Oregon and SW Washington Fisheries Update

Columbia Chinook & Coho Returns Exceeding Expectations; Good Fishing Continues

Willamette Valley/Metro – Metro anglers are still in hot pursuit of mainstem Columbia fall Chinook. Despite lots of good fishing still to come, catches remain sporadic as the sport fleet is still competing with the commercial fleet for successful days. It’s been a robust return, with the run size upgraded 18% higher than the pre-season forecast. Coho numbers at Bonneville are nearly double what managers expected. Spinners and 360 flashers continue to take the most fish, but super baits and plug cut imitators are accounting for strikes as well.

Anglers will get another 3 days of opportunity for keeper sturgeon between 44″ and 50″ in length. September 26th, 29th and October 3rd will offer anglers another chance at some quality fish. Lower than anticipated success rates and effort have enabled the additional opportunity if that’s any indication on how we think the fishery will perform.

Coho are beginning to stack at Willamette Falls as fish passage repairs remain underway to fish ladders in the area. The passage facility is expected to be back open to passage by mid-October for late run coho to utilize. More information can be found in THIS press release.

Pro guide Jeff Stoeger (503-704-7920) of O2BFISHN reports, ” Hello All. I hope that everyone that was effected by the fires has had the opportunity to get things back to semi-normal. Well I can verify that the coho have shown up in the Sandy. The lower river has given up some very nice fish and I’m referring from Dabney to mouth. The forecast is for more rain over the next couple of days which will pull more fish into the river. You will then find fish all the way up to the hatchery with about 3/4 of inch of rain forecasted. The water temp has dropped and the fish will be flying upriver. We could finally see the river go up over 8ft or higher by the weekend.”

Clackamas River coho fishing is also heating up. The Clackamas has seen another small bump in river levels and as we enter peak migration for coho, action should be getting good for anglers that can access the river. Some bank fishing spots are more challenging to access due to fire damage, but boaters and bank anglers working from the mouth of Eagle Creek downstream should find success over the weekend. Fish should be on the move under these conditions.

North Coast Fishing Report – The lower Tillamook Bay and ocean has slowed from recent success, but anglers fishing the upper bay have scored fairly consistent results over the last week. Recent rains will be a game changer as a September rain freshet is an unusual but very welcome event for both bank and driftboat anglers seeking Chinook and coho this time of year.

We’ll give the river-by-river breakdown in The Forecast section of the full version of our newsletter (SUBSCRIBE HERE), but anglers should expect good Chinook fishing in the upriver reaches of the Trask, Tillamook, Nehalem, Necanicum and Salmon Rivers and the tidewater reaches of the Alsea and Siletz should pick up as well.

Coho fishers seeking hatchery fish should find fair success on the Trask River below the hatchery and the North Fork Nehalem at the hatchery hole as well. Bait will work best in the higher water, eggs in particular, and as flows drop, hardware such as spinners or twitching jigs should produce fair catches as well. Another slight river rise is expected on Saturday.

Offshore options are off the table at least through Saturday but generous opportunities for halibut, bottomfish and crab will come back on-line soon. Albacore tuna remain ever-so-elusive this year.

Bay crabbing has been excellent in most estuaries and even with the rain freshet, likely won’t degrade significantly.

The lower Columbia saw some excellent coho fishing prior to the rains, with lots of hatchery fish hitting the deck prior to the storm system that moved onshore. Wind kept angler from fishing here recently, but with a higher than anticipated return so far, there will be justifiably excited anglers. Chinook are scarce but Dungeness crab are not.

Central and Eastern Oregon Fishing Reports – From avid angler Tim Moran:

Hello Everyone!  The skies have cleared in most places and the fires, while not out, are somewhat contained.  The devastation to some of the best places in Oregon will be felt for a long time to come but the communities hit hard by fires and Covid need our dollars and our business so please get out there and fish, and spend a few extra bucks if you can spare them!  SO go fishing! That said, Jeff at the “Fly Fisher’s Place” in Sisters…reports:    

The Lower Deschutes. Trout action is good from WS to Trout Creek and there are Steelhead all the way up from the mouth.

For trout, Euro Nymphing has been fantastic.

The Middle Deschutes is another good option from just upstream of Bend all the way down to Lake Billy Chinook. The PMD hatch is coming to an end but the Blue Wing Olives are taking up that slack.

It will close for the season on Sept 30th, but there is a week left to hit the Upper Deschutes above Crane Prairie.

The Metolius is now open from the Riverside CG area (near the headwaters) all the way to the reservoir.

The Crooked has been awesome with PMD’s and the start of the fall BWO hatches. Lot’s of good dry fly action and great nymph fishing either Euro or with a light NZ Yarn Indicator.

The Fall River has been a great option too, with good hatches of PMD, BWO, Caddis (Oct #10, Tan #16, Grey #18, Olive #16), Midges and Terrestrials (Ants #12-18, Beetles #12-18, Hoppers #8-10 and even a Yellowjacket patterns can be good).

Crane Prairie is quite good on most areas of the lake, including the Deschutes entry side, the Quinn Channel, Rock Creek at the point and Cultus Channel areas are worth fishing and will be for the next 5 weeks until it closes.

Tim’s note: My spin buddies swear by pitching countdown Rapalas and Kastmaster spoons this time of year too on a steady retrieve.  They pinch the barbs down so release is easier!  

Hosmer Lake was pretty good last week and it was nice to see a lot of fish had returned to the Channel, including tons of nice brookies that for the most part ignored all we cast to them. Dirty dogs!

More great info from Jeff:

Here is a fly we don’t sell but you can tie that has worked very nicely on many occasions at Hosmer and other lakes. It is a fly I first picked up for our trip to the lakes in Tasmania about 4 years ago. Dry Fly Hook #14-18, Black 6/0 Thread, Coq de Leon or Wood Duck tail, Black Dry Fly Dubbing for the body and Black Hackle. No wing. Super easy and has been killer in the fall for me the last few years at Hosmer and Crane.

Paulina Lake has been so fun! Fishing the edges with Beetles and Red Tarantula’s and Balanced leeches and Red 2 Bit Hookers. No one is there and the fishing is maybe the best of all the lakes except Crane on a good day. Currently this is my favorite lake.

East Lake is good too, but not as good as Paulina right now. Sounding like a broken record here, but use Beetles….They are good. Brad and Eric from the shop were there over the weekend and caught fish on Balanced leeches and Vampire Leeches, Beetles and small mayflies.

For off the “main trail” spots, try Cultus Lake. 

Little Cultus for Pontoon Boats and Float Tubes is an excellent choice for fall fishing and few crowds.

LOTS more info for our paid subscribers. GO HERE to get all the juicy details! If you don’t like what you read, OF COURSE WE’LL REFUND YOUR SUBSCRIPTION PRICE!

SW Oregon – From avid angler Tim Moran:

Detroit Reservoir – Sounds like the campgrounds miraculously made it through the fires unscathed….but not sure there will be access to the reservoir until next spring due to unstable trees and melted asphalt, rock slides etc.

The McKenzie –  No report for the foreseeable future.  Although the lower river should be fishable for trout to 15 inches.

Rogue Bay – I didn’t get a new report but fishing for Kings has been good in the bay trolling anchovies naked or on a spinner rig. Big crowds – but that usually means good fishing. The lower river should be going soon!

Upper Rogue – The upper river is filled with steelhead and fishing is good and getting better. Steelhead are spread throughout and you can target them using flies and lures. Check your regulations for where and what you are allowed to fish with. Here is some up to date info from Rogue Valley Anglers 541.973.2988 – Flies Only season on the Upper Rogue got off to a good start, but then fires came through devastating our valley last week. The smoke is just starting to clear a little bit, and we’re supposed to get a little rain tomorrow which should help out. I’m hoping by next week we see clear skies again, and can get back out on the river and into our beloved summer steelhead! If you can please donate to the Rogue Valley Relief Fund through the MRG Foundation (mrgfoundation.org) to help our brothers and sisters down here who lost so much.

I swing mostly dark flies basically all year in the upper Rogue, whether it be classic summer flies (green butt skunk, silver hilton, muddlers etc) or mini intruder type flies on sink tips when the sun is high.

Nymph the usual suspects like Otis/Ugly Bug stoneflies, with oversized trout patterns below it like copper swans, steelhead brassies, princes, copper johns etc.

Winchester Bay/Umpqua River – Chinook are moving through the bay and fishing near the jaws with herring is fair. I had a friend get a nice chinook and release a couple silvers at the jaws on Sunday.

Coos River – I fished the Coos estuary this weekend with guide Martin Thurber and my wife’s family. I hooked and lost a big fish on our second pass upriver from the confluence with the Millicoma River (it broke off…not my fault!!). We had another drive-by before moving lower in the river as the tide bottomed out. Fishing was slow with another fish hooked and lost until the tide changed in the early afternoon. We moved out to the channel area near town and a bunch of fish moved in with the tide We had hook ups on 5 straight passes landing four fish. We finished the day looking for that pod up river and found them near the bridge hooking two more and landing one (My wife Denise got it and it was the big fish of the day. It was a great day all in all and we saw several boats hooked up too during the afternoon incoming tide in the channel. We fished cut plug herring in natural and green brine behind an in line flasher. We staged our rods so that they are fishing near the bottom to a few feet above that depth. According to Martin, fishing should hold up another week and then he’s heading to the Umpqua.

A bunch of rain will keep me off the river this week but I hope to get out this weekend…good luck to everyone and tight lines! That’s it from here! Stay safe!

Tim Moran

SW Washington –  Terry Otto has put together another smashing report for SW Washington. What you will read below is an abbreviated version of what Terry’s “FULL VERSION” report will look like in the months ahead. Sign Up for Terry’s PAID version that started last week. With this level of detail, you won’t want to miss a single week! It’s JUST $0.32 cents per week! Here’s Terry’s summary for this week. SUBSCRIBE to the full SW Washington version HERE!

Vancouver Metro Area

The smoke from wildfires has kept many anglers at home, although there are plenty of fishers out chasing fall salmon in the Columbia and its tributaries. It is shaping up to be one of the best fall seasons in years, with Chinook and coho returns well above what was expected. However, in some waters, low flows are making for a tough bite. With substantial rains forecast for this week, the bite should improve.

Terry Otto with a limit of tributary coho

Lewis and Washougal Rivers Fishing Report

Both fall Chinook and coho salmon are pulling into the Lewis River in numbers not seen in a number of years. The only problem is that flows in the river are at almost record lows. That has concentrated the fish in just a few deep holes, so the anglers chasing them are also concentrated at those deep holes. While some fish have been coming to hand, the bite has been tough at times due to the low flows.

Both boat and bank anglers are gathering below the hatchery and targeting the schools of coho, with the highest concentration of fish and fishermen happening below the hatchery outflow pipe, and in the Meathole. The best methods have been bobber and eggs, and twitching jigs, although a few fish are being caught with drift gear. Other good places to intercept the fish include the Hole in the Wall at Woodland, and the golf course. 

The Washougal has been fishing well for Chinook and a few early coho in the lower three miles of the river. There have been good numbers of bright Chinook caught, even though most of the Chinook are early run tules. Drifted baits are working well in areas with good flow, while fishing eggs below a bobber is working in the deeper holes.

Merwin and Yale Lakes Fishing Report

No report. Pacificorp parks and boat ramps along the upper Lewis River system have been closed due to extreme fire danger. Check the Pacificorp Recreation webpage HERE for more info.

Local lakes Fishing Report

Few anglers have been getting out to the local lakes, but what reports there are point to continued good fishing for trout. There are few reports from the warm water fisheries, but for those souls that are braving the smoke there is decent fishing for largemouth bass and yellow perch in Lacamas Lake.

Longview Area

Cowlitz and Kalama Rivers Fishing Report

Fresh Chinook and coho are entering the Cowlitz River in good numbers, but low water has been hampering the bite. Guide Dave Mallahan of Dave’s Guide Service (360-201-9313), reports that the bite has been tough. He also reports the river is as low as he has ever seen it. He has been drifting on the current with eggs, but the fish are reluctant to bite. Other guides fishing with spinners, plugs, and twitching jigs are also having a difficult time to get the fish to bite. The latest WDFW creel survey below the I-5 Bridge reflected the poor fishing, with four bank anglers keeping one coho and releasing three Chinook. Two boats/five rods kept one coho, two cutthroat and released one Chinook.

Fishing is improving in the upper Cowlitz, with the hatchery seeing good returns, including over 1,500 coho and over 500 Chinook. The latest WDFW creels above the I-5 Bridge had 46 bank anglers keeping one coho, two coho jacks and releasing one Chinook jack and one sublegal sturgeon. 49 boats/114 rods kept six coho, five coho jacks, one steelhead, three legal sturgeon and released nine Chinook, two Chinook jacks, one coho, 22 sublegal and five oversized sturgeon.

A few anglers are working the Kalama River below the WDFW fish collection weir, according to John Thompson of Sportsman’s Warehouse in Vancouver, (360) 604-8000. The fishing has been fair to good, with anglers throwing spinners and fishing bobber and bait from the bank as well as from a boat, and pulling plugs has been a good tactic for boat anglers, too. Remember that with the weir in place, few keep-able hatchery fish will be found in the upper river.

Columbia River Gorge

Drano Lake and Wind River Fishing Report

Anglers fishing Drano Lake continue to find good fishing for Chinook and a few coho. Boat anglers are trolling bait, spinners, and Brad’s super baits behind Pro-Troll flashers, while most bank anglers are throwing bobber and bait. The boat fishers are doing better than guys on the bank. WDFW creels conducted last week had 26 bank anglers keeping two Chinook and releasing four steelhead. 77 boats/180 rods kept 89 Chinook, 11 Chinook jacks, seven coho, one coho jack and released five Chinook, one Chinook jack, one coho and one steelhead.

Wind River is also producing good fishing, although fishing is a little slower than at the Wind. Trolling is the go-to method, and bait or spinners fished behind Pro-Trolls are the main ticket. A few bank anglers are also trying their luck here, but the boats are doing better.

Klickitat River Fishing Report

The river has cleared out and is in great condition, according to Carl Coolidge of the Klickitat Canyon Market, (509-369-4400). He said fishing has picked up for both Chinook and the river’s famous steelhead. “We are in beautiful shape,” said Coolidge. “The river is fishing great, and we’ve got rain coming in, although it’s anybody’s guess as to how much we will get.” If the rains are moderate it will improve the fishing even more, but too much and the river will blow out. Coolidge, who runs a shuttle service on the Klickitat, offers a daily fishing report on the market’s website and he strongly suggests anglers call the market before heading out to fish to see if the river is in good condition.

Be sure to become a paid subscriber and get TWICE the information as you see here in the abbreviated version. Terry produces a weekly FORECAST, detailing how the fishing will be this weekend and into next week. You don’t want to miss this valuable information for just $0.32 cents per week! SIGN UP NOW!

Webinar Driftboating and bank fishing the Wilson River with Pro Guide Bob Rees January 20th