Matt Guth of Hillsboro with his first ever spring Chinook, taken from the Willamette near Sellwood Bridge on 3/18

Oregon and SW Washington Fisheries Update March 22, 2019

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Willamette Valley/Metro – Although two spring Chinook have now crossed Bonneville Dam, the bulk of the run is still months away. Peak passage at Bonneville used to happen around the 3rd week of April, but in recent years, has pushed back to mid-May or later, giving biologists an added challenge in managing the fishery. The Columbia River fishery is slated to remain open for sport anglers through April 10th, but may be adjusted depending on how the fishery performs.

Mainstem Columbia water temperatures remain frigid, tempering migration and the motivation to bite. Effort is on the increase, but a sport caught springer has yet to be tallied on the mainstem Columbia. It was even a slow week for steelhead, which are still in peak migration.

Fair skies spurred Willamette River anglers to come out in force this weekend. Spring Chinook are being tallied from the Multnomah Channel to Oregon City, but an influx of snow melt water has cooled river temperatures, and the bite along with it. Early returning fish are often 5-year olds, comprising a smaller portion of the adult return, but making up for it in size. Most fish being caught right now are exceeding 12 or 13 pounds in weight. Four-year-olds returning later into April through May, rarely exceed 12 pounds. Herring, prawns and sand shrimp are best when temperatures are below 48 degrees.

Steelheaders remain challenged on the Sandy River, where the bulk of the hatchery fish are nearing the spawning stage. Cedar Creek remains a point of concentration, as Cedar Creek itself, the tributary where steelhead enter the hatchery, remains low and challenging to navigate. Anglers working the mouth stand the best chance for late season success. Pro guide Jeff Stoeger (503-704-7920) reports, “Well if you fished the Sandy this week, you were fishing at summer time levels. The Sandy was still on the drop and went 7.84 ft before we started to climb with the warmer temps. I fished on Saturday and the river was running at 8.3 ft and was holding. The river finally has been on the rise due to the upper 60 degree temps. The river is currently running at 9.74 ft and expected to go up to 10.32 ft by the weekend. The fishing has been so so depending on who you talk to. My last few trips that have been on the productive side, with most of my catches coming on 3.5 mag lips. Most of the catches have been native fish ranging from  10 lbs to 16 lbs.”

The Clackamas should be peaking right now, but as has been observed, it’s been a slow season. None-the-less, the lower reaches should produce the best results in low flows, and the Clackamas is projected to rise 2 feet over the weekend, which will be good for fishing.

Matt Guth of Hillsboro with his first ever spring Chinook, taken from the Willamette near Sellwood Bridge on 3/18
Matt Guth of Hillsboro with his first ever spring Chinook, taken from the Willamette near Sellwood Bridge on 3/18

Northwest Oregon – Coastal streams have been on a steady rise with snow-melt providing additional flows in recent days. The Wilson River remains clear however, and fish are timid. The Nestucca has been the target of most steelheaders recently, and success rates have been fair recently. A mix of wild and hatchery fish are present in both of these north coast favorites recently.

The Nehalem and Trask River systems have been putting out fair numbers of wild steelhead recently. Both should continue to produce mediocre results until the next significant rain freshet stimulates more robust returns.

Seas have been a bit big as of late, keeping bottomfishers from accessing interested sea bass and lingcod, as well as Dungeness crab. The offshore forecast doesn’t look any better for the coming weekend.

Minus tides should provide some clam digging opportunities along Clatsop area beaches, but razors have been small so far.

ODF&W – Razor clamming is now CLOSED from the Columbia River to Tillamook Head (south of Seaside). Recreational razor clamming is OPEN from Tillamook Head to Cape Blanco. Recreational razor clamming is also CLOSED from Cape Blanco to the California border due to elevated levels of domoic acid toxin.

District lakes are slated to be heavily stocked for spring break with rainbow trout. Town, Lost, Cape Meares  and Hebo Lakes as well as Loren and Nedonna Ponds should provide excellent action through the spring break week.

Central and Eastern Oregon – Tim Moran is out this week, here is an update from the ODF&W.

Anglers have been catching legal-size bull trout in the Metolius Arm of Lake Billy Chinook.

Waterbodies scheduled to be stocked this week include Bikini P., Taylor L. and Prineville Youth Fishing P.

Steelhead are available in the mid and upper reaches of the John Day River.

Winter and early spring are best months to target trout on Willow Creek Reservoir.

If access permits, ice anglers have been catching trout on Kinney Lake.

Steelhead in the Grande Ronde, Imnaha and Wallowa rivers are making their final push to hatchery facilities. While fish should be more available than they have been throughout the winter, this time of year it’s a good idea to check the water levels before heading out.

Recent heavy snows are limiting access to many locations and making travel treacherous. If you do venture out be sure to check the road conditions before you go and be prepared for winter driving.

Ice fishing access to Phillips, Pilcher and Wolf Creek reservoirs is good (though 4×4 vehicles are recommended). So is the fishing.

Best bet for fishing in the Klamath Basin is the Klamath River above the Powerhouse or Klamath Lake.

Krumbo Reservoir is ice-free and anglers report catching trout up to 16-inches.

The ice is clearing from the Powder River below Mason Dam, allowing for some good early season trout fishing.

While ice fishing, anglers with a two-rod endorsement may use up to five rods.

Ana Reservoir will be stocked with 3,000 rainbow trout this week.

Priday Reservoir will be stocked with 500 trophy rainbow trout this week.

Southwest – From ODF&W

This last weekend had beautiful weather and good ocean conditions, however many anglers reported very slow fishing for rockfish and lingcod at regular fishing spots. Limited success was reported by trying a variety of areas and lures.

Surfperch fishing on ocean beaches can be excellent this time of year, when safe surf conditions allow.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will finalize the 2019 sport halibut seasons at their April 19 meeting. Staff recommended season dates are below:

Central Oregon Coast Subarea (Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt.)

Spring All-Depth Fishery: Fixed dates: May 9-11; May 16-18; May 23-25; May 30-Jun 1; and Jun 6-8. Back-up dates, if quota remains, are: Jun 20-22; Jul 4-6; and Jul 18-20. Quota = 171,103 pounds

Summer All-Depth Fishery: Opens Fri, Aug 2 and Sat, Aug 3, then every other Fri and Sat until the quota is taken or Oct 31, whichever is earlier. Quota = 67,898 pounds

Nearshore fishery: Opens June 1, seven days per week until the quota is taken or Oct 31, whichever is earlier. Quota = 32,591 pounds

Southern Oregon Subarea (Humbug Mt. to the OR/CA Border)

Opens May 1, seven days per week until the quota is taken or Oct 31, whichever is earlier. Quota = 11,322 pounds.

Both the North and South Umpqua should be in shape for some weekend fishing, and there should be good numbers of winter steelhead around.

With the recent storms and fish available, steelhead fishing on the Illinois River should be great for anglers willing to take a scenic drive.

Many lakes and ponds in the Coos-Coquille-Tenmile District have been stocked just in time for Spring Break!

Coos and Coquille river steelhead returns should continue through March.

Tenmile Lakes should start giving up some nice holdover trout in the coming weeks; some can measure over 17-inches long. Yellow perch and other warmwater fish should “wake up” and start biting with spring weather.

Surfperch fishing on ocean beaches can be excellent this time of year, when safe surf conditions allow.

Ice fishing has been good at Diamond Lake.

Waterbodies scheduled to be stocked this week include Emigrant R., Marie L., Empire lakes, Loon L., Reinhart Park P., Johnsons Mill P., Willow Creek R., Garrison L., Bradley L., Cooper Creek R., Selmac L., Lost Creek R. and Powers P.

2019 Stocking schedule and Stocking Maps

From Pete Heley at

A possible alternative to area anglers planning to fish Owyhee and Brownlee reservoirs for crappie is Lake Shasta which is closer and produced a 19-inch crappie last week that weighed three and a half pounds.

Fishing for chinook salmon in the ocean is now legal for chinooks measuring at least 24-inches. The season, which started on March 15th is slated to run through October, but one of the three options currently under consideration would restrict salmon angling during October to marine waters less than 240 feet deep.

There are still no reports of spring chinook salmon being caught in the Umpqua River. Last week an angler reported hooking a good-sized fish while casting a spinner at Half Moon Bay in Winchester Bay but lost the fish before he could positively identify it.

While winter steelhead angling in most area streams is slowing down, Cathy Reiss of Ringo’s Lakeside Marina reported that Tenmile Creek was fishing well through last week. She also reported that this year’s steelhead were averaging larger than they have for the last few seasons.

Scheduled ODFW trout plants are sometimes canceled, delayed, or changed. A good strategy is to have the phone number of a source you trust that is close to the water that is scheduled for stocking. Since a trout plant can occur any day, Monday through Friday of the scheduled week – a trusted source can help finetune your trout fishing trips.

Lake Marie received its first trout plant of 2019 this week when it received 2,000 legal rainbows and Powers Pond also received a plant of 150 trophy trout.
The trout plant scheduled for last week at Johnson Mill Pond was made several days later and 50 trophy trout may be added this week. The trout plant scheduled last week for Mingus Park Pond was made this week instead. Upper Empire Lake is scheduled to receive its first trout plant this year when it receives 400 trophy rainbows this week – but earlier reports had Lower Empire receiving the plant. You may have to check both lakes to find the trout.

Perhaps more importantly, warming water temperatures will likely improve the trout bite in lakes that have already received trout plants this year.

Loon Lake has good water color and the upper end of the lake appears very “fishy” with several brush piles on the shoreline near the old “Fishhaven/Ducketts Dock” that extend into the water. This new structure should attract the lake’s warmwater fish when they move shoreward – which they have yet to do.

SW Washington – No WDF&W updates for the month of March