North Coast Fishing Report – It hasn’t been a great early season on the north coast. Reports of continued struggling by avid anglers are coming in, full day floats on rivers that should be peaking right now, but are failing to produce even a bite. One floater reported doing a drift from the hatchery to Aldervale without even so much as a bite (North Fork Nehalem). The hatchery recording is also reporting low effort and low catch, when it should be as “game on” as peak season gets this time of year.
Other rivers are much the same, it’s hard to find success on the Necanicum, Klaskanine, Big and Gnat Creeks, when these systems should be fully seeded right now. Granted, conditions are good, but not great, in the sense that air temperatures, and therefore water temperatures are still relatively cold.
Reports from south Tillamook County are much the same. Anglers are finding a rare winter steelhead at the mouth of Three Rivers, and even fewer in the mainstem Nestucca itself. Three Rivers anglers are picking up a few as well, but it’s clear the run is sub-par here as well.
The Wilson shouldn’t be classified as a hot spot, but with a run of broodstock returnees, it’s likely to see a more robust run than the early hatchery brats. There has already been some decent fishing on this system this year, better times are likely ahead.
The Trask can’t be overlooked as a steelhead option, the mainstem Nehalem either. Both are primarily wild fish dominated, but some hatchery strays are always caught on the Trask. Like the Wilson, it’ll only get better from here.
There are still a few Tillamook Bay die-hards, in search of late returning Chinook. Although some experienced success at mid-month, success and interest has waned, the recent rain storm certainly had something to do with it. Undoubtedly however, there will be a few folks there over the weekend.
Crabbing has been on hold due to the recent rain freshet too, but like bay salmon fishing, interest will pick up this weekend.
The ocean has been too rough to recreate.
The Guide’s Forecast – This was the one, the rain freshet that will bring in the last strong wave of early returning hatchery steelhead to all the early season favorites. You won’t find the river-by-river breakdown all that compelling, but it’s what we got to work with. Keep in mind the return rates for the wild broodstock fish should be much better than our “washed out” early returning stock of fish. Here’s our list of go-to’s for this weekend and beyond:
In Clatsop County, Big and Gnat Creek, the Necanicum and Klaskanine Rivers should all produce similarly this weekend. Following the mid-week deluge, the last robust return of winter steelhead should enter each of these systems. The North Fork Nehalem also falls into this category as the hatchery is in Clatsop County as well. Steelhead will be making a hard run to their points of liberation; at the hatchery facility for most of these systems. For that reason, your best chance at success will be at the hatchery deadlines themselves. Flows will drop quickly as the forests haven’t seen significant rainfall for quite some time. Most of these systems will fish best on Friday, but hold biters through the weekend. As the weekend progresses, and flows drop and clarity improves, fish will become more tentative. Downsize your baits and get creative as many will be using the same thing in pursuit of these fish. Dare to be different, and dare to start later, when temperatures will rise and fish will be more rested from the first light onslaught. After this weekend, fewer fresh fish will be seen, and steelhead will start scattering to spawn in tributaries, or just call it macaroni by entering their respective fish traps. In another 3 weeks or sooner, many of these fish will be spent, and strongly considering their migration back to the ocean. These are one-hit wonder fish, but hopefully, they’ll still provide some good opportunity in what is now officially peak season.
As rivers drop and clear, downsize your baits and start fishing pocketwater and deeper holes as fish become more timid. And even when timid, some still can’t resist hardware so spinners and spoons may be an effective took when water temperatures warm up.
In Tillamook County, you have these stream systems:
Three Rivers and the Nestucca mainstem – More one-hit wonder fish, that should produce some results over the weekend, likely some of the best of the season actually, but it’s clear the return is small, so limits will be hard to come by. Three Rivers itself will likely produce the best results, since that’s where the bulk of the early returning fish are destined for. Again, small baits and artificials such as soft beads and pink worms should produce fair results.
Wilson River – Likely one of the better options this weekend, with a waning return of early brats, and more of an emphasis on broodstock fish, the Wilson could start producing some quality steelhead this weekend, for those willing to pound the water. Hatchery fish and some wild fish, should be well strewn throughout the system, but it may be wise to focus your efforts downstream of milepost 10. The recent rain freshet should allow for good opportunity in this reach, so hopefully anglers will spread out when seeking steelhead this weekend.
Chinook are still an option here too, with the best chances coming from downstream of Mills Bridge. Be wary of even the brightest of hens, they will often cut pale this time of year. Chinook season closes after December 31st.
Trask River – Should have some hatchery strays and some wild fish available. There will be fewer anglers here because of a limited supply of hatchery fish, but solace does have its benefits. The best reach will be downstream of Cedar Creek and a rare Chinook may be found here as well.
Trollers working Tillamook Bay for Chinook won’t find easy pickings. It’s a mediocre tide, but the recent rain should stimulate migration as we speak. This will likely be the last hurrah for Tillamook Chinook, and you shouldn’t have high expectations for success this late in the season. We’ve been surprised before however. Troll herring during the last half of incoming tide in the Ghost Hole and at Bay City.
Bay crabbing should be good, even with the recent rain.
The ocean may be an option on Friday, but with few boats (if any) by your side, it’s critical that you exercise more caution than usual. Check the ocean forecast and bar conditions from our home page.