From Pete Heley at www.PeteHeley.com
The main outdoor-related topic of conversation continues to be the new licensing system the ODFW started this year. While the new system seems to be a major step backward from the previous system which was in effect through mid-December of 2018, the ODFW does seem to be doing a pretty good job of fixing the numerous “glitches” as they are pointed out. At some point, one would hope that the long waiting times to reach the help line would shorten greatly. Currently the recording on the help line states that it operates seven days a week – even though it is closed on Saturdays and Sundays – which is very bad news for somebody that needs to enter a SSN that is new to the system.
Where the new system will certainly cause much more grief is when the fall hunting seasons come around.
What is surprising is that a few other states plan to adopt Oregon’s new system – but I would be very surprised if they didn’t wait until quite a few more “bugs” are addressed and corrected in Oregon’s system.
In the meantime, there are numerous bills before the Oregon State Legislature that should be of concern to Oregon’s outdoor sportsmen. Describing the bills would require far more space than my column is currently allotted, but an internet search should prove interesting.
The bills are: HB 2068; HB 2071; HB 2072; HB 2251; HB 2361; HB 2370; House Joint Resolution 9; SB 5; SB 87; SB 244; SB 275; SB 310; SB 323; SB 340; SB 341; SB 398; SB 439; SB 501; SB 547; SB 580; SB 593. HB stands for House Bill and SB stands for Senate Bill – and these are bills before the Oregon State Legislature.
If any of these bills happen to be of particular interest to you – feel free to contact your state representatives.
Trout plants in our area begin early next month, but many local waters are multi-species lakes and are open all year.
Some of the best multi-species lakes are: (1) – Eel Lake – has rainbow and cutthroat trout, landlocked coho salmon, bluegills, black crappie, largemouth bass and a few brown bullheads and smallmouth bass. Eel Lake is not frequently stocked with trout, but has fair numbers of native, searun and carryover trout. It’s warmwater fisheries typically get going in the late spring, but they caught a few largemouth bass last week. Landlocked coho in the lake are not legal to keep. The fishing dock in Tugman Park is one of the lake’s best fishing spots for warmwater fish.
(2) – Saunders Lake – Heavily stocked with rainbow trout, Saunders has an excellent yellow perch fishery and offers decent fishing for largemouth bass, crappies and bluegills.
(3) – Johnson Mill Pond – This very shallow 90 acre former log pond has a strong bluegill population along with fair numbers of crappies, yellow perch, brown bullheads and largemouth bass. The pond is stocked with rainbow trout and also receives some salmon and steelhead smolts when it is connected to the Coquille River during high water.
(4) – Cleawox Lake – One of the most heavily stocked lakes in Oregon, Cleawox’s crappies, yellow perch, bluegills and largemouth bass are largely ignored by the trout anglers. The north arm of the lake is nearly disconnected from the main body of the lake and therefore ignored by most anglers – and seems to have most of the lake’s panfish.
(5) – Empire Lakes – The most heavily stocked trout lakes in southwest Oregon, the deeper Upper Lake now receives most of the trout and the more shallow and weedier Lower Lake now has the most warmwater fish which include yellow perch, bluegills and largemouth bass along with a few crappies and brown bullheads.
(6) – Loon Lake – often muddy into mid-spring, Loon Lake is one of Oregon’s best bluegill lakes. The lake also has a good largemouth bass population and the upper portion of the lake has fair populations of crappies and brown bullheads. Loon is also stocked with trout and they are seldom quickly caught out. The lake also has a population of pikeminnows that infrequently can be a nuisance to anglers seeking other fish species.
(7) – Woahink Lake – has an undeserved reputation as a producer of jumbo yellow perch, Woahink has almost equal populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass. Anglers concentrating on the lake’s weedbeds will also catch yellow perch, bluegills, rainbow trout and pikeminnows – along with a very few cutthroat trout, black crappies and brown bullheads.
Beginning Jan.1, there will be a new steelhead bag limit on rivers where wild steelhead harvest is allowed. Check the 2019 Sport Fishing Regulations for details.
Get a jump on planning your 2019 trout fishing adventures. The 2019 weekly trout stocking schedule is now posted on MyODFW.com.
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.
Anglers may also choose to fish the offshore longleader fishery outside of the 40-fathom regulatory line, which is open year round. The longleader fishery has a daily bag limit of 10 fish made of yellowtail, widow, canary, redstripe, greenstripe, silvergray, and bocaccio rockfish. No other groundfish are allowed and offshore longleader fishing trips cannot be combined with traditional bottomfish, flatfish or halibut trips.
A series of water-laden storms have moved through the southwest zone. Rivers are up and fish are moving. Winter steelhead and hatchery chinook have now spread throughout the Rogue. Anglers may want to consider plunking during these higher water events. As the water drops, anglers typically switch to side drifting with eggs or tossing spinners.
The Rogue is open for hatchery rainbow trout through March 31; 5/day. Wild rainbow and cutthroat trout must be released.
For a current view of the Rogue from the Isaac Lee Patterson Bridge in Gold Beach, check out the ODOT’s camera.
Recent reports have indicated that some late summer steelhead and down runners are being caught, along with some fresh winter steelhead on the middle river. Last week a number of anglers reported winter steelhead showing up around Galice, which is downstream of Hog Creek for those unaware of the Rogue landmarks. These fish are on the move, and likely heading for the upper river.
One wild steelhead per day and 3 per year may be retained below Hog Creek boat ramp if they are at least 24-inches long. Beginning Feb. 1 through April 30, the rest of the Rogue River to Cole Rivers Hatchery will open to retention of wild steelhead at least 24-inches long as part of the daily or annual salmon/steelhead bag limit of 1 wild steelhead per day and 3 per year SW zonewide. Consult the 2019 sport fishing regulations for further information and clarification.
Running plugs from a drift boat is not a bad option. Drifting nightcrawlers, roe, or yarn balls are always a good call. A diversity of bait will always help your chances when steelhead fishing.
Gold Hill to Rogue River, Baker to Lathrop or Ferry Hole, or Griffin Park to Robertson Bridge are all good floats this time of year.
Half-pounders are worth targeting throughout the winter. Target these fish from Galice to Grave Creek by boat, or for the hardy angler willing to hike into the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue. Anglers report great half-pounder fishing downstream of Rainie Falls. Remember, only 5 hatchery rainbow trout may be retained per day. All wild rainbow trout and cuttroat trout must be released throughout the river.
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. Drifting roe or nightcrawlers are very effective.
Further upstream, Griffin Park and Robertson Bridge are good places to plunk or use a side-planer setup with plugs or Spin-N-Glos for bank anglers.
As of Wednesday morning, the flow in Grants Pass was approximately 1490 cfs, river stage at 1.65 feet and expected to rise to over 3000 cfs and 3.41 feet through the week. The river temperature averaged about 41oF, and the clarity was 5 NTU. For those interested in checking conditions before getting on the river, the City of Grants Pass Water Division’s website offers information on river conditions at Grants Pass as well as a link to a river camera.
Bait is again allowed throughout the entire Rogue basin. 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. There have probably been more duck hunters out here than anglers as of late.
There’s still probably 115 percent of the summer steelhead run expected to enter the hatchery. Last week was another excellent push of fish. Expect another few weeks of the tail end of the hatchery summer steelhead fishery. Try fishing roe, nightcrawlers, spinners, or jigs.
The upper Rogue water levels don’t typically fluctuate dramatically upstream of Elk Creek.
As of January 8, 2986 summer steelhead had entered Cole Rivers Hatchery, with 44 new for this week. The prior two weeks had both seen 250 plus fish enter each week. Another early push of 31 new winter steelhead arriving brought the total to 222 fish to start the year. Find updated fish counts at Cole Rivers Hatchery here.
The river discharge from Lost Creek Reservoir on Wednesday was 1,064 cfs and 42oF. Downstream at the McCloud Gage the reading was was 1130 cfs (1.7 feet gauge height) and 1,250 cfs (2.79 feet and expected to rise) at Dodge Bridge. For the most current releases of water out of Lost Creek Reservoir, call 1-800-472-2434. For real time streamflow from USGS gauges on the Rogue click here.
Above Lost Creek Reservoir expect snow and limited parking. Anglers will need to walk into fishing access sites. There are still trout available for the hardy angler. The Prospect gauge is reading 39 degrees. With cold water, you’ll want to swing your lure right in front of fish.
Anglers can cast flies or smaller lures like a Panther Martin or rooster tail. Often tipping the lure with bait helps to produce. In slower holes, fishing straight bait such as nightcrawler, Pautzke eggs, even PowerBait will produce.
On the Umpqua there have been some really good reports throughout the main. The current forecast has the river coming up and it might be tough fishing for the weekend. All wild steelhead must be released in the Umpqua so please follow good catch-and-release techniques.
On the north, Steelhead fishing should be good and recent reports have anglers catching a few in the lower river. The peak for the North is in later February and March.
There some good reports throughout the South. The river is forecasted to rise significantly by the weekend, but the upper river might still be fishable.
Anglers are catching hatchery winter steelhead in the West Fork Millicoma, East Fork Millicoma, and South Fork Coos rivers. Steelhead anglers wanting to fish the South Fork Coos River will need to purchase a Dellwood Fishing Permit from the Weyerhaeuser website.
Recreational fishing for bottomfish is open in the ocean along with bays and estuaries. The daily bag limit for marine fish is back to 5 plus 2 lingcod. Cabezon retention is closed until July 2019.
Steelhead anglers are catching hatchery steelhead in the mainstem Coquille and lower reaches of the South Fork Coquille. Rainfall predicted for later this week should bring in new steelhead, and get them moving throughout the basin.
On Diamond Lake there have been recent reports of folks fishing on the ice, and catching fish. Although recent warm weather might have made the ice unsafe. Follow ice fishing safety tips and proceed at your own risk. While ice fishing, anglers with a two-rod endorsement may use up to five rods.
A few steelhead have been caught in Tenmile Creek this past week. Eel Creek opened to steelhead fishing starting on Jan. 1.
Trout can be caught year-round at Tenmile Lakes, but fish may not be too aggressive in cold water. Some holdover trout measure over 17-inches long.
Fishing for largemouth bass and other warmwater species will slow down in cold weather. Presentations will need to be slow, as fish may be lethargic.
Yellow perch fishing should pick up in the next few months, 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.