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Fishing Report: Feb. 24, 2012

COASTWIDE - Rough seas and heavy swells have led to hazardous-condition warnings for the South Coast through the weekend, and that should scare off most ocean anglers. The forecast appears to ease a bit next week, but not enough to make a trip from the Rogue Valley a good gamble.

Ocean crabbing conditions are poor again for this weekend. Dungeness have been making their way into Oregon bays and estuaries thanks to drops in stream flows. But look for upcoming rains to push crabs back into the lower estuaries Saturday and Sunday. Crab meat condition is excellent and the entire Oregon Coast is open for crabbing.

The marine aggregate limit in Oregon is seven rockfish a day. New for 2012 is a rule that bans cabezon harvest until April to provide a chance to stretch out the cabezon quota.

Lingcod fishing has been excellent when anglers can get out. Look for lingcod around kelp beds and near jetties when the ocean subsides enough for jigging. The lingcod limit is two a day with a 22-inch minimum, and that is separate from the marine aggregate.

For clamming, the entire Oregon Coast is open. No minus tides are in the forecast over the next week.

BROOKINGS - The bar has been rough in the afternoons, and it is forecast to get even rougher through Sunday night. Hazardous seas are forecast until at least Sunday night. A few locals are sneaking out and catching some lingcod off kelp beds and near the north jetty on clear mornings, but effort has been light.

COOS BAY - Crabbing has been very good in the lower estuary and along the public crabbing docks of Charleston. Good crabbing should be available into Sunday, but watch for freshets to push the Dungeness deeper into estuaries and into the ocean.

Lingcod jigging near Cape Arago has been very good when the weather allows. Black rockfish catches have been good along the inside of the north jetty, and that should continue through the weekend, but focus on mornings before the winds kick up.

Clamming will be fair to good on low tides this week around Charleston.

WINCHESTER BAY - Sturgeon fishing has been slow below the Highway 101 bridge. Crabbing has improved in the triangle area, but crabs could move lower into the estuary if weekend rains materialize.

AGATE - A fresh batch of legal-sized trout were stocked last week and they jump-started a late winter fishery. The lake is shallow enough that it warms quickly and makes for good February and March trout fishing. The lake was listed Thursday at 57 percent full. The trout have dispersed throughout the lower third of the reservoir, with a fair number of rainbows still hanging around the boat ramp where they were released. Worms fished a few feet under bobbers are working best. Some PowerBait fishing is starting to work, as well. No gas motors are allowed. Small electric motors are legal.

APPLEGATE - Stabilized in-flows have given the rainbows a chance to get back on the bite but effort remains light here. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to release its bare minimum of 110 cubic feet per second in an attempt to fill the reservoir. The facilities at Hart-Tish Park are closed and the low-water ramp at French Gulch is open and usable, as is the Copper ramp. For winter trout fishing, troll Triple Teasers or Wedding Ring lures with worms. Bass fishing is slow.

EMIGRANT - The lake is just a hair under two-thirds full, and rainbow trout are available. Troll slowly with Triple Teasers or Wedding Ring lures with worms or use PowerBait from the bank. Perch fishing has improved around Songer Wayside but it remains poor up the Emigrant Arm because of cold in-flows from Emigrant Creek. The arm has some bigger trout in it, taking worms and small spinners. A standing public-health advisory continues about eating all but trout from the lake because of elevated mercury levels.

HYATT - The lake is closed for the season.

DIAMOND - The lake is closed for the season.

EXPO - Fishing is fair for stocked rainbow trout with Panther Martin lures, PowerBait and worms under bobbers. No fresh fish have been stocked there, but the pond is scheduled to get its first new rainbows of the season during the week of March 5.

LOST CREEK - The lake is rising because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing just 910 cfs of water in hopes of capturing as much water as possible to make up for a dry winter. The in-flow was 2,475 cfs on Thursday, and the lake's surface temperature is 42 degrees. That has kept the smallmouth from biting. Trolling for trout remains the best show on the lake. Trolling should be best near the face of the dam and upstream of Peyton Bridge near the top of the reservoir, but anglers must stay in the calm water because the flowing water is part of the far upper Rogue River system, which is closed to fishing. Worms on Wedding Ring lures trolled slowly at varied depths often works well, especially with small flashers.

LAKE of the WOODS - The ice is thick, and ice fishing continued to be good this past week near the resort, with catches of trout and perch.

FISH - Ice fishing is very good near the Forest Service ramp and near the resort. A mix of rainbow and brown trout are being caught.

WILLOW - The lake is set for its first stocking of the season during the week of March 19. Until then, it's holdover rainbows. Trolling slowly with various types of lures or even wind-drifting has proven to be good for trout for the few anglers going after them here. The lake is usually above the air inversions and can be clear when Medford is cloudy. The county boat ramp is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

ROGUE - Winter steelhead are spread throughout the entire river, but anglers continue to battle low-water conditions. Upcoming rains should help. While the rainfall isn't forecast to significantly spike river flows, it will add some color, and that will help.

Before we get to the best bet, the first confirmed spring chinook salmon of the season was caught Monday in the lower Rogue by Bandon-based guide Rick Howard. The 25-pound springer was so bright it caused camera flash in a photo taken of it. It bit an anchovy fished from an anchored boat on the inside turn of an unnamed lower Rogue gravel bar. The fish is a tad early for the year, probably because the lower Rogue water temperatures spiked to 48 degrees earlier this week.

Also on the lower Rogue, fresh schools of winter steelhead moved into the lower sections this week, which bodes well for middle Rogue anglers once the river comes up. That makes the middle Rogue the best bet, because that's where anglers can intercept winter steelhead headed for the Applegate River and those chugging toward upper Rogue tributaries.

Bankies casting tiny pieces of roe and yarn flies are faring OK, but worms and watermelon corkies will be a better offering once the water gets some color. Boat anglers side-drifting yarn flies or using K-11 Kwikfish plugs are doing fair, as well.

The Whitehorse Park area and the Galice area all fished fairly well this past week. Flows at Grants Pass were up to 3,617 cfs, and it's set to rise Saturday, making late Sunday and early Monday look good for middle Rogue steelheading.

In the upper Rogue, winter steelhead fishing has been a bit erratic, with anglers working everyplace from the Hatchery Hole down past the old Gold Ray Dam site. Driftboaters are doing the best, with a mix of spawned-out summer steelhead and fresh winter steelhead in the mix.

A few new side-planers using K-11 Kwikfish have popped up near the Gold Ray Dam area, but that won't be effective until the river rises and drops to get the steelhead on the move. The deeper, slower runs seem to be holding steelhead best.

Flows are becoming an issue for the upper Rogue. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is keeping outflows at Lost Creek Dam at 900 cfs. Flows Thursday at Gold Ray were about 3,100 cfs — almost twice last week's flows — and 2,300 cfs at Dodge Bridge.

Anglers riverwide can keep one wild winter steelhead at least 24 inches long as part of the two-fish daily limit. The minimum size for hatchery fish to be deemed legal adults is 16 inches long. Five wild winter steelhead can be kept annually.

APPLEGATE - The river was very low and clear and spotty for winter steelhead, but three-dozen fish were collected at the trap at the base of Elk Creek Dam so the winters have dispersed throughout the system. The out-flows at Applegate Dam were held to 110 cfs today, and that won't help much. The lower river still has the most steelhead, but most are in deeper pools or in runs under overhanging brush, making them tough to target.

Fly-fishing single-egg patterns and larger streamers should be fair, and those casting spinners or spoons should find steelhead, as well.

All wild steelhead must be released unharmed, and there is no fishing from a floating device.

UMPQUA - The South Umpqua had been fishing very well for winter steelhead after recent rains, and a strong surge of fish have moved in from the mainstem. The flows at Tiller were up to 3,676 cfs Thursday and 8,100 cfs at Roseburg. Side-drifting eggs is best. The mainstem and lower North Umpqua also are fishing well for winter steelhead, particularly in the bait water.

All wild steelhead must be released basin-wide. The South Fork has the most hatchery fish in the mix, with a few strays in the lower North Umpqua.

CHETCO - Water conditions were low and clear but driftboaters using 8-pound leader and No. 4 hooks and very small egg clusters are averaging two to six fish per trip, mostly with guides. The lower river continues to have the most fish.