DEPOE BAY— A deep-sea fishing trip is like a treasure hunt: you never know what you’ll find!
Thanks to great management by scientists, wildlife managers and anglers, the central Oregon coast has an abundant sport fishery, yielding reliable limits of rockfish, flatfish, salmon and even exotic visitors such as Albacore tuna and sailfish.
As you read this, the charter fleets at Newport and Depoe Bay sail every seasonable day for a kaleidoscopic array of hard-fighting, flavorsome gamefish. When your sturdy rod shudders and bends to the strike of a predatory bottom-dweller, it’s anybody’s guess what’s on the other end until the scrappy denizen of the deep explodes onto the surface.
Many anglers will argue the No. 1 trophy fish at the central Oregon coast is the foul-tempered, sweet-tasting Lingcod. With its bad attitude and a gaping jaw full of dagger-like incisors, this ambush predator is amid underwater rock piles and heavy currents.
An aggressive ling waylaid Nicole Tucker’s plastic-skirted lure as the Depoe Bay charter boat Tacklebuster floated 100 feet above a submerged reef. Other anglers moved aside and watched eagerly as Tucker braced against the railing and reeled with all her strength.
“I knew it was big, but I couldn’t believe it when he broke the surface,” marveled Tucker after decking the 30-pound behemoth on her fourth deep-sea fishing excursion.
A year-round quarry, the bag (at press time) is two ling per day, 22-inches or greater.
BLACK AND BLUE ROCKFISH
Often called a “sea bass,” Black rockfish are among several species of drably-camouflaged rockies that can end up on your grill — but not without a fight!
They hit like a right hook, leaving you reeling for a fish that fights above its weight — often five pounds but sometimes up to seven or eight in neglected honey-holes. The most numerous of the many species of rockfish encountered by anglers at the central Oregon coast, the underrated Black rockfish (and its close kin, the Blue and Deacon) yields a firm, white fillet that would make a Halibut jealous.
Old salts say the secret to catching rockfish is to keep your shrimp fly or lead head jig with a rubber wiggly moving up and down, then set the hook hard and fast when your pole bows and dips like it caught a passing lawnmower.
COLORFUL CANARIES…AND MORE!
Landing a brilliantly colored Canary rockfish is an exhilarating event likely to leave both fish and fisher gasping for breath. The Canary is a goliath among rockfish, growing up to 30 inches in length and carrying 15 pounds of firm, desirable meat.
The Canary is just one among a flamboyant and multi-colored plethora of game fish typically caught off the central Oregon coast. The solitary China rockfish has spectacular shades of blue and black, plus yellow stripes. Copper rockfish have variable coloration, ranging from dark or olive-brown to copper with pink or yellow blotches. They can grow to be 23-inches long.
One of the great surprises in store for charter-boat anglers is the barn door-sized Pacific Halibut, which can be caught inshore off Depoe Bay and Newport beginning May 1. The king of the flatfish, which can reach 50 pounds or more, is sometimes caught as your boat drifts beyond the reef and over a sandy bottom, where he’ll grab your bait and make a run for it.
Be sure to get a salmon endorsement when you buy an Oregon fishing license — ocean fishing is open now for Oregon’s state fish, the Chinook salmon. The largest of the Pacific salmon species can reach up to 50 pounds. Thankfully, the average size being decked right now is in the 10 to 25-pound range. Chinook, a treasured but not unfamiliar “bycatch,” are usually taken on bottom-fishing gear during the retrieve.
The hottest ticket at the coast is a “rockfish-crab combo,” available at all charter fishing agencies. For a nominal extra charge, anglers toss pre-baited crab pots on the way to the fishing grounds. After catching a limit of ling cod and rockfish, you’ll pull the pots on the way back to the docks. Cleaners will fillet your trophy fish and cook the Dungies.
WHO TO CALL
For fishing trips out of Depoe Bay, call Tradewinds Charters, 541-765-2345; or Dockside Charters, 541-765-2545. To sail from Newport, call Yaquina Bay Charters, 541-265-6800; Captain’s Reel Deep Sea Fishing, 541-265-7441; or Newport Tradewinds, 541-265-2101.
You won’t go wrong with these hotshots at the helm. All gear and tackle is provided — you need only warm clothing and a light box lunch to make this an unforgettable adventure.