Sunrise and sunset over Siletz Bay by crabber Steve Maritn. Steve's interest not only includes surfing, crabbing and fishing for salmon they also include searching the sandy shore of Siletz Bay for agates.

120.3                               Siletz Bay

   At the turn of the century Oregon's ninth largest bay was a deepwater port of entry, but over time the bay has been subjected to extensive sedimentation.  Studies show the ocean is the source of most of the sediment deposited on the tidal flats in the bay.  The numerous logs and root wads marooned on the tidal flats have become small islands.  The bar at the entrance to Siletz Bay is dangerous to cross.  Not at anytime should the small boater attempt to cross the bar.  You have to use caution when crabbing or fishing in Siletz Bay.  You should only crab or fish in the lower bay on a high incoming tide.  The high current velocity of the major tidal phase of an outgoing spring tide reaches seven knots at the entrance, enough force to pull an underpowered vessel or one having engine failure over the bar into the surf jeopardizing the lives of all aboard.

Siletz Bay is one of Oregon's most popular bays to fish for Chinook salmon.  The Siletz River has both a spring and fall run of Chinook salmon, but it is the fall run that generates all the excitement as demonstrated by the congested boat traffic in the above photograph.

Chinook salmon return to Siletz Bay during the spring and in the fall.  The master of the salmon demanded tribute from Indians before they could pass Medicine Rocks according to the Siletz Indian legend.  Medicine Rocks consists of three rocks, on two of which the heads of persons may be recognized.  On the left side of the master of the salmon stands his wife, both of them easily recognized; on his right side is their dead child.*  Honor the legend by leaving something and the salmon will return forever. 

  Steve Martin caught the these beauties from the beach at Taft in Siletz Bay during the last half September into early October. Steve not only fishes from the noth shore of Siletz Bay he spends much of his time crabbing, hunting for agates and surfing local beaches. The fishing for Chinook and coho was very productive and steve is nearly tagged out. Thanks Steve for sharing your catch with us, Bill

Historically, the number of returning spring Chinook salmon is small.  The catch rate for spring Chinook averages a 170 fish per year.   The run begins about the last week of May peaking June and running into July.  Spring Chinook unlike their fall cousins spend very little time in the bay or the lower tidal reach but instead hold in the upper tidal reach of the river channel.  Fish for spring Chinook salmon 6 miles upstream from the Highway 101 Bridge to the head of tidewater located 15.5 miles upstream at Cedar Creek.  Launching facilities are limited in the upper tidal reach of the Siletz River.  Launch a boat at Strom Park and fish with the incoming tide to the head of tidewater or fish downstream to Sunset Landing with the outgoing tide.  Fishing is also productive in the river above the head of tidewater.  Launch at Morgan Park and fish the deeper holes to the takeout at Strom Park but the drift boater must be prepared to deal with the tide. 

  Historically, small numbers of fall Chinook salmon enter the Siletz River from the last week of August through the middle of September.  The number of returning fish increase during the last half of September peaking in October.  The catch rate averaged approximately 1500 fish per year and is dominated by a high percentage of 5 year old fish followed by 4, 6 and 3 year old fish.  The best fishing for newly arriving fall Chinook salmon occurs in the lower bay during the incoming tide of the major tidal exchange of spring tides or neap tides especially when the incoming tide coincides with sunrise or sunset.  The next most productive fishing period occurs at sunrise or sunset during the incoming tide of the minor tidal exchange in the daily tidal cycle.  Daybreak is that magical time of day when Chinook salmon bite the best.  Be sure to have the bait in the water one half hour before sunrise.  Fishing is most productive from ½ hour before sunrise to midmorning and from late afternoon until ½ hour after sunset.  The main channel runs northwest from the Highway 101 Bridge towards the sand spit turning north paralleling the sand spit to the bar.  The approximately five mile boat ride from Siletz Moorage to the bar discourages anglers from fishing in the lower bay.  Early in the run concentrate fishing in the lower bay trolling a plug cut herring with the incoming tide from the entrance at the bar along the channel paralleling the sand spit to the Hwy 101 bridge.  Troll or back bounce with the outgoing tide from the Highway 101 bridge to the sand spit with a plug cut herring.  Stay well clear of the entrance to the bar and the lower bay during the outgoing tide. 

  During the peak of the run most anglers concentrate fishing in the lower tidal reach of the river channel above the Highway 101 Bridge to Sunset Landing.  Troll a plug cut herring, spinner bait combinations, rainbow colored spinners or silver colored bait wrapped Flatfish lures with a chartreuse head with the incoming tide.  The competition for the more productive holes and travel lanes is intense.  To avoid the congestion most anglers anchor on the up current side of the more productive holes and fish with a plug cut herring, bait wrapped Flatfish lures, spinner bait combinations, spinners or wobblers.

  Back bounce or back troll with the outgoing tide from Sunset Landing downstream to the Highway 101 Bridge fishing with bait wrapped Flatfish lures, spinner bait combinations, spinners or wobblers.  Fish upstream from Windy Bend drifting with the tide or by anchoring above the deeper holes during the last half of the outgoing tide through low slack tide fishing with a bobber using a walnut sized gob of salmon eggs and sand shrimp.  Accent the salmon eggs and sand shrimp with a small length of pink, red, chartreuse or orange yarn.  

Coho salmon return to Siletz Bay during the last half of October and run through November.  Troll in the lower bay from the sand spit near the bar trolling plug cut herring, hoochies or streamer flies with the incoming tide to the Highway 101 bridge.  Troll these baits behind a diver or wire spreader or diver in the upper half of the water column.  Troll in lower tidal reach in the river channel from the Highway 101 Bridge to Sunset Landing with plug cut herring, pink, rainbow or chartreuse colored spinners.  Remember coho salmon prefer bait trolled near the surface at speeds between 3 and 5 knots. 

Cutthroat trout return to Siletz Bay from the middle of July through August.  Early in the run fish from the Cannery Hole seaward to the Siletz Spit during the incoming tide trolling Doc Shelton spinners rigged with night crawlers.  After the first week of August fish the entire length of the upper reach of tidewater trolling Doc Shelton spinners rigged with night crawlers.  Fish from shore in the upper tidal reach of the estuary casting spinners or by fishing on the bottom of the deeper holes with night crawlers or crawfish tails. 

Redtail surfperch, pileperch, walleye surfperch, silver surfperch and striped seaperch enter the bay in late spring.  The fishing ranges from fair to excellent through fall depending on the tides and the weather conditions.  The best fishing occurs during June and July in the lower bay along the main channel paralleling the sand spit upstream to the pilings at the Cannery Hole.  Fish in the areas of the upper bay that are adjacent to eelgrass beds and along the channel that drains Millport Slough up to the entrance of the Siletz Bay Natural Wildlife Refuge.   

White sturgeon enter Siletz Bay in small numbers sporadically throughout the year.  The catch rate for keeper size fish averages less than 15 fish per year with the high count of 52 fish landed.  The best fishing occurs in the lower tidal reach of the river channel above the Highway 101 Bridge from December through March. The best time to fish for sturgeon is two hours before low tide.  Mud and sand shrimp are the most productive bait.  The sturgeon fishery is a small one that is of interest to local anglers only

Sand Sole enter Siletz Bay in small numbers from April through August.

Bank fishing for salmon at the natural entrance to the bay has become a lost art.  At one time the fishing for salmon from the north shore of the entrance to Siletz Bay was so popular it was hard to find a spot from which to fish.  Fishing for salmon and perch is excellent from the north shore at the entrance of Siletz Bay.  Bank fishing along Highway 229 for Chinook salmon is excellent on the lower river immediately upstream from Siletz Moorage.  Anglers either fish with spinners or bobbers.  Fishing with herring can be productive but the crabs steal most of the bait.  Pullouts along the highway with heavily used trails leading down to the river usually disclose the location of the more productive fishing holes along the river. 

One of the best holes is located approximately 100 hundred yards upstream from a single–wide silver mobile home that is across the river from the highway.  Another productive location is the Movie House Hole.  The movie house was originally used as a set in the movie, “Sometimes a Great Notion”, starring Henry Fonda and Richard Jaeckel.  My friend Steve Martin shares a photo of the Chinook salmon he caught from the bank at Cedar Cree. The hole at the head of tidewater located at Cedar Creek is one of the most productive on the river.  Spinners or salmon eggs are the most productive bait used by anglers.  The best fishing occurs at daybreak and on the tide change.  Fish for perch from the north shore of the bay at the entrance at the community of Taft or under the Highway 101 Bridge over Millport Slough or the Siletz River. 

Siletz Bay boat launches are limited to the Siletz Moorage located on the north shore of the upper bay at Kernville. The limited launching facilities can interfere with timely launching of the boat.  There are several good RV parks with private boat launches located up river in lower tidal reach.  They are Coyote Rock RV Park, Sportsman's Landing and Sunset Landing.  Lincoln County operates free public boat launches located in upper tidal reach at Strom Park and in the river above Strom Park at Morgan Park. There is a new public boat launch located a mile or so above Sunset landing.

121.4 Siletz Spit is accessed through the parking lot at the Market Place at Salishan.  Turn west into the parking lot from Highway 101. The hiking trail to the sand spit is located in the right back corner of the parking lot.  It takes approximately 15 minutes to walk the nature trail to the beach.

Current status for Crabbing, Clam Digging and Fishing:

Siletz Moorage (541) 996-3671 operates the only boat launch on Siletz Bay is operating on winter hours. Siletz Moorage usually goes on winter hours at the end of October but they have a terrific after hours entry program. They offer 15 launch tickets for 90 dollars which works out to 6 dollars a launch. They provide you with the entry code for the gate and you deposit the ticket into the box when you launch after hours.

On 10/31/12 ODFW reports: Heavy rains and a big spike in the river will slow the fishery down this week. Fishing for Chinook and coho should pick up once the river starts to drop and clear. Plunking can be productive during higher murky flows. Steelhead fishing is slow with the most productive area being the upper river this time of year. Cutthroat trout fishing is fair with the season ending at the end of the month.

Siletz Bay Crabbing:

On 11/04 Crabbing is slow.

On 08/24 we met for the last crabbing class this year to experience the new wave method of crabbing with folding crab traps from the sandy shore of Siletz Bay. Crabbing from the North shore of Siletz Bay has been very productive over the last couple of weeks; but the number of legal sized crabs taken have declined over the last 4 or 5 days. Is it a case of too many crabbers and not enough crabs? The lower catch rate has me wondering if we have seen the peak of crab abundance in Oregon's coastal waters over that of the last several years? Only time will tell!

I arrived at 08:30 am and caught 3 legal sized males and 1 large hard shell female crab for talking points while demonstrating the difference between male and female crabs and the various stages of hardness of softshell crabs. At 11:30 and I met with about half of the participants at the pavilion for a brief orientation prior to heading out onto the beach to crab. The other participants had already starting crabbing on the beach. I released the female crab and the legal sized crab that was too soft to keep. After the class some of us cooked our crabs at the pavilion.

About half of the participants caught at least 1 legal crab. Some caught 2 crabs and another crabber caught 3 legal sized crabs. Everyone had a great time.

8/3 – 8 AM crabbing class meet at the pavilion for a brief orientation prior to heading out onto the beach to crab on a gorgeous sunny day. It was a beautiful day and everyone had a grand time. The crabbing in Siletz Bay has been improving. The catch of the day was 5 Dungeness crabs, 4 crabs several crabbers got 3 crabs, 2 crabs, 1 crab and no crabs.

Prior to the orientation, I caught 1 hard shell crab Dungeness crab, 1 very large male soft shell Dungeness crab and 1 female Dungeness crab. I used the crabs to make talking points during the lecture between the differences between male and female crabs and between hard shell and softshell crabs. Both the female and softshell crabs were returned to the bay. However, most of the crabbers that caught soft shell crabs retained them except for crabber Jamie. To her credit, Jamie returned the soft shell  crab to the bay. She enthusiastically embraced both crabbing and digging clams and my girl, Cali Ann in the photo below. Crabbing and digging clams with her was great. 

My friend Darren and his family were there to participate in the crabbing and clam digging. Some of the family members were visiting from Sweden. What a joy to see the fun they had interacting with one another while crabbing and digging clams. Darren's young nephew, Collin had a great time digging his first limit of clams. He was just beaming with pride as he showed me his clams. Collin is the red haired young man seen with his mother in the photo and in both video clips. He is well on his way to a life long adventure digging clams and catching crabs.

7/20 – 8 AM Once again the crabbing class was greeted by cloudy and damp weather with some misting rainfall. Approximately 20 crabbers took part in our crabbing class. Some participants arrived an hour late because of a miss print in one of the local papers. I arrived early to set out my Crab Max crab traps. I caught 1 hard shell legal sized Dungeness Crab. The guy crabbing next to me caught 3 hard shell Dungeness crabs. I reset my crab traps and left them to soak while I was speaking to the participants. During the orientation I demonstrated the legal method to field dress crabs. While I was away from the beach, the crabber on the beach with 3 crabs in his bucket caught 3 more bringing his total to 6 hard shell crabs. After the orientation, we moved to on the beach to crab but the action was over and we failed to catch another legal sized crab. The batteries in my video camera died after we moved onto the beach.

On Friday the 6th of July the crabbing class was greeted by sunny weather and decent crabbing conditions. The crabbers all new to crabbing went home with 3/4 of a crab. The video clip tells the story.

On Friday the 22nd of June the crabbing class was greeted by cloudy and damp weather with some misting rainfall. Approximately 20 brave crabbers took part in our crabbing class. We failed to catch any legal sized crabs. However, we were given 3 legal sized crabs that were caught the day before but they were soft and we released them to gain weight and harden up.

On 06/21 Crabbing productivity along the north shore of Siletz Bay is mixed with the best crabbing from the north shore occurring midway into the incoming tide. The take averages from zero catch to a high of five crabs per crabber.

Early last fall I spent the late morning hours to noon crabbing at Siletz Bay but managed to take 1 large Dungeness, however, crabbers Bonnie and Dewy caught 13 large Dungeness crabs prior to my arrival. They arrived at their crabbing location at low tide, 5:30 am. They began catching crabs after the tide had turned.

Steve from Moe's crabbing dock reports crabbing from Moe's dock is based on the height of the incoming tide. The Crab Max trap has to clear the lip of the berm otherwise the trap hangs up and buries in the sand. Crab off of Moe's Dock only when the height of the tide exceeds 7.0 feet; otherwise crab of off the sandy beach when the height of the incoming tide is lower than 5.0 feet. Crabbing from the sandy beach when the incoming tide is between 5.0 and 7.0 feet requires the crabber to wade into the water to caste or retrieve the Crab Max over the berm. Crabbing has been mixed for crabbers using a Crab Max. Steve uses a Crab Max baited with mussels.. . Crabbing with a crab max crab traps is the type of crab gear most often used to take crabs from Moe's crab dock.... The channel that crabbers target from Moe's crabbing dock has filled and moved southward and out of the reach of crabber's traps. However erosion is at work and is scouring the sand away from the bar on both sides of the channel. Hopefully the scouring will once again make crabbing from Moe's Dock productive.

Siletz Bay Clam Digging: is limited to the harvest of purple varnish clams located in the lower bay and softshell clams located mostly in the upper bay and in proximity along the shoreline of the north shore.

Clam digger nofaultwalt and I put together a little vido to answer your questions about indentifying purple varnsh clams. Remember each digger must dig their own clams. I have a disabled clam diggers license and Walt often helps dig my clams. Notice the purple varnish clam in the photograph on the top left.

The purple varnish clams in the top right photograph were dug from the single hole in the photograph on the left. The limit of large purple varnish clams were dug next to the rocky spires I dug the clams for use in developing a recipe for purple varnish clams on Sunday June 24th.

I used the purple varnish clams I dug during our class to make the Oregon's Stuffed Clams that I served at my friends home. Umm Good!!!

8/10 - 10:30 at Driftwood Public Library: 12:30 at Siletz Bay was terrific as approximately 50 participants eventually filled the room to overflowing for the lecture on digging the clams of interest to recreational clam diggers.

After the lecture 30 plus clam diggers met at the gravel pullout just north of the Bay House restaurant to dig limits of purple varnish clams. Clam digger, Zachary and his

children pictured in the first two photographs above share the moment of digging their first limits of clams together. In the third photograph my lab, Cali Ann shows the clam diggers how to do it. The fourth photograph speaks for itself.

7/27 - 11:00 at Driftwood Public Library; 1:00 at Siletz Bay was a great success with about 45 participants eventually filling the conference room to standing room only. Once again one of the local newspapers printed the start time an hour later than it actually began. After the lecture we gathered on the tidal flats at Siletz Bay as shown below to dig limits of purple varnish clams.

7/13 - 12:00 at Driftwood Public Library; 2:00 at the Siletz Bay

approximately 30 participated at our clam dig at the Driftwood Library. After the lecture we met at Siletz Bay and the approximately 30 clam diggers went home with limits of purple varnish clams.

I used the purple varnish clams I dug during our class to make the Oregon's Stuffed Clams I served at my friends home on July 17th. Umm Good!!!

6/29 - 12:00 at Driftwood Public Library; 2:00 at the Siletz Bay. Some of the 40 plus participants as shown in the photo below digging for purple varnish clams. All of the participants of the Lincoln City Culinary Institute sponsored clam dig went all the clams they desired. Click on the following link

to view the video clip of the 40 plus clam diggers that went home with limits of purple varnish clams.

On 06/15/12 Shown below, approximately 25 participants met at the Driftwood Library to participate in the Lincoln City Culinary Institute sponsored clam dig for pruple varnish clams. The 1 1/2 hour lecture was followed with the clam dig in Siletz Bay for purple varnish clams. Everyone went home with limits of clams.

Clam Clinic Siletz Bay 2012 as shown below precious moments were revealed at Clam Clinic Siletz Bay 2012 as approximately 45 clam diggers descended on the tidal flats at Siletz Bay to dig limits of purple varnish clams. The diggers were anxious to get started and began digging beforehand. The precious moment occurred when a 7 or 8 year old young lady proudly showed her father the 100 or so clams she had dug.  She was beaming with pride while the look on his face was one of dismay.  The excess number of clams was returned to the bay. The contrast of emotion on the father and daughter’s face was extraordinary. It was an experience they will remember.

Clam Clinic Siletz Bay 2011 was very rewarding for us as well as for the participants. The enthusiasm was infectious as those new to digging clams embraced the experience.

On 05/19/10 nearly 50 participants of Clam Clinic 2010 Siletz Bay digging for puprle varnish clams. Happily everyone went home with limits of clams. Click on the 4 icons on the bottom right corner of the video to play full screen.

Mimi Cogswell and twin 4 1/2 year old sons shared their great clam digging adventure to the coast with us. I have posted her enthusiastic account of their adventure below. See the Discussion Forum for the complete text of her adventure.

"Dear Bill: I wanted to thank you for your web site and books on clamming, that made it accessible for my 4.5 year old twins and I this weekend, at Siletz Bay, to catch our limit of purple varnish clams!

So, I totally have the clamming bug now and can't wait to come back.  Would you consider doing an extra clinic on Mother's Day weekend?  This is what I want for Mother's Day now, to go clamming (am copying to my husband, hint, hint!)

Thank you Bill, for all your work to spread the knowledge on the thrill of this hobby.  And, I just ate those clams and they were delicious! Mimi"

Internet Links of Interest for Siletz Bay:

Click on 2012 to view the NOAA tidal projections for your area of interest.

Click HERE for the 10 day weather forecast for Lincoln City.

Click on the Northwest River Levels to view the height of the river levels for Northwest Oregon.

Click HERE to view the height of the river level for the Siletz River near Siletz.

Click HERE to view the navigational hazards of concern for crossing the bar at Siletz Bay. 

Courtesy of Share your crabbing, clam digging and fishing adventures with us by emailing them to Click on Lincoln City Visitor Center for the other fun filled activities in the Lincoln City area, or click on the Oregon Coast Today Newspaper to see interesting places to visit and new things to experience while visiting the Central Oregon Coast.

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