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Weekly Recreation Report: Marine Zone


April 28, 2015

 Marine Zone Fishing

Weekend opportunities:

  • Ocean Chinook salmon fishing is open from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain through October 31, and opens from Humbug Mountain to the California Border on May 1. See ODFW’s Ocean Salmon webpage for details. Catches on the central coast have been fair recently, but fishing effort for salmon has been restricted by large seas.
  • All-depth Pacific halibut fishing opens May 1, every Thurs-Sun in the Columbia River and Southern Oregon Subareas; and May 14-16 for the Central Oregon Coast Subarea.  In the Columbia River Subarea, nearshore halibut fishing opens May 4 every Mon-Wed.
  • Several surfperch species often move into bays this time of year.

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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

Prohibitions at Oregon’s marine reserves at Cascade Head, Cape Perpetua, Redfish Rocks and Otter Rock are in effect. Fishing, crabbing, clamming, hunting and gathering seaweed are all prohibited.

Beach walking, surfing, bird watching, diving and other non-extractive uses continue to be allowed. See complete details and a map of the boundaries of the reserves:

In addition to 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 2015 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations (pages 94-98). Depth restrictions for bottomfish and Pacific halibut fishing are defined by waypoints.


Ocean recreational fishing is open for Chinook salmon from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. through Oct. 31, 2015, and from Humbug Mt. to the Oregon-California Border from May 1 through Sept. 7. This season is open for all salmon except coho salmon, with a bag limit of two salmon per day, and minimum sizes for Chinook salmon at 24 inches or larger, and steelhead at 20 inches or larger.

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.

Pacific Halibut

The 2015 Pacific halibut seasons have been finalized. A map with seasons and regulations here on the ODFW Website.

The Columbia River Subarea (Cape Falcon to Leadbetter Point, WA) all-depth season opens May 1, every Thursday through Sunday. The Columbia River Subarea nearshore fishery opens May 4, every Monday-Wednesday.

The Central Oregon Coast Subarea (Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt.) spring all-depth season opens May 14-16. The Central Coast Subarea nearshore fishery opens July 1.

The Southern Oregon Subarea (Humbug Mt. to the OR/CA Border) opens May 1, seven days per week. 

Additional information about the sport halibut fishery can be found on the ODFW sport halibut webpage.

Misc Fishing

Spring often finds saltwater surfperch species like pile surfperch moving into bays. Redtail and silver surfperch can be caught from ocean beaches. Surfperch fishing tips

Bottom Fishing

Rockfish catches were off-again, on-again last week, and lingcod continued to be elusive. Ocean anglers might try squid lures – many fish landed had stomachs full of squid. A central coast charter vessel reported plentiful juvenile crabs (megalope) at the surface, and very active “boils” of feeding black and blue rockfish. Large black rockfish were found nearer the bottom by anglers who lowered their gear through surface-feeding schools. 

REMINDERS: Cabezon is closed through June 30, and the ocean is open only inside of the 30 fathom regulatory line (30 fathom waypoints) April 1 through Sept. 30.

New for 2015. China, copper, and quillback rockfish (in addition to yelloweye rockfish) may not be retained.

New for 2015. The marine fish daily bag limit is seven fish, of which no more than three can be blue rockfish and no more than one can be a canary rockfish.

Anglers are urged to avoid canary rockfish (retaining one only if it is injured and caught incidentally while targeting other species such as black rockfish) and to use a descending device for any that are released. Although canary rockfish numbers are increasing, the population is not fully recovered. Releasing individuals that are not bleeding from the gills or showing signs of injury other than barotrauma will help preserve fishing opportunity for other species such as black rockfish and lingcod throughout the year.

Signs of barotrauma, such as bulging eyes and gut protruding from the fish’s mouth, result from the rapid change in pressure as fish are reeled to the surface. They are reversible when fish are returned to depth with a descending device, and ODFW encourages the release of canary rockfish with a descending device even if they exhibit signs of barotrauma, as long as they are otherwise uninjured.

See ODFW’s sport groundfish webpage for an underwater video of a fish recompressed and released by ODFW researchers, and an entertaining and informative video showing several different types of release devices (both videos are at the bottom of the page).

There are separate daily limits for lingcod (2) and flatfish other than Pacific halibut (25). Several handouts – including “What Can I Keep, and How Many?” and species identification tips – are available on the OFDW sport groundfish webpage.

Razor clams

For the tide series of April 18th-April 23rd, razor clam harvesting along the Clatsop Beaches was very productive.  Effort over the low tide series was some of the highest on record, with Sunday the 19th having an estimated 5,500 harvesters on the beach.  During this tide series harvest was the best at the Peter Iredale to Columbia River south jetty beaches where harvesters had 14.4 clams per person on average.  The Seaside beaches were also quite productive with an average of 14.2 clams per person while the rest of the beach areas averaged between 11-13 clams per person.  Overall, the average clams per person for the tide series was a very respectable 12.8 clams. 

Clams harvested were mainly medium clams (4 ¼ inches) during the tide series with few larger clams (>5 inches) taken.  The larger clams were found in the Sunset Beaches and the Seaside Beaches.  Currently, the entire Clatsop Beach has a very abundant set of 4 inch clams.  Last summer’s stock assessment estimated that there were over 16 million clams on Clatsop Beach.  Anecdotal reports indicate that there have been two more robust sets that are being seen.  These clams are much smaller, 1/2” to 2” but if they survive it bodes well for the future.

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 last year.  Staff observed discard rates (clams replanted) on the Clatsop beaches this past tide series upwards of 20%.  Staff has also observed harvesters retaining more than a daily limit when the harvesting is 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 3 – May 9.  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.

Recreational shellfish safety status, as of April 28:

  • Razor clams remain closed from the Oregon/California border north to the south jetty of the Siuslaw River in Florence due to elevated levels of domoic acid. The closure includes razor clams on all beaches, rocks, jetties, and at the entrance to bays in this section of the Oregon Coast. Opportunities to collect razor clams are still available along Oregon beaches north of the Siuslaw River.
  • Mussels are open along the entire Oregon coast.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture's shellfish safety hotline is toll free and provides the most current information regarding shellfish safety closures. Please call the hotline before harvesting: 1-800-448-2474. Press 1 for biotoxin closures and 2 for general safety recommendations. For more information, call ODA’s Food Safety Program at (503) 986-4720 or visit the ODA shellfish closures webpage.

Check out the recreational shellfish pages on the ODFW website. The pages contain everything you need to know for identifying and harvesting Oregon’s clams, including maps of individual estuaries that show where to crab and clam.

Bay clams

May and June generally hold the best low tide series of the year and will provide many opportunities to dig gaper clams, cockles, and butter clams. Coos Bay, Yaquina Bay, Netarts Bay, and Tillamook Bay are four bays where bay clams can be found. Recent stock assessments have revealed abundant populations and that current harvest levels are sustainable. See ODFW’s bay clam webpage for more information on where and how to dig, clam ID, etc.


Ocean crabbing is picking up, with crabbers having decent catch rates off the central coast last week. Bay and ocean crabbers might run into red rock crab as well as Dungeness crab. Red rock crab is a native species but is not present in all of Oregon’s bays. Good places to try are from the docks in Tillamook Bay, Yaquina Bay, and Coos Bay. Red rock crab are caught just like Dungeness and have a larger daily limit (24); check out these “How to Crab” tips. Unlike Dungeness crab, any size or sex of red rock crab can be retained, but most crabbers keep only the largest ones which have much more meat than small ones.

Some sport crabbers sometimes have difficulty correctly measuring the minimum size for Dungeness crab, which is 5 3⁄4 inches measured in a straight line across the back immediately in front of, but not including, the points. See an illustration showing the correct measurement (jpg).

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 Marine Zone Wildlife Viewing

It’s a great time of year to see gray whales heading north with their calves. On a calm day, their blows can be easy to spot from a high vantage point on the shore, or take advantage of a whale-watching tour to see them from sea level. A viewer at Gleneden Beach between Newport and Lincoln City reported very active whales spyhopping as well as waving pectoral fins and flukes in the air within easy spotting distance from shore.


Velella velella are showing up on Oregon beaches. These blue or purple “By-the-wind sailors” are small pelagic jellyfish normally found offshore. Strong westerly winds bring them onto our beaches on occasion, mostly in the spring. Did you know that these tiny creatures are found throughout the Pacific, but their “sails” are oriented differently on each side of the ocean and north vs. south of the equator, so that each quadrant’s prevailing wind and current patterns help them stay in their preferred offshore locations?

Learn more in a publication by Oregon Sea Grant.


Check out the Oregon Coast Birding Trail website for birding hotspots and self-guided itineraries for birders in any area of the Oregon Coast. Some especially great places to view seabirds and perhaps a bald eagle are Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area (the deck behind the lighthouse); Heceta Head State Park (the viewing area in front of the lighthouse); Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint (the north deck by the parking lot); and Ecola State Park (the westernmost viewing platform at Ecola Point overlook).

Wildlife Viewing Map

Get more coastal viewing ideas from the ODFW wildlife viewing map. For example, at Cape Blanco, trails lead to the beach and viewpoints where abundant seabirds like loons, grebes and scoters can be seen in winter; and marbled murrelets, rhinoceros auklets and raptors are around all year.

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