Yellowtail Rockfish, Sebastes flavidus
Also known as greenies and green snapper
Features: These fish are olive green to dusky-brown with some light mottling towards their top sides. Their fin membranes are yellow.
Habitat: Yellowtail rockfish will usually be found in offshore waters and often suspended over deep reefs and rocky habitat to as deep as 900 feet.
Technique: Best success will be by first locating suspended schools of yellowtail rockfish in offshore areas during periods open for fishing offshore, and then working rubber tail jigs or shrimp flies through the schools.
—Sidebar information from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
ILWACO — Pacific Salmon Charters owner Milt Gudgell, 79, considers rockfish as a stable and productive fishery, particularly along the nearby Oregon and Washington coast.
“The season goes from March 15 until October with no quota. I feel it’s great because the fish are pretty good size. In some areas the rockfish are small, like down off Newport. Fishing for rockfish here has always been good — really good,” Gudgell said.
In 2016, the Washington state record black rockfish (10.72 pounds) was reeled in near the jetties around Ilwaco.
“The black rockfish primarily live around rocky areas and close to shore —you don’t find them offshore,” Gudgell said.
Going deep for yellowtail
While some bottom-fishing charters in Ilwaco and Warrenton head south to fish the relatively shallow, rocky ledges and coves off the Oregon coast around Tillamook Rock Lighthouse for black rockfish, others, like Gudgell, prefer to head north and fish deeper-water off the Washington coast for yellowtail rockfish and lingcod.
“Yellowtail rockfish are in deeper water. Today they were down 350 feet, but sometimes they’re only 50 feet under the boat in mid-water,” Gudgell said.
Gudgell found his current favorite bottom-fishing spot on his way to another.
“I used to fish offshore a lot and I kept driving over this spot going where I was going and (the sonar) would light up and I would wonder ‘what the heck is that, is it krill or shrimp?’. One day I stopped and put a line down, about 15 years ago. We’ve been fishing that spot for the past three or four years now.”
The deeper water calls heavier gear including a top and bottom rig with a 24-ounce lead sinker. But the heavy lifting is worth the struggle, as double hookups of yellowtail occur often.