Oregon and SW Washington Fisheries Update March 8th, 2019

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Willamette Valley/Metro – Following the long dry spell, Portland area rivers, even the mighty Willamette, are putting out salmon and steelhead to savvy anglers.

The Willamette started fishing again early this week, with the “Sultan of Sellwood” taking a 2-fish limit at Sellwood Bridge on Monday. John Shmilenko (“The Sultan”) is the temperature gauge for how many spring Chinook are in the system, and if it’s worth fishing in the Willamette. It’s early, but an early spring Chinook is worth the effort, no matter how many hours it takes to catch one. The Willamette River hydrograph indicates good river conditions for the foreseeable future.

John Shmilenko with a rare limit of spring Chinook from the Sellwood area, taken on March 4th
John Shmilenko with a rare limit of spring Chinook from the Sellwood area, taken on March 4th

The Columbia is open for spring Chinook as well, but only above Warrior Rock near St. Helens. Columbia River bound spring Chinook peak later, in April and May, while Willamette spring Chinook often make a fair showing in March, with stronger returns in April, May, and June.

Recently, it’s been tough steelheading on the Sandy River, but bitter east winds hasn’t aided the effort. There has been some quality fish come from the Sandy, but February is when the bulk of the return happens. There has been more wild fish than hatchery fish there as of late. The reach near Cedar Creek should remain productive for bank anglers until the next rain system enables fish upstream passage into the hatchery. Pro guide Jeff Stoeger of O2BFISHN Guide Service (503-704-7920) reports, “The freezing level is holding at 1500 ft. If you plan to float from a boat or raft you will have to drag it thru a few spots from Oxbow to Lewis and Clark Park. The water temperature is also on the cold side with the current temp at about 36 degrees. It will stay that way until we get some warmer rain and/or the freezing level gets above 4000 ft to melt lowland snow. The forecast is for snow thru Friday and temperatures are finally going up to the mid 40’s and possibly even to 50 by midweek. Bank fisherman have done well fishing bobber and jigs in the nightmare pattern and worms.”

The Clackamas has yielded better fishing as of late, with fair returns well into March on this system. Three of the four steelhead caught in the 1st annual John Aho Memorial steelhead derby (www.johnaho.fun) came from the Clackamas on Saturday, including the largest fish at 11 pounds. Fish are well distributed here, but water conditions are getting low and clear.

Sheridan Pond is slated to be stocked with trophy rainbow trout (larger than 12”) this week.

Northwest Oregon – District streams are low and clear and steelheading is challenging. The Nestucca has held up well, but luck and innovative techniques will play a large role in success on this system. The lower reaches of every Tillamook area stream will produce the best and anglers should target tidal fish, washing in on the incoming tide.

The mainstem Nehalem is ideal for steelheading under these conditions, and gets a large return of all wild fish this time of year. Like other systems, fish should be coming in on the incoming tide, and an array of techniques should work. The upper reaches of the Nehalem are treacherous for drift boats and even rafters need to be cautious when navigating.

With the strong east winds whipping up, the ocean swell has been minimal. Bottomfishing has been excellent for sea bass and lingcod. Favorable seas may continue to provide opportunity, but always subject to change.

Ocean crabbing has slowed as adults are beginning to go into the “clutch.” During the mating season, crabs are much less likely to feed so catch rates plummet. Bay crabbing will be challenging too.

Razor clam digging went well on the recent low tide series but diggers all complained about how small of a grade the clams were. Most clams ranged from 3” to 4”, not quite worthy of the effort.

Central and Eastern Oregon – From our friend Tim Moran:

Well the big early March snow storm in central/eastern Oregon blanketed much of the area with 3 to 6 feet of snow depending on your location and elevation and with cold temps and intermittent snow showers all week fishing and fishermen are slow to the task. There is some hope for the weekend with partly sunny skies but lows will still be in the teens and low 20’s so the thaw towards spring looks to be a slow one.

Deshutes River – Even the usual oasis of Maupin got snow and at last report, it was a bit of a trudge to the riverbank but the Big D will recover first and fishing should be moderately good all
things considered.

Metolius River – Reports are the river is difficult to access and park along due to all the snow (about 4 ft.). There were trees down as well and of course, getting into and out of the water can be downright dangerous so use extreme caution if you go.

Crooked River – If you’re going fishing no matter what – this might be the place to go! BWO’s, Midges and scuds are your best bet.

Fall River – Probably too treacherous to reasonably fish until some of the snow dissipates.

Prineville Reservoir – Fishing was good until the storm. I saw pics a few days ago and there was quite a bit of ice on the lake and bank access was not good.

North and SE Oregon – Most lakes are frozen over and snow covered with the recent cold weather.

This will be my last report for a couple of weeks as I’m heading south to Argentina – Patagonia on a bucket list fly fishing adventure! I’ll let you all know how it goes and will hopefully be able to use knowledge gained to assist any of the readers who may want to venture to the far end of the Earth to chase big browns and rainbows!

ODF&W Updates

Steelhead are available in the mid and upper reaches of the John Day River.

Winter and early spring are best months to target trout on Willow Creek Reservoir.

If access permits, ice anglers have been catching trout on Kinney Lake.

Recent heavy snows are limiting access to many locations and making travel treacherous. If you do venture out be sure to check the road conditions before you go and be prepared for winter driving.

Recent heavy snows are limiting access to many locations and making travel treacherous. If you do venture out be sure to check the road conditions before you go and be prepared for winter driving.

Ice fishing access to Phillips, Pilcher and Wolf Creek reservoirs is good (though 4×4 vehicles are recommended). So is the fishing.

Ice fishing continues to be good at several other locations, including Lake of the Woods, Gerber Reservoir and Malheur Reservoir.

While ice fishing, anglers with a two-rod endorsement may use up to five rods.

With a constant temperature hovering near 58 degrees, the Ana River makes a great year-round trout fishing destination.

On the Crooked River anglers are enjoying good success for redband trout and mountain whitefish. Flows have been consistent at around 50 cfs.

Anglers report good fishing, especially in the afternoon on Fall River. Open to fishing all year. Restricted to fly-fishing with barbless hooks only.

Winter steelhead are starting to show up in the Hood River. Fishing should peak in mid to late March. Anglers using bobber and bait or bobber and jig usually find good success.

Anglers report good fishing for trout, especially in the afternoon, on the Metolius River.

SouthwestFrom Pete Heley at PeteHeley.com

The first spring chinook was reported taken from the Rogue River two weeks ago and according to “The Rogue Outdoor Store” in Gold Beach, three have been reported caught so far.

As for the Umpqua River, if anyone has caught a springer this year, they have not done a very good job of bragging about it.

Boat crabbers are still making decent catches at Half Moon Bay at Winchester Bay, but very few crabs are far enough up the Umpqua River to be within reach of dock crabbers.

Recreational crabbing is closed on the southern Oregon coast from Bandon to the California border due to elevated levels of domoic acid. This includes Dungeness and red rock crab harvested in bays and estuaries, and on beaches, docks, piers, and jetties. Recreational crab harvesting from Bandon north to the Columbia River (including the Coquille River estuary) remains open in bays and estuaries, and on beaches, docks, piers, and jetties.

For recreational crab harvesters, it is recommended that crab always be eviscerated prior to cooking, which includes removal and discard of the viscera, internal organs, and gills. Because of Oregon’s precautionary management of biotoxins, the crab and shellfish products currently being sold in retail markets and restaurants are safe for consumers. Before clamming or crabbing, it’s always wise to call ODA’s shellfish safety information hotline at (800) 448-2474.

The cold weather and the resulting cold water temperatures have definitely slowed the trout bite.

From ODF&W

Fishing for rockfish and lingcod is usually very good this time of year.

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.

Winter steelhead season is in full swing on the lower Rogue. Anglers have had success from the shore and from boats.

Both the North and South Umpqua should be in shape for some weekend fishing, and there should be good numbers of winter steelhead around.

We’ve gotten recent reports of some good days of steelhead fishing on the Smith River.

The first “spring” stocking of Coos-Coquille-Tenmile District lakes and ponds, originally scheduled for the week of Feb. 25, will occur this week. Many district waterbodies will be stocked periodically throughout the spring until early June.

Fair weather last week allowed the Coos and Coquille rivers to drop back into shape. Steelhead returns should continue through March.

Tenmile Lakes should start giving up some nice holdover trout in the coming weeks; some can measure over 17-inches long.

Diamond Lake recently received several feet of snow. Ice fishing could be good once access is restored.

2019 Stocking schedule and Stocking Maps

Washington – No new info from WDF&W, but HERE is the link for February 24th.