Central & South Coast Reports- March 11th, 2016

Central & South Coast Reports – Offshore fishing for rockfish and lingcod is excellent at this time of year. Unfortunately, this week is unlikely to offer the opportunity as a combination of high surf and strong winds will keep most boats off the ocean.

TIP: Plenty of rain through Tuesday in the coming week will swell rivers to unfishable levels. Here’s a quick run-down on some preferred winter river levels:
Siuslaw: 4′- 7′ (at Mapleton)
Alsea: 4′- 6.5′ (at Tidewater)
Siletz: 4′- 6.5′ (at Siletz)
North Fork Umpqua: When the flow on the Steamboat Creek gauge and the North Fork at Copeland Creek gauge add up to approximately 2000 cfs.
Umpqua River: 4′- 8′ (at Elkton)
Elk River: 4′- 6′
Good luck out there as conditions mend late in the coming week!

Pete Heley, author of several books on fishing in the northwest, wrote at his website (PeteHeley.com) this week about several little-known smallmouth bass fisheries, two of which, the Coquille River and Woahink Reservoir deserve a mention here as well. While we’ve been aware of by-catches of smallmouth periodically, it seems this location boasts a good number of decent-sized smallies, several of which have been taken in the four-pound range. In addition, Mr. Heley states, “The Coquille is now Oregon’s best striped bass fishery …” which is certainly a bonus fishery. Woahink is not well-known for lunker smallmouth and for good reason. Anglers should instead count on catching good numbers here, not wall-hangers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Fishing for perch, kelp greenling and lingcod has been good around the jetties at Winchester Bay. Rain this week is likely to negatively impact crabbing efforts. In this space last week, we reported the first spring Chinook (actually landed in late February) which found a Copper MagLip 3.5 irresistible. This quote went unaccredited, an oversight which is corrected here. “The Chinook was 43 inches long with a 28 inch girth. We didn’t have a scale but think the springer was somewhere between 42 and 44 pounds,” according to Martin Thurber of Willakenzie Guide Service. While more have been taken over the past week, those numbers were eclipsed by winter steelhead catches which have been quite good. Most of the winters are being landed here side-drifting bait but boaters are also pulling small plugs and hooking a few. Now that springers have started entering the Umpqua, numbers will improve. Come April and May, many spring Chinook will be hooked by surprised steelheaders but the best example of a startled look is invariably on the faces of shad anglers who will have their hands full but usually for just a few moments on lightweight shad gear. Most recently, catches of winter steelhead have been good on the South Umpqua River around Stanton Park and on the mainstem Umpqua River at Cleveland Rapids when conditions are favorable with a good number of these hatchery keepers.

The Coos River system, which will remain open for winter steelheading through April 30th, has been productive in a number of places which will produce again when the water drops and clears. The South Fork Coos River and the East and West Fork Millicoma Rivers has been credited with a few. Low water levels on the West Fork Millicoma River which had been making winters skittish, is a thing of the past. Drift fishing corkies or eggs and bobber fishing jigs have all been responsible for the demise of several hatchery steelhead.

The lower Rogue is on the rise, forecast to hit ‘Action Level’ (which, in the Agness area will be 15 feet with Flood Level 17 feet) by Tuesday, March 15th, at which time it will start to drop. While the water level will be moderating, it’ll still be a while for it to once again become fishable and according to the best guess from the fine minds at the NOAA, that might occur by Saturday, Match 19th. Prior to the latest freshet, fishing for winter steelhead was pretty darned good and since it’s about mid-run and springers have been caught as well, once this section drops and clears it is expected to be productive. Steelheaders on the Grants Pass stretch have been doing well side-drifting below the mouth of the Applegate River with baits of shrimp with this opportunity returning once conditions settle down. Despite the best return of winters to Cole Rivers Hatchery in three years, that’d still be fewer than 200 fish this early in the run. For that reason in part, fishing on the upper Rogue has been only fair at best. The other part is that these fresh winters are mixed with haggard, late season summers and not a great many of either.

Waters of the Chetco have been on a mostly upward roller coaster ride since the 1st of March and that ride ain’t over. If there’s good news, it’s that the increase in level and flow is forecast to break on Monday, March 4th. The level from which it will be dropping is quite high but the Chetco traditionally drops rather quickly so it should be only a couple of days after this moderation begins that plunkers should start to score.

While Elk and Sixes Rivers were reported dropping and clearing conditions earlier this week. Heavy rain is in the forecast for the southwest corner of the state over the coming weekend. If predictions remain accurate beyond that, the area will dry out Wednesday and Thursday and since these smaller rivers change so quickly, anglers would do well to keep and eye on them during this period.

Warmer temperatures coupled with rain has caused the surface ice at Diamond Lake to once again soften and deteriorate, making it unsafe for fishing at the last report. Call the Diamond Lake Resort for updates but with a rain storm due to pummel the area over the next few days, it’s unlikely to fish well regardless.