Oregon and SW Washington Fisheries Update

Wet Weather Impeded Effort, Bonneville and The Dalles Pool Close for Sturgeon

Willamette Valley/Metro –  With the Willamette high and muddy, and the Columbia still months away from any hope of spring salmon, these large mainstem metro systems will go untapped this week. With the news of quick limits of sturgeon from the Bonneville and The Dalles Pools, coupled up with abrupt closures, anglers have few options, except for an outside one of a hatchery winter steelhead, likely destined for the Clackamas or Sandy River systems. It’s about time for those to start swimming by the beaches this time of year.

The Clackamas has been predictably quiet although Salmon Trout Steelheader editor Nick Amato reports hearing of a few bright winter fish coming from the system recently. Not so much in recent days, but when water conditions were more conducive to biters. It’ll be a see-saw hydrograph for the upcoming week, but anglers versed in high water tactics may want to try their luck.

Pro guide Jeff Stoeger (503-704-7920) of O2BFISHN reports from the Sandy River, “I hope that everyone had a great New Year’s Eve and New Years Day. I hope that everyone was able to get your 2021 license before hitting the river. The current river conditions has the river on drop for the next day or so, and then it shows a small rise then drops down to 10.5 ft. by next Monday. The river has been coming into shape, green with about foot visibility and will clear over the next four days. The water temp is running around 41 or 42 degrees and will stay that way until we get colder weather or we have a fast snow melt. There have been good numbers of fish caught in the lower river on plugs and bobber doggin. The plugs have been Mag lips 3.0 or 3.5 in various colors and beads BnR in size 10 to 14. You will see more sleds on the lower river because the river is running ideal height. Drift boats and rafts are running the upper river from Dodge Park to Dabney Park. There is some great bank access at Oxbow and upper river around the hatchery.

Don’t overlook winter trout opportunities locally, especially when we get a break in the weather and temperatures experience a slight rising, often triggering a bite. Your favorite lake may have some nice hold-over trout in it.

North Coast Fishing Report – Most of the larger river systems have been a bit too high to productively fish. The Wilson, Trask and Nestucca and certainly the mainstem Nehalem remain too high to pursue steelhead. Smaller streams however, are in ideal shape.

Brad Baker with a 14-pound plug-caught buck from the Wilson on December 29th

The Necanicum seems to be the north coast darling, with good catches coming from all reaches of the river. It’s been a bit crowded however, so be prepared to greet your fishing buddies down there.

The North Fork Nehalem has been underwhelming so far, and we’re in peak season for this system and other early season favorites. Big and Gnat Creek are in full blossom, with fair catches this year compared to previous seasons. Don’t overlook the Klaskanine either, it produces fair catches this time of year.

Three Rivers on the Nestucca has been fair-at-best with most people concentrating their efforts near the hatchery this late into the run.

The Alsea and Siletz have been high for much of the week. It’s still early for the Siletz, but the Alsea has early returning fish in full bloom right now, mostly congregating at the hatchery facility itself. Bank anglers are taking the most advantage of their fast migration right now.

The ocean has been rough all winter season with no likelihood of that changing anytime soon. Even the commercial crabbers aren’t anxious to get on out there under these conditions.

Tides and weather won’t make for productive lower Columbia River crabbing this weekend. It’ll be best to find something else safer to do with your time.

Central and Eastern Oregon Fishing Reports – From avid angler Tim Moran: (Repeat from last week)

Hello everyone.  This will be the last report of the year and as we say good riddance to 2020…A year that most want to forget…I will remember 2020 as much for the pandemic and all of the issues it came with – as for some truly great fishing, sharing great times with family and friends (although in smaller groups or one on one) and some successes in our fisheries and sport.  Although I fish all year, the season officially kicks off on the last weekend in April when I head to Wickiup for some kokanee fishing.  Usually this is a big, busy camp with friends and family, but this year it was just my son Steve, me and my golden retriever, Charlie.   The reservoir had been drained down to 5% of capacity during the summer, which was cause for concern, but the lake was at about 80% of full pool when the season opened and fishing was surprisingly good!  Reports of kokanee and bass showing up below the dam makes me nervous about this coming spring but we’ll be out there again, fingers crossed!  

During the early summer we made several trips to the Deshutes around Maupin, the Crooked, Metolius, Owyhee and of course, the John Day River for it’s world renown Smallmouth bass fishing.  The rivers produced like they have in past years with reasonably good fishing with dry’s and nymphs.  The Highlight was a couple of floats on the JDR where we once again caught 100 + bass all on flies!  Then I was laid up from knee surgery and had to rely on shops, friends and even a reader or two for reports.  Thank you to everyone who wasn’t afraid to share their successes!  My knee recovered enough to salmon fish so we hit the Columbia in late summer and fall season hard and ended up having a fantastic season going 24 for 42 hook ups. Even these numbers were skewed because we lost 9 fish in one day when we forgot our net (we still limited) and a few fish to the lions…argh!.   I got out one more time on the Deschutes and got some nice trout and a steelhead before I went under the knife again for hip replacement surgery.  All in all a very good year! 

Now as we look forward to 2021, It is my sincere hope that we can put COVID behind us by late spring and we can all start to get back to normal.  Fishing looks good so far with a good start on the snow pack.  Lots of cold, clean water would go a long way for our resource.  King salmon are returning to the Metolius, Crooked and Deschutes above Round Butte Dam and that is very encouraging!  The Deschutes saw a better run of steelhead than the last few years so hopefully that trend will continue.  While the jury is still out on Wickiup, fishing should be great on all the Century Drive Lakes, East and Paulina, which has seen a resurgence in trout populations!  Next year I have two big trips out to fish NE Oregon and I’m excited to bring the readers some first hand reports as well as to further develop sources to get you, the readers, the best reports I can.      

As far as this week’s report fishing should be decent (by winter standards) on the Metolius.  It will be a bit weather dependent as snow and rain are forecast. I’ve done well in the past even in a snowstorm when BWO’s decided to hatch! 

My buddy Greg Hasse fished the Crooked River and reported slow fishing Monday.  It was cold and windy but he was able to coax a few rainbows fishing with his Euro rig. 

The Lower Deschutes   –  Nymphing was good for the few anglers that were out.  I like a big nymph like a “Jimmy legs” with a smaller nymph trailing behind it.

Bank and boat guys trolling or still fishing  Prineville Reservoir  are still doing well.  The rainbows here are cutting beautiful too with orange fillets!

Well that’s a wrap on 2020!  See you all in the New Year!

SW Oregon – (Repeat from last week) Down in the SW corner of the state The Elk and Cheto were waiting for rains to improve conditions for both winter steelhead and late fall/ winter Chinook. As we turn the page into the new year both of these rivers should fish well especially for steelhead.

There are fish entering the Umpqua river too but fishing is just beginning to pick up.  Again, January fishing for winter steelhead should be excellent so make your plans! 

Diamond Lake as of a couple days ago was not fully iced over so it’s not going to be fishable until it ices up solid.  When it does, fishing through the ice is always fun and can be productive!   Enjoy your holiday and hopefully you can get out and enjoy some winter fishing after Christmas (or maybe on)!  Stay safe and warm!

Small stream winter steelhead-Terry Otto

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!

High flows dropping, but Steelhead picking up slowly. Trout fishing is excellent in entirety of Region 5.

Vancouver Metro Area

Heavy rains made a mess of most of the local Columbia River tributaries last weekend, and anglers responded by fishing for trout, and Columbia Gorge Sturgeon. Fishing for both species was excellent, with good weather helping the sturgeon, and recent stockings helping the trout bite.

Rivers are now on the mend, so steelheading should be improving. The few streams with early runs of steelhead have not fished all that well, and those runs will finish up over the next two weeks. Vancouver’s Salmon Creek should begin to give up a few fish on a regular basis as January passes. Anglers are hoping for a better return in the creek than last year’s dismal showing. 

Lewis and Washougal Rivers Fishing Report

The Lewis River ran high and a little dirty this past weekend. Anglers were getting a few steelhead every day in the river, but it has been crowded. High water pushed the steelhead toward the bank this week, where they were vulnerable to plunking and drift fishing. However, the fishing has been fair at best overall.

The Washougal was blown out for a short while, and produced some steelhead as it was on the drop. Those fish seem to have already passed through the lower system, according to John Thompson of Sportsman’s Warehouse in Vancouver, (360) 604-8000. Anglers have been taking steelhead on drifted bait or Corkies, as well as bobber and jig. Beads have also been productive.

Merwin and Yale Lakes Fishing Report—the heavy rains recently dirtied up the water in Yale Reservoir, and that lake’s fishery was described as fair to good this past week. Wind and rain have kept crowds thinner than usual for this time of year, and that was true of Merwin, too. Merwin has been fishing well, although anglers are having to spend a fair bit of time locating the schools. Flat-line trolling is the ticket.

Local Lakes Fishing Report—Trout fishing has been excellent at Kline Line Pond and Battle Ground Lake. Anglers are mostly taking fish on Powerbait, according to Thompson. For a list of recent stockings, check the WDFW stocking webpage HERE. 

Longview Area

Cowlitz and Kalama Rivers Fishing Report—Steelhead angling is still slow in the Cowlitz River, and the lower sections of the river have been un-fishable due to the heavy rains. However, Dave Mallahan of Dave’s Guide Service (360-201-9313), fished the river near Blue creek lately, and hooked some steelhead. He reported that the river has been fishable, in spite of the high water, with the reservoirs on the upper system mitigating the dirty water. However, only seven winter steelhead were collected by Tacoma Power technicians at the hatchery trap this week.

You can check the full Tacoma Power Cowlitz River Report HERE. You can check river flows and lake levels, including for Mayfield and Riffe Lakes, HERE

There have been some steelhead caught in the Kalama over the past week, most taken as the river started to drop after the high-water event. Thompson said the best reports have come from the upper river in the canyon. Steelhead are falling for a variety of offerings, including bobber and jigs or bait. Hardware and drifted gear have also taken a few fish.

Local Lakes Fishing Report— Lake Sacajawea in Longview is fishing excellent for trout, and many of the fish are big. Powerbait has been effective fished along the bottom, both from the banks and from the many docks. The lake was stocked with trophy brood rainbow trout last week, and some of those fish have shown up on anglers’ lines. Fishing in Kress Lake has been excellent, but the heavy weed growth is making it difficult to land many of the trout. In addition to Powerbait, anglers are getting the fish to bite on bait below a bobber.

Columbia River Gorge

Local Lakes Fishing Report—Rowland Lake is still fishing very well for trout. Horsethief Lake has turned on for trout as well. Icehouse Lake has been well stocked with catchables and a few big brood rainbows. Columbia Gorge Sturgeon fishing Report—The retention sturgeon fishery in the Bonneville Pool started in excellent fashion, according to Cameron Black of Gone Catchin’ Guide Service, (360) 921-5079. He reports that competition was fairly high, and anglers did very well the first three days of the fishery. He limited his boat each day. Black believes the fishery will fill its quota of 500 keepers fairly quickly.

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!

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