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Weekly Recreation Report: Marine Zone


April 18, 2017

 Marine Zone Fishing

Weekend Opportunities

  • Anglers and would-be anglers can enjoy a weekend of free fishing on April 22-23. On these two days, Oregonians and visitors can fish, crab and clam for free anywhere in Oregon without a license, tag or endorsement. This is the first of eight free fishing days in Oregon this year. Additional free days are June 3-4, Nov. 25-26, and Dec. 31-Jan. 1.
  • NOTICE: Razor clams remain closed along the entire Oregon coast due to elevated levels of domoic acid. This includes all beaches and bays.
  • Reminder bottomfish fishing is restricted to inside of the 30 fm regulatory line as of April 1.

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

The ocean recreational Chinook salmon fishery off Oregon is currently open from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. Fishing effort and catch have been slow so far.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council finalized their recommendations for ocean salmon seasons on Tuesday, April 11. Draft copies of the adopted seasons will be available at the PMFC’s website in the near future ( Seasons are not official until being given final approval by the Secretary of Commerce, and adopted by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission for waters within three nautical miles of shore. Details, including regulations, and more information on ocean salmon seasons.

Bottom Fishing

When the weather allows, fishing during the winter and spring months for lingcod and rockfish can be fun and successful. Last week there were several reports of blue-colored lingcod being caught along the central coast. These blue-colored lingcod, sometimes called “Smurf lingcod” are safe to eat, the flesh turns white when cooked, and tastes the same as normal colored lingcod. The blue coloration comes from a bile pigment called biliverdin (also responsible for some of the coloration when people get a bruise), but how or why this pigment gets into the tissue of lingcod is unknown, though may have something to do with what the lingcod is eating.

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 will 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.

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 -


  • Bottomfish is restricted to shoreward of the 30 fathom line (defined by waypoints) as of April 1.
  • Cabezon season is closed; it will reopen July 1, 2017.

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 recreational bottomfish (a.k.a. groundfish) fishery is open at all depths through March, with the exception of the Stonewall Bank Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation area, approximately 15 miles west of Newport, which is closed to bottomfish and halibut fishing year round.

Pacific Halibut

Beginning Jan. 1, 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.

Columbia River Subarea: The all-depth fishery opens Thursday, May 4, 2017, every Thurs-Sun until the quota is caught or Sept 30. The nearshore fishery opens May 8, 2017 every Mon-Wed until the quota is caught or Sept 30.

Central Oregon Coast Subarea: The nearshore fishery opens June 1, 2017, seven days per week until the quota is caught or Oct. 31. The staff recommended spring all-depth “fixed” dates are: May 11-13, May 18-20, June 1-3, June 8-10, and June 15-17. If quota remains after those dates, back-up days may be available every other week. The summer all-depth fishery opens Friday, Aug 4, 2017, and every other Fri-Sat until the quota is caught or Oct 31.

Southern Oregon Subarea: Opens May 1, seven days per week until the quota is caught or Oct 31.

Shore and Estuary Fishing

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 (closed until 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.

Recent reports are that there is good fishing for rockfish and perch near the jetties within Yaquina Bay. Be mindful of the wind and tide to make your fishing trip safe.

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 March 14.

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.

-Photo by Bob Swingle, ODFW-


The recreational harvest of mussels is open coastwide.

Razor Clams
NOTICE: Razor clams remain closed along the entire Oregon coast due to elevated levels of domoic acid. This includes all beaches and bays.

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.


Ocean and bay crabbing is open coastwide. Bay crabbing has slowed down as it typically does this time of the year. Recent reports are that crabbing is pretty slow in the ocean.

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 Marine Zone Wildlife Viewing

Travel Oregon has great ideas for Winter Wildlife Watching on the Coast.

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.

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. 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!

A king eider was observed in Coos Bay recently – a rare sight. 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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