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Oregon Free Fishing Weekend means 'free'

On Oregon Waters, Larry Ellis,
his weekend, June 4 and June 5 is Oregon Free Fishing Weekend. On these two days, anyone may fish, clam or crab in Oregon and not have to worry about buying a fishing license, a shellfish license or any tags. So clam, crab or fish to your hearts’ content courtesy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

And when ODFW says “free” they literally mean “free”. You are not required to tag fish such as Chinook salmon or Pacific halibut.

All anglers or shellfish aficionados have to do is abide by the rules that are printed in the Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations.

This weekend is shaping up to be a very unusual Free Fishing Weekend, especially for anglers who love fishing the briny saltwater in the Pacific Ocean out of the Port of Brookings Harbor.

Normally on Free Fishing Weekend, the ocean has typically been too windy for anglers to fish safely. Almost always on Free Fishing Weekend, there are howling northwest winds causing severe wind chop on the water, in addition to very large ocean swells. This pattern has occurred for at least 10 years that I have remembered.

This weekend, and this was as of early Friday morning at 8 am, the National Weather Service was predicting a moderate ocean swell with modest breezes to match for Free Fishing Weekend.

Saturday’s prediction was calling for northwest winds less than 5 knots becoming northwest between 5 and 8 knots in the afternoon. The swell is mixed with a west-northwest 5-foot swell and a 2-foot south swell. Wind waves were predicted to be around 2 feet.

This day is definitely doable for ocean aficionados.

On Sunday, the NWS is predicting a northwest wind between 7 and 10 kt, with a mixed swell of a westerly 4-foot swell combined with a 2-foot south swell. Wind waves were predicted to be between 2 to 3 ft.

So although Sunday’s forecast has increased in swell and wind size, it could also be a doable fishing day on the ocean.

If this prediction holds up, there will definitely be some free fishing going on for rockfish and lingcod. If the swell diminishes, and the wind abates, there also might be some halibut fishing happening as well.

My disclaimer is that a meteorologist is the only occupation where you can be 50-percent right and still hold your job.

So of course the wind could be higher than predicted and the swells could be higher as well. On the other hand, the wind and swell predictions could be lower than predicted, especially in the calm water that frequents the ocean outside the Port of Brookings Harbor.

So make sure to check the National Weather Service forecasts the morning of your trip to make sure that you will have fishable seas and only a slight breeze because this could be a weekend to remember.

Remember that if you catch a Pacific halibut or a Chinook salmon, you do not have to mark them on your tag.

There should also be plenty of awesome surf fishing going on as well. Remember that surfperch bite the best on an incoming tide and bite the worst (or nil) on an outgoing tide.

When you are surf fishing also be sure to be on the lookout for sneaker waves. Sneaker waves can come from any direction, but they often happen on very steep-sloping beaches when the surf is rushing in. Often on these occasions, the water rushes back out to sea, sometimes creating another type of wave that gets you from behind. So never turn your back on Mother Ocean.

Man holding stringer of rock fish and lingcod, photo by Larry Ellis
Bob Schlumpberger from Grants Pass, Oregon limited out on rockfish and lingcod last week while escaping the valley heat and fishing the cool onshore breezes that frequent the ocean out of the Port of Brookings Harbor. Photo by Larry Ellis

Great places to fish for striped, calico or redtail surfperch from Harbor to Brookings are Crissey Field State Park near the California/Oregon border, McVay Park, Sporthaven Beach, Chetco Point Park and Mill Beach. North of Brookings you’ve got Lone Ranch State Park, Pistol River, Kissing Rock (just south of Gold Beach), the nook where the beach meets the Gold Beach South Jetty, the Gold Beach South Jetty Spit and an area just downhill from the Nesika Beach Wayside.

There should also be plenty of catchable-size and a few trophy-size trout in Libby Pond, Arizona Beach Pond (age 17 and younger only) and Garrison Lake.

So anyway you slice it, there should be plenty of rockfish, lingcod, surfperch, trout and shellfish opportunities in Curry County this weekend. Maybe even a halibut or two or possibly even an early Chinook!

At this time, there is a razor clamming closure from Heceta Head south to the Oregon/California border due to elevated levels of domoic acid.

Recreational harvest of mussels is now open along the entire Oregon coast as are bay clams. Dungeness crab are also safe to eat and crabbers are advised to eviscerate, or gut the crab as well as remove the crab gills prior to cooking them.

For further information call the Oregon Shellfish Information Hotline at 800-448-2474.

It is also worth mentioning that the new Catalyst Seafood Restaurant has changed its name back to Chetco Seafood, so their doors are definitely open for business. I’ve had both the lingcod-and-chips and the black snapper-and-chips (both delicious). The fish is as fresh as the owners claim.

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. Posted with permission of the Curry Coastal Pilot of Brookings, Oregon.

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