Fishing in Oregon’s Coastal waters for salmon, flatfish, albacore tuna and rockfish provide anglers with the opportunity to fulfill their expectations by catching the finest fish the ocean has to offer.
Rockfish (Sebastes and Sebastolubus) are members of a large family (scorpaenidae) that dominate all depths of Oregon’s offshore coastal waters. Fish for rockfish in the shallow water along Oregon’s rocky shore and nearshore reefs or in deeper water that is up to 650 plus feet deep over the rocky pinnacles, dropoffs and canyon ridges of the offshore banks over the continental shelf and continental slope. The ports of
Halibut weighing up to three hundred pounds are waiting to be caught. Anglers fishing on charter boats out of
Understanding the relationship between predatory fish species, their prey species and the marine organisms that comprise the foundation (biomass) of the ocean’s food chain will help to fulfill your expectations of a successful fishing trip. Most of the species of fish that angler’s desire move vertically in the water column in response to the dynamics of the Diel Vertical Migration.
The Diel Vertical Migration is the daily ascent and descent of marine organisms in response to variations of light intensity from sunlight and moonlight. As the intensity of the light diminishes at sunset, the zooplankton (primarily copepods and euphausiids) rise in response feeding primarily on phytoplankton and copepods. The rising zooplankton attracts schools of myctophids (primarily the northern lampfish) and shrimp (Sergestes simillis) which feed on phytoplankton, copepods, euphausiids and shrimp.
The abundance and diversity of the prey species (juvenile salmonids, Pacific herring, northern anchovies, Pacific sardines, market squid (Loligo opalescens) and pink shrimp) attracted by the Diel Vertical Migration of marine organisms attract the numerous predatory fish species (salmon, albacore, rockfish and halibut) that anglers desire. The dynamics of the Diel Vertical Migration underscore the importance of the upwelling of cold nutrient rich water to the production of phytoplankton.
The combination of water temperature, currents, waves, tides in association with the seasonal movement of the sun is the moving force that governs the relationship between fish and their environment in the nearshore waters along the Oregon Coast. Fishing in
Currents move water through the ocean and are generated by the wind, differences in water temperature or salinity and by the tide. The currents in the
The seasonal movement of the Sun into the Northern Hemisphere hails the arrival of spring. The lengthening daylight hours stimulates the spawning instincts of marine organisms initiating the spawning migration of many fish species. The warming weather moves the North Pacific High northward off of Northern California and Oregon. The emergence of the North Pacific High late in spring changes the prevailing winds to circulate clockwise around the high and blow from north to south along the Oregon Coast. The prevailing north wind drives the cold water of the
The growth of phytoplankton is the biological engine that drives the ocean’s food chain causing the population of other marine organisms to increase exponentially. The population of forage fish (Northern anchovies, Pacific sardines, Pacific herring and candlefish, etc.) increases dramatically during periods of extended inshore upwelling caused by the combination of the prevailing north wind and the emergence of the
The shorter days of fall signal the return of the Sun to the Southern Hemisphere bringing about an abrupt change to the current off the Oregon Coast. The establishment of the Aleutian Low over the northern
The cyclical abundance of marine organisms remains consistent from season to season unless shifting weather patterns or unknown factors interrupt the prevailing northwest wind limiting the upwelling of nutrient rich water responsible for the growth of phytoplankton blooms. The seasonal changes to the prevailing winds and the ocean currents generated by the North Pacific High and the Aleutian Low remain constant until the ocean phenomena La Nina or El Nino appear.
The normal seasonal weather patterns along the Equator generate strong easterly trade winds and weaker westerly trade winds causing cooler water temperatures in the eastern Pacific and warmer water temperatures in the western Pacific. The ocean temperatures and the weather patterns remain constant until an unseasonable shift in the atmospheric pressure occurs over the Southern Hemisphere, when a high pressure develops over
La Nina is the cold water cousin of El Nino and usually occurs after an El Nino. La Nina is caused by the reversal of the high and low pressure components associated with the unseasonable shift of atmospheric pressure in the Southern Hemisphere. La Nina generates stronger than normal easterly trade winds that blow along the Equator and weaker than normal westerly trade winds causing the upwelling of cold nutrient rich water and a lowering of the ocean water temperature along the coast of the Americas. The combination of the Aleutian Low and the cold water generated by La Nina drive strong winter storms continuously up the Oregon Coast dramatically increasing rainfall in excess of 120 inches per year.
La Nina and El Nino weather patterns occur with varying degrees of intensity. Nothing dramatizes the effects of a fully developed El Nino or La Nina more than severe largescale beach erosion. The erosion is caused from waves generated by a shift in the tidal current to the southwest. Severe beach erosion is more common on the steeper sloped sandy beaches south of Tillamook Head. The complete loss of beach sand is a catastrophe for the intertidal animals and their prey species. It can take years for normal tidal currents to reestablish a biologically functioning sandy beach that will produce excellent surfperch fishing and razor clamming. The remains of ancient tree stumps are evidence that largescale beach erosion is a continuing phenomenon.
Most waves in the open ocean are generated by the wind blowing across the ocean pushing against the surface of the water. The force of the wind’s energy moves the water up and down causing the energy of the wave to move forward. As the wave nears the shore, the change in depth of the ocean floor forces the energy of the wave upward increasing the size of the wave. Ultimately, the wave crests and breaks releasing its energy onto the shore. Waves play a vital role in the ecological dynamics of the ocean shore. The force of the wave’s energy pushes the saltwater over the tidal zone carrying life sustaining oxygen and nutrients to the marine organisms. The force of the wave’s energy on the sandy beach churns the sand exposing the sand crabs, spiny mole crabs, sandworms and other intertidal animals washing them into the current. When the force of the wave’s energy is expended against the rocky shore, it washes mussels, crabs and other intertidal animals into the current. The abundance of animal matter washed into the current by the force of the wave’s energy attracts the predatory fish species that we desire and prey upon.
Waves in Oregon’s bays are generated by a combination of the wind, tides and ocean swells. Waves are generated at the entrance to the bays when the outgoing tide meets the incoming ocean swells. The energy of the ocean swells overcome and combine with the energy of the outgoing tide creating huge incoming waves. The most dramatic and largest waves generated at the entrance to
The tidal zone is the transitional area between the aquatic world of the ocean and the terrestrial world. It is one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in nature. The ebb and flow of the tidal current carries life sustaining oxygen and nutrients to the marine organisms in the tidal zone over the sandy beach, the rocky shore and into
Tides are the rise and fall of the sea level caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun. The outgoing tide exposes the diversity and the vulnerability of the tidal zone to the terrestrial world. Exposure to the elements and events of the terrestrial world stress the intertidal animals threatening their existence. Intertidal animals that die are not wasted; they become food for other marine organisms, or they are absorbed into the food chain as nutrients. Intertidal animals respond to the outgoing tide by withdrawing into their shells or by seeking refuge beneath the substrate of sand, mud and gravel, etc; in tide pools, in the cracks and crevices of the rocky structure beneath the mussel beds or aquatic vegetation.
The sense of discovery is compelling for visitors to the tidal zone during low tide. The outgoing tide provides the visitor the opportunity to harvest a wide variety of species and exposes areas of the tidal zone that are accessible during the outgoing tide or at low tide. Life seems to pause in the tidal zone during low tide, but it all changes during the incoming tide. Life rebounds with renewed energy as the rising tide floods the tidal zone with saltwater carrying life sustaining oxygen and nutrients to the marine organisms. The tidal zone is alive with activity during the incoming tide through high tide and to a lesser extent during the outgoing tide. The abundance and diversity of the tidal zone is evident as a multitude of marine organisms move into the tidal zone along the sandy beach, the rocky shore and into
The daily tidal cycle along the Oregon Coast is usually comprised of two high tides and two low tides. The gravity from the sun and the moon causes the ocean water on each side of the earth to bulge. The
Spring tides and Neap tides are governed by the position of the sun in relation to the earth and the moon. The spring tides occur during the new moon or full moon when the sun, moon and earth are aligned. During the alignment the gravitational pull causes tidal fluctuations that are greater than usual resulting with the highest high tides and the lowest low tides. The fact that water appears to spring away from the earth is the reason the tides are referred to as spring tides.
Neap tides occur during the 1st and 3rd quarter phase of the moon when the sun and the moon are at right angles to one another in conjunction to their relative position of the earth. The effect of their gravitational pulls is partially cancelled causing tidal fluctuations that are smaller than usual resulting with lower high tides and higher low tides.
The height of the surface water at low tide or high tide is predictable, but the actual height of the surface water may vary from the predicted height because of the weather related tidal surge. Onshore winds can push the ocean water onshore raising the height of the surface water to a level greater than the predicted height of the tide, while offshore winds push ocean water offshore lowering the level of the surface water below that of the predicted height of the tide. Atmospheric pressure also affects the height of the surface water. The actual height of the surface water will be higher than the predicted tide during a period of low pressure and lower than the predicted tide during a period of high pressure. Most of the time the weather related variance between the actual height of the surface water and the height of the predicted tide is negligible but occasionally the variance is great enough to impact clamming, crabbing or fishing along the
Tidal predictions by Dean Pentcheff at the University of South Carolina for the various locations along the Oregon Coast are available on the Internet by entering WWW Tide/Current Predictor in the internet search parameter of the web browser. Select tbone.biol.sc.edu to display the Site Selection: U.S. West Coast sites (North to South). Scroll down and display the tides for the location of interest on the
TIDAL CORRECTION TABLE
The tidal correction table is based on tidal predictions given in the monthly tide tables for the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center Dock in
The find the estimated high tide at Seaside, add 14 minutes to the South Beach time and multiply the predicted high tide height by the ratio of 0.67. To find the estimated low tide at
The functional values (productivity) associated with the ecology of Oregon’s bays are their most valuable resource. The ecological productivity of
The marine environment is challenged daily by the amount of freshwater entering the bays. To be successful marine animals have to adapt to fluctuating salinity and the changing water temperature. The temperature of the saltwater of the incoming tide is approximately 56 degrees as it flows into
During periods of seasonal heavy freshwater runoff that usually occurs from November through February, filter feeders withdraw into their shells and most fish and crabs leave the bays until the tide asserts its influence and once again saltwater dominates the bays. A large percentage of shellfish do not survive when the heavy flow of freshwater runoff persist for extended periods. The amount of sedimentation carried by the heavy freshwater runoff is the greatest threat to the ecological productivity of
Tides are the lifeblood of the bays. The ebb and flow of the tidal current carries life sustaining oxygen and nutrients throughout the bays supporting a broad range of marine organisms. Chinook salmon smolts forage in tidal reach of
All of Oregon’s bays have resources that are common to the other bays and attributes that distinguish one bay from another. The beauty of
The construction of the jetties in Oregon’s bays enhanced habitat diversity by providing a home for the fish species usually associated with the nearshore reefs and the rocky shore. Construction of the south jetty on the
The Online version of the rockfish and flatfish components of the Triennial Trawl Surveys is free compliments of Bill Lackner at www.clamdigging.info. However, use of the images is restricted by the copyright holders and some of the following web pages contain proprietary information that is protected by numerous copyrights. All of the information on the following web pages may be viewed for personal use. All of the photographs of the fish species were used with permission of the copyright holder. Permission of the copyright holder is required to copy the images.
Take the time to share photographs and accounts of your fishing, crabbing and clam digging adventures with us. We will post the photos to our photo album and share you tips and suggestions with other nglers. Remember to take only enough clams, crabs and fish to fulfill your immediate needs. Thanks, Bill.
Triennial Bottom Trawl Surveys:
The Pacific West Coast Bottom Trawl Survey of Groundfish Resources: Estimates of Distribution, Abundance, Age and Length Composition survey was a series of bottom trawl surveys on the abundance, age, length and distribution of commercially important groundfish species over the continental shelf and the continental slope during 1983, 1986, 1995 and 1998. The location of the fish species compiled in the survey has proved to be especially useful for recreational anglers. The last digit of the latitude and longitude coordinates for the 1983 and 1986 trawl surveys were truncated by the research scientist making it more difficult to find the fish described in the trawl survey. The depth in the following tables is given in feet. The duration of the average tow was ½ hour and the average distance of each tow varied between 1.2 and 1, 9 nautical miles but averaged 1.6 nautical miles. Halibut were recorded in the “other flatfish” category in the 1983 and 1986 trawl surveys. The population of number of rockfish species desired by recreational anglers was recorded in the “other rockfish” category. The presence of a single asterisk denotes a trawl catch of less than 10kg. The absence of asterisks denotes a trawl catch of between 10 and 20kg. The presence of a double asterisk denotes a trawl catch of over 20kg. The presence of three asterisks denotes a catch weight over 40kg for rockfish and halibut but denotes a catch in excess of 100kg for flatfish. The tables include the survey area extending into Washington State from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point (46 39”N.). Oregon anglers are allowed to fish in Washington State ocean water from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point.
An asterisk * next to the fish species on this page denotes the fish species recorded by the Triennial Trawl Survey. Those fish species listed on this page without an * were recorded under other rockfish or flatfish species. Do not confuse the * on the webpage with the * associated with the Triennial Trawl Survey. Currently the possession of Canary rockfish and Yelloweye rockfish is prohibited. Refer to the ODFW general regulations and the Marine Zone regulations for area closures and restrictions. The GPS coordinates listed in the Triennial Trawl Surveys may fall within the designated restricted areas
Rockfish (Sebastes and Sebastolubus) are members of a large family (scorpaenidae) that dominate Oregon's coastal waters. Black and blue rockfish are the foundation of Oregon's coastal recreational fishery producing the highest catch ratio of fish per angler in Oregon's coastal waters, followed in order by large numbers of canary rockfish, yellowtail rockfish, yelloweye rockfish, widow rockfish, copper rockfish, quillback rockfish, china rockfish and vermillion rockfish. Substantial numbers of greenstriped rockfish, rosethorn rockfish, grass rockfish, tiger rockfish, bocaccio, redstripe rockfish and brown rockfish are caught by recreational angler followed by the occasional rosey rockfish, silvergray rockfish, chilipepper, greenspotted rockfish, yellowmouth rockfish, darkbloched rockfish, sharpchin rockfish, Pacific Ocean perch and aurora rockfish.
Rockfish in the open ocean are species specific to all depths of the water column from the surface to extreme depths. Black rockfish and blue rockfish are the most common rockfish occurring in shallow water. Yellowtail rockfish and widow rockfish are found offshore suspended at midwater depths over rocky structure in large schools often numbering over a thousand fish. The largest and most desirable species of adult rockfish common to the continental shelf, bocaccio, canary, yelloweye and vermilion rockfish are typically found at depths that vary by species from a depth of 164 feet to 1300 feet. For example, adult canary rockfish occur in the greatest numbers over the offshore banks in deep water from a depth of 300 to 650 feet over the rocky structure associated with pinnacles, sharp drop-offs and hard bottoms. The shortspine thornyhead, one of the best tasting rockfish are common from depths of 328 feet to over 3000 feet on the edge of the continental shelf and the upper portion of the continental slope, but they are rarely caught because they are common to soft bottoms.
Most adult rockfish are found at greater depths than juvenile rockfish of the same species. For example, all age classes of black rockfish occur in shallow water, but during the day adult black rockfish withdraw to deeper water. In deeper water adult canary rockfish are found at greater depths than juvenile canary rockfish.
The nearshore reefs and the offshore banks on the continental shelf provide the location of some of the more desirable rockfish species but not all desirable rockfish species associate with the rocky structure of nearshore reefs or the offshore banks. Some rockfish species suspend at midwater depths while others are found at or near the bottom over the diverse substrates associated with the continental shelf or the upper portion of the continental slope. The longitude and latitude coordinates listed in this publication provide anglers with some of the more productive locations to fish for rockfish off of the Oregon and Washington Coast. The depths at which rockfish are located limit their accessibility and underscore the importance of marine electronics to the recreational angler. Use the LCD fish locator to find and observe the school of rockfish as they and the marine organisms move upward toward the surface in response to the Diel Vertical Migration at dawn, sunset or cloud covered days.
Some species of rockfish move vertically in the water column in response the dynamics of the Diel Vertical Migration, while other species are either diurnal or nocturnal. Response to the Diel Vertical Response varies by species. For example, black rockfish and blue rockfish commonly rise to the surface to feed, while the shortbelly rockfish (A small rockfish that is an important part of the food chain.) rises 30 to 230 feet off of the bottom but usually no closer than 100 feet of the surface. Black rockfish, blue rockfish, grass rockfish, copper rockfish, yellowtail rockfish, widow rockfish, splitnose rockfish, shortbelly rockfish, Pacific Ocean perch, stripetail rockfish and shortraker rockfish all respond to the dynamics of the Diel Vertical Migration. In shallow water Quillback rockfish are diurnal often rising 40 feet off of the bottom feeding aggressively at midday. In deepwater Chilipepper rockfish are diurnal feeding actively during the day rising as much as 145 feet in the water column. In shallow water grass rockfish are nocturnal feeding actively during the night and resting on the bottom in dark recesses during the day. In deepwater Tiger rockfish are nocturnal resting in caves and dark recesses during the day.
Seasonal migrations are a common characteristic for a number of rockfish species moving into deeper water during the winter and into shallower water during the spring and summer. The Pacific Ocean perch and the shortspine thornyhead are notable examples.
The length and weight of rockfish is species specific. Adult rockfish vary in length from 10 to 38 inches and in weigh from 1 to 44 pounds. Black rockfish grow to 23 inches in length and weigh up to 6 pounds. Yellowtail rockfish grow to 24 inches in length weighing up to 6 pounds while widow rockfish reach 21 inches in length and weigh up to 4¾ pounds. Yelloweye rockfish are one of the largest rockfish attaining a length of 38 inches and weighing up to 25 plus pounds but they typically weigh between 8 and 10 pounds. Rockfish are long lived and it takes from 25 years to 75 years for bocaccio, canary, yelloweye or vermilion rockfish to attain their impressive size. The rougheye rockfish is the longest lived rockfish living up to 205 years.
Handle rockfish with great care. All species of rockfish have a venomous gland at the base of their dorsal fin spine and some species have venomous glands at the base of their dorsal, anal and pelvic fin spines while a very few species have venomous glands at the base of all of their fin spines. The venom, while painful, is not dangerous unless it provokes an allergic reaction.
Once the rockfish are on deck immediately cut through the gillrakers to bleed them then ice them to ensure fillets of optimum quality. The table quality of most species of rockfish ranges from very good to excellent. The angler is in store for an adventure in dining every time a different species of rockfish is caught. However, most anglers limit their fishing effort to nearshore areas of the rocky coast up to depths of 90 feet fishing for the following nearshore rockfish species: Black Rockfish and Blue Rockfish, Black and Yellow Rockfish, Brown Rockfish, China Rockfish, Copper Rockfish, Grass Rockfish and Quillback Rockfish.
Rockfish are taken with a variety of natural baits such as herring, greenling, small black rockfish, anchovies, crabs, shrimp or market squid. Live bait is always the first choice followed by fresh dead or frozen herring. Market squid or shrimp in the shell are effective when baited to a gangion and jigged next to the bottom. Market squid is most commonly used as strip bait to enhance the effectiveness of leadhead jigs. Large shore crabs or sandworms are effective when fished on the bottom in the shallow water over rocky structure especially for cabezon, lingcod and rockfish.
Because of the limited availability of live baitfish for sale along the Oregon Coast, frozen herring is the most effective bait used to catch rockfish. To bait the gangion with frozen whole herring, insert the hook into the side of the herring just above the lateral line behind the dorsal fin. Lace the hook through the herring several times from the dorsal fin forward with the hook exiting just behind the head pointing toward the tail. Baiting the gangion with chunks of herring, shrimp or market squid is an effective alternative to using whole herring. Lower the gangion into the water allowing it to freefall to the bottom keeping control of the falling bait by exerting pressure on the spool with your thumb to avoid a backlash when the sinker hits the bottom. Fish the gangion with a subtle jigging motion just off of the bottom occasionally bouncing the sinker on the bottom to attract the rockfish. When a strike is detected allow the rockfish time to take the bait by lowering the tip of the rod before setting the hook. Raise the rod setting the hook by firmly lifting the rod. Keep tension on the line at all times. The struggling rockfish will attract other rockfish to the gangion. Try to hook an additional rockfish before reeling the rockfish to the surface. Do not try to horse a hooked rockfish to the surface; instead, take the time to pump the fish to the surface maintaining tension on the line at all times. The struggling rockfish will often attract lingcod. The opportunistic lingcod will seize the rockfish swallowing it usually without hooking itself. When a lingcod is being brought to the surface, gaff or net the lingcod before bringing it to the surface.
The most desirable rockfish are found offshore over the continental shelf and the upper portion of the continental slope. The most common species of rockfish found over the rocky structure of the nearshore reefs and the offshore banks on the continental shelf in water from 90 feet deep to a depth of 650 plus feet include: bocaccio rockfish, canary rockfish, chilipepper rockfish, greenspotted rockfish, greenstriped rockfish, redstripe rockfish, rosey rockfish, rosethorn rock fish, shortbelly rockfish, Speckled rockfish, Silvergray rockfish, tiger rockfish, widow rockfish, Yelloweye rockfish, yellowtail rockfish and vermilion rockfish. Recreational anglers rarely fish for the rockfish species common to the outer edge of the continental shelf and the upper portion of the continental slope. The size and table quality of the rockfish species found there rival canary and yelloweye rockfish. The most common species of rockfish found offshore over the outer edge of the continental shelf and the upper portion of the continental slope in deepwater from a depth of 300 feet to extreme depths include: aurora rockfish, bank rockfish, blackgill rockfish, darkblotched rockfish, redbanded rockfish, rougheye rockfish, Pacific Ocean perch, sharpchin rockfish, stripetail rockfish, shortraker rockfish. splitnose rockfish, yellowmouth rockfish, and the sebastolobus, shortspine thornyhead.
The variety of rockfish species found in Oregon's coastal waters fulfills the expectations of all recreational anglers regardless the level of their expertise. Remember that conservation is the key that will assure good fishing into the future. Only take enough fish to fulfill your immediate needs.
Share the accounts of your fishing, crabbing and clam digging experiences with us by sending your comments and photos to email@example.com Thanks, Bill