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Weekly Recreation Report: Marine Zone


September 29, 2015

 Marine Zone Fishing

Huge Halibut
2015 Halibut Season
-Photo by Tammy Robinson-

Weekend opportunities:

  • Nearshore boat anglers in most areas can try for a smorgasbord of bottomfish, Pacific halibut, salmon and crab. Check regulations.
  • Shore anglers might try lower estuaries for salmon or cast into the ocean surf for surfperch.
  • Bay clammers who don’t mind working in the dark can pursue species like gaper clams and cockles during a negative tide series that begins this weekend.

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

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.


Chinook Salmon
Chetco River, bubble
October 2014
-Photo by Art Chandler-

See the Southwest and Northwest Zone reports for lower bay and river news, which should improve as rains draw fish back into their home rivers.

Last week at the docks, at least one angler was grossed out at the sight of white cysts in the meat of his salmon. This is the work of Henneguya, a parasite that juvenile salmon pick up in freshwater. The condition, known as tapioca disease, is unappetizing, to be sure, but human health issues are not associated with it. Read more from ADFG (pdf)

Ocean salmon fishing south of Humbug Mt. to the OR/CA border is closed, but anglers can look forward to the Chetco bubble, open Oct. 1-11. See more details (pdf)

Further north, from Humbug Mt. to Cape Falcon, the ocean is open for the non-selective coho season. Anglers last week retained 0.5 salmon on average, with coho outnumbering Chinook. The non-selective coho season allows two salmon a day – any species – and there is no fin-clip restriction on retained coho. Gear and minimum length restrictions still apply. The fishery will be open through Sept. 30, quota permitting.

North of Cape Falcon, fishing for Chinook and coho continues. In ocean waters from Cape Falcon, OR, to Leadbetter Pt., WA, the daily bag limit is two salmon, including up to two Chinook, and coho salmon WITHOUT a fin clip may be retained. The Columbia River Control Zone is closed.

Pacific Halibut

The nearshore halibut fishery in the Columbia River Subarea (from Cape Falcon to Leadbetter Point, WA) is open daily through Sept. 30; fishing has been slower than slow.

In the Central Coast Subarea (Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt), the nearshore halibut fishery is open daily inside a line approximating the 40-fathom depth contour. An announcement will be made later this week regarding the status of the nearshore and all-depth seasons in this subarea.

The Southern Oregon Subarea (Humbug Mt. to the Calif. border) is open daily for Pacific halibut. Effort has been low, but the handful of fish landed earlier this month averaged 37 pounds and 43 inches.

Additional information about the sport halibut fishery.


Albacore anglers continue to scratch up fish, at least off the central coast. On the south coast, fishing seems to be done for the season. Albacore are typically in areas where sea surface temperatures (SST) are warmer than 58 degrees and in areas where chlorophyll concentrations are close to 0.25 milligrams per cubic meter. Both of these conditions can change very quickly due to weather and upwelling.

The Oregon Albacore Commission and Oregon State University’s Extension Service have recipes and information about canning and smoking fish.

- Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

Bottom Fishing

Anglers had to work hard last week for their rockfish, but lingcod success has picked up. One content angler out of Brookings landed “all he wanted” (within the daily bag limit, of course) and also released a large salmon, perhaps a harbinger of estuary and bubble opportunities on the horizon. Blue rockfish are more predominant in some catches than are black rockfish, and Pacific mackerel continue to bite.

If you’re lucky enough to catch a colorful assortment of bottomfish, keep in mind that (a) China, copper, quillback and yelloweye rockfish are prohibited, (b) canary rockfish has an annual management quota to consider, and (c) no more than one cabezon can be retained. Several handouts – including “What Can I Keep, and How Many?” and species identification tips – are available at Sport Groundfish.

The ocean is open for groundfish (bottom fish) only inside of the 30-fathom regulatory line (30-fathom waypoints) through Sept. 30.

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. (Not new: lingcod has a separate daily bag limit of two.) Three species of rockfish join yelloweye rockfish on the do-not-retain list: China, copper and quillback.

Canary caveat. Although anglers may retain one canary rockfish, there is an annual management quota, so 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. 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 a gut protruding from the mouth, result from the change in pressure as fish are reeled to the surface. Happily, symptoms are reversible when fish are returned to depth with a descending device. ODFW encourages anglers to use a descending device to release rockfish with signs of barotrauma.

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 descending devices (both videos are at the bottom of the page).


Razor clamming on Clatsop County beaches will not open on Oct. 1, the usual season opener. Razor clamming along the entire Oregon coast, including bays, has been closed since May 14 due to elevated levels of domoic acid in clams. Test results, released Friday, show levels are too high for the north coast season to open. Two consecutive samples will need to show safe domoic acid levels before beaches will open.

I love to dig in the mud.
-Photo by Julie Woodman-

Recreational shellfish safety status, as of Sept. 21, in addition to the coast-wide razor clam closure:

  • Mussels. Recreational harvest is open along the entire Oregon coast.
  • Bay clams. Recreational harvest is open (except for razor clams) along the entire Oregon Coast.
  • Scallops are not affected by closures when only the adductor muscle is eaten.
  • Commercial shellfish products remain safe for consumers; samples show no biotoxins at this time. 

The Oregon Department of Agriculture's shellfish safety hotline is toll free and provides the most current information regarding shellfish safety closures. Call the hotline before harvesting: 1-800-448-2474. 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

The Oregon Health Authority has issued an advisory about naturally occurring arsenic found in softshell clams along the Oregon coast. Removing skin from clam’s siphon dramatically reduces arsenic levels, public health officials say. More info

Ocean crabbing saw a slight dip last week; reports from the central coast indicate an average of 9 crabs per pot.

And what about those red rock crab? Bay and ocean crabbers might run into these guys as well as Dungeness crab. Red rock crab is a native species, however it is not present in all Oregon 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.

The correct way to measure the minimum size for Dungeness crab, which is 5 3⁄4 inches, is 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

Anchovies in the Columbia River attracted a hungry gathering including sea lions, pelicans and humpback whales last week. OPB reports that Bruce Mate, Oregon State University professor, confirms that El Nino conditions are driving ocean animals toward shore looking for food.

Humpback whales migrate twice a year along the Oregon coast between breeding grounds in Central America and Mexico and feeding grounds off California, Oregon, Washington and Canada. Humpbacks are usually five to 15 miles offshore so are not typically spotted from land in Oregon.

Brown Pelicans

Brown Pelicans
-Photo by Kathy Munsel-

During the autumn, shorebirds also head south to winter, making this a good time to view large flocks along the coast. The National Wildlife Refuges at Nestucca Bay, Siletz Bay, and Bandon Marsh are great places to watch for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. Waterfowl that will winter along the coast begin to arrive soon. Viewing tips are available from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

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 fine 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).

The Oregon State Parks tidepooling website has information on where and when to explore rocky and sand shores, as well as what you can expect to see, safety tips, etc.

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 marbled murrelets, rhinoceros auklets and raptors can be seen throughout the year.

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