ODFW Recommends a Lower Marine Fish Bag Limit for 2018

Tom Bodell from Cotati, California (right) pulled a sardine-wrapped KwikFish on the Chetco River last week with guide Harvey Young and nailed this large chrome-bright Chinook fresh from the ocean.
Photo Credit: Larry Ellis

by Larry Ellis

Anglers of the salt have been chomping at the bit to catch a rockfish, kelp greenling or a lingcod ever since ODFW completely closed the groundfish fishery on September 8.  Well, fret not. Fishing for bottomfish will open up again come January 1.

In my mind, this complete closure severely impacted local area businesses such as restaurants, motels, sporting goods stores, marine repair businesses and many other tourist-drawing enterprises.  It has also affected the Port of Brookings Harbor's revenue in lost slip income and boat-launching fees.

So what does 2018 have in store for the lowly bottomfish angler, and can this complete closure ever be rectified?

Rectified is a pretty strong word that implies that there is a cure.  While the cause of the complete closure cannot be completely cured at this moment in time, it can be temporarily treated with a reduced marine fish bag limit.

It must be noted that when the ocean salmon season recovers to the point where the salmon fishery again takes the pressure off of the groundfish fishery, it stands to reason that the marine fish bag limits should be restored to the point they once were.

But until that joyous moment occurs, anglers are just going to have to face the music and accept the fact that a lowered marine fish bag limit is the only way they will be able to fish continuously for 12 months throughout the season.

But how much lower, is lower, exactly?

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will be submitting several staff recommendations of new marine fish bag limit proposals at a Commission meeting being held in Salem, Oregon on December 8, and all of the proposals will suggest a lowered bag limit to a certain degree.  The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will be picking one of ODFW's proposals.

Some of the proposals suggest a higher marine fish bag limit, but with a complete closure inserted somewhere in the year.  It seems to me that anything with a complete closure in the proposal puts us back at square one - no ocean fishing whatsoever, and again, that's very bad for business.

"We heard from a lot of folks that this unexpected closure is terrible, and we agree with that," says Maggie Sommer, ODFW marine fisheries manager.  "We just want to set the Commission up with information, and we hope they will choose something that is low risk. If they want to pick a different bag limit structure that also appears to be low risk - great! ODFW staff are happy with that."

In order to keep a year-round fishery in 2018, ODFW staff has recommended three low-risk alternatives.  They have recommended that the Commission adopt Alternative A, which is a marine fish bag limit of 6 fish from January through March, a bag limit of 4 fish from April through September, and a bag limit of 6 fish from October through December, with no sub-bag limits for rockfish.

To view all the alternatives, visit the ODFW home page at www.dfw.state.or.us.   Underneath  'About us', click on 'Commission', then 'Meeting Schedules and Minutes'.  Now go to the December 8 meeting and click on 'Meeting Materials'.

Now scroll down to Exhibit F and click on 'Agenda Summary'. Page 17 lists all the alternatives but I know you'll have a blast reading how ODFW got from Point A to Point B.

Chetco, Sixes Rivers Producing Chinook
With beautifully-colored emerald-green water, anglers who are pulling plugs with sardine wrappers have been nailing the occasional chrome-bright Chetco Chinook.  Most of the fish that have been in the river a while have a certain degree of color to them, but there are still fresh chromers entering the system - not too shabby for December!

Last week the Elk River was gin-clear and dropping from 3.7 feet, so that's your cue to find a guide who fishes the Sixes. Here are the Sixes River's put-ins and take-outs.

The highest put-in allowed for Chinook is at the Edson Creek boat ramp, 4.4 miles off Sixes River Road.

From Edson you can drift down to Mid-Drift, or you can drift from Mid-Drift down to the Grange, which is on west side of 101 just north of the Elk River Bridge.

You can also drift from the Grange down to the Hughes House, where there is a take-out close to the mouth.  But only float this lower drift when there is absolutely no wind predicted at Cape Blanco.

Tight Lines!

Larry Ellis, author, writer, columnist and photographer has had a 50-year passion for fishing in California and Oregon's saltwater and freshwater venues. He is a well-known writer for Oregon, Washington and California Fishing and Hunting News, Northwest Sportsman, California Sportsman and Pacific Coast Sportfishing. He currently writes monthly for Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine, and is the author of two books, "Plug Fishing for Salmon" and "Buoy 10, the World's Largest Salmon Run."  Both books can be bought from Amato Publications (amatobooks.com), Amazon and eBay. Ellis particularly loves living in his hometown of Brookings, Oregon - The heart of salmon country and gateway to fishing paradise.