Larry Ellis, fishing columnist

Fishing report for

December 16 - 22

Drought:'draanduacute;t noun

1: a condition of moisture deficit sufficient to have an adverse effect on vegetation, animals, and man over a sizeable area.

2: a condition of moisture deficit sufficient to have an adverse effect on anglers and their ability to plunk for steelhead over any area along the Chetco River.

The first definition of DROUGHT comes directly from the National Weather Service. The second one is mine. In fact, that sums up my philosophy in life. I fish, therefore I plunk. Which brings me to another definition.

Plunk: 'plənk verb

1: a type of fishing usually performed sitting in the comfort from one's vehicle while waiting for a fishing rod to be savagely struck by a steelhead.

Now, as everybody knows, the Chetco has not seen plunkable water levels for quite a few months. For the Chetco, plunkable water flows are usually between 3,500 and 8,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). Normally by Christmas, the Chetco has experienced at least one or two stellar plunkable weeks. Last year the whole season was a plunker's paradise. This fall may have only seen one plunkable day.

Luckily for anglers, the will of a steelhead to snake over shallow riffles while on the way to their native spawning grounds is stronger than a fisherman's will to plunk. The river is literally plugged with steelhead. They are all throughout the system and they are still crossing riffles, even at 690 cfs.

Last week, while doing a little fun fishing with Wayne Sargent and Andy Martin, we got into some very nice metalheads while fishing at 700 cfs. While side-drifting below Ice Box, Wayne tied into and landed one of the brightest steelhead I've ever seen. After getting the fish to the boat, he released the 12-pound wild buck.

On two separate occasions, ODFW did some seining for the steelhead Chetco Broodstock Program. After the second day they had taken 36 fish to Elk River Hatchery and had released a lot more. On the second day they estimated seeing at least 200 schooling steelhead.

On Christmas, the National Weather Service is predicting a 60-percent chance of rain, and possibly more next week. At the moment, their Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service is forecasting that the river will come up to 3,500 cfs on New Year's Eve.

If that happens, there are going to be a lot of happy plunkers fishing from the bank. At the very least, the drift-fishing should be outstanding. If their forecast comes to fruition, it would be the perfect opportunity for trying out the rig featured in the Dec. 9 issue of the Curry Coastal Pilot. Side-drifting from drift-boats should also be very good as well.

New Year's Day is only one week from tomorrow, so if you want to start the year out right, don't forget to buy your 2012 fishing license and a combined angling harvest tag. The price for the resident license is $33; the tag is $26.50.

You might also consider purchasing your shellfish license if you want to do some crabbing. The price of a resident shellfish license is $7.

Although crabbing from a vessel is not permitted from the California/Oregon border north to 42-degrees 26-minutes north latitude, there are still other alternatives for shore-based crabbers in this closed section.

Anglers may still crab on any jetty. Last week a small group of crabbers were working their rings and Pineapple butterfly traps at the public pier on the south jetty.

What many people do not know is that they can also crab on the ocean side of the south jetty. When the seas are very calm and there are no swells, crabbers can often do quite well throwing butterfly-type crab traps on the ocean side of the south jetty.

Be very careful when crabbing this section of the jetty. The rocks are slick.

New Oregon regulations

for 2012

Fishermen, be aware that new ground fish regulations not printed in the ODFW 2012 Fishing Regulation Pamphlet will take affect beginning Jan. 1.

First let's take a look at the regulations that have not changed. Recreational anglers fishing in the ocean may still retain their daily limit of seven ground fish and two lingcod (minimum size 22 inches). Ground fish contain species like kelp greenling (minimum size 10 inches) and a host of rockfish species.

However, retention of cabezon will not be allowed during the winter months, from January through March, and from October through December. This is a time when they are at their peak spawning cycle, and all cabezon during these time periods must be released.

"Cabezon spawn year-round, but we have seen higher concentrations of cabezon during these winter months," says Lynn Mattes, sport ground fish and halibut project leader for ODFW. "We have to live under a harvest cap, and if we have to be closed for a little while, we should be closed at a time when there is some biological gain. It might help the long-term overall population of the stock."

In past years, emergency cabezon closures were necessary in September due to the sport fishing quota being met prematurely. However shore-based anglers were still allowed to retain cabbies because of a separate quota allotted for shore-based anglers.

The year 2012 will be quite different, and you won't find this regulation in the 2012 fishing regulation pamphlet. The cabezon closures will apply to both boat-based and shore-based anglers and divers.

When retention of cabezon is finally allowed beginning April 1, the limit will be one cabezon, 16-inches minimum length, and it will be considered to be part of the seven-fish ground fish bag.

The second change to the ground fish regulations will not be found in the 2012 Fishing Regulations Pamphlet either. During the months from January through March, and from October through December, anglers will be permitted to fish at any depth for ground fish and lingcod.

However during the six-month period from April through September, fishing for all ground fish and lingcod will be restricted within the 30-fathom curve. It is ODFW's hopes that implementing this new regulation might avert having to enact a 20-fathom closure later in July.

Happy New Year and tight lines to all!