Saltwater News Bulletins
You can subscribe to receive e-mails and text message alerts for marine topics you are interested in. Sign up online and enter your phone for text alerts and e-mail information to subscribe to email updates. 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.
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.
Prohibitions at Oregon’s marine reserves at 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:
Otter Rock Marine Reserve
Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve and Marine Protected Area
Starting April 1, bottom fishing is closed offshore of the 30-fathom line defined by latitude and longitude.
Fishing for rockfish was excellent last week in Brookings and Garibaldi with most anglers getting limits or near limits. In the other ports surveyed – Depoe Bay, Newport and Charleston – the average rockfish catch was about three per angler. Lingcod catches are good at all ports surveyed at better than one fish per angler.
Cabezon retention is prohibited by all anglers until July 1. Retention of cabezon is allowed July 1 through Sept. 30. Under the federal cabezon quota, there is only enough cabezon to be open for two to three months during the busy summer period. When ODFW asked for public input in the fall, many people said they preferred a later season (July-September) over an earlier season. The daily bag and size limits remain the same (one-fish sublimit, 16-inch minimum length).
The marine fish daily bag limit is seven fish (of which no more than one may be a cabezon during the cabezon season). There are separate daily limits for lingcod (two) and flatfish other than Pacific halibut (25).
Remember: yelloweye rockfish and canary rockfish may not be retained.
The Stonewall Bank Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation Area, approximately 15 miles west of Newport, is closed to the harvest of rockfish, lingcod, flatfish and other species in the groundfish group.
Chinook catches were down last week with about one fish for every five anglers. Fishing for chinook salmon from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain is open from March 15 through Oct. 31. All retained chinook salmon must be 24 inches or larger.
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.
Salmon season details are now available on the ODFW web site.
Staff Recommended 2013 Pacific Halibut Sport Regulations
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will make the final decision on the 2013 halibut regulations, including open dates, at their meeting on May 10.
Leadbetter Point, Wash., to Cape Falcon
Spring All-Depth Season: Open May 3, three days per week, Friday-Sunday, through 9,516 pounds or the start of the summer season on Aug. 2.
Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain
Nearshore Season (Quota = 23,038 pounds)
Open May 2, three days per week (Thursday-Saturday), inside the 40-fathom line (defined by waypoints) through the earlier of 23,038 pounds or Oct. 31.
Spring All-Depth Season: Open May 9-11, May 16-18, May 30-June 1, and June 6-8. Backup days are June 20-22, July 4-6, and July 18-20.
South of Humbug Mountain
Open May 1, seven days per week, through Oct. 31.
The International Pacific Halibut Commission set the annual allowable catch for the West Coast at the same level as last year.
For the most up-to-date information visit: http://dfw.state.or.us/mrp/finfish/halibut/index.asp
New for 2012
Limits double on purple varnish calms
Clam diggers may harvest twice as many purple varnish clams in 2013 than they did in previous years. In response to a public proposal, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission increased the daily catch limit for purple varnish clams from 36 per day to 72 per day. Purple Varnish Clams are a non-native species that has become established in several Oregon bays and estuaries over the past decade.
Scallops require report card
Also starting in 2013, divers who harvest rock scallops will be required to report their catch to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife using a free harvest card. Divers will provide important information about this resource to ODFW biologists that will enable them to better manage the resource. Since 1996, ODFW has required similar reporting by all recreational abalone harvesters who complete an annual harvest card. This program helps ODFW biologists understand and monitor the abalone fishery. This same card now includes space for rock scallop harvesters to report their catch. Anyone recreationally harvesting abalone or rock scallops will need to obtain the free abalone and scallop harvest card in addition to an Oregon Shellfish License. The harvest card is easy to get and simple to complete. Limits for abalone and rock scallops remain the same: one per day and five per year for abalone and 24 rock scallops per day.
Divers can get abalone/scallop permits by contacting ODFW Marine Resources Program in Newport 541-867-4741, Charleston 541-888-5515 or Astoria 503-325-2462. For more information visit the ODFW website.
For the tide series of April 9 to 14, razor clam harvesters along the Clatsop Beaches had mixed results ranging from quite good to just average. The deciding factor was ocean conditions during this short tide series. The best clamming was at Seaside and Sunset beaches. Harvesters averaged nearly 13 clams per person in Seaside and 11 in Sunset beach while the rest of the beach areas averaged almost 10 clams per person. Clams were mixed sizes with many large clams (larger than 4 inches) taken during the beginning of the tide series and an increase in clams smaller than 4 inches taken at the end of the series.
Water temperatures continue to warm up and there is still a lot of food in the surf. This makes the clams show readily but also has initiated spawning in some of the larger clams. There was a significant set of clams in 2012 that would be considered small (less than 3 ½ inches) to many harvesters. Therefore harvesters must use extreme caution when digging to only choose the largest shows to limit the chances of digging a small clam. Shellfish staff observed wastage rates that are higher than average this time of year. Wastage is the intentional replanting of small or broken clams. A full 80 percent of these replanted clams die due to damage or improper placement. Harvesters 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 24 and continues through May 1. 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.
The entire Oregon coast is open to razor clam harvest.
Recreational shellfish safety status as of April 30:
Mussel harvesting reopened on March 8 from Cape Arago to the California border.
With the reopening, all shellfish harvesting is open along the entire Oregon coast.
The consumption of whole recreationally harvested scallops is not recommended, however. Coastal scallops are not affected by toxin closures when only the adductor muscle is eaten.
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.
Check out the recreational shellfish pages on the ODFW web site. The pages contain everything you need to know for identifying and harvesting Oregon’s clams.
In several bays, crabbing has been more productive that crabbing in the ocean. However, during periods of rain, crabbing in bays may slow due to decreased salinity, but boat crabbers can still expect to land a few keepers. The recreational harvest of Dungeness crab in Oregon’s bays and estuaries is open year round.
Ocean crabbing has been good. Recreational crabbing in the ocean is open along the entire Oregon coast.
The ODFW crabbing report shows average number of legal-sized Dungeness crab per person in various ports by month over the past couple of years: check it out.
Some sport crabbers 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.
Killers on the coast
Frank, of Lincoln City, was the first to report a sighting of killer whales on the coast. He saw them off Lincoln City on April 11.
Seeing killer whales off the Oregon coast is a rare treat, but whale watchers can usually count on a pod of orca’s patrolling the coast in mid April. Orcas follow gray whales as they return from breeding in Mexico. They mostly target gray whale calves. Orcas are most often seen in the ocean off Depoe Bay and Newport, but can be spotted coast wide. The first thing you are likely to see when sighting killer whales is their dorsal fin. Male orcas have a dorsal fin that can be six feet in height, juveniles and females have shorter fins. These large fins can be seen from quite a distance.
Several times in recent years orcas came into Yaquina Bay in Newport attracted by the proliferation of seals and sea lions. Some years, they linger at the edges of the bay's jetties. A few years ago many people watched as a killer whale chased a sea lion all the way through Yaquina Bay, almost as far east as Toledo.
The orcas usually only stay a couple of weeks, but in 2006, the killer whales lingered until the middle of July. The Whale Watch Center receives an average of 30 reports of orca sightings a year.
The whales go by
The spring gray whale migration reacheds its peak during Whale Watch Week the end of March. The Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay sighted 109 whales during that week, a few more than last year. There are still lots of action for whale watchers, since tThe whales move more slowly and closer to the beach during the spring migration because there arebecause of the calves in the pod. About 18,000 gray whales will pass by the Oregon coast.
A gray whale's blow is up to 15 feet high, and each blow is visible for about five seconds. When warm, moist air exhaled from the animals' lungs meets the cool air at the ocean surface, it creates the bushy column called a blow, or spout. Anticipate that the whale will dive for three to six minutes, then surface for three to five blows in row, 30 to 50 seconds apart, before diving deep for three to six minutes again.
To watch the migration, it is best to pick a calm day and find a view point that is high enough to spot the spouts. Learning good binocular technique will help spot the whales. Gaze out onto the ocean, focusing on medium distances until you see a puff of white. Then raise your binoculars while continuing to look at the place you saw the puff. This technique takes some practice, but generally works better than swinging the binoculars around looking for something. Just keep your eyes focused on the whale and raise the binoculars to your eyes, looking through them, not into them.
Gray whales are the most coastal of the baleen whales and are often found within a few miles of shore as they migrate from Alaska to Baja. Gray whales have baleen instead of teeth. To feed, they fill their vast mouths with mud from the sea bottom and strain it through their baleen to capture amphipods and other small animals. This is the only type of whale to feed in this manner.
Tufted Puffins sport a colorful bill and in the breeding season with two long, blond plumes at the end of a facial mask. These chunky black birds arrive every spring to breed on the coastal islands of Oregon that make up Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. From early April to late August they can be seen up and down the coast. Tufted puffins only come ashore to breed and raise their young. For the remainder of the year they live, feed, and sleep on the open ocean. Puffins arrive, along with thousands of other seabirds, to the coastal rocks of the refuge during the first week in April.