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Weekly Recreation Report: Marine Zone


August 22, 2017

 Marine Zone Fishing


-Photo by Brandon Ford-

Weekend Opportunities

  • Cabezon opened July 1, with a 1 fish sub-bag limit, minimum size 16 inches.


  • Razor clams remain closed from the Columbia River South Jetty to Tillamook Head (south of Seaside) and from Cascade Head to the OR/CA border due to elevated levels of domoic acid. This includes all beaches and bays.
  • Within the Columbia River Ocean Salmon Management Area (Leadbetter Point, Washington to Cape Falcon, Oregon), the 2017 ocean recreational ocean salmon fishing season closes effective 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 22.
  • The Central Oregon Coast Pacific halibut nearshore fishery is now closed.
  • Mussels are closed from Tillamook Head (just north of Cannon Beach) to Cascade Head (just north of Lincoln City).
  • Retention of coho salmon is now closed in the area from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. Angling for Chinook salmon remains open within this area.

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.

Ocean Salmon

Leadbetter Point, WA to Cape Falcon, OR

The ocean salmon season from Leadbetter Pt., Wash., to Cape Falcon, Ore., opened on June 24, 2017. The bag limit is two salmon per day, but no more than one Chinook, and all coho must have a healed adipose fin clip. Within the Columbia River Ocean Salmon Management Area (Leadbetter Point, Washington to Cape Falcon, Oregon), the 2017 ocean recreational ocean salmon fishing season closes effective 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, August 22.

Anglers are reminded that no more than one Chinook per angler may be retained.

Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain

The Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. Chinook salmon recreational fishing season opened March 15, 2017 and is scheduled to run through Oct. 31, 2017. 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.

Local fall Chinook should be starting to stage near most estuary mouths from the Nehalem south as far as the Coquille throughout August.

The Selective Coho (fin-clipped) season between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain opened on June 24 and closed July 31. Coho retention is scheduled to reopen on September 2 and continue through the earlier of the quota of 6,000 coho (no fin clip required) or September 30. Fishing for all salmon except coho remains open through October 31. Note that during the month of October salmon angling will be limited to only inside of the 40 fathom regulatory line.

Ocean salmon catch and effort estimates can be found here.

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.

Details, including regulations, and more information on ocean salmon seasons.

Yelloweye Rockfish with signs of barotrauma
Yelloweye Rockfish with symptoms of barotrauma.
- Photo by Bob Swingle, ODFW -
Descending devices
Recompression devices.
- Photo by Bob Swingle, ODFW -

Bottom Fishing

Bottomfish fishing continues to be good out of most ports along the Oregon coast, when the winds have cooperated. Angler success for rockfish remained about the same as the last few weeks. Lingcod fishing is a little sporadic: excellent some days, but very slow other days. Anglers from the south coast have had better success with lingcod this past week. Remember to know and understand the new bag limits (see below).

New bag and sub-bag limits for 2017: To stay within Federal allocations, and try to provide for year-round fishing opportunities, there are some changes to daily bag limits. Canary rockfish has been declared rebuilt and is now part of the 7 fish marine bag limit (no sub-bag limit). Black rockfish have a sub-bag limit of 6 fish (out of the 7 fish daily bag, no more than 6 may be black rockfish). There is a 4 fish sub-bag limit for blue/deacon, China, copper, and quillback rockfish combined (out of the 7 fish marine bag, no more than 4 may be these species combined). The daily bag limit for lingcod remains at 2 fish and flatfish species, other than Pacific halibut, remains at 25 fish. Several handouts, including “What Can I Keep, and How Many?” (Updated for 2017) and species identification tips, are available on the ODFW sport bottomfish webpage.


  • Bottomfish is restricted to shoreward of the 30-fathom line (defined by waypoints) as of April 1.
  • Cabezon season opened July 1, 2017, 1 fish sub-bag limit and 16 inch minimum size limit.
  • Yelloweye Rockfish are closed to retention.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2017 vessels fishing for or retaining bottomfish are required (1) to have onboard a functioning rockfish descending device, and (2) use it to descend any rockfish released when fishing outside of the 30 fathom regulatory line. For more information and videos, please see the rockfish recompression webpage.

In addition to the new descending device rule, ODFW continues to encourage anglers to use a descending device when releasing any rockfish with signs of 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. Use a descending device to safely return fish to a depth of 60 feet or more. Even fish that are severely bloated can survive after being released at depth.

The Stonewall Bank Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation area, approximately 15 miles west of Newport, is closed to bottomfish (a.k.a. groundfish) and halibut fishing year round.

Albacore Tuna

Tuna are still well offshore (generally 40-60 miles or further). For the second week in a row albacore fishing was poor from all ports except Brookings. Catch rates averaged 7.5 albacore per angler out of Brookings. Anglers are reminded that trips offshore for albacore are challenging and proper safety equipment and awareness of weather forecasts and changing conditions are critical to have a safe trip. Albacore are typically found where surface water temperatures are at least 59oF and chlorophyll concentrations are below 0.25 mg/m3 (clear “blue” water).

Huge Halibut
Matt Blume with his “monster” 106-pound halibut
- Oregon Fish and Wildlife -

Pacific Halibut

In 2017 vessels fishing for or retaining halibut are required (1) to have onboard a functioning rockfish descending device, and (2) use it to descend any rockfish released when fishing outside of the 30-fathom regulatory line. For more information and videos, please see the rockfish recompression webpage.

The 2017 halibut quota is up 16.7 percent from 2016, which should allow for some additional fishing days, depending on weather and catch rates. Season map (pdf).

Columbia River Subarea (Leadbetter Point, WA to Cape Falcon, OR): The all-depth fishery and nearshore fishery are closed for the remainder of 2017.

Central Oregon Coast Subarea (Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt.): The nearshore and spring all-depth fishery are closed.

There will be an update by late Friday, Aug. 25 if enough quota remains for any additional summer all-depth days. The next possible open days are Sept 1-2.

Southern Oregon Subarea (Humbug Mt. to the OR/CA Border): Opened May 1, seven days per week until the quota is caught or Oct 31.

Shore and Estuary Fishing

When jigging for herring in Yaquina Bay, anglers sometimes inadvertently catch juvenile coho salmon, or smolts. Although they look a bit like herring, smolts cannot be legally kept. Smolt ID tips (pdf).

There are many fishing opportunities from shore and inside the bays and estuaries of the Oregon coast. Public piers provide opportunities to catch surfperch, baitfish and bottomfish (see section above on bottomfish for new bag and sub-bag limits for 2017). Rocky ocean coastline and jetties provide the ideal habitat for greenling, rockfish, cabezon (which opened July 1, 2017), and lingcod. These areas are often fished by boat and from shore, and can be targeted with rod and reel or spear gun.

When fishing from shore or inside estuaries and bays, it is important to check the tide. Many fish that swim into estuaries and bays, including salmon, surfperch, and Pacific herring, tend to come in with the tide. Rockfish, greenling and lingcod generally take cover during strong incoming and outgoing tides. Catch of these species is more likely to occur closer to slack tide. Additionally, the accessibility of some areas can be completely dependent on the tide. Do not allow the incoming tide to become a safety hazard.

Surf Perch Fishing
Surfperch fishing near Coos Bay
-Photo courtesy of Jim Muck-


Surfperch are a diverse group of fish that provide a variety of angling opportunities. Striped seaperch are found year-round in rocky areas like jetties; and ocean surf is the place to find redtail surfperch and silver perch. 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.


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. Openings and closures listed below were accurate on August 11.

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.


Mussels remain closed from Tillamook Head (just north of Cannon Beach) to Cascade Head (just north of Lincoln City) due to high levels of Paralytic Shellfish Toxins. Rock jetty structures at nearly every port in Oregon support harvestable populations of mussels.

Razor Clams

NOTICE: Razor clams remain closed from the Columbia River South Jetty to Tillamook Head (south of Seaside) and from Cascade Head to the OR/CA border coast due to elevated levels of domoic acid. This includes all beaches and bays.

Razor clam harvest is OPEN from Tillamook Head (south of Seaside) to Cascade Head (north of Lincoln City).

Bay Clams

Bay clamming is open along the entire Oregon Coast from the Columbia River to the California border. Check the ODFW Shellfish website for where and when to harvest your favorite bivalves. Updated maps on where to clam.

Bay clamming in Coos Bay was very good for lots of visitors to the bay area last week. The tides were excellent for clamming with negative tides all week. Many folks learned to dig clams for the first time while staying at local State Parks and venturing out into the bay for fine limits of gapers and butter clams. The negative tides will return again to Coos Bay the week of August 19-24, so come enjoy clamming the Coos Bay estuary.

Dungeness Crab

Noah loves crabbing
-Photo by Wade Campbell-


Ocean and bay crabbing is open coastwide. Newly molted, larger crab are being caught in the ocean and many bays. Some of these crab have hardened up a bit while others are fairly soft and have less meat in them. These crab will fill in and harden up through the summer and should be very high quality crab by September. Catches are increasing everywhere up and down the coast.

The weather was excellent for bay crabbing in Coos Bay with low winds, and good afternoon tides. Dock checks of folks crabbing were of mixed results. Some doing well and some with just a few, but most everyone gets a crab or two with effort. Local shops rent crab rings and sell bait for visitors to try their hand at dock or boat crabbing in Coos Bay. With a shellfish license and some helpful information available at the Charleston ODFW office or ODFW website, folks can be crabbing at the local docks in no time. And perhaps enjoy a fine meal of fresh crab.

Boat access to Coos Bay has been busy with the good weather and is a great place to beat the inland heat. Crab catches from recreational boaters have been good with numerous boats getting full limits.

Crabbing in Coos Bay has been good with a mixture of hard shell and some softer ones mixed in. Most let the softer shell catches go and retain the good hard shell ones. Barnacles growing on the carapace are a good quick indicator of a crab full of meat. A clean shell with no barnacles or blemishes should be checked with a soft squeeze of a leg to see if the crab shell is soft or hard. Dock crabbing has been good at times but most full limits have been reported from folks with a boat to access the good spots in the Coos Estuary. Tillamook, Netarts, Yaquina, and Alsea bays are also producing large numbers of crab with a mix of some hard shell crab and many, many larger softer crab.

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 Marine Zone Wildlife Viewing

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

Gray whales are always a treat to see and can often be spotted off the central and south coasts. It is common for gray whales to migrate to and from summer feeding grounds in the Bering Sea, passing by the Oregon coast. In addition, there is a summer resident group that hangs out in the Depoe Bay area most of the summer. They are often visible from the sidewalk right in Depoe Bay, as well as just north of town from the Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint and to the south of town at Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint, Devil’s Punchbowl, and even as far as Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area just north of Newport.

Look for whales as they surface to blow, a spout 6-12 feet high, depending on sex. Gray whales usually surface to breath 3-5 times, then make a deep feeding dive, often with tail flukes visible, lasting 3-5 minutes. A couple of Humpback whales have been seen in the Columbia River between the mouth and Astoria. The best time to view whales is on calm days when whale spouts cannot be confused with whitecaps. Look for whales as they surface to blow air and occasionally flip their tails above the water. Don’t forget to bring binoculars!

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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