Larry Ellis, fishing columnist

Fishing report for

March 23-29

Remember the last time when an Oregon fisherman could legally catch and keep a cabezon? For boaters, that was on July 20, over eight months ago.

Fast-forward to the present. It's time to put on your cabezon-hunting caps. Starting tomorrow, Sunday April 1, anglers will be able to retain one cabezon per day (minimum size 16 inches) as part of their seven-fish daily groundfish bag limit andndash; no fooling! And if things go as planned, anglers can look forward to catching cabezon for six months until their season closes the last day of September.

Since that closure on July 20, fishing pressure has been virtually nil for the cabasaurs. So whenever these monsoons finally stop, you will have to look for those one- or two-day windows of opportunity when the wind stops howling and the seas lay down, because the mottled sculpin will be off the spawn and on the feed, aggressive and ready to devour anything that looks like a meal.

You might also want to break out your Berkley or Rapala digital scales because there are some monster cabzillas out there just waiting to be caught and weighed in. Melanie Howey, a technician from the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission reported that on Sunday last, a group of anglers caught and released some monster cabbies not far from the jaws of the Chetco River at the Port of Brookings Harbor.

Remember that what you find in a cabezon's stomach today will tell you where to fish tomorrow. Whenever someone cuts open a cabbie, I can hardly wait to see what it has eaten. Almost always, there will be an abundance of crustaceans inside its gut.

It is not uncommon to find between 10 and 20 baby Dungeness crab inside its abdomen. I especially like it when 13 or more dungies are found in its stomach. I get some kind of cheap thrill in telling people that they have not only over-limited on crab, but they are also subject to additional fines for keeping undersize and female crab as well. Most people smile at that one.

In addition to crab, I have also seen octopus and mollusks such as mussels inside their gut as well. This tells you to fish in fairly shallow water adjacent to tide pool areas.

Some productive areas that consistently kick out the cabmeisters can be found close to the Brookings north jetty, where tide pools and kelp abound. Another excellent area is downhill from the Port of Brookings Harbor near Camel Rock.

For some reason, cabezon will often go on-the-bite on an outgoing tide, right after the tide changes from high tide to low tide. I suspect the reasoning behind this quirky cabezon characteristic might be because the kelp stringers are now laying away from land out toward sea, and the fish are waiting for the tide pools' bounty to be carried away from the kelp beds and into their mouths.

Any gnarly-looking plastic lure, like big single-tail Mogambos or twin-tail Scampis are killer cabezon lures because they resemble things that inhabit the tide pools.

The current IGFA all-tackle record cabezon is a 23-pound monster caught off of Washington State in Juan De Fuca Straight. Because of the huge cabezon that have been cleaned at the Port of Brookings Harbor fillet station, there is good reason to believe that the Brookings area might be harboring the next world record.

Another world record that is begging to be broken is a vermilion rockfish. The current IGFA all-tackle record is 12 pounds, caught off of Depoe Bay. There's a 13 pounder swimming off the coast of Brookings for sure. According to Howey, there were some large vermilion caught last Sunday as well, another reason to always carry a good digital scale with you.

Bottom fishermen should also note that, starting April 1, they will be restricted to fishing within the 30-fathom curve for all groundfish species, including cabezon, lingcod and all of the rockfishes, as well as flatfish species like sanddabs and California halibut.

The coordinates for the 30-fathom curve can be found at the following link: http://www.

Late winter steelhead run on the Rogue River

Normally the first springer of the year is caught by a bank angler fishing for winter steelhead, but for some unknown reason, the opposite has been occurring. Anglers fishing for springers have been catching winter steelhead. These are fresh-from-the-sea, chrome-bright, fat-as-can-be winter metalheads, and both bank fishermen and fishing guides have been cashing in on the action.

"They were all fresh, nice little dimes about 8 pounds," says guide Jay Lander ( "We got one about 12 pounds, and the bankies below us were whacking some on Spin-N-Glos."

Before the rains hit in the middle of last week, Lander and other Rogue River guides were also able to bonk a few spring Chinook.

"On Monday and Tuesday, a decent bunch of springers came in," added Lander. "Les Craig caught one and lost one, and then guides Denny Hughson, Bud Warren and I teamed up and got a 17-pound keeper at Huntley. It was kind of a guide's day out."

Lander also reported that three springers were caught by bank fishermen at Lobster Bar.

Now that the Rogue River has risen to 20,000 cfs as of Friday morning, and is expected to reach flood stage at over 17 feet today, the question is, when will the Rogue be fishable, and when it becomes fishable, will the winter steelhead fishing still be as good as it was last week?

My prediction is that the Rogue will probably become fishable again around Thursday or Friday, and that winter steelhead will most likely still be entering the river.

One has to remember that while a river is spewing out mud, as the Rogue has been doing the past few days, steelhead and salmon will hold off crossing the bar until it becomes a little calmer. There are probably more winter steelhead on their way, and don't forget that both April and May can be very good months for catching springers as well.

Also, remember that the Chetco River will close its doors to salmon and steelhead fishing starting tomorrow, April 1, and will not reopen until May 26.

Tight lines!