s website offers information on river conditions at Grants Pass as well as a link to a river camera.

SMITH RIVER, Umpqua: steelhead

Steelhead fishing opened Dec. 1 upstream to Sisters Creek on the mainstem and to bridge ten (~14.5 miles up the N.F. Smith River Rd.) on the North Fork. Chinook fishing is still open, however it is closed above Spencer Creek on the mainstem and Johnson Creek on the North Fork. Most Chinook are on the spawning grounds and fishing is likely slow. Steelhead fishing should pick up as we move closer to January. The Smith can be one of the first to clear after a large storm event.

From TGF’s friend Pete Heley (

Last Tuesday Dwayne Schwartz fished Tenmile Lake for the first time in several months. He started out fishing 3”-inch Berkley Powerbait worms for yellow perch and then switched to nightcrawler-halves and ended up quitting after an hour with four perch to nine inches. He then switched over to fishing for coho salmon and almost immediately lost his favorite lake coho lure, a red rattletrap, to a snag. Looking for another lure, he spied a chatterbait that he had never used.

Within a few minutes he had caught and released two coho jacks and an adult coho as well as a 15.5-inch trout and a largemouth bass that weighed more than four pounds.

It appears that the three coastal coho lakes are receiving very few fresh salmon and the fishing is basically for salmon already in the lake that have not yet ascended the lakes’ tributary streams where they are off limits to anglers. Yellow perch are available in all three lakes as are rainbow and cutthroat trout with most of the trout coming out of Siltcoos and Tenmile lakes. Cold water temperatures have definitely slowed the perch bite and the abundant perch populations in Florence-area lakes such as Cleawox, Mercer, Munsel, Sutton and Woahink have been largely overlooked. The few anglers fishing the upper ends of Eel Lake’s two arms have been catching a few rainbow and cutthroat trout. Sutton Lake can also offer fair winter trout fishing.

Anglers fishing Tenmile Creek for winter steelhead have encountered a few coho salmon which are illegal to keep or even target. It will happen more often when Eel Creek opens to steelhead angling on January 1st. While Tenmile Creek’s winter steelhead fishery doesn’t really get going until after Christmas virtually all the other steelhead streams in our area contain decent numbers of fish by mid-December.

Jetty anglers tired of only being able to keep only striped are looking forward to January 1st when they, once again, can keep lingcod, rockfish and greenling, but the primary catch on most jetties will still be striped surfperch. Anglers wanting to retain cabezon will have to wait until July 1st when they can keep one cabezon per day at least 16-inches in length. The normal season for retaining cabezon runs from July 1st through December, but this year’s season was canceled due to the emergency bottomfish closure.

Anglers fishing the surf along area beaches have enjoyed fair to good perch fishing, but the fishing success has varied greatly. The fish have seemed to move around a lot and surf conditions don’t always allow for effective fishing. Most of the catch has been redtail surfperch which seem to bite best on the flood or incoming tide. But occasionally, walleyed surfperch show well and they seem to bite best at high slack tide. Most anglers are using Berkley Gulp sandworms in the camo finish for bait.

Recreational crabbing continues to be superb along the open portions of the Oregon coast. Pretty much all of Coos Bay has been productive, but most of the crabbing pressure has been between Empire and Charleston. As for Winchester Bay, Half Moon Bay has been the most popular spot for boat crabbers. Surprisingly, the docks continue to be productive and last Friday, Tom Goodman, of Winchester Bay, brought what possibly was the largest dungeness crab I have ever seen into the Stockade Market. It was caught earlier that morning off “A” Dock and measured 8.5-inches across the back.

The best crabbing has been in the ocean and it has been almost unbelievable. Many crabbers who have ventured only a short distance out into the ocean have reported catching their boat limit of crabs before completing the first pull of their gear. Ocean crabbing success could change quickly for the worse should commercial crabbing resume and southern Oregon commercial crabbers be limited to the 30 mile stretch of open ocean between Tahkenitch Creek and the North Jetty of the Coquille River at Bandon.

Fishing and hunting licenses for 2018 are now available for purchase, but eager outdoor sportsmen need to remember that those 2018 licenses and tags ARE NOT VALID until January 1st of 2018. For a quick and trouble-free license-purchasing experience bring a 2017 or older non-handwritten ODFW-issued license or tag with you. If it has clear, scannable barcode the license can be purchased in seconds.

One of the most disappointing aspects of selling ODFW licenses is how many 12 to 17 year olds that want to take advantage of the $10.00 yearly license that allows them to legally hunt, fish, crab or clam, but they do not know their social security numbers. Having one’s SSN entered into the ODFW licensing system is a requirement for purchasing any yearly license or tag for anyone 12 years of age or older. This bargain combo license, as well as a $5.00 salmon tag is also available to nonresident youths, as well – if they know their social security numbers.

The last of Oregon’s free fishing weekends which would have been Dec. 30th and 31st was canceled this year and the dates changed for 2018. The free fishing weekends for 2018 are February 17th and 18th, June 2nd and 3rd, September 1st and 2nd and November 23rd and 24th.

I hope that the outdoor sportsmen that think the ODFW already charges too much for their licenses and tags realize they are paying even more when they purchase their licenses and tags online due to the $2.00 shipping and handling fee.

Pete Heley works part-time at the Stockade Market & Tackle, across from ‘A’ Dock, in Winchester Bay where he is more than happy to swap fishing info with anyone.