John Strohecker of Portland with a quality ocean coho from Garibaldi (7/29/18).

North Coast Fishing Report and Forecast September 20th, 2019

North Coast Fishing Report – As one might expect, a surge of Chinook showed in north coast estuaries following the recent rain freshet that isn’t all that common in mid-September on the Oregon Coast. The Nehalem and Tillamook Bays were highlights, but other systems saw a surge of Chinook into the system as well.

On Tillamook Bay, early morning bites have consistently come from the Ghost Hole and high tide has been a consistent opportunity as well. Furthermore, upper Tillamook Bay and the West Channel has produced some great catches of Chinook at mid-week. We’ve seen it before, following a significant rain event, the West Channel can get inundated with Chinook as it seems to be the most likely path in high water flows. With the bulk of early returning fish destined for the Trask and Tillamook Rivers, the quickest route to those systems is through the West Channel and when flows are up, plenty of scented river water flushes down the West Channel so do the math…

Also, with the ocean being rough, the bay has produced the primary opportunity in recent days. Oddly, the hatchery coho haven’t made a strong showing in the bay and they likely won’t if they haven’t yet. Many may have utilized the bump in river levels to head right into the Trask River and up to the hatchery.

And since we’re talking rivers, although the river systems didn’t quite get the bump most were hoping for, some Chinook and coho did make their way into the Trask system, but boaters didn’t have ideal conditions to make a productive float. Most rivers give up that tannic color on the first rain, especially if it’s not a gully washer.

The North Fork Nehalem reports some coho in the trap, some coho being caught in the vicinity of the hatchery. The rain did move some fish, but not in high numbers.

The Nehalem estuary however witnessed some great fishing at mid-week, with hordes of anglers flocking there during the big southerly blow. Wheeler to Nehalem and upriver produced good catches for 360 flasher trollers, using small spinners behind them. It was a good week for Nehalem Bay anglers with some coho, but mostly Chinook hitting the deck. We all know that won’t last long.

The Salmon River is nearing peak action for the estuary and effort is on the increase. With more folks showing up at the Highway 101 Bridge, you know the fish are arriving, but can be notoriously lock-jawed in this reach. It’s not a great year on most north coast systems, but when peak season is arriving, you can fish with more confidence (and crowds).

The Nestucca is starting to yield more Chinook as well. Although Chinook enter this system well into October, September Chinook seem more bitey and therefore, the early season is a great time to pursue them. It’s underway here, and Nestucca River anglers try their best to keep a lid on it.

The Alsea continues to be a bit underwhelming, but given the productivity of this system in recent years, a slower year seems like a complete bust to those that know what this system is capable of. This weekend should be telling of what the Alsea will produce this year.

The sometimes overlooked Yaquina system is slowly improving with effort ramping up as well. Chinook are starting to show, but anglers are needing to put in some time and innovative strategies to find success.

The Siletz River system is also getting more attention as Chinook start to make a stronger showing here as well. Catches will get more consistent in a few weeks, but anglers and Chinook are starting to show more interest.

Headed west to the salt, the ocean hasn’t been friendly lately, some would say downright dangerous. That should change this weekend so prospects are looking up. Be sure to read all about it in the forecast section.

Crabbing is picking up in the estuaries of the north coast and certainly in the ocean as well.

Tuna trippers are just now getting back onto the salt but some chatter is going on about how close the tuna may be over the weekend. Only time will tell, it’s certainly been a strange year.

The Guide’s Forecast – Let’s start with big blue, since it looks like the weekend will be an option for an array of species we all like to have over for dinner. First, the weather, Saturday looks to be the best option:


 NW wind 5 kt. Wind waves W 1 ft at 4 seconds. NW swell

 4 ft at 9 seconds. Chance of rain in the morning, then chance

 of showers in the afternoon.


 NW wind 5 kt. Wind waves NW 1 ft at 4 seconds. NW

 swell 4 ft at 8 seconds. Patchy fog after midnight.


 NW wind 5 kt. Wind waves NW 1 ft at 4 seconds. NW swell

 5 ft at 12 seconds. Patchy fog.


 W wind 5 kt, backing to S after midnight. Wind

 waves W 2 ft at 4 seconds, shifting to the S at 4 seconds after

 midnight. NW swell 5 ft at 12 seconds. Chance of rain.


 SW wind 10 to 15 kt with gusts to 20 kt. Wind waves

 3 ft. W swell 8 ft. Showers and a slight chance of tstms.


 NW wind 10 to 15 kt with gusts to 20 kt. Wind

 waves 4 ft. W swell 8 ft. Patchy fog.


 W wind 5 to 10 kt. Wind waves 2 ft. NW swell 7 ft.


 NW wind 5 to 10 kt. Wind waves 3 ft. W swell 8 ft.

With Saturday looking to be the golden opportunity, the non-selective salmon season will be open, along with tuna, a 2-fish limit on halibut, yes, that’s an any depth, deep reef opportunities for lingcod and sea bass galore, there are too many options to choose from.

Newport will remain the best option for halibut and it’s been good for coho as well, but sensible anglers would think that those mostly Columbia River bound coho would finally start making their way northward to well, the Columbia River. Depoe Bay, Pacific City and Garibaldi should also be a good bet for wild and hatchery coho salmon on Saturday. Chinook are of course available in the nearshore and should be abundant as many are making their way back home about now.

Tuna is anyone’s guess but some are speculating that the blue water coupled with copious amounts of bait should be making a nearshore appearance. It’s best to believe you have to run 30+ miles westward and get surprised on your way out. Prepare for anything and it’s live bait time but iron will slay too this time of year.

Ocean crabbing to top it all off. The crabs are starting to fill better and should be eager to take advantage of fresh salmon, tuna or bottomfish carcasses.

With so much ocean opportunity, why would one explore other options? Well, it’s peak fall Chinook season, that’s why.

Following a good week of Chinook productivity in several north coast estuaries, we all know it’s been too good to last. Regardless, the upcoming soft tide series bodes well for lower bay trollers and ocean goers as well. The bar should be friendly, at least on Saturday.

In order of likely productivity, here are my favorites for this week:

Tillamook – Trask and Tillamook River fish are in the system in good number. The Ghost Hole, picket fence and West Channel should all be good options although not as good as it has been in recent days. After all, there’s only so many biters that enter the system after a rain freshet, and they’re getting culled pretty fast when the word gets out. Bait is always a good choice, but with the 360 flasher craze, 3.5 spinners will take their fair share of fish as well. The soft tides should produce good catches at the jaws on the last half of outgoing tide and along the south side of the south jetty on the last half of incoming tide. Yes! You can keep any coho or any salmon for that matter, in the saltwater this weekend. NO WILD COHO retention in any north coast estuaries this season however. Also, you are allowed 2 Chinook in the estuary fisheries, as long as one of them is of hatchery origin. Read THIS clarifying press release.

Nehalem – The Nehalem begins its peak fall salmon run about now, and although it was pretty crazy good fishing this week, there should still be fair numbers of Chinook and some coho around to keep anglers entertained. The weaker tide set should keep anglers focused on the extreme lower end of the bay, the jaws to be more direct. Both high tide and the entire outgoing tide should prove productive and anglers upstream of here might find challenging conditions as biters get culled before they get up-bay and lower water exchange doesn’t motivate biters all that much either. More 360 flashers and spinners in the upper reaches, fish naked on the bottom near the mouth, but flashers and bait aren’t a bad option either as effective as these have been lately.

Nestucca – Bay and lower tidewater anglers should find better prospects on the Nestucca this weekend. Trollers working the mouth should see fair numbers of Chinook come across the bar at high tide and during the soft outgoing tide. Bobber and bait tossers as well as spinner casters and trollers should also see some degree of success at the Guardrail and Boat Ramp Holes too.

Salmon – This should be a good tide series for Salmon River anglers. Bay entrance trollers should see a fair influx of Chinook this weekend so take advantage of the great tide swing. Troll herring, keeping them spinning near the bottom for best success. It’s peak period for Salmon River anglers but the Highway 101 crew may be frustrated with rolling fish that seem lock-jawed on this soft tide exchange. I know, nothing new here, right?

Alsea – It’s definitely time for the Alsea to kick off. Although October is a better overall month, there are growing numbers of adults starting to show here and trollers working the bay should stand a reasonable chance at success using herring or spinners. In recent  years, there’s been a fair number of wild coho showing here, but we’re still a little early for those to tease us while in pursuit of Chinook. NO RETENTION ON WILD COHO this season on the north coast.

Yaquina – It’s time for the Yaquina to start heating up too and although no one expects an incredible return here, for those that can fish here with confidence, this weekend’s tide swing should be a productive one for you. Trolling herring here is standard procedure, but it’s only a matter of time before someone figures out the flasher and spinner thing here.

Siletz – The Siletz should probably be ranked higher than the Yaquina here, but it’s good to keep you scratching your head. Numbers are building here and the soft tides will again dictate lower bay/tidewater effort. The 360 flasher DEFINITELY works here. There should be a fair surge of fish entering the system over the next few weeks.

Necanicum – Still the sleeper on the north coast and the low tide exchange may not bring may Chinook into the system but if you want a fishery to yourself, it’s not a bad place to consider. Yes, 360’s and spinners get the mention… again. Bay crabbing should be good in almost all central and north coast estuaries. The fresher the bait, the better the results. Just keep in mind that fresh salmon carcasses are easily removed by harbor seals if they are not caged properly. Use chicken if you’re using crab rings.