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Weekly Recreation Report: Marine Zone


April 26, 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 semi-monthly 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, particularly on the central coast.

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

Central coast bottom fishing for rockfish has been good, although highly weather dependent. There were a few bar restrictions over the past week making it difficult for smaller sport boats to get out. But, charter boats did well with limits of rockfish. Lingcod catches have been spotty – likely due to lackluster ocean conditions. Patchiness aside, there were some large lingcod caught on the central coast. On the north coast rockfishing has been hot – with many near limits and about 1 lingcod per angler (when boats are able to get out).

Blue and deacon rockfish catches are up with these species showing up frequently over the last week. Because of the increased catches of these species, this would be a good time for angers to acquaint themselves with how to tell the difference between blue and 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

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.

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

ODFW staff recommended dates for the sport halibut fishery are available on the ODFW sport halibut webpage. Dates will be finalized by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission dates at its meeting on April 22.

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


Surfperch have been caught on the beaches on the central and south coast. However, perch haven’t moved into the estuaries yet – although that should be happening any day. 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.


Current shellfish harvest closures in the ocean and bays due to elevated levels of domoic acid as of April 15:

  • Razor clams: Open north of Tillamook Head to the Columbia River. Closed south of Tillamook Head to the CA border. (The Oregon Department of Agriculture is continuing coast-wide sampling, but as of April 15, razor clams are closed in all areas south of Tillamook Head)
  • 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

For the tide series of April 6 -April 1th, razor clam harvesting along the Clatsop Beaches was nothing short of phenomenal. Effort over the low tide series was the highest on record, with Saturday the 9th having an estimation of more than 6,000 harvesters on the beach. During this tide series, harvest was the best in the area between Sunset Beach and Gearhart Beach where harvesters had 14.6 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 12-13 clams per person. Overall, the average clams per person for the tide series was excellent at 14.3 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 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. Staff observed discard rates (clams replanted) on the Clatsop beaches this past tide series upwards of 10%. 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 April 21 – April 27. 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.


Clamming has been great thanks to the good low tides that occur throughout April. Several bay clam species can be found even when low tides aren’t so low: softshell and purple varnish clams occur primarily above +1.0, and cockles, butters and gapers can sometimes be found at tides as high as +2.0.

red rock vs pacific rock

Red and Pacific rock crabs
-Photo by ODFW-


Ocean crabbing has been spotty on both the north and central coasts, with crabbers landing roughly between 2-6 crabs per pot. 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

Velella velella
-Wikipedia photo-

Beach goers may notice millions of tiny, harmless, jellyfish, called Velella velella, washing up on coastal beaches. These jellyfish are small, ranging anywhere from the size of a grain of rice to the size of a pencil eraser. During certain ocean conditions, usually in spring, these offshore jellyfish species are pushed onshore, giving beach visitors a glimpse of this unique oceanic species. Velella velella have no means of locomotion other than a small sail that is easily visible on the larger organisms. Velella velella are at the mercy of the wind, and are regularly subject to mass standings. However, they likely won’t be here for long. The winds that brought them to the shore will likely take them out to sea again soon.

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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