Willamette Valley Fishing Report – We’re in peak spring Chinook season in the Portland area. Did you notice that the dogwoods are in full bloom; maybe not a coincidence? The Columbia River, although not explosive, is regularly productive. Fish are well distributed throughout the lower river downstream of Bonneville Dam with catch rates good in one area, one day and mediocre the next. The Gorge around Multnomah Falls as been one of the more consistent reaches this spring and it produced well on Wednesday but not so great on Thursday. Numbers at Bonneville are starting to climb, indicating we are nearing the peak, although peak passage typically doesn’t happen until early May. Those trolling right around the Portland area as well as anchor anglers are seeing fair to good numbers on a consistent basis. Despite great water conditions, the Columbia around Westport are also producing inconsistent action. If you haven’t heard, there was an extension granted; Saturday, April 11th along with Thursday, April 16th are the two extra days the sport fleet will see beyond the modeled April 10th closure. That one day opener on the 16th should be FANTASTIC!
Very little change is in the forecast for water level and flow at Willamette Falls in Oregon City, even with rain in the forecast. Flows have been gently moderating over the past week and while they’ll pick up slightly, it won’t be much of an event and is unlikely to affect turbidity. All this should come as good news to spring Chinook hopefuls who have seen an uptick in catches this week. One boat was spotted on the lower river hooked up with a double on Wednesday this week, a very good sign indeed. There has been some terrific bites in the Portland Harbor within the recent week. A consistent problem and complaint is sea lions which are either ripping springers off the line or gobbling wild fish seconds after release.
McKenzie River flows took a leap overnight on April 4th from 1,00 cfs to 3,000 cfs and from three feet to just under five feet of depth just below Leaburg Dam. With the exception of minor variances, it has held stable at that level and flow since that date. It remains to be seen how rain in the forecast over the next several days will affect the Mac although fishing reports have been positive.
North Santiam water levels have been dropping for about a week and there are probably enough winter steelhead over the Falls to put a few into the system. The South Santiam has been more or less stable over that same period but expect to see changes on every part of the Santiams with the precipitation due to fall off and on over the next few days. A Free Family Fishing Day will take place at Shorty’s Pond on Saturday, April 11 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. More than 1,300 rainbow trout ranging from 10 inches to over two pounds will be released into the pond. Participants can bring their own gear or borrow gear that will be available on site at no charge.
Be prepared for the next freshet as the waters of the Clackamas are predicted to start rising on Saturday, April 11th. Forecasts call for an overnight increase in flows from roughly 2,000 cfs to 3,500 cfs. This event will be short-lived, however, with the river starting to drop the next day. Barring some turbidity, it should start fishing almost immediately.
Sandy River water and flow have been moderating for the most part over the past week or so. The upcoming rainfall is likely to have little effect on water conditions or the fishing which has been fair to good.
North Coast Fishing Report – With steelhead on the clear way out, north coast anglers are awaiting the return of the coastal spring Chinook. The good news, there have been spring Chinook taken at the hatchery already, incidentally, while steelhead fishing. Effort of course remains low but it won’t be long until it’s “on” like Donkey Kong!
Steelheaders have been scraping for action on the low, clear rivers on the north coast. Dark fish are starting to make up a larger portion of the catch. Some summer steelhead should start to show on the Wilson and Nestucca Rivers and there is spring Chinook in the Trask system as well as Tillamook Bay itself. Don’t look for spring Chinook action to get much better until mid-May.
Ocean anglers won’t have much to look forward to until the middle of next week at the earliest. Lingcod catches are likely tapering but sea bass catches should continue to be consistent.
Minus tides won’t happen until the next weekend but if the swell calms down, the digging should be fantastic.
Central & South Coast Reports – In a change from recent reports, mid-coast charters tell us that lingcod catches have slowed while the rockfish bite has improved. While the season has opened, ocean Chinook fishing is usually slow this early in the season. Historically, catches start to appear in reports around the end of April. Surf perch fishing remains good on south coast beaches as anglers throwing various baits and plastic imitations are commonly taking 15-fish limits. Clamming has been good in many bays and estuaries with Coos Bay probably best known for its excellent clam beds.
Crabbing has been slow in Winchester Bay. A few spring Chinook are being taken on the Umpqua mainstem but low, clear water is hampering efforts. While the lower Rogue got a little boost in water level early this week thanks to a passing weather front, it has dropped down again and will continue that trend. Expect summer-level lows by the weekend. Water on the middle Rogue is getting pretty skinny; it was 1,490 cfs and 49.5 degrees at this writing mid-day Thursday and forecast by the NOAA to be on a steady drop through the weekend and beyond. On a brighter note, there are plenty of steelhead on this stretch. Winter steelhead are abundant on the upper Rogue which has been keeping plug-pullers grabbing and grinning all week. A bit off topic: This writer was taken aback to read today that it has been nearly five years since Gold Ray Dam was removed to open flows to the upper river. Time’s flyin’ by. The Chetco, Elk and Sixes are closed to all fishing.
Central & Eastern – Hood River will open for adipose fin-clipped chinook from April 15 through June 30.
Snow fell at Wallowa Lake over the past weekend. Trollers working shallow and deep have reported the same results. Kokanee here seem to be off the bite.
Odell opens April 25th. Early reports indicate lots of jumpers. Expect to meet plenty of friends if you go.
Trollers are having little success with the water murky at Green Peter.
SW Washington – The Cowlitz, as we often report, is the best option for spring Chinook and steelhead this time of year. Numbers of spring Chinook are starting to ramp up near the dam and so are catches. The Kalama is also producing great catches of steelhead and an occasional Chinook.
The Lewis River is largely dead with spring Chinook actually closed.
Drano Lake and Wind River is starting to ramp up although catch rates are less than impressive. When Bonneville Dam counts eclipse 1,000 fish per day, action should dramatically improve in these fisheries.