Oregon and SW Washington Fisheries Update January 24th, 2020

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Willamette Valley/Metro – With rivers remaining high now, and for the foreseeable future, steelheaders will once again be challenged by high water conditions.

Prior to the current high water event, there were some quality steelhead taken on the Sandy. The Clackamas hasn’t been quite as productive, which is predictable.

Here’s what pro guide Jeff Stoeger (503-704-7920) had to say about Sandy River fishing, “Hello All.  I hope that everyone is having luck catching fish. The river has been ideal for fishing over the last week. We saw the river climb and then drop into ideal level. The forecast is for the river to climb Thursday into Friday and topping out around 14 ft. The water temperature is running about 41 degrees and should drop with low-level snow melt. With each freshet, more fish are filtering in daily and the forecast is for rain all week and the freezing level is to drop. Fishing as been productive depending on who you talk to. Over the last week, I have heard of some real nice fish caught. The entire river is now producing fish and all the normal techniques have been productive.”

There has been some winter steelhead caught on the Clackamas River, with most of the fish being wild, requiring release. That’s a good sign for this season, and early season disappointment hasn’t been reflective of later season (broodstock) season, thank God! With river levels up and predicted to stay up, steelhead should be well distributed throughout the river system and slower water on the current’s edge should be the place to target them. Bait often works best in high water as scent is an important addition in these higher flows.

The Willamette remains a hot mess. High, turbid flows will continue for the foreseeable future but die-hard salmon anglers anxiously await their first opportunity for spring Chinook when it calms down. A February springer is never out of the question if the water conditions allow.

Sturgeon fishing in the Bonneville Pool has been productive, when the weather allows.

There are some winter trout opportunities, but with the upcoming weather blast and current wet weather events, maybe they should fend for themselves for just a bit longer. HERE is the January stocking schedule.

See the full version of Jeff’s, Tim’s and Bob’s reports by becoming a paid subscriber here. It’s just $0.50 cents per week!

Northwest Oregon – North Coast rivers are currently blown out with the Wilson hitting flood level as of this writing (Thursday at 6:30 p.m.). Action had been surprisingly good early in the week and late last week as well. After a slow start for early season steel, it was a most welcome sight.

The Wilson produced well on Monday, but slowed dramatically soon after that. One can’t expect prolonged action on the early part of the run. Some would say however that the Wilson has become more of a January option than late March as has often been the case in the early years of the broodstock program. There’s been some nice wild fish around too so be sure to sign up for the broodstock collection program.

The Kilchis likely had a shot of wild fish last weekend as well, with few people in pursuit.

The North Fork Nehalem is done for the year, it was not an impressive season.

The Trask didn’t overwhelm anglers this week, but traffic was light. Icon Buzz Ramsey spent some time at the Dam Hole last week however, and had lots of opportunities over this extended weekend. Fishing from the bank (I don’t think he spent every day on the Trask), he put 16 steelhead to the bank, the Buzz Ramsey way! Here’s one of his hatchery beautes:

Iconic Buzz Ramsey with a north coast winter steelhead from mid-January 2020

The Nestucca put out some steelhead as well and will only get better as we enter February. Three Rivers is done for the year however.

The Siletz is producing steelhead as well, at least it was prior to the high water event. It’s sister system, the Alsea is done for early season returnees, but some quality broodstock fish should be starting to enter in better numbers.

Offshore fishing remains a no-go and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Central and Eastern Oregon Fishing Reports

From our friend Tim Moran

Lower Deschutes River –  There are still Steelhead around but their going to act like trout so be ready when you’re fishing nymphs as they will actively take them.  Trout fishing around Maupin is good. It’s going to be mild and maybe even a little sunny on Saturday s that’s the day if you’re going.   

John Day River – Steelhead fishing is fair in the river from Cottonwood to Clarno and up river too to the forks.  Temps will be somewhat mild this week which should put fish on the bite.  Late January is prime time and when you can fish without your gear icing up…well that’s a special treat on the JDR!         

Metolius River –  The Fly Fisherman’s Place shop in Sisters reports good fishing on small nymphs including two bit hookers.  BWO hatches are coming off in the afternoons.  The river is very accessible and should fish great this weekend.  Don’t forget this is a great time to go after Bull Trout.  Please handle these brutes with care as they are rare! 

Fall River –  there is more snow here but the river is accessible. The fishing has been pretty steady.

Crooked River – My buddy GH fished it last week and had a really good day.  30+ fish Euro nymphing with a two fly system.  Flows are low ( 100CFS) and stable and fishing should be good. 

Prineville Reservoir – This has really turned into a great winter fishery.  The guys at COFR have been hitting it hard. If I was going anywhere this weekend this is where I’d fish!

From ODF&W

Bank anglers are catching some nice trout from the bank at Ochoco Reservoir, which also will get 100 brood trout this week.

The Crooked River continues to offer good opportunities for trout and whitefish up to 16 inches.

Steelhead fishing on the lower Deschutes continues to be fair. Though numbers are fewer this year, fish are well-dispersed from the mouth to the angling deadline.
The first winter steelhead are just beginning to return to the Hood River.

Steelhead fishing on the Grande Ronde can be quite good in January and February, when flows cooperate. Look for uncrowded conditions and lots of open water.
Steelhead are showing up in the North Fork John Day between Monument and Kimberly.

Fishing conditions on the Umatilla are good. Steelhead anglers should focus on the lower sections of the river above and below Threemile Dam.
Ice conditions, and fishing, have been good on Chickahominy Reservoir.

Ice conditions have improved at Phillips and Wolf Creek reservoirs. But with the variable weather recently, anglers should carefully assess conditions before venturing out onto the ice.

Anglers have been catching a few hybrid bass in Ana Reservoir this winter.

Best bet for the Klamath area continues to be native redband trout in the Klamath River.

Southwest – From ODF&W

Ocean swells have kept surfperch anglers off of the coastal beaches. Once the swells calm down, fishing for surfperch should pick up. Surfperch anglers have the best success using sand shrimp or Berkley Gulp sandworms.

Steelhead are here! Fishing has been pretty hot on the Chetco. Conditions lately have been most favorable for bank anglers with a plunking set-up.

Steelhead may be harvested through March 31. Wild steelhead bag limits are 1/day and 3/year (accumulative zone-wide) as part of a daily or annual salmon/steelhead bag limit.

The Coos Basin rivers were all fishable over the weekend with some anglers harvesting a few hatchery steelhead. Rains early this week bumped the river levels back up but they could remain fishable depending on the amount of rain we receive over the week.

Steelhead anglers wanting to fish the South Fork Coos River above Dellwood will need a fishing permit from Weyerhaeuser to access this portion of the river.

Hatchery steelhead returns in the Coos Basin will be down this year due to low smolt releases two years ago. Because of disease issues at the hatchery then, we were only able to release less than 40 percent of our production goal.

Fishing for rockfish inside the bay has slowed down from the combination of big swells and the amount of freshwater moving into the lower bay from all the recent rain. The daily bag limit for marine fish is 5 of which only one can be a copper, quillback or China rockfish. Anglers are also allowed 2 lingcod per day. The harvest of cabezon will not open until July 1. A jig with a twister tail can be a great bait for catching rockfish.

The South Fork Coquille River was just fishable over the weekend for drift boat anglers. But rains early in the week bumped the river level back up. There have been a couple of fish caught by bank anglers in the Powers area. When fishable the North Fork Coquille has been very busy with bank anglers.

Winter steelhead has picked up in the Lower Rogue. Anglers have had luck using many techniques; currently, the most common being plunking.

Bank anglers will want to look for fish on inside of bends in the river and slots along willow banks.

Half-pounders are still present in the Rogue Canyon and up to about Robertson Bridge, but anglers are reminded only hatchery trout can be retained. Remember, Steelhead over 24 inches cannot be retained above Hog Creek until Feb. 1. Zone aggregate bag limits apply.

There have been a few reports of some bright winter steelhead making their way up the river, mostly down in the Galice area. Their numbers will be increasing, especially with the rain forecast.

Steelhead will bite on bait, yarn balls, spinners, spoons or a well-placed fly. Wild steelhead must be released unharmed unless you are below Hog Creek Boat Ramp, there anglers may keep 1 wild steelhead per day and 3 per year.

Steelhead and trout remain open in the upper Rogue, and summer steelhead fishing has been great still but is starting to wind down as most of the fish are entering their tributaries with the increase in flows.

Bait is again allowed throughout the entire Rogue basin. A simple setup of bouncing or side-drifting bait, or using lures such a spoon, corkie or yarn ball can be very effective in steelhead fishing. Fishing a soft bead or a jig under a bobber or bobber dogging is a very effective technique in the upper river. Often this reach of the river can be much cleaner when the rest of the river is blown out.

Last week 98 new summer steelhead entered the trap at Cole Rivers, for a total of 4,061 summer steelhead to date. Excess hatchery adult summer steelhead from Cole River Hatchery were recycled back into the system for the final time before Jan. 1. Anglers are reporting success in catching these fish.

Some summer steelhead have red, blue or green tags extending from the top of the fish near the dorsal fin. ODFW encourages anglers that catch these fish to call the upper Rogue office at 541-826-8774 ext 226.

Smith River opened up to Bridge 10 on the North Fork and Sisters Creek on the mainstem on Dec. 1. There should be some steelhead throughout most of the system but, the river is forecasted to go up and it might be high. The Smith sees only light pressure for most of the season and can provide a great experience for anglers looking to get away from the crowds.

Tenmile Creek and Eel Creek are open to steelhead fishing. Steelhead have been caught near Spinreel Park and the mouth of Eel Creek by bank anglers. Bank fishing on Tenmile Creek is limited to the area from the mouth of Saunders Creek to the mouth of Eel Creek, so those spots have been very crowded with anglers.

Chinook fishing will reopen on the mainstem of the Umpqua River Feb. 1. Wild harvest of Chinook is closed in 2020. Hatchery harvest is still allowed.

Steelhead fishing has been decent throughout the main. With rain in the forecast, the river may be a little high this weekend. A lot of anglers fish the main by “plunking.” This is usually a good strategy for water with more color and when the water is high.

Some anglers are giving it a try in the lower North Umpqua. The river is up but looking like it might fall into shape for the weekend.

The North reopens to Chinook Feb. 1 under permanent rule. Anglers may harvest up to 10 wild Chinook per year and two per day.

The mainstem South reopened to steelhead fishing Dec. 1. Fishing usually picks up in January and anglers have been picking up some fish.

The river may be in decent shape with snow in the hills and the river should be dropping. Make sure to turn in snouts from hatchery fish for a chance to win a gift card.

SW Washington –  From the WDF&W web site, January 22nd.

For regulation updates, go HERE.

Fishery Updates


John Day Pool – 4 bank anglers released two steelhead.


Bonneville Pool – Two bank anglers had no catch. 20 boats/59 rods kept six legal sturgeon and released 87 sublegal and one oversize sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool – Seven bank anglers released one sublegal sturgeon. 10 boats/25 rods kept four legal sturgeon and released 12 sublegal sturgeon.

John Day Pool – 20 bank anglers had no catch. 14 boats/31 rods released one sublegal sturgeon.


Bonneville Pool – 1 boat/1 rod had no catch.

The Dalles Pool – 1 bank angler had no catch.

John Day Pool – 1 bank angler had no catch. 2 boats/3 rods kept three walleye.

Bass: John Day Pool – One bank angler had no catch.


Columbia River Tributaries Grays River – Two bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 39 bank anglers kept 20 steelhead. 1 boat/2 rods kept two steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream – One bank angler had no catch. Above the I-5 Br – Six bank anglers had no catch.

❖ Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted