Offshore fishing reports have been good lately but have invariably carried the disclaimer: ”when they can get out.” That’s just winter fishing, but hey! It’s springtime now and conditions will be improving!
Following that theme, ocean crabbing was so good until commercial efforts started but those guys have the right just as we do. Too bad though. But wait! Those ocean crabbing reports also invariably told of -poor bay due to all the water washing in from flooded tributaries. Well, that was then. Now, crabbing is fair to good and will be improving daily with no rain in forecasts, at least for several days. Recent reports indicate fair catches from the dock and a good haul for a boater, both reports from Yaquina Bay.
For all those (and there’s more than a few), who have been waiting with gnashing teeth and sharpened hooks for the coastal rivers to drop to something fishable, that time is coming. The skies will clear, the sun will shine and rivers will start dropping on Friday, March 31st, which is coincidentally (really) the last day that several south cost streams are open for winter steelheading. Among these are the Chetco, Elk and Sixes,
Not so the Siletz River, however, which is actually in the Northwest Zone but a gem open year- ‘round which should not be neglected, particularly now that is has started produce and the condition of which will continue to improve through mid-week. While spinners are popular here, if there’s a technique with which you’re familiar or has worked elsewhere, it’s well worth a try on the Siletz. Sure, this river is not best known for its modest winter run but summer steelhead generally start entering in April. Moonshine Park is an excellent place to start prospecting.
Author, publisher and prolific blogger, Pete Heley (peteheley.com) reports to us from Reedsport, “Few local lakes are scheduled to be planted this week, but many of those lakes were planted last week and are offering fair to good trout fishing. One lake that is slated to receive a trout plant this week is Loon Lake, which is scheduled to receive 1,000 legal rainbows.
Stocking of the Florence-area lakes will resume the second week of April – as will many of the Coos County lakes. Mingus Park Pond will receive its first trout plant of 2,000 legal rainbows during the second week of April. Bluebill Lake won’t receive its first trout plant this year until the first week of May. It might have proved interesting if Bluebill Lake were planted earlier as it is now connected to Horsfall Lake and Horsfall Lake could have easily had its first rainbow trout ever.
Although the area’s best crabbing is at Charleston, ocean crabbing along the entire Oregon coast remains fair to good for the few people actually trying it. Crabbers using very small boats to crab the “Triangle’ area at Winchester Bay are also having fair success. However, those written warnings of last year for not having a Douglas County Parking Pass while crabbing from the Coast Guard Pier are now actual tickets this year.
Although Douglas County most certainly could have done a better job of introducing the pass, it seems to be the trend that every Oregon County is going to have its own required parking pass – and none of them are going to have reciprocal agreements with other Oregon counties. The one recreation pass that everyone age 62 or older should have is the Senior Pass which costs $10.00 and is valid at 100’s of day use areas in the western United States. Area residents can purchase these passes at the Dunes NRA office in Reedsport.
Area options for striped bass anglers would be the mainstem Smith River above where the North Fork enters, the North Fork Smith River from three to five miles above where it enters the Smith. There is a small population of stripers in the Umpqua that hang out in the spring between Bunch Bar and the Scottsburg Bridge. There are a few stripers that unsuccessfully try to spawn just east of the Elk Viewing Area along Highway 38 near the mouth of Deans Creek. Each summer, some adult stripers enter Scholfield Slough after attempting to spawn in the Umpqua.
Oregon’s best striper fishery for the last few years has been the Coquille River. The stretch running from three miles above to three miles below the Arago boat ramp usually has fair numbers in the spring. Many of the stripers will be sublegal fish of less than 24-inches in length but those young stripers ensure that the Coquille River will remain a striper fishery for the next decade. A key factor in this spring fishery is water clarity as the Coquille muddies up quite easily.
The scarcity of 60 degree days has kept the shallows and shoreline water in our local freshwater lakes cool enough to limit their appeal to pre-spawn warmwater fish. Anglers fishing water ten to 15 feet deep are making decent catches of bass, but most anglers do best when a substantial portion of a lake’s fish population is in the easily fished shallows. Even a couple of consecutive 65 degree days could provide a sufficient temperature differential to greatly improve fishing success. One thing I have noticed about the largemouth bass spawn is that the later they move into the shallows, the quicker they finish spawning and scatter.
The same may be true for crappies. In each of the last three years, the crappie spawning period at the Fish Haven dock at the upper end of Loon Lake has been increasingly short.
Winter steelhead angling is definitely winding down. While there are still decent numbers of fish in some of the smaller streams, many of them have already spawned and are in very poor shape. Anglers that have been lucky enough to catch one of the steelhead dumped into Saunders Lake by the STEP chapter operating the Eel Creek fish trap are dismayed by their poor condition.
Most of the yellow perch in our local lakes have finished spawning, but have definitely not yet put on their post-spawn feedbags.
Offshore bottomfishing at depths deeper than 180 feet (30 fathoms) will close this Friday (March 31st) at midnight. More shallow marine waters will continue to be open. Anglers fishing the ocean for Chinook salmon are not restricted by water depth.
Despite some contrary reports, Steve, the new owner of the Wells Creek Inn told me last week that were continuing the annual Spring Chinook Derby and already had as many people signed up as signed up last year. Additionally, there will be a band playing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of last weekend and this coming weekend. Last weekend, the merchandise for a “completely silent” auction was placed on display at the restaurant and while the band is playing this coming weekend the merchandise will be awarded to the winning bidder. Prizes include a chain saw and a rod and reel outfit with a retail value of $400.”
Spring Chinook? Yes? How many? Nobody knows but the Rogue River has been producing a few during the high water periods when conditions were crummy. Starting Friday, March 31st through Wednesday April 5th, the Rogue at Agnes will drop from 19,000 cfs to 8,000 cfs (or thereabouts; it is a prediction, not hard science) During this positive trend, springers will enter and will be caught. Another positive indicator is a fairly mild ocean in the days to come which means less sand stirred up on the bar equals greater fish passage. Salmon as well as steelhead dislike that grit in their gills. If you’d rather target winter steelhead than spring Chinook, we’d wonder why and send you to the Grants Pass stretch. In other news, the Army Corps of Engineers’ attempt to peddle Cole Rivers Hatchery to the highest bidder is officially a ‘No Sale,’ a decision made once they (the ACoE) discovered that running a hatchery is complicated and should be left in the hands of folks who already know all about fish management: The ODFW!
With the rain ceasing, Chetco River levels have started to drop. The water has begun to clear, first to grey-green with steady improvement to steelhead green over the coming weekend. At 5,500 at this writing, the river flow will drop to 4,000 cfs during the day on Friday which means prime condition for the weekend. It remains to be seen how the winter steelhead run will hold up as it’s into wind-down here. Expect to release plenty of spawned out fish which are headed downriver now. They’re aggressive but worthless.