Winter Steelhead Action Still Sparse, Anglers Pursuing Spring Chinook
Willamette Valley/Metro – Between the Willamette coming into fishable shape, and a strong desire to catch a January spring Chinook, a few anglers have been out in pursuit of Willamette River spring Chinook. The “Sultan of Sellwood,” coined by Oregonian’s outdoor writer Bill Monroe, has 3 trips in so far for no bites. Despite he and his crew huddled around a propane heater, he claims he’s having fun, and John Shmilenko can really be fun, even without a bite all day.
Winter steelhead have been caught from Meldrum Bar recently, but most of them are high-finners, requiring release. Hatchery fish should become more prevalent in the coming weeks, largely destined for the Clackamas River.
Winter sturgeon on the Willamette remains an option, but few are fishing for them.
The Clackamas is putting out a rare winter steelhead, but February is typically when fish show here in greater abundance. The river will remain in good standing through Saturday, until another rain freshet wipes out fishable conditions for nearly a week if hydrologic models are accurate (don’t get me started).
Pro guide Jeff Stoeger (503-704-7920) of O2BFISHN reports from the Sandy River, “Hello All. This week, we saw the weather turn cold and the river dropped a couple of degrees and the water is running just above 9 ft. The water is ideal and there has been fish caught in the entire river. The fish in the photo is a nice 14 lb. buck caught on a 3.0 mag lip by Bruce Netzel.
This was one of the two he caught on Tuesday, his other fish was a 12 lb. hen on a pink and white jig. He was floating from Oxbow to Dabney Park. My son, who is a spay guy, also hooked and lost a nice fish in mid-river on Saturday. I have another friend who fished Monday and he caught a nice 12 lb. native hen in the lower river on a 3.0 mag lip. The river should stay at 9 ft. for the next couple of days before the river takes a bump due to the rain that is forecasted for Monday and the river jumps to 10.85 ft.
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North Coast Fishing Report – Cool temperatures and consistent water levels has produced consistent catches for north coast anglers. It’s a Nestucca and Wilson River program from here on out if anglers are in search of take-home keeper steelhead. Both rivers have been fishing fair for broodstock fish, with some natives in the mix as well.
Other systems will have a mix of quality wild steelhead, along with spawned out or soon to be spawned out kelts running back to the sea. The NF Nehalem, Necanicum, the Klaskanine River, Gnat and Big Creeks as well as Three Rivers should all be seeing more spawned out fish in the coming weeks.
The Siletz has been fishing better in the recent week with more wild fish than hatchery at this point. That likely won’t change either.
The Alsea has been slow as of late, but some broodstock fish are starting to show with more regularity this week. This river too, will be inundated with some spawned out kelts in the coming weeks.
Pro guide Chris Vertopoulos (503-349-1377) saw 1 – 2 steelhead per day for his fishing week. Plugs in these lower flows continues to be a strong option for “The Greek.” You can’t deny the effectiveness in lower flows as he continues to find quality chrome.
The ocean has remained rough so still next to no one bottomfishing or crabbing the big pond. Nothing new here, it’s been a wild ride all winter.
Bay crabbing is fair and tides improve this weekend. Crabbing on the lower Columbia is a good idea still, but clean your catch before cooking them to reduce the chances for potential illness of domoic acid.
Central and Eastern Oregon Fishing Reports – From avid angler Tim Moran:
Snow and cold temps were the norm this week in central and eastern Oregon. I was out on the property in Terrebonne this week (building the dream home and fishing camp and global headquarters for Valalla Outfitters! The low Tuesday was 11 so fishing is a noon to 4pm kinda sport right now. As reported last week, news is tough to come by – some of my fishing contacts have holed up for the winter while others take their fishing addiction to places a 1000 miles or more south of here and chase Tarpon, Bonefish and Dorado. But I digress…there is some fishing available to us hardy anglers and I did get some intel so here we go…
The Crooked is low and clear and really cold in the canyon but if you get there late and leave early you can get on a few fish.
The Fall River is a good winter river and should hold up too. Small nymphs will be the key here too and swinging a smaller black wooly and then stripping it in can be a way to entice strikes too.
The Lower Deschutes – Checking in with a few of the guides that are still out there, the reports of good winter fishing are there. The river doesn’t see much pressure and on a day (or days) like we are going to get this week – so it’s a great time to be out there with the river to yourself. The Middle Deschutes has been hit and miss with some anglers getting a few rainbows from 9 to 14 inches and a couple of nice Browns in the 22 inch class, while others have put in their time and not gotten a hit… Such is winter fishing!
Prineville Reservoir – It’s tough to fish right now and will be until the ice around the edges melts off. Obviously it’s not thick enough to stand on, but it’s thick enough and far enough out to hamper fishing until we get a little warm up!
Forecast calls for a little more snow rain mix this week with moderate temps so if you get out, it should be comfortable and the fish should be a bit more active.
SW Oregon Fishing Report – I spoke to two guide friends that have been fishing the mainstem Umpqua and they report fair to decent steelhead fishing. Some days are good with 4+ fish to the boat and some it’s difficult to scare up a fish. Bait and beads are taking fish as well and back-trolling Mag Lips. Friend and Guide Martin Thurber, has been posting some really nice fish on Instagram and FB.
Over on the Rogue River Alex at Rogue Valley Angler’s reports that they’re in that, “in between runs time” here on the Rogue. Still plenty of summer steelhead around, but many of those are heading into the tributaries to spawn over the next month. Winter steelhead are here in the upper river, but not very many at all. Our head guide Captain Logan Johnson has a place on the Umpqua, so he spends 50+ days a year up there floating the North, South, and mainstem whenever the rivers aren’t totally blown out. He has taught Jordan the ropes up there the last few years, so we send our Umpqua trips out with these fellas as they are the best fly guides floating all these rivers. Give us a call (541-973-2988) to book your trips and get your chance at that fish of a lifetime!
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!
Southwest Washington Fishing Update and Forecast
Steelhead still slow in tribs, trout fishing holding up well, smelt entering Cowlitz River
Vancouver Metro Area
Local rivers are still slow for steelhead, with late run fish slow to materialize, and the early runs petering out. The high water has receded, but a new freshet is expected this weekend that will raise them again Meanwhile, smelt are showing in the Cowlitz River, but it remains to be seen whether fishers will get a dipping season. Managers are worried about crowding along the river in the midst of the Covid pandemic.
Trout angling has slowed just a little in local lakes, but stockings continue, so fishing can turn good at any time. Everyone is still looking for the first spring Chinook catches, and waiting to see what kind of seasons will be allowed. Doubtless, there will be no fishery on the Cowlitz this year with a poor return projected there, but there may be fishable numbers back to the Lewis. The season structure should be released by the states in late February.
Lewis and Washougal Rivers Fishing Report–There are still a few steelhead being taken in the North Fork Lewis, according to John Thompson of Sportsman’s Warehouse in Vancouver, (360) 604-8000). However, that is an early run and it is playing out. Bank anglers have taken just a few over the last week, withs some falling to plunking and bobber fishing at the hatchery. Boat anglers have been trying bobber-dogging, pulling plugs, and fishing with bobbers. The river has dropped back into a decent fishing condition, but fishing is still rated as poor to fair at best.
The Washougal River did give up a few steelhead as it dropped following the big rains, but the pattern has been that the fish move into the upper river pretty quickly when the river drops, and that has been the case again this week. Drift fishing has been effective, and a few anglers are throwing jigs or bait below a bobber.
Merwin and Yale Lakes Fishing Report—Fishing at both lakes is still reported as fair to good, with some anglers getting limits every day they fish, while others are struggling. The fish are still close to the surface, so flat-line trolling has been effective. Pink and orange hootchies have been drawing bites when tipped with natural color corn.
Local Lakes Fishing Report—Trout were stocked into both Klineline Pond and Battle Ground Lake on January 19. For the latest trout stockings, check the WDFW stocking webpage HERE.
Cowlitz and Kalama Rivers Fishing Report—The Cowlitz is still fishing slow, with just a few steelhead trickling in. River conditions improved during the last week, but about the same number of steelhead made it back to the hatchery this week as did the week before. Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 61 coho adults, six coho jacks, 52 winter-run steelhead adults, two summer-run steelhead adults, and two cutthroat trout during four days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator. During creel surveys in the upper river above the I-5 Bridge, four bank rods kept one steelhead. 14 boats/49 rods kept five steelhead and released one steelhead.
Dave Mallahan of Dave’s Guide Service (360-201-9313), fished the river this past week, and caught fish every time out, but he reported that fishing is still slow. Most days many anglers are going fish-less. He said about 20 boats are fishing the reach below blue creek on most days. His bites have come by bobber-dogging, which is how most fishermen are working the river.
The Kalama fished well enough for a few anglers to catch fish in the canyon, according to reports that Thompson received. The river has dropped into good condition, and should remain that way into the weekend, However, rains forecast for this weekend are expected to raise the river, and that could change things. When the river is higher the lower reaches have produced some steelhead.
Local Lakes Fishing Report—Mayfield Lake is putting out a few rainbows, Riffe Lake is doing really well for coho and trout. Other trout lakes that are producing well are Kress Lake, Horseshoe Lake, and the South Lewis County Park Pond
The Columbia River Gorge
Correction: Last week’s Columbia River Gorge report mistakenly stated that Horsethief Lake was fishing well for trout, but the lake is actually closed to fishing until April.
Local Lakes Fishing Report—Rowland Lake and Icehouse Lake are both fishing very well for trout. In both lakes bait is fishing the best, although a few fish are being caught with spinners.
Covd-19 Update—With the Covid-19 virus spiking in Washington State, anglers are reminded to please fish only with members of their own household, avoid crowded areas, and use social distancing and wear a mask to protect themselves and others from the disease. No one wants a return to last spring’s lockdowns, so please do your part to make sure fishing and hunting remain open statewide.
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