Pete Heley Outdoors 5/29/12

Through last Sunday the redtailed surfperch or pinkfins have bit steadily in the first two miles of the Umpqua River above Winchester Bay. Although there undoubtedly surfperch in the river as far upriver as Gardiner, the top two areas, so far, have been Marker 12 and the first half-mile of the river upstream from the East Basin Boat Entrance on the opposite side of the river. Sand shrimp remains the bait of choice and the fish seem to bite all day long when you are on them. There are basically two strategies for find the perch and one is to try numerous spots, hopefully without spooking them, until you find them and the other is to anchor in a likely spot until the perch find you. The first strategy is definitely not very effective unless you are somewhat stealthy and the second strategy can require a lot of patience and can result in severe second-guessing.

However, as of yet, the fish have generally been cooperative and will likely remain so until the unrelenting fishing pressure and boat traffic forces them to limit their active periods to the very early mornings.

Crabbing remains rather tough in the lower river, but boat crabbers have made some decent catches recently. The best crabbing is in the ocean in around 30 feet of water, but outside the Umpqua’s freshwater input into the Pacific.

Of a more encouraging nature was the Sunday catch reported by two anglers who caught three chinooks in slightly more than 100 foot of water. The chinooks weighed ten to 12 pounds each and they also accounted for ten crabs. But possibly of more significance was the two dozen cohos they hooked and released – some of which were of surprisingly good size for this time of year. Since there is a fair amount of bait in the area, there is a chance that the July 1st ocean opener for finclipped cohos could be a very good one.

Spring chinook are still entering the Umpqua and, although the fishing can be very inconsistent, good springer catches are made nearly every day.
The California shad season is peaking now and they are usually about three weeks ahead of Oregon, which means that our best shad fishing is almost certainly ahead of us. There are definitely enough shad in the Umpqua River now to make a good catch, but the fishing remains very inconsisten.

Umpqua River smallmouth fishing is improving and the spawn if just about over. Panfish angling in coastal lakes, with the exception of yellow perch, remains slow, but the largemouth bass is improving and much of the actual spawning will take place in June. Farther inland, the bass spawn is either underway or winding down with the warmer daytime temperatures.

There have been some good catches of bottomfish off the South Jetty recently and some of them were made by anglers casting metal jigs and I misreported Tony Stark’s bottomfish catch last week. I thought he said he caught his South Jetty bottomfish on a herring jig, a metal jig meant to imitate a herring, but he actually caught them on a herring rig. A rig comprised of six small hooks usually designed to catch baitfish. Tony decided to use the rig after he saw thousands of what appeared to be newly hatched striped surfperch swimming near the jetty. The herring rig was the best imitation of the newly hatched fish he could come up with and it worked wonderfully. Kudos to Tony for noticing the baby perch and then taking full advantage of the observance.

Area lakes scheduled to receive include Cleawox, which is slated to receive 2,250 trout measuring between 12 and 14 inches; North and South Tenmile Lakes (3,000 barely legals each); Empire Lakes (6,000 barely legals and 300 16-inchers). Loon Lake and Lake Marie are each slated to receive 1,000 barely legal rainbows. An interesting  sidenote is that diminutive Libby Pond, located eight miles up the Rogue River from Gold Beach is slated to receive 5,000 barely legal and 300 16-inch rainbows this week. I hope they have enough room to actually swim. Oregon’s Free Fishing Weekend for 2012 falls on June 9th and 10th (Saturday and Sunday) this year. It is a wonderful opportunity for those who have not purchased a fishing or shellfish license, or would like to try fishing, clamming or crabbing before deciding whether to purchase a license. On that weekend, anglers can fish for any legal  quarry without a license or tag and they can also clam or crab. Hopefully, they will have enough fun to realize that Oregon’s fishing licenses and tags are a real bargain when someone fishes, clams or crabs frequently.

For several years now, I have wondered why crabbing in Oregon is so popular – especially with vistors from outside Oregon. After all, both California and Washington offer good crabbing too. But it finally dawned on me, the reason that Oregon crabbing is so popular is that it is quite simple regulations-wise. While crabbing in the ocean off the Oregon coast is legal from December 1st through October 15th, most of the sport crabbing in Oregon takes place in bays and the lower reaches of its larger coastal rivers – and these places are legal to crab the entire year. Additionally, a legal crab in Oregon is the same throughout the state – a male dungeness crab measuring 5.25-inches across the widest part of its back not counting the tiny spines on each side of the shell and the daily limit is 12 crabs per person. There is no limitation on Red Rock Crabs other than  daily limit of 24. Crabs can also be legally pursued by a number of Through last Sudifferent methods including scuba diving, fishing, raking, or using crab rings, traps or pots.

Washington micromanages its crabbing industry. The limits for dungeness crabs tend to be much smaller than Oregon’s and the minimum legal size is larger. However, not every management area has the same size limit, number limit or even the same seasons. Additionally, Washington requires the completion of a “steelhead-like punchcard” referred to as a catch record card that must be turned in by a certain date printed on the card. Crabbers failing to do so, can expect to pay a fine before being able to purchase a crab tag for the following season. or if they are checked while out crabbing and they are not in possession of their catch record card (CRC) they may be subject to an $80 fine.

Make no mistake, I am not faulting the effectiveness of crab management in Washington. Numbers-wise, they are doing a great job, but the relative simplicity of Oregon’s crabbing regulations seem to very appealing to many out-of-state crabbers.

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.
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