SW Oregon Fishing Report for March 29th, 2019

From Pete Heley at PeteHeley.com

As I am writing this on Sunday there have yet to be any verifiable reports of a spring chinook salmon being actually landed on the Umpqua River. If it doesn’t happen soon, the Umpqua’s first shad may precede it.

The Umpqua’s first shad should arrive in early April and river levels and water temperatures will have a lot to do with how well they bite. The best early fishing for them is usually in the Yellow Creek area, but during low river levels the shad often stack up below Sawyers Rapids and fishing can be incredible.

Perhaps the first Umpqua River springer will be caught by an angler fishing the ocean near the Umpqua River mouth.

Striped bass anglers are the most close-mouthed of all area anglers, but the fishery on the Smith River and to a lesser extent on the Umpqua River typically starts in late March with the best fishing occurring in the upper several miles of tidewater – and stripers are definitely more active at night than during daylight hours, but the increased difficulty of fishing at night might come close to evening the score – “catch-wise”.

Some very good catches of largemouth bass were made during the warmest days of last week. Cooler weather is projected, but sunny afternoons with low wind should have the bass active in any shallow lake or pond.

Tenmile Lake receives most of the area’s bassfishing pressure, and rightfully so as it is a very productive nationally esteemed bass fishery. But I feel that Tenmile Lake’s biggest value is ensuring virtually every other bass fishery in our area is relatively underfished.

My favorite early season technique for smallmouth bass on the Umpqua River is to target significant indentions or backwaters. If the upper ends of a backwaters is upriver from where it meet the river – so much the better, because the amount of cooler river water entering such backwaters will be greatly reduced and the upper ends can easily be several degrees warmer than the lower ends. There are a number of these spots in the Yellow Creek area – but no matter where they are located, they always seem to productive early season smallmouth spots.

Crappies have yet to show up at the upper end of Loon Lake and the lower end of Eel Lake.

Loon Lake was recently planted with legal-sized rainbow and a few anglers have used trout-imitating swimbaits to catch some sizable early season largemouths following Loon’s initial trout plants in year’s past. Because the BLM Campground is not yet open and the lake’s Mill Creek outlet is at the lower end of the lake – Loon Lake’s trout are planted at the boat ramp at the lake’s upper end.

I fished the upper end of Loon Lake for less than an hour last Sunday and found a few sluggish bluegills near the old Fish Haven/Ducketts dock and the first one I caught measured 8.5-inches. There were a few even larger bluegills present, but they were inactive and will likely move to deeper water with this week’s cooler weather. Ten casts with the same lure I was using for bluegill, a one-inch section of a white Berkley Gulp trout worm on a 1/64 ounce jighead – netted me five 9 – 10-inch recently planted rainbow trout.

Eel Lake is scheduled to receive its initial trout plant this week. The 2,500 legal rainbows may increase fishing pressure enough that a few warmwater fish may be caught. It seems that many of the lake’s anglers seem unable to tell the difference between Eel Lake’s trout, which are legal to keep and the coho salmon that don’t leave the lake which are illegal to keep.

After several last-minute changes to the ODFW stocking schedule, it appears that both Upper and Lower Empire Lakes received 400 trophy rainbows last week. Other trout plants made last week include Johnson Mill Pond (Coquille) with 50 trophies; Garrison Lake (Port Orford) with 200 trophies; Bradley Lake (Bandon) with 200 trophies; Lake Marie with 2,000 legals and Loon Lake with 1,500 legals. Cooper Creek Reservoir in Sutherlin, which received 1,500 legal rainbows last week, also contains fair numbers of stocked coho salmon which are legal to keep – if they are at least eight inches long.

Crabs are still being caught in the lower end of Coos Bay near Charleston – but it isn’t hot by any means. Boat crabbers crabbing the lower end of Half Moon Bay in Winchester Bay have made some decent catches, but crabbing off the old Coast Guard Pier – only a few hundred yards farther up the Umpqua River, is much tougher.

Jetty anglers are still enjoying good fishing for lingcod and mosy likely will continue to do so until late April when the lingcod that have taken up temporary residence to spawn move back out to deeper water leaving only resident lings for anglers to target.

From ODF&W

The bottomfish fishery is open at all depths with a General Marine Species bag limit of 5 fish, and a separate lingcod limit of 2 fish. No cabezon may be retained until July 1. Yelloweye retention is still closed this year.

This last weekend had beautiful weather and good ocean conditions, however many anglers reported very slow fishing for rockfish, with more deacons than blacks. Lingcod fishing also has been slow with many released fish just shy of the legal limit. Limited success was reported by trying a variety of areas and lures.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will finalize the 2019 sport halibut seasons at their April 19 meeting.

Bass fishing has been picking up in many valley lakes.

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.

Trout fishing closes on most SW streams from April 1 through May 22, consult the regulations.

Popular from the shore or drift boat, the Chetco River has a lot to offer. But go soon because steelhead season ends March 31. For steelhead, 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 up into 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.

Within the Coos and Coquille River Basins 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.

Trout fishing in streams and rivers will reopen May 22, 2019, while lakes in the basin are open year-round.

By bank and boat, anglers have been reporting their successful fishing trips on the Elk River. 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.

The Illinois River is open for trout fishing and winter steelhead through March 31. Steelhead fishing should be great with the recent storms and fish should be available for the angler willing to take a scenic drive. Since only hatchery trout may be retained, fishing will be primarily catch-and-release for wild trout, as the Illinois does not have a hatchery program. Wild winter steelhead may be retained in a few areas, but are subject to new daily and seasonal bag limits of 1 per day and 3 per year SW zone wide in waterbodies were wild harvest is allowed. Consult the 2019 fishing regulations for areas open to retention of wild steelhead.

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-inches may be harvested per day and three per year as part of a daily and annual salmon/steelhead bag limit.

There have been spotty reports of early spring Chinook. Hatchery Chinook may be retained year-round. Wild Chinook opens for retention June 1.

This spring, ODFW is conducting a genetic study on wild chinook by collecting fin tissue samples. Anglers interested in learning more and participating in this project can contact ODFW staff at 541-247-7605.

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

On the middle Rogue anglers continue to encounter the occasional spawned-out summer fish. 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 and over-wintering half-pounders that are still in the system. 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. 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.

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 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.

Expect more fish to move into the upper Rogue throughout the next couple weeks. The last day to trout fish is March 31. After that date, the Rogue will be closed to trout fishing through May 22 to protect outmigrating smolts. The Upper Rogue will continue to produce steelhead through April.

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.

The Sixes River is 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.

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. Closed to trout fishing until May 22, 2019.

Tenmile Lakes should start giving up some nice holdover trout in the coming weeks; some can measure over 17-inches long.

Fishing for largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie and brown bullhead catfish should begin to “turn on” with spring weather and longer days.

Yellow perch fishing should also pick up this time of year, with some fish in the 9- to 12-inch range. Look for yellow perch in the deeper mudflats in the lake. Anglers are using small jigs or a worm on a hook fished near the bottom.

Right now it looks like the Umpqua River is going to be a little high for most people drift fishing, but plunking can be good.. 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.

Spring Chinook should be in the river and there is a rumor the first springer of 2019 has been caught. Most anglers fish for spring Chinook from a boat using plugs or bait.

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. Spring Chinook are on their way, but no reports of anyone catching any yet.

The south Umpqua 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.