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OR: shellfish alert -- salmon shoot upriver

he Oregon Department of Agriculture has issued a very important recreational crab advisory. Fishermen in Oregon crabbing off of jetties, piers, beaches and bays from Cape Arago (Coos Bay) south to the California border are now being advised to only cook and eat crab after the crustaceans have first been fully eviscerated (gutted) and the gills have been removed.

This is because the toxin domoic acid has been found in the viscera (guts) and gills of Dungeness and red rock crab. Domoic acid is directly linked to paralytic shellfish poisoning, a potentially fatal disease.

The domoic acid scare has even prompted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to postpone the crab opener in Crescent City Harbor, which normally takes place starting on the first Saturday in November, which happens to be today.

To me, it doesn't make very much any sense at all that people in California are being told that just one inch south of the Oregon/California border, eating a Dungeness Crab can kill you, while at the same time, people in Oregon are being told that only one inch north of the Oregon/California border, eating a Dungeness crab is safe.

Somebody does not have their act together.

Be that as it may, that sort of scares me from eating crab at all in any way, shape or form; that is until the crab advisory has been fully lifted.

In addition to the Oregon crab advisory, the recreational harvest of razor clams along the entire Oregon coast is closed. Furthermore, the recreational harvest of mussels from the Yachats River south to the California/Oregon border is also closed.

Unseasonably warm water that has plagued the Oregon coast this past year is being blamed for unusually-high levels of domoic acid in certain clams and shellfish.

Razor clams and mussels are filter feeders, which means that they don't move through the water fast enough (or at all) in order to avoid being contaminated with domoic acid. Basically, they stay in one place most of the time. Mussels, as everyone knows, adhere to jetties and tide pool rocks and remain in one place, depending on the incoming waves to feed and oxygenate them.

Fish on the other hand move through the water rapidly enough to avoid being contaminated with domoic acid, which explains why you can still eat rockfish, lingcod and salmon during most domoic acid outbreaks.

The Shellfish Safety Hotline is 800-448-2474

Larry Ross from Half Moon Bay, California and Bill Botieff from Sonoma, California fished on the Chetco River with guide Sean Clemens of Sean Clemens Guide Service on Wednesday, with both parties scoring a hefty Chinook on the first day of regular fishing regulations. Photo by Larry Ellis

Larry Ross from Half Moon Bay, California and Bill Botieff from Sonoma, California fished on the Chetco River with guide Sean Clemens of Sean Clemens Guide Service on Wednesday, with both parties scoring a hefty Chinook on the first day of regular fishing regulations. Photo by the author

The first day of regular river regulations on the Chetco River with no bobber-only or fly-fishing-only restrictions opened up on Wednesday, November 4. The fishing was slow to moderately mediocre.

What salmon anglers hope and pray for this time of year are for moderate river raises that tend to keep salmon safe and content in both upper and lower tidewater holes.

But a large freshet that raised the Chetco from 188 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 3,600 cfs on Sunday sent the majority of Chinook (which numbered well into the upper hundreds) packing upriver to their happy spawning grounds.

That's great for the salmon in future years, but not so great for local-area anglers who were anxiously waiting to hook a few more fish in the lower river.

The super-dry drought-induced ground soaked up the majority of the water like a sponge, which rapidly sucked the Chetco River back down to 450 cfs. It is going to take several more storms before the ground is saturated enough to maintain the Chetco at ideal fishable levels between 1,500 and

3,800 cfs.

The fishing was absolutely off the charts on Saturday, which usually happens the day before a major storm.

Still, a few anglers were able to coax a Chinook or two to strike sand shrimp cocktails that were used underneath bobbers.

November is generally speaking, the month of the 30-pound Chetco kings, so I would expect that more large fish will be stacking up day-by-day in the lower tidewater holes such as Morris, Tide Rock and Social Security Bar.

Only with more rain in the forecast, which at the moment is quite tentative, fish should be moving upriver to the Highway Hole, the North Fork Pump House, the Piling Hole, Willow Bar and Loeb State Park.

Fishermen also took advantage of flat-calm ocean conditions last week and caught limits or near limits of rockfish and lingcod. However the mild swell which the area experienced last week is expected to raise to over 12 feet on Monday, creating impossible ocean fishing conditions.

So keep your eyes peeled on the National Weather Service and Magic Seaweed web pages for possible narrow windows of fishing opportunities that might occur toward the latter part of the week.

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 weekly fishing columnist for “On the Water” for the Curry Coastal Pilot Newspaper. He particularly loves living in his hometown of Brookings, Oregon - The heart of salmon country and gateway to fishing paradise. On the Water by Larry Ellis is posted with permission of the Curry Coastal Pilot of Brookings, Oregon.


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