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Fishing Report: Friday, March 18

OCEAN OUTLOOK

COASTWIDE: Ocean anglers who were getting after lingcod earlier in the week have given way to a small-craft advisory that began Thursday and runs through today, with 10-knot winds and five-foot swells forecast off Brookings. That's not bad compared to the rest of the state, but the advisory will remain. Saturday will see five-knot winds and nine-foot swells, with winds Sunday ramping up to 25 knots and wind waves kicking up to seven feet. Pretty marginal for a drive from inland valleys.

When the water calms down, lingcod are spawning and aggressive. The ling limit is two fish, and jigging just off kelp beds is very good. Anglers can keep up to one canary rockfish as part of the seven-fish bottomfishing aggregate limit, but anglers should release canaries to ensure the quota is not filled, which could close the bottomfishing season.

The ocean and bays are open to crabbing coastwide. Catches have been poor in bays and will remain suspect deep into next week because of high freshwater content in bays. Ocean crabbing is open and good when the weather and waves allow for safe pot-pulling.

Razor clamming remains closed south of Tillamook Head, while bay clams and butter clams are available coastwide. Mussels can be taken coastwide. Before digging, check the shellfish hotline at 1-800-448-2474.

LAKE OUTLOOK

AGATE: The lake was listed Thursday at 99 percent full and still pretty murky, but some bass, crappie and perch have been caught with night crawlers or larger plastic worms fished very slowly around submerged structure. Fish the warmer days. The boat ramp is usable and closes at sunset. No trout stockings are planned this year.

APPLEGATE: The lake got its first infusion of fresh trout last week when 5,000 legal-sized rainbows get stocked. Trout and bass fishing has been slow amid rising water, but bass fishing should improve as the days warm up and the fish get more active. Few anglers are venturing off the steep bank for trout. Trolling out of boats has been the best bet. The lake is at 1,945 feet above sea level, holding steady to where it was last week thanks to heavy outflows to the Applegate River. Those are dropping daily and will stop at 1,000 cfs Saturday. If you go, troll for trout up to 16 inches with Wedding Ring lures spiced with a piece of worm and small flashers farther down in the reservoir. Watch for floating debris.

DIAMOND: Lake ice has weakened significantly and is no longer safe for ice fishing. Pockets of open water are starting to form around the banks, where anglers can look for cruising fish looking for early bug hatches. They will eat worms under bobbers and take chartreuse PowerBait floated above the weed tops.

EMIGRANT: The lake was 84 percent full Thursday. Bass are starting to bite despite the cold water. Fish plastic worms or grubs very slowly around structure.

FISH: The lake was up a bit to 48 percent full Thursday, and the ice is not safe. Water is starting to open up around the edges, and soon anglers will be bait-fishing with worms or PowerBait for a mix of holdover rainbows, land-locked chinook and tiger trout, which must be released unharmed. When the water warms, start casting lures and flies that look like small chub.

HOWARD PRAIRIE: The lake's ice has been breaking up, and the open water around the banks can be accessed, but the water is cold, and the rainbow trout are somewhat sluggish. Anglers can bank-fish around the dam or other places where there's open water, but effort is extremely light. PowerBait or worms about five feet under a bobber are good ideas. The lake is up to 44 percent full, and the rising water will break up more ice along the edges and weaken other spots. Don't expect the ice to return this spring.

HYATT: The lake is open, and the ice has melted along the shoreline. The lake is at 50 percent full, up another 6 percent in the past week. The best access is near the dam, but cold water has trout lethargic and bass inactive.

LOST CREEK: Heavy inflows and fairly strong releases have the lake water in flux, and fishing has been slow for trollers and bank anglers near the Takelma boat ramp. That should be better now that the first 15,000 rainbow trout were stocked there this week, split between the marina ramp and the Taklema ramp, where bank anglers are doing best with PowerBait or small Panther Martin spinners in water about 10 to 15 feet deep. Don't forget to try a Kastmaster or two, as well. Trollers should start with green Wedding Ring lures with a piece of worm. Land-locked salmon remain in the mix and they've been holding deeper than the trout. The lake is on the rise despite releases of 3,200 cfs to the upper Rogue. The lake was listed Thursday at 1,857.7 feet above sea level, more than three feet higher than last week.

LAKE OF THE WOODS: The ice has deteriorated after recent rains and is not safe for ice-fishing. When more water melts, look for bait fishing to start for trout and perch in the shallows near the resort. 

WILLOW: Trout fishing is very slow, but look for fishing to improve now that the first 4,000 rainbow trout were stocked at the county ramp. Most of this weekend's catches will be around that ramp. The lake is almost full.

RIVER OUTLOOK

ROGUE: Rogue River anglers are looking to see the river pull into high but fishable shape for winter steelhead river-wide through the weekend before yet another series of rains predicted to hit Sunday and stay into Tuesday. The best bet is to focus on high-water holes you know and work them over, because winter steelhead are clearly on the move.

In the upper Rogue, the 3,200 cubic feet of water surging out of Lost Creek Dam has helped and harmed upper Rogue winter steelhead success just as fishing has finally turned on. The flow is high but clean and mixing well with tributary water to create nice visibility. But the flow was 5,600 cfs and dropping Thursday at Dodge Bride, and 6,730 cfs and dropping at the old Gold Ray Dam site. That means the water is really moving. For driftboaters, hug the shore along the slower inside turns on gravel bars. Fish will be moving steadily, particular on cloudy days before the rains return. Bank anglers need to use larger rattling lures and side-planers. The Mag Lip 3.5 in gold and red as been a hot winter steelhead plug.

About 150 fresh winter steelhead were captured this past week at Cole Rivers Hatchery, so the run is definitely moving.

In the Grants Pass area, steelheaders should start finding their way back to the river today after being blown out most of the week thanks to high and dirty flows. Flows at Grants Pass were a fat 8,284 cfs and falling Thursday, but the good news is that the turbidity level measured 9 NTUs. Consider 14 NTUs about the maximum you want to fight with, so that's a good sign, especially as the water drops through the weekend. Worms and watermelon corkies are the Grants Passers' favorite post-rain baits, fished along the banks. Side-planers need larger rattling plugs in water 4 to 6 feet deep.

Anglers riverwide can keep one wild winter steelhead 24 inches or longer per day and five per year.

In the lower Rogue, plunkers are hitting a surprisingly good number of fresh winter steelhead as well as the occasional spring chinook on larger Spin-Glo's fished close to the bank. It should shape into an excellent plunker weekend before water levels start ramping up again early Tuesday. Flows at Agness were at 19,300 cfs and falling Thursday, so catches should improve daily through Monday.

APPLEGATE: Water conditions are finally pulling into shape now that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has backed off on the lake outflows, which were dropping steadily and will stop Saturday at 1,000 cfs. That's still a bit high but good clarity will mean that winter steelhead will be catchable river-wide. Another 130 fresh winter steelhead were captured at the trap near the dam this week, boosting the catch so far this season at more than 300 steelhead. All wild steelhead must be released unharmed. There is no fishing from a floating device.

CHETCO: The river was dropping into fishing shape Thursday and looks like it should be prime for a late winter steelhead foray through the weekend. Steelhead are well distributed and far above the forks this year thanks to regular freshets, but expect lots of spawned-out fish in the mix. Still-fish the inside turns on gravel bars.

ELK: The river was in excellent shape for winter steelhead, with emerald-green water reported Thursday at the hatchery. The river is known for a great late run of fresh, big winter steelhead, and this weekend could be the time before the water rises again from weekend rains. Roe side-drifted or pink jigs fished under bobbers are good plans.