SW Oregon Fishing Report for March 15th, 2019

From Pete Heley at PeteHeley.com

Heavy rains and muddy access delayed the trout plant scheduled for Johnson Mill Pond near Coquille. The trout will be stocked later at a slightly larger size.

Trout plants scheduled for this week include: Alder Lake (793 trout including 332 legals and 461 trophies); Buck Lake (702 trout including 566 legals and 136 trophies): Carter Lake (750 trophies); Cleawox Lake (3,161 trophies); Dune Lake (702 trout including 566 legals and 136 trophies); Elbow Lake (1,400 trophies); Lost Lake (400 trophies); Mercer Lake (1,500 trophies); Munsel Lake (2,400 trophies); North Georgia Lake (300 legals and 75 trophies); Siltcoos Lake (1,000 trophies) and Woahink Lake (1,000 trophies).

Very few of the 2,000 legal-sized rainbows dumped into Loon Lake last week have been caught by anglers and cold water temperatures have slowed the catch rate on virtually every lake that has been stocked with trout. With warmer weather, the trout bite will improve. Probably the quickest trout fishery to respond will be Mingus Park Pond. This two acre, two-foot deep pond will only need one warm day to greatly improve “fishingwise”.

Other areas have been cold, as well. Bend had nearly 46-inches of snow in February – nearly doubling a monthly record that dates back more than a 100 years and last month was the third coldest February on record for Bend. But January was the third warmest ever.

The first keepable spring chinook was pulled from the Rogue River last week. The finclipped fish weighed about 25 pounds. As I am writing this on Sunday, no springers have yet been reported from the Umpqua River. A few anglers have started casting spinners from the bank at Half Moon Bay in Winchester Bay. When they hook their first springer they will have plenty of company.

The South Jetty at Winchester Bay fished very well for lingcod last week with fish weighing more than ten pounds taken. Favorite colors have been all over the board – which leads me to believe that the main thing when targeting lingcod is to get a sizable lure – any color sizable lure close to one of these very aggressive fish. If you believe you are using the right lure and color pattern – you will tend to fish it better.

Striped surfperch are also biting well off the South Jetty and some greenling are also being caught. Cabezon are still closed, but the state of Washington recently determined that their cabezon population is healthy and growing – which should be encouraging news to Oregon’s bottomfish anglers.

The cold water temperatures have likely extended the spawning cycle for yellow perch. In most years, the spawn is pretty much over by mid-March, but this year’s spawn will likely extend past the end of March.

Fishing pressure directed at largemouth bass is gradually increasing, despite the cold temperatures, but almost all of the bassboats seem to be headed to Tenmile Lake.

One early season bassfishing technique that I believe in, but find hard to implement is to target reservoirs that are drawn down in the fall and winter months as late as I can in the spring – just before they begin filling up. Before the reservoir levels begin rising, many, if not most of the bass will be in the bottom end of the reservoir – in a greatly reduced amount of water.

Such bass fisheries include Cottage Grove Reservoir, Dorena Reservoir and Plat “I” Reservoir. I must warn you that unless you live near such a reservoir, it is really difficult to fine-tune this technique.

From ODF&W

On the Chetco River, popular from the shore or drift boat, this river has a lot to offer. Many choose side drifting or back bouncing any combination of roe/yarn/puff-balls/corky from a boat. On shore, fly fishing or plunking are the fishing styles of choice for many. Depending on water flow and clarity, try experimenting with Spin-n-Glos, Hot-Shots and Kwikfish. With good fishing and beautiful scenery, you’re sure to have a memorable fishing experience. As we have seen several pushes of fish on the tributary spawning grounds, anglers may soon start to see spawned out steelhead in their catch. Wild steelhead may be harvested 1/day and 3/year in the southwest zone as part of a daily or annual salmon/steelhead bag limit.

Coos River Basin steelhead returns should continue through March, but numbers will typically begin to drop off as the month progresses. Steelhead anglers wanting to fish the South Fork Coos River will need a Dellwood Fishing Access Permit, available from the Weyerhaeuser website.

Steelhead are in thick right now on Elk River. By bank and boat, anglers have been reporting their successful fishing trips. From the river mouth to Bald Mountain Creek, the Elk is open for steelhead and Chinook fishing through March 31. Wild steelhead may be harvested 1/day and 3/year as part of a daily or annual salmon/steelhead bag limit. Anglers please see the southwest zone regulation exceptions in the ODFW Sport Fishing Regulations book for more details.

Galesville was just recently stocked with large trout and should have lots of trout from previous stockings. In addition to trout, the reservoir was stocked with coho smolts until 2015.

In Galesville Reservoir, all landlocked salmon are considered trout and are part of the five-per-day trout limit, with only one trout over 20-inches long allowed for harvest.

Fishing for bass and other panfish should be decent. Good areas are near dead snags and the boat ramp. Try a slow retrieve with a diving crank bait.

Lake Selmac received 5,000 legal rainbow trout the week of Feb 11. Fishing should pick up with the warm weather this weekend. When visibility is good, reports have been good with fly anglers fishing leeches or streamers and a slow strip. Gear fisherman should expect good success as visibility improves. Aquatic vegetation at Lake Selmac has died off quite a bit but will likely come back with the warmer weather. With limited options for low elevation lakes this time of year, Lake Selmac may be worth an exploratory trip.

Lost Creek will be the primary draw for trout anglers in the Rogue watershed now through early spring. Large rainbow have been stocked to complement fish remaining as holdovers from earlier releases. The lake is about 78 percent full and both ramps are usable. Surface temperature is 44 degrees.

Recent reports indicate anglers have found success on red wedding rings fished with a worm behind a dodger or flashers have produced fish, as have PowerBait fished deep while trolling.

On the ocean, bottomfishing has been good when the ocean lays down and anglers have been able to make it out.

Bottomfish anglers may now fish at all depths for the remainder of the year. Fishing for lingcod and rockfish has been good when the ocean is calm enough to fish. The daily bag limit for marine fish is 5 plus 2 lingcod. The retention of cabezon is closed until July 2019.

Winter steelhead season is in full swing on the lower Rogue. Anglers have had success from the shore and from boats. From side-drifting or back-bouncing roe to plugs and spinners, multiple fishing techniques will do the trick when it comes to this river. Anglers may want to consider plunking with plugs or a Spin-n-Glo during higher water events. As the water drops, anglers typically switch to side drifting with eggs or tossing spinners. One wild steelhead at least 24” may be harvested per day and three per year as part of a daily and annual salmon/steelhead bag limit.

The Rogue is open for rainbow trout through March 31; 5/day. Wild rainbow and cutthroat trout must be released.

Anglers continue to encounter the occasional spawned-out summer fish on the middle Rogue. These “downrunners” or kelts are very colored up, and exhibiting a “sunken” or sucked in belly. Anglers are encouraged to use catch-and-release best practices by limiting their handling of these fish, not remove them from the water if possible, and release them as soon as possible.

Anglers are mostly catching bright winter fish, with about 10-15 percent of the catch being downrunners. Both bank anglers fishing plugs and side-planners, and boat anglers are catching fish. Recent reports indicated plugs, eggs and yarn balls all producing winter fish from boats, with about 40 percent of the catch being hatchery fish. We are nearing peak run timing for winter steelhead in this area so expect fishing to continue to get better.

Now through April 30, the entire Rogue from the mouth to Cole Rivers Fish Hatchery is open to steelhead fishing with a limited harvest opportunity of 1 wild steelhead per day and 3 per year SW zonewide. In the Rogue, wild steelhead must be at least 24 inches in length in order to be retained. Consult the 2019 sport fishing regulations for further information and clarification. Good reports of hatchery fish being caught in the Galice and Robertson Bridge area continue to be reported.

Popular methods for winter steelhead fishing include Running plugs from a drift boat, drifting night crawlers, roe, or yarn balls. Bank anglers typically use a side-planning setup with plugs. A diversity of bait including different colored roe will always help your chances when steelhead fishing. Higher water can often be a good thing for bank anglers and plug fishermen as the river will actually “get smaller.” Meaning that fish will be navigating closer to shore and in a narrower migration path.

Fly anglers that nymph will want to use prince nymphs or copperswans, steelhead brassies, stone flies, ugly bugs, or will want to fish large dark flies if swinging. Don’t be afraid of color such as black and chartreuse, black and blue, black and purple, black and pink, or black and red. If tying your own flies, don’t be afraid to add a little bit of flash dubbing or tinsel in the body of your fly. Also, covering lots of water when working through a run is a good technique when swinging flies. Trying moving 4-5 feet downstream every cast or two.

As we progress into March, popular floats include: Gold Hill to Rogue River, Baker to Lathrop or Ferry Hole, or Griffin Park to Robertson Bridge.

Boaters floating from Hog Creek to Graves Creek should be familiar with the rapids in this section of the river, and know their takeouts. Experienced oarsmen/woman are recommended here. There are many BLM public access points to bank fish from Hog Creek to Graves Creek. This is often referred to the “Galice area”. Boats should not attempt to float through Hellgate Canyon during high water. Also, just downstream of the Alameda boat ramp is Argo Rapid. Inexperienced boaters should not float this section. If you find yourself here, stay far right.

Further upstream, Griffin Park and Robertson Bridge are good places to use a side-planer setup with plugs or plunking Spin-N-Glos for bank anglers. In the Galice area, Rand, Rainbow, Chair and Ennis are good bank access locations.

Fishing has resulted in success for winter steelhead anglers in the upper river area. Expect more fish to move into the upper Rogue throughout the next couple weeks as fishing always gets better the closer to April we get. There is good public access for bank fishing and boat access at Cole Rivers Hatchery, McGregor Park, Casey Park, Rogue Elk, Shady Cove, Takelma, Dodge Bridge, Modoc, Denman Wildlife Area, Touvelle State Park, Gold Ray and Fishers Ferry. Most floats in the upper Rogue have been from the hatchery or Rogue Elk downstream to Shady Cove. Dodge Bridge to Touvelle is an excellent float but anglers should be aware that they will encounter Rattlesnake Rapids. If you are not ready for Rattlesnake, many floats will start at the ODFW Modoc Access Site and float to Touvelle or Fishers Ferry.

The upper Rogue water levels don’t typically fluctuate dramatically upstream of Elk Creek. So while the rest of the river is falling into shape after a storm, this is a great section of river to explore. Try fishing roe, night crawlers, spinners or jigs under bobbers.

Fly anglers that nymph will want to use prince nymphs or copperswans, steelhead brassies, stone flies, ugly bugs, or will want to fish large dark flies if swinging. Don’t be afraid of color such as black and chartreuse, black and blue, black and purple, black and pink, or black and red. If tying your own flies, don’t be afraid to add a little bit of flash dubbing or tinsel in the body of your fly. Also, covering lots of water when working through a run is a good technique when swinging flies. Trying moving 4-5 feet down every cast or two.

As of March 6, 3561 summer steelhead had entered Cole Rivers Hatchery, with 39 new fish for the week. Only 11 new winter steelhead were collected for the week, bringing the total to 267 fish for the season.

On the Sixes River, steelhead season is in full swing! Open from the river mouth to Edson Creek through Dec. 31, anglers are allowed to retain one wild steelhead per day and three per year in the Southwest Zone.. Anglers can target steelhead up to the South Fork of the Sixes River.

Steelhead fishing opened on Smith River up to Sisters Creek Dec. 1. There should be a number of fish coming into the river with recent rains and it might be in shape if the snow doesn’t cause it to rise too much. Access may be tough due to winter weather, unless you are driving from the coast. Recent reports have shown some good days of steelhead fishing on the Smith.

Winter steelhead are running in Tenmile Creek and Eel Creek. The run tends to be a month later than other Coos County rivers, so hatchery fish may be available through March and into April.

Right now it looks like the Umpqua River might be in good shape this weekend. Most anglers use a pink Spin-n-Glo and maybe some eggs for plunking, which can be good when the river is high and turbid. All wild steelhead must be released in the Umpqua so please follow good catch-and-release techniques.

Some of the North Umpqua and tributaries are open for trout (those above Slide Creek Dam): check the fishing regulations to see which areas are closed. Steelhead fishing should be good and recent reports have anglers catching a few. The river should be in shape for the weekend and there should be lots of fish in the river.

The south river should be in shape for the weekend. Lots of hatchery fish have been reported this year. Anglers were doing well in the upper sections of the South around Canyonville this past week. Check out the South River Gauge.

2019 STOCKING SCHEDULE AND STOCKING MAP