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Weekly Recreation Report: Marine Zone


May 24, 2016

 Marine Zone Fishing

Fishing Boats , Newport

Fishing Boats , Newport
-Photo by Kathy Munsel-

Send us your fishing report

We’d love to hear about your recent fishing experience. Send us your own fishing report through ODFW Fishing Reports -- the information will be forwarded to the local biologist who may use it to update various ODFW resources such as the Weekly Recreation Report.

Saltwater News Bulletins

You can subscribe to receive e-mails and text message alerts for marine topics you are interested in. It’s easy to unsubscribe at any time. Your phone and e-mail information will remain confidential. Six different lists of interest to ocean enthusiasts are available: Bottomfish (recreational), Halibut (recreational), Ocean Salmon (recreational), Ocean Salmon (commercial troll), Commercial Nearshore Groundfish, and Marine Reserves.

Marine Reserves and Other Management Designations

Fishing, crabbing, clamming, hunting and gathering seaweed are prohibited at Oregon’s five marine reserves, including the Cape Falcon Marine Reserve and Marine Protected Area (new for 2016). Beach walking, surfing, bird watching, diving and other non-extractive uses continue to be allowed at reserves. See complete details and marine reserve maps (listed north to south):

More information on marine reserves regulations and downloadable GPS coordinates

Want to know more? Subscribe to marine reserves e-news updates.

In addition to marine reserves, there are several other management areas to be aware of, such as the Stonewall Bank conservation area (west of Newport) and marine gardens, described in the 2016 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations (pages 79-83).

Ocean Salmon

The Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. Chinook salmon recreational fishing season opened March 15, 2016 and is scheduled to go until October 31, 2016. This season is open for all salmon except coho salmon, with a bag limit of two salmon per day, and minimum sizes for Chinook at 24 inches or larger, and steelhead at 20 inches or larger. Ocean Chinook fishing so far this season has been relatively slow, due to overall low effort levels. Most anglers are concentrating on bottomfish for now.
Just a reminder: Anglers are restricted to no more than two single point barbless hooks when fishing for salmon, and when fishing for any other species if a salmon is on board the vessel.

Anglers fishing in ocean waters adjacent to Tillamook Bay between Twin Rocks and Pyramid Rock and within the 15 fathom depth contour are reminded that only adipose fin-clipped Chinook salmon may be retained or on board while fishing prior to Aug. 1.

The 2016 ocean recreational and commercial troll salmon seasons were approved the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on April 22, 2016. Details and more information on ocean salmon seasons are available here.

Lingcod Face
-Photo by Brandon Ford-

Bottom Fishing

Last week was a great week for fishing along the entire coast. The north coast had great fishing with many limits and near limits. Central coast bottom fishing was also excellent on the central coast. South coast fishing was good with 3-5 fish/angler. Lingcod has been good on the south coast with an average catch of 1 lingcod/angler. Lingcod move closer to shore in spring to lay large egg masses, which are guarded by males. To catch lingcod, try a white plastic grub on a lead jig head in rocky areas when the tide is not running fast.

There’s a new rockfish in town – the Deacon rockfish. Deacon rockfish is a newly identified species that was formerly referred to as the solid version of blue rockfish. What does that mean for you? Nothing in 2016. Every rule that refers to blue rockfish (like the daily bag limit of 3) now applies to blue rockfish and deacon rockfish combined.

Just a reminder to anglers: Groundfish (bottomfish) is open only inside of the 30-fathom management line (April through September). Waypoints (pdf):

Port-specific maps showing various management fathom lines

Cabezon retention is prohibited January-June; this is an annual seasonal closure.

If you’re lucky enough to catch a colorful assortment of fish, keep in mind that the following species of rockfish are prohibited: China, copper, quillback and yelloweye. Several handouts, including “What Can I Keep, and How Many?” and species identification tips, are available on the ODFW sport groundfish webpage.

Although anglers may legally retain one canary rockfish, there is an annual management quota that, if exceeded, could restrict angling opportunities for other species, including black rockfish and lingcod. Therefore, anglers are urged to (1) avoid canary rockfish and (2) retain 1 canary rockfish only if it is bleeding from injury.

What about barotrauma? Signs of barotrauma, such as bulging eyes and a gut protruding from the mouth, are reversible when fish are returned to depth with a descending device. ODFW encourages anglers to use a descending device when releasing rockfish with signs of barotrauma. An underwater video recorded by ODFW researchers shows the dramatic results of recompressing a fish; another video demonstrates various types of descending devices.

Pacific Halibut

The very popular Central Oregon Coast (Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain) spring all-depth Pacific halibut season opened last Thursday-Saturday (May 12-14) with very good weather. Success was mixed, with some boats limiting out very quickly and others scratching all day. For those who did hook up and land a halibut, there was a decent grade of fish, with at least two fish measuring over 50 inches landed. The next opening is this Thursday-Saturday May 19-21. Additional fixed dates are: May 26-28, and June 2-4. After June 4, back-up dates may be available if quota remains.

The Central Oregon Coast Nearshore season opens June 1 this year, seven days per week.

The Columbia River and Southern Oregon Subareas opened May 1, however there has been little effort so far.

Additional information on the sport halibut fishery is available on the ODFW sport halibut webpage.

Surf Perch Fishing
Surf Perch Fishing
-Photo by Kathy Munsel-


Anglers fishing from the beaches and rocks near Depoe Bay had someluck catching redtail surfperch. Surfperch are a diverse group of fish that provide a variety of angling opportunities. Spring is traditionally the time when marine perch species like Pile Perch and Walleye Perch are found in numbers in Oregon estuaries; Striped Seaperch are found year-round in rocky areas like jetties; and ocean surf is the place to find Redtail Surfperch and Silver Perch. For details on how to catch these guys, see Surfperch Fishing (pdf).

The bag limit for surfperch is generous at 15 per day. However, a lot remains unknown about the status of surfperch populations off the Oregon Coast, so, as usual, take only what you will use.


  • Razor clams: Closed north of Cascade Head to Tillamook Head in Clatsop County and from the Yachats River south to the California border due to domic acid. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is continuing to test for shellfish toxins. Razor clamming is Open from Cascade Head in north Lincoln County to the Yachats River. Shellfish safety information
  • Bay clams: Open coastwide
  • Crabs: Open coastwide
  • Mussels: Closed from the Columbia River to Cascade Head (north of Lincoln City) - Open from Cascade Head to the OR/CA border.

The Oregon Dept. of Agriculture (ODA) will continue testing for shellfish toxins as ocean conditions allow. An area cannot reopen until two consecutive tests indicate toxin levels are safe. Commercial shellfish products sold in restaurants and retail markets are safe to eat.

Call the ODA shellfish safety hotline at 1-800-448-2474 before harvesting for the most current information about shellfish safety closures. Additional information is available from ODA’s Food Safety Program at (503) 986-4720 or the ODA shellfish closures website.

For everything you need to know about identifying and harvesting Oregon’s shellfish, including maps of individual estuaries that show where to crab and clam, see the recreational shellfish pages on the ODFW website.

A couple of regulations were inadvertently left out of the 2016 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulation booklet. (1) The daily bag limit for shrimp (edible) is 20 lb. in the shell; may be taken by traps, pots or rings. (2) Each digger of razor clams (as with all clams) must have his or her own container, must dig his or her own clams, and may not possess more than one limit of clams while in the digging area (except under an Oregon Disabilities Hunting and Fishing Permit).

Razor Clams

NOTICE: Razor clams are Closed north of Cascade Head to Tillamook Head in Clatsop County and from the Yachats River south to the California border due to domic acid. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is continuing to test for shellfish toxins. Razor clamming is Open from Cascade Head in north Lincoln County to the Yachats River. Shellfish safety information

For the tide series of May 5th –May 12th, razor clam harvesting along the Clatsop Beaches was very good. Effort over the low tide series was the second largest on record with only the April 6th –April 12th tide series of last month being larger. During this tide series harvest was the best in the area between the Peter Iredale Beach and Gearhart Beach where harvesters had 14.9 clams per person on average.

The Seaside beaches were also quite productive with an average of 14.8 clams per person while the rest of the beach areas averaged over 14 clams per person. Overall, the average clams per person for the tide series was excellent at almost 14.8 clams.
Clams harvested were mainly medium clams (4 ½ inches) during the tide series with few larger clams (>5 inches) taken. The larger clams were found in the Sunset Beaches and the Peter Iredale beaches. Currently, the entire Clatsop Beach has a very abundant set of 4 ½ inch clams plus another abundant set of 3 ¾ inch clams. Last summer’s stock assessment estimated that there were over 17 million clams on Clatsop Beach.

As encouraging as it is to see this robust population of clams, it can also lead to increased discard issues as some harvesters will be looking for the very large clams that were harvested previous years. Spawning of the larger clams has already begun which makes them show less readily. Harvesters should be selective on which shows to dig, choosing only the largest ones. Staff observed discard rates (clams replanted) on the Clatsop beaches this past tide series over 15%. Staff and Oregon State Police troopers have also observed harvesters retaining more than a daily limit when the harvesting is this good. Harvesters are reminded to keep accurate count of the clams they have retained and need to keep the first 15 clams they dig regardless of size or condition as per permanent regulations.

The next set of low tides begins May 20-26. This is a smaller low tide series in both strength and duration. Harvesters should pay close attention to the surf forecasts and be on the beach one to two hours before low tide. If the forecast calls for combined seas over 8 or 10 feet, razor clam harvesting can be very difficult because the clams tend to show much less in those conditions. When referencing tide tables, Clatsop beach razor clam harvesters should use the tide gauge at the Columbia River entrance.


The next low tide series May 20-26 will provide another stretch of good clamming opportunities. Check the ODFW Shellfish website for where and when to harvest your favorite bivalves. Updated maps on where to clam

Some recommended areas to go are the Charleston Triangle in Coos Bay for gaper clams and Netarts Bay for butter clams. Gaper clam digging under the bridge in Yaquina Bay is really good during low tides like we’ll see May 6-10.

red rock vs pacific rock

Red and Pacific rock crabs
-Photo by ODFW-


Ocean crabbing has been slow on the south coast, and good on the central coast. Estuary crab catches have very low along the entire coast.

Red rock crab are caught using the same gear as Dungeness crab but have a larger daily limit (24), and, unlike Dungeness crab, any size or sex of red rock crab may be retained (although most crabbers keep only the largest crabs, which have a lot more meat than small ones). Red rock crab are not present in all Oregon bays; good places to harvest them include the docks in Tillamook, Yaquina and Coos bays.

For Dungeness crab, the correct way to check for minimum size (5 3⁄4 inches) is to measure a straight line across the back immediately in front of, but not including, the points. See an illustration (jpg).

ODA recommends always eviscerating crab before cooking and avoiding consumption of crab guts.

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 Marine Zone Wildlife Viewing

Gray whale
Gray whale
- Photo by Scott Groth, ODFW-

Here come the whales! May and June are great times to view migrating gray whales off the Oregon coast. Some gray whales make their way up to summer feeding grounds in the Bering Sea, while others are part-time residents and stay off the Oregon coast from June - November. Quite a few gray whales were spotted last week in the nearshore waters off of Brookings and Port Orford. The best time to view whales is on calm days – as stormy weather tends to make viewing challenging. Look for whales as they surface to blow air, and occasionally flip their talks above the water. Don’t forget to bring binoculars!

Birds like scoters and buffleheads winter along the coast. Bird viewing tips are available from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Another great source for birders is the Oregon Coast Birding Trail website, which includes self-guided itineraries for any area of the Oregon Coast and a species checklist.

All kinds of wonderful creatures – gumboot chitons and ribbed limpets, for example – can be viewed along the shoreline. The Oregon State Parks tidepools website has information on where and when to explore, what you can expect to see, and safety tips.

Additional coastal viewing ideas for marine wildlife are found on the ODFW wildlife viewing map.

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