Royalty free; Thank you Edward Taylor, Unsplash

In the grassy field, two bull elks posture, bugle, and antler-wrestle for herd dominance and to attract cows. The herd casually look on as these nearly 1,100 pound beasts duke out ritualized mating behaviors and risk dangerous injury from the nearly six foot antler racks.

Almost enough to lose your antlers over.

Actually, the antlers are shed each year and people hunt for them. Shed hunting (or angler hunting) closes during the winter to protect big game, and reopens in April (see https://myodfw.com/articles/responsible-shed-hunting).

In the early summer, the antlers grow rapidly and become polished. During this time, the larger males (which are solitary most of the year) join together. By July, the antlers become polished and males begin searching for untended cows or those tended by less formidable males.

Herds

Cows form herds that include adults and juveniles which tend to stay in relatively small and distinct areas. An older cow with offspring will typically provide the leadership. Younger mothers will fill-in as needed. There is considerable exchange of individuals among adjacent herds.

Food

Most of the year, Roosevelt elk feed on grasses and sedges. In the winter, they will eat more woody plants such as berries (highbush cran-, elder-, salmon-, and blue-), devil’s club, mushrooms, lichens, and other young seedlings.

Nuts & Bolts

Roosevelt Elk are one of the four surviving races of elk (which are a species of deer) in Oregon. These elk are the third largest land mammal in North America and have a population in Oregon of around 59,000. Elk are found in temperate Pacific Northwest rainforests and throughout northern California. They are also called Olympic Elk.

How they got their name….

In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt created what originally started out as an elk reserve in Washington state. but now the Olympic National Park in Washington state. Later, in 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the region and named the elk after his relative “Teddy” and created the Olympic National Forest the following year.

Elk are hunted as a game species; the meat is leaner and higher in protein than beef or chicken. See the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for permits and restrictions.

Want to see them?

Check out the Dean Creek Elk Reserve, just three miles east of Reedsport, Oregon on Highway 38 (https://www.blm.gov/visit/dean-creek-elk-viewing-area). This year-around reserve is home to about 60-100 Roosevelt Elk which are visible almost every day. While there is no overnight camping, there are many turnouts on the highway, restrooms, and no fees. Before you go, be sure to download the Dean Creek Viewing Area brochure at https://www.blm.gov/or/resources/recreation/files/brochures/Dean%20Creek%20Elk%20Viewing%20Area.pdf

REFERENCES:
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Viewing at: https://myodfw.com/wildlife-viewing/species/hoofed-mammals and /big-game-hunting/species/roosevelt-elk
USDI Bureau of Land Management, Dean Creek Viewing Area (https://www.blm.gov/visit/dean-creek-elk-viewing-area)
Wikipedia, Elk (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roosevelt_elk)

What kind of fish is always looking up? A Halibut.

Photo courtesy of ODFW

The first time you see a halibut could be a surprise. Halibut are flatfish with eyes on one side of their bodies and some are giant!

Things are looking up

Halibut don’t start out as a one-sided. As a larva, halibut have eyes on both sides of their head. As they begin to mature, their left eye migrates over their snout to the right side of their head. They begin swimming one-sided which facilitates living on or near the ocean floor. They are always looking up. Hunting.

But wait, there’s two

There are two varieties of halibut off the southern Oregon coast: California (Paralichthys californicus) sometimes known as California Flounder and Pacific (Hippoglossus stenolepis). The two are very different. If you pull in one that is over 30 lbs. there is a good chance that it is a Pacific.

What if they are smaller?

It gets harder to identify them when they are smaller. The easiest way to identify them is to compare the lateral line shape. Pacific halibuts have a straight lateral line; California have an arched that goes above the pectoral fin.

Halibut Comparison:

Let’s dive a little deeper for more comparisons.

REFERENCES:
–Oregon Dept. Fish and Wildlife, MyODFW (https://myodfw.com/articles/2019-halibut-newsletter#pacific)
–US Fish and Wildlife Service (https://myodfw.com/fishing/species/pacific-halibut   and /species/California-halibut)
–Wikipedia, Pacific Halibut (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_halibut)
–Fish Watcher (https://www.fishbase.in/summary/514)
–National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Studying bottom-dwelling fishes and crabs of the Eastern Bering Sea Shelf,” BobLauth(https://archive.fisheries.noaa.gov/afsc/Science_blog/EBS_6.htm)

The Pacific Fishery Management Council finalized recommendations for the 2020 ocean salmon season recently. Forecasts for Columbia basin hatchery Coho Salmon abundance are very poor this year. Recreational Coho quotas were reduced from what was available in 2019. (https://www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/salmon/)

Coho that has returned to fresh water. (Courtesy of NOAA)

It hasn’t always been this way

The State of Oregon in February 1995 considered listing Coho, sometimes called Silvers, as a threatened or endangered species. At that time, findings did not justify the listing for either State or Federal designations.

In 1998, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) authorized the first selective hatchery Coho (fin-clipped) fisheries. These selective fisheries allowed limited, but successful, targeted Coho salmon fisheries to resume the development of Coho.

By 2011, small scale non-selective Coho seasons opened along the Central Coast in September. Oregon Coastal Natural (OCN) Coho had made a strong recovery.

This September season proven to be an effective management option because it targeted abundant OCN Coho and limited fishery impacts on other Coho populations of concern.

Fast forward to 2020

These September seasons continue to be very popular with the angling public. ODFW created a great snapshot for Coho and Chinook salmon limitations and seasons in three general areas along the Oregon Coast. Download a copy of ‘2020 Recreational Ocean Salmon Season’ one-page map at: https://www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/salmon/Regulations/docs/2020_Rec_Ocean_Salmon_Season_Map.pdf.

Lookalikes

In the ocean, Coho and Chinook salmon can look very similar. Anglers must correctly identify the species of salmon being caught in order to follow regulations. Restrictions, such as legal lengths and seasons, often vary based on the species.

Anglers who incorrectly identify their catch may, and be in conflict with regulations, could have their fish confiscated and pay a fine.

Avoid identification problems

Coho have a distinct banding pattern on their lower jaw that ODFW considers as the single best way to identify them. There are dark bands on the inside and outside of the gum line and a white gum line in the middle. The back border can be very narrow.

Other distinctive markings include spots on the upper lobe of their tails. The sides of the Coho also become red when they return to freshwater. Their backs, heads, and fins will become dark greenish color.

Coho are one of five species of Pacific salmon

Coho spawn in freshwater, yet spend a great deal of their lives in the ocean. Spawning and juvenile rearing usually occurs in tributary streams or lakes that contain a lot of small gravel. In-stream structures, such as large and small woody debris, and tree-lined banks attract Coho. These structures can help control water temperature and provide protection from predators.

The juvenile smolts migrate to the ocean in the spring of their second year. Some males, known individually as a “Jack” return to the freshwater. The number of jacks returning is a fairly accurate abundance predictor for the fall. A two-year-old Coho may be more than two feet long and weigh eight pounds.

Heavy Eaters

During the next 16-20 months, Coho feed heavily in offshore waters. Their diet includes small fish such as herring, sandlance, anchovies, and sardines. Sometimes it also includes juvenile pink and chum salmon and sablefish. Some Coho will overwinter in-land in streams and lakes.

Coho return in the late summer or fall as a 3- or 4-year old to spawn in their natal streams. All Coho salmon die after spawning. Adults may reach 25 pounds or more, and rarely exceeding 15 pounds.

Human Interface

Coho salmon are high in protein and excellent table fare. Indigenous people have revered Coho as a food staple and symbol of life and sustenance.

Ocean and climate, habitat loss, and degraded water quality changes impact Coho populations. State and Federal agencies carefully monitor fish stocks to prevent over fishing, and promote restoration and conservation efforts.

References and additional information:
–2020 Oregon Sportfishing Regulations” booklet
–ODFW has several online articles (see https://myodfw.com).
–National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a very thorough page on Coho (see https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/coho-salmon).