Willamette Valley/Metro – The big news for the region is the official first spring Chinook of the season, it was taken by Dave Frey of Lake Oswego, a nice 16-pound hatchery fish in the Milwaukie area on February 4th. The fish took a prawn for bait.
February springers are common on the Willamette, but not as common as they were just 2 decades ago. The streamlining of life histories has homogenized year class returns and run timing. Fewer 5-year old fish that averaged over 15 pounds and returned earlier are no longer entering the system, while 4-year old fish dominate the run now, returning later in May and June, often less than 12 pounds in weight.
The Willamette looks like it will continue to drop, continuing to provide spring Chinook opportunity in the coming days. Keep in mind that although chances are slim, a February spring Chinook is certainly something to behold. Trolled herring at Sellwood Bridge is a top prospect.
Maybe even a bigger draw than Willamette River spring Chinook will be the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show at the Expo Center from February 6 – 10th. There’s something there for everyone and I’ll be in the KastKing booth if you wish to bring by your fishing stories and photos that may one day grace the pages of this prestigious publication.
Meanwhile, back to season appropriate reporting, winter steelheading on the Sandy and Clackamas Rivers remains ho-hum. Water levels are dropping and clearing, making for more challenging fishing. Fish still seem a bit sparse, but action is definitely picking up. With cold temperatures in the forecast, afternoon fishing will be most inspiring and productive in the coming days. The next 3 weeks should be the best on the Sandy, while the Clackamas River peaks a little later into March. Pro guide Jeff Stoeger (503-704-7920) reports, “Well this week, we saw a small flurry of action on the Sandy. I fished last Thursday and had a couple of chances and never connected. The report was that there was a good bite in the lower river with one bank guy limiting out with 3 hatchery fish. I heard of a couple of boats that caught 4 or 5 fish with some natives in the mix. There were fish caught in the upper river the last few days. The weather this week has played havoc with snow and ice.”
You can see more of Jeff’s report and an upcoming forecast for the Sandy River and Northwest Oregon by becoming a paid subscriber HERE. Paid subscribers get on average, about FIVE TIMES the amount of information for fifty cents a week!
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Northwest Oregon – Low, clear rivers is making for challenging conditions along the north Oregon Coast. Snowy weather in the pass is also keeping crowds away, but the few stealthy steelheaders are finding fair success under these circumstances.
The Wilson booted out a few quality fish for the few that fished it on Monday. More snow and cold weather will likely keep the crowds down, but prepare for challenging conditions and match your strategy as such. Fishing the lower reaches of the north coast streams will offer up the best opportunity for fresh steelhead. On the Wilson, that would be the reach downstream of Sollie Smith Bridge and the Nestucca, downstream of Three Rivers, even tidewater downstream of Cloverdale. Both systems have fair numbers of hatchery fish and wild fish should be making a stronger showing despite low water conditions on the Trask and especially the Nehalem River.
Smaller systems like the Kilchis, NF Nehalem and Necanicum Rivers will also produce wild fish in the lower reaches with tidewater offering up the best chance for those that have access. Float subtle baits, jigs and beads under these conditions for your best chance at success.
The ocean looks to remain big for the foreseeable future, fresh lingcod, sea bass and Dungeness crab will have to wait. Commercial crabbers are doing best in southern Oregon, the northern ports are producing mediocre results at best, likely to duplicate in the north coast estuaries.
Central and Eastern Oregon – From our friend Tim Moran:
It is very cold in the east and it is hard to find anyone fishing. There are some nice trout out of Prineville and Ochoco but that is about it. Seems like most folks are going to the show!
Redband trout on the lower Deschutes will start actively feeding in February. Anglers using nymphing techniques and large stonefly imitations will be most successful.
Anglers are reporting good afternoon trout fishing on the Fall and Metolius rivers.
Some steelhead are being caught in the Wallowa River, and there are steelhead throughout the John Day River.
Winter and early spring are best months to target trout on Willow Creek Reservoir.
Fly-fishers can target redband trout on the Blitzen River throughout the year. Large streamers and other nypmhs work well anytime. There also are periodic hatches, so keep a selection of dry flies handy.
Anglers are starting to target hybrid bass on Ana Reservoir.
The recent cold snap has firmed up ice conditions on many waterbodies. Anglers have been on the ice and catching fish throughout the zone.
Southwest – From ODF&W
Before ocean conditions deteriorated at the end of last week, anglers were getting limits of lingcod out of Newport. Rockfish have been harder to find, but those caught offshore, like canary rockfish and yellowtail rockfish, have been large.
The bottomfish fishery is open at all depths with a General Marine Species bag limit of 5 fish, and a separate lingcod limit of 2 fish. No cabezon may be retained until July 1. The longleader gear fishery outside of the 40-fathom regulatory line is open all year. Catches often consist of a nice grade of yellowtail, widow and canary rockfishes.
The upper Rogue water levels don’t typically fluctuate dramatically upstream of Elk Creek. So while the rest of the river is falling into shape after a storm, this is a great section of river to explore.
While cold water temperatures can slow the steelhead bite, there are winter steelhead to be caught in the Coos, Coquille and Umpqua basin. As one biologist put it, you can’t catch a steelhead staying at home.
Lost Creek Reservoir fishes well in the winter, and is a major draw for trout anglers in the Rogue Basin.
In places like Tenmile Lakes and Lake Marie, yellow perch can be first warmwater fish to start biting in late winter/early spring in Tenmile Lakes.
When the ocean swells are small, late winter/early spring can typically be good for surfperch fishing on Coos County beaches.
From Pete Heley at www.PeteHeley.com
Crabbing has slowed down, but seems to better than normal for this time of year. A dock crabber last Friday caught a red rock crab in addition to a couple of legal-sized male dungeness crabs.
Winter bassfishing at Tenmile Lake is getting more consistent and should show noticeable improvement with stable weather and warming temperatures.
While the lakes that received trout plants this week (Alder, Carter, Cleawox, Dune, Lost, Munsel and Siltcoos Lagoon) should have plenty of trout left in them – some are receiving additional plants this coming week. Munsel Lake is to receive 500 trophy rainbows while Alder lake will receive 566 legals, Cleawox is slated for 1,332 legals and tiny Dune Lake is getting 332 legals.
Washington – No new info from WDF&W, but HERE is the December 24th report.