DEEP-SEA FISHING: Big fish in all colors decked

DEPOE BAY — A Monday race to the Siletz River reef aboard a 23-foot aluminum fast boat from Nomad Charters ended with a limit of scrappy rockfish and toothy lingcod for three anglers who marveled at their rainbow colors.

Among the catch: a mottled-orange canary rockfish that weighed 7 lbs. and an emerald-shaded 30-inch lingcod with green flesh, which turns to white upon cooking.

“I think it comes from an octopus-rich diet, with all that dye,” remarked Damon Struble, Nomad’s Albany-based guide, though experts claim the tasteless condition is more a result of chlorophyll In the lingcod’s diet. “Of course, that’s just rumor.”

Greenling and black rockfish, or sea bass, made up the rest of the catch. Each of these remarkable fish form the backbone of Depoe Bay’s $4 million annual charter fishing business, which some claim is a secret hiding in plain sight.

“I’m surprised but relieved more people don’t know about the fishing here,” said Steve Hughes, a USAF Vietnam War veteran who traveled from his home in the Philippines to fish the Oregon coast for deep-sea trophies and river steelhead. “Why go to Alaska?”

According to the most recent economic analysis by ODFW, sportfishing in 2013 provided $69 million to coast communities and port economies in Brookings, Astoria, Tillamook, Coos Bay and Newport-Depoe Bay, whose data is combined.

Recreational salmon fishing produced three-quarters of the revenue, with bottom fishing earning about 9 percent of the total. However, Depoe Bay and Newport earned about 40 percent of the total proceeds in any case, making the central coast the state’s sportfishing epicenter.

Struble, the guide, said each of the whoppers decked aboard his Merc-powered outboard has a unique story. The canary rockfish, for instance, bounced back after being overfished.

“That fish is a result of anglers, scientists and fisheries managers working together for a sustainable fishery,” he asserted.

Meanwhile, the quillback — orange-brown with brilliant splotches of yellow — has venomous quills that repel predators.

“Don’t touch the spines,” advised Struble. “It’s not deadly toxic to people, but it’s pretty painful.”

Jigging with hoochies and tackle baited with herring did the trick. Also aboard were fishermen Les Sweeter of Albany and Josiah Lozier of Salem. For more information, call Nomad’s Fishing Adventures, 541-619-5691.


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