Oregon Fisheries Update March 25th – March 31st, 2016

Willamette Valley – After a brief slow-down on spring Chinook catches, action has ramped up once again, largely in the cleaner waters above the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. Anglers working from Caterpillar Island into the gorge are reporting fair catches of spring Chinook, some even eclipsing the 30-pound mark. Trolled herring are responsible for the most fish but anglers sitting on anchor are also taking fish.

Spring Chinook counts at Bonneville are lagging significantly behind last years total but that’s to be expected, given the reduced run size prediction and higher, cooler flows we’re experiencing this season. We’re still weeks away from peak migration on the lower Columbia and we likely won’t even get to fish during that time-frame.

While water conditions aren’t conducive to trolling for springers as its high and muddy now, sturgeon fishing is as near a sure thing as anyone could ask for. While sturgeon is a strictly catch-and-release fishery, youngsters love hooking these big fish. It puts a smile on adult faces as well.

As water conditions improve on the McKenzie River in the week to come, fly anglers should consider a foray to this location as the change of seasons will become evident this week.

There is a cadre of winter steelhead anglers who devote themselves to catch-and-release of wild steelhead and this is the week to consider doing so on the Santiam system.

Waters of the Clackamas are fairly high and will get higher before showing some improvement late in the coming week. This is good news for anglers, though, particularly if they time their trip right.

Regarding the Sandy River, as much as we would like to have the power to see through weather conditions, freezing levels, snowpack and all other elements which have an effect on this location, it’s not always possible. Even our regular contributor, pro guide Jeff Stoeger of O2 Guide Service (503-704-7920) advises anglers to just keep an eye on the river gauge.

Northwest Oregon – Steelheaders had a good week on the north coast. Although size wise, the fish weren’t averaging all that large, quantities made up for the lack of quality. We’re in peak season right now and given the magnitude of the run-size this year, we shouldn’t be surprised that action is so good. It is likely to taper however as dropping flows and a whole-heck-of-a-lot of fish passed through last week.

The Wilson and Nestucca will remain primary targets for anglers desiring to take fish home. The Trask and Kilchis will be good options for those wishing to avoid crowds. New still have several more good weeks of steelheading ahead.

Offshore weather conditions allowed for access to hungry lingcod and sea bass late last week. Not so much the case this week as rough seas, including gale force winds will make bar crossings illegal. It’ll be great fishing when the weather cooperates.

Don’t count on good crabbing or clamming given the tides and weather factors coming up this weekend. There will be better times ahead however.

A BUNCH of trout got stocked for spring break on the north coast this week. It’s a great time to pursue them for those wanting better action. Check here for all your options.

Central & South Coast Reports – Central coast charters report excellent bottom fishing this week whenever they have been able to get out. There have been limits for all on these trips although crabbing has been a little slow.

This should be a great week to fish for surf perch. These fish are not too particular about which beaches they prefer although they do like a place where the water is a little deeper close to shore. Many baits work including shrimp, mussels and sand worms.

Author, blogger and TGF regular contributor Pete Heley (www.PeteHeley.com) reports the Umpqua River is muddy at this time. As water conditions improve, he mentions that springers have been caught below Winchester Dam on the North Umpqua so that might be a good place to start.

Rogue River waters are running high this week and, according to river forecasts, will be somewhat slow in recovering. As conditions improve, so will steelheading. Springers are starting to enter as well so angers may expect prospects to pick up in coming weeks.

Conditions on the Chetco river have already started to improve with winter steelhead widely scattered throughout the system.

Most south coast lakes have been planted with hatchery and larger trout and are providing good fishing for big and little folks alike. Warm water fish are also becoming active.

Central & Eastern – Fly fishers on the lower Deschutes report fair to good fishing for redsides. March Browns are starting to hatch now.

Trollers at Detroit Reservoir have been catching a mix of mostly kokanee and some rainbow trout but doing pretty well for this time of year.

As well-known as the John Day River is for producing summer steelhead, this is the time of year when it starts to produce jumbo smallmouth bass.

SW Washington – Steelhead catches on the Cowlitz remain impressive with a fish for every other boat over the weekend. Spring Chinook are starting to fall with more regularity too. The Cowlitz hatchery is well ahead of last years start, a good indication that the bumper crop is indeed coming.

Other tributaries are still not producing well. The Lewis and Kalama remain sub-par with little likelihood of improvement.

Despite low numbers of salmon over Bonneville, there is some effort at Wind River and Drano Lake. Catches are nil however.

Lower Columbia River data shows that mainstem “black-chins” are starting to make up a larger percentage of the catch. Nothing surprising here.