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Groundfish restricted to 20 fathoms or less

On Oregon Waters, Larry Ellis,
s of July 15 and through the remainder of 2016, fishing for groundfish will be restricted to the 20-fathom curve or shallower. This decision was made by ODFW on Friday.

Moving the groundfish restriction to less than 20 fathoms was based on the possibility that yelloweye rockfish could prematurely reach its harvest cap before the end of the year, a cap that was designed to last throughout the entire year.

Granted, the retention of yelloweye rockfish is prohibited in Oregon. But that fact doesn’t even enter the equation. Every released yelloweye rockfish counts against its own quota, and apparently, there have been quite a few yelloweye rockfish being hooked and released in the last few months – much more than usual.

If and when the yelloweye harvest cap should be reached, the entire groundfish community would also be shut down, just because all rockfish are lumped into a category called groundfish.

Examples of groundfish would be rockfish, cabezon, greenling and all flatfishes except for Pacific halibut.

It is ODFW’s feeling that by moving the groundfish restriction to 20 fathoms or less, there will be less of a bycatch of yelloweye rockfish.

Dave Lilienthal with limit of rockfish, photo by Larry Ellis
Limits of large rockfish and lingcod were the name of the game last week for Dave Lilienthal of Brookings, Oregon who caught his fish while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor.

The principle is that yelloweye rockfish tend to be caught in depths greater than 20 fathoms. The theory is that if you move the groundfish-retention line inside of 20 fathoms, less yelloweye will be caught and therefore anglers will be able to harvest the rest of the groundfish species through the end of the year. That theory will be either proven or disproved in the next few months.

The 20-fathom curve is defined by waypoints that can be found on the ODFW website.

First Tuna Caught Outside the Port of Brookings Harbor
They had to travel between 50 and 60 miles outside the Port of Brookings Harbor to get them, but the four boats who made the long tuna trek on Tuesday were rewarded with an incredibly-great grade of albacore.
Dominic Carollo holding tuna, by Larry Ellis
Dominic Carollo from Roseburg, Oregon holds two of the large tuna that he caught while fishing aboard the boat 'Hook Tender' that launched out of the Port of Brookings Harbor on Tuesday. The group he was with caught their tuna 52 miles from the Brookings jaws. Photo by Larry Ellis

On Monday I received a call from Dena James, owner of the Mewow who said that ideal tuna sea surface temperatures were within 30 miles from the jaws of the Port of Brookings Harbor, and two other boats were joining her the next day in search of tuna.

On Tuesday, the tuna had moved 30 miles off of Gold Beach, but those who braved the trip came back to port with tuna averaging 30 to 35 pounds. One albacore tipped the scales at a whopping 42 pounds, which is huge for an Oregon coastal albie!

“Hook Tender caught 20-plus tuna 51 miles out with us,” said Dena James, owner of the Mewow. “He was top boat.”

James said that her boat caught the first tuna of that particular trip, and since nobody else had informed me about catching tuna out of the Port of Brookings Harbor, I’m going to call her tuna ‘the first fish of the year’.

“It was a nice grade of fish all day,” said James. “25 to 35 pounds!”

Jamie Oliver with dungeness crab, by Larry Ellis
Jamie Oliver from Tulare, California teamed up with some friends in the Riverside RV Park in Brookings and caught limits of Dungeness Crab while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor. Photo by Larry Ellis

So keep your eyes peeled on the Terrafin charts. As soon as that bubble of 62-degree water comes within 20 miles of port, folks will be heading back out to slay the fatted tuna.

Meanwhile the tuna fishing 30 miles outside of Coos Bay has remained stellar as usual, with Brookings- and Gold Beach-area anglers hauling their boats up to Charleston Harbor with regularity.

“I was out there yesterday afternoon and we got 38 fish,” said Sam Waller, owner of Jot’s Resort in Gold Beach on Wednesday. “It was really good fishing out of Coos Bay.”

Salmon fishing in the Rogue Bay has been fair one day – moderately mediocre the next, but those who are putting in the effort are being rewarded with some chrome-bright kings in the 20-pound class.

“It’s been decent fishing,” said Waller. “Greg Eide had one fish that weighed about 25 pounds. Look for the fishing to improve as the temperatures warm up inland again.”

The bottom fishing out of the Port of Brookings has been very good most days, with a good grade of black rockfish and some dandy lingasaurs being brought to the fillet tables as well. Fish have been inhaling both plastics and leadfish.

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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