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Fishing report: Thursday, Dec. 18

OCEAN OUTLOOK

COASTWIDE: Big seas will be big problems for everyone who thinks the last weekend before Christmas is the right time to fish or crab the ocean. Today's forecast is for 11-foot swells, followed Saturday by 17-foot swells before things calm a bit to 15-foot swells by Monday. That will keep everyone inside bays to crab or fish.

The ocean crabbing season is open, and Dungeness catches off bay mouths should be very good when weather alllows, but that does not include this weekend.

The South Coast halibut fishery is closed until spring.

Anglers can venture past the 30-fathom line for bottomfishing, but few will bother, as near-shore fishing is good for black rockfish and the occasional lingcod, which have moved farther offshore. The marine aggregate limit in Oregon is seven rockfish a day. Anglers can keep one cabezon as part of that limit. The lingcod limit is two a day with a 22-inch minimum, and that is separate from the marine aggregate.

Crabbers had been doing very well for legal-sized males in most Oregon estuaries, with boat crabbers landing close to limits in Coos Bay and Winchester Bay. This weekend's rain will push the Dungeness lower in coastal estuaries and completely out of some until the floodwaters recede.

Razor clamming is closed from the California border to Heceta Head near Florence because of elevated bacteria levels. There are afternoon minus tides all week, starting at 4 p.m. today and running 41 minutes later each evening through next week. Some of these excellent tides will see clamming limits for those digging with headlamps. Mussel harvesting is are open along the entire Oregon Coast. Call the state shellfish hotline at 1-800-448-2474 for updates before digging.

COOS BAY: Black rockfish catches are good off the north jetty earlier this week, and crabbing was very good for boat crabbers and decent for dock crabbers between the high freshwater inflows that push Dungeness out. Look for crabbing to slow through the weekend as high winds and rain hit the coast, then it should pick up again next week. Many red rock crabs in the Charleston area have been tagged as part of a study. Anyone who catches one is urged to call state fish biologists at 541-888-5515.

Great late-afternoon and evening minus tides means perfect conditions for digging cockles, gapers and razor clams in places such as Charleston.

BROOKINGS: The ocean is a bust for the weekend.

GOLD BEACH: The Rogue bay has turned off for chinook and coho salmon. Surf perch fishing will be poor until the bar conditions improve.

LAKE OUTLOOK

AGATE: The lake is up to 17 percent full, but it's still so murky that it's unfishable, and the boat ramp is unusable. Also, the Jackson County Parks Department closes access at dusk.

APPLEGATE: The lake is fishing fairly well for holdover rainbow trout 10 to 14 inches long, but there is little effort there. Trollers are finding fish with Wedding Ring lures spiced with worms between 30 and 45 feet deep. Hart-Tish Park and its boat ramp are closed, and the ramp at Copper is no longer usable. That leaves only the French Gulch ramp for launching. Bass fishing is slow thanks to colder water. The lake was up a bit this week after last week's rains and was listed Wednesday as 10 percent full.

Applegate Lake has a standing advisory against eating too many portions of warmwater fish caught in the lake because of elevated mercury levels found in the bass and crappie.

DIAMOND: Fishing for trout has been decent but not spectacular, and the lack of effort reinforces this. Most of the action is still-fishing with PowerBait or with meal worms under bobbers. Vary your depths. The North Ramp near the resort remains open and snow is starting to accumulate around the lake but there is no ice yet. The limit is eight trout longer than 8 inches per day, but only one can be longer than 20 inches. Diamond Lake remains open year-round.

EMIGRANT: The county park boat ramps are unusable. The lake has increased to 17 percent full with the recent rains. There is some bank fishing where Emigrant Creek hits what's left of the lake and near the rowing boathouse, but not much action is going on. Driving on the lake bed is illegal.

FISH: The lake has inched up to 34 percent full after being below the water-gauge most of last month. No boat ramps are usable, however. A few people fishing on float tubes are faring very well for a mix of trout and chinook salmon. The mud around the lake is starting to crust so bank anglers can now venture to the water's edge. Still wear good mud boots. Tiger trout must be released unharmed. Chinook are legally considered trout and can be kept as part of the five-trout daily limit. The chinook are in 12- to 14-inch range.

HOWARD PRAIRIE: The lake is closed to angling until April 25.

HYATT: The lake is closed to angling until April 25.

LOST CREEK: The lake remains under a voluntary public advisory against water contact due to a new bloom of blue-green algae that has chased anglers off the lake. When the public-health advisory is lifted, look for good trolling for hold-over trout upstream of Peyton Bridge and near the spillway access area. The lake was at elevation 1,811 feet above sea level Wednesday. That leaves the marina boat ramp largely unusable for most trailered boats.

LAKE OF THE WOODS: Fishing effort is very light, but trolling with green or black Wedding Rings should work OK for rainbow trout, while pink ones should knock the kokanee well for those bothering to try. Water levels remain very good but not yet iced up. Still-fishing with PowerBait from the bank has been decent for trout, especially early.

LEMOLO: Fishing is good for a mix of  holdover lunker trout from earlier fall stocking. Trolling deep gets a mix of trout and kokanee, while still-fishing near the resort with PowerBait is good. From now through Dec. 31, all brown trout must be released. The reservoir still will be open for fishing, and rainbow trout and kokanee can be harvested for the five-trout limit.

WILLOW: Fishing from the bank with PowerBait or worms has been fair around the resort and directly across from the county boat ramp, but there is very little effort.

RIVER OUTLOOK

ROGUE: The upper Rogue's water levels will be doing their typical December yoyo-ing that will make some days good for late-run summer steelhead and some days a bust. The middle Rogue is seeing a flurry of spawned-out downers unfit for human consumption as well as a few bright early-run winter steelhead sprinkled in, while plunkers are doing well at lower Rogue gravel bar hot-spots with plugs or Spin-Glo's.

That means the best bet shifts downstream to the middle Rogue, where deep-diving plugs are finding steelhead in most deeper canyon tailouts and places like Ennis Riffle. Side-planers could see some action at Rainbow or Chair riffles early Sunday as the water drops and again next week after flows peak again Monday. Flows at Grants Pass were at 2,600 cubic feet per second Wednesday and forefcast to peak around 6,000 cfs Sunday before dropping steadily into next week.

The upper Rogue upstream of the Shady Cove boat ramp remains open to bait and plugs, with side-drifting roe-soaked eggs or crayfish plugs the top offerings. Most of the summer steelhead are dark and no good reports of winter steelhead have come in. Flows at Dodge Bridge were at 1,900 cfs Wednesday and forecast to jump to about 4,200 cfs Saturday. Fish the drop.

Flows out of Lost Creek Lake held staedy this week at a little over 1,600 cubic feet per second

Saturday as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers preps for higher inflows. Look for the Corps to dial up the flows next week to draft the reservoir down for another storm forecast for next week. As the flows go up, look for poorer catches but a nice flurry should occur again next week when the releases drop.

Downstream of the Shady Cove ramp is open to flies and lures only and no bait. That makes it something of a plugging show with mixed results. Crayfish plugs and black-and-silver WeeWarts or K-9 Kwikfish are good choices. Plastic egg flies are also legal for fly-fishers in this stretch, and they are terrific point flies when fished with a heavy dropper fly such as an Ugly Bug. Conditions, however, are dirtier and not very desirable. Flows at Dodge Bridge are forecast to peak Saturday around 4,200 cfs.

In the lower Rogue, plunkers are getting winter steelhead on Cop Car Hot Shots and chartreuse and flame Spin-Glo's at Dunkelberger Bar, Huntley Park and Canfield Riffle, but the rising river today likely will put the bite off until Sunday. Next week should be very good.

CHETCO — The river was rising today and will peak Saturday at about 4,700 cfs. As it starts to drop, look for excellent winter steelhead fishing by side-drifting eggs or eggs and sandshrimp.

blown out and rising Thursday and set to peak around 13,000 cfs today before dropping quicklly. That could mean good winter steelhead fishing as early as Saturday afternoon for locals and Sunday for traveling steelheaders.

COOS — The wild coho season is closed in the basin.

ELK/SIXES — Both rivers should fish very well for winter steelhead and late chinook salmon after the flows peak, likely Saturday evening.