Oregon Fisheries Update: March 13 – 19, 2015

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Willamette Valley/Metro –  Spring Chinook in the Portland area are about ready to stage a bigger show in the coming weeks. Columbia River anglers are starting to recreate in bigger numbers but only sporadic results are happening with fair fishing reported one day and poor fishing the next. Davis Bar, across from the mouth of the Willamette, hugging the Washington shore will be a primary target for boaters, as well as the airport area for trollers. Bank anglers will focus efforts around Sauvies Island for best action.

The downriver reaction from rainfall this weekend will be delayed on the Willamette as things happen more slowly on this larger waterway than on its tributaries. There may be some effect on the lower river by Monday or so but it will be Tuesday or Wednesday that the greater impact will be evident. It is expected to be little more than an increase in volume. Anytime this occurs, it’s always wise for boaters on the lower Willamette to keep an eye upstream. Rain over the coming weekend will probably bring muddy water into the lower Willamette in the coming week but as it clears, spring Chinook catches will continue to improve as April approaches.

The McKenzie River picked up a little volume and flow over the past couple of days but will swell with rain over the weekend. Look for it to return to the 3.7 level in short order without snowmelt contributing to flows this year.

Daily counts of winter steelhead at Willamette Falls are in the low single digits with about 2,700 winter steelhead counted thus far in the season. That means there aren’t a lot of fish in the North Santiam yet. There was a crowd on the banks of the Clackamas River at the Bowling Alley hole on the evening of Wednesday this week. In any event, the water is ultra low and clear. Rain this weekend will be welcome.

Winter steelheading on the Sandy has been decent given the low water conditions with the experienced anglers landing fish; the hatchery has had nearly a thousand fish return so far this season. The first smelt opener on March 7th was a bust according to reports received from those who tried, many of whom didn’t even get a dip net into the water. None seen, none taken.

Northwest – Spring Chinook catches in the Astoria area and slightly upstream remain hit and miss. Action should pick up fairly soon however as water temperatures are favorable as well as flows. Boaters will be working herring (either anchored or trolled) upstream of Tongue Point while bank anglers will work dark colored spin-n-glos close to beaches on the outgoing tide.

It’s been another week of low, clear water conditions but boaters have been taking fair numbers of steelhead on the lower reaches of several north coast favorites. The Nestucca has been a stand out and the mainstem Nehalem has also been putting out fish in the ideal conditions we often see on these larger systems when rain has been absent for such a long time. The Wilson also remains a favorite but most of the action has been downstream of Sollie Smith, which is hard to access if you don’t have a shallow running motor on your boat.

Rain in the forecast for the weekend should dramatically improve prospects on all north coast streams. Unless we get a real gully-washer, which isn’t predicted, all north coast rivers should fish very well over the weekend. The smaller streams may still be challenging to drift (depends on the amount of precipitation) but this welcome rain will send a lot of steelhead screaming upstream. Until rivers rise, target the extreme lower reaches, including tidewater.

Bottomfishing remained good for both nearshore and deep-reef anglers. Shrimp fly jigs took ample numbers of bass at Three Arch Rocks early in the week but an offshore opportunity is likely out of bounds for weekend anglers. Crabbing, both in the ocean and in the estuaries, remains challenging.

Southwest – Beginning March 11, ocean anglers will be able to retain one canary rockfish as part of their marine daily bag limit – a move intended to reduce waste that results from releasing injured fish.

The Chinook salmon season from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain will open March 15th and continue through April 30th. The PFMC will have its annual meeting prior to the closure and it is likely that the season will be extended. The bag limit is two per person 24 inches in length or better.

Rockfish catches have been good in the Triangle and around the South Jetty at Winchester Bay although crabbing has slowed recently. While Umpqua flows have been effected by a lack of precipitation, there will be a respite early in the coming week with the brief storm front passing.

As with most areas, boats launching out of Charleston have been slaying lingcod and doing pretty well for rockfish. Inside Coos Bay, rock fishing has been decent near the jetties with perch fishing picking up as well.

Low, clear, cold water has been a problem for steelheaders on the entire Rogue River system although anglers have been eking out a fish or two daily by working deeper stretches where flows are slower. Rain this weekend will have the greatest effect on the lower Rogue as the river is forecast to pick up a foot and a half in depth near Agness with flows increasing from 2,100 cfs to 4,300 cfs.

The lingcod bite out of Brookings Harbor has been excellent with anglers limiting  on lingcod from 8 to 15 pounds

SW Washington – District streams remain challenging low for anglers but the Cowlitz still seems to be producing fairly regular catches. Of course it gets the most hatchery fish of any of the big 3 in the district and it should continue to produce late winter run steelhead into early April.

On the Cowlitz, 70 boat anglers with 58 steelhead kept and 4 released. 50 bank anglers with 6 steelhead kept and 2 released. The trout hatchery area was the most productive location.

The Lewis and Kalama should receive a new batch of fish after the rains fall. There should be some late season opportunities on these systems but they have largely failed the angling public in recent years. The spring Chinook returns have also been dismal although they should start to show in better numbers by early April.

Central & Eastern –

Fishing for redsides has been fair to good on the Deschutes with Blue-Winged Olives and Cased Caddis hatching.

Despite the general consensus of long-time Suttle Lake anglers that the kokanee population has dwindled both in number and size of available fish, an ODFW biologist recently stated that there is no problem and if there was, there are plenty of other places to fish for kokanee.

Lake Billy Chinook seems to be improving for kokanee every week.

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