Despite Robust Social Media Posts, Spring Chinook Fishing On The Willamette Still Challenging
Willamette River Fishing Report – A little tongue and cheek there, but it’s easy to get excited when pictures of 30 pound spring Chinook are showing up on social media. Right from the horse’s mouth however, Willamette River fishing in most sections, is still hit or miss for most anglers.
The creel check speaks for itself and despite angler criticism, is scientifically sound data. Here is this weeks creel check for all three reaches of the Willamette:
As you will see if you choose to view the file, the Multnomah Channel remains the reach of river with the highest catch (1,834 anglers for 94 salmon: 87 keepers, 9 wild ones) but not necessarily the highest catch rates. That’s one salmon for every 19.5 rods from the Multnomah Channel to the St. Johns Bridge. Conversely, the upper Willamette, from the Milwaukie Railroad Bridge to Willamette Falls produced 56 (37 hatchery, 19 wilds) springers for 812 anglers, a catch rate of one salmon for every 14.5 rods. The middle river produced the poorest results, 20 springers for 491 rods for a catch rate of one salmon for every 24.5 rods. The take of hatchery fish was most prevalent in the middle and upper reaches however. If you read the table, you get a better perspective.
Most of the guide fleet has migrated downstream to the Multnomah Channel, you get the new fish coming from the Columbia, and that river reach itself is more constrained so you have less water you have to “hunt” them in. It’s a pretty simple fishery too, if you like trolling in soft water with friendly people, in most cases.
The Sultan of Sellwood is reporting from the middle river. John states, “It’s still been either zero, one or two fish daily (again) with very little pressure. It’s my understanding that a lot of the guides are fishing the Multnomah Channel.” John has had an underwhelming season, which isn’t a common scenario for him, but remains optimistic that the fish will soon show.
There are still hoglines forming in the Oregon City area, where anglers can multitask while effectively fishing for spring Chinook on the anchor. Many anglers may have heard about the 30 pounder brought into Fisherman’s Marine last week, it’s made all the rounds. The fish was caught on a double-trouble K-15 Kwikfish:
With the absence of sea lions in the area, it’s become much more feasible to fish this area knowing you actually stand a chance of getting your catch to the net. With the consistent flows, the Oregon City area has remained steady, but many of the hatchery biters get culled from the river before they ever make it up that far. The mark rate for spring Chinook in this reach was 66% versus over 90% in the middle and lower reaches of the river.
Trollers are still dominating the waterscape here on the Willamette, trolling mostly green flashers with small herring either rigged whole or plug-cut in tow, typically about 28″ to 36″ behind the flasher. The Oregon City anglers are hoglining with prawns, shrimp or plugs. It’s too early for hardware, the Willamette is still running colder than 50 degrees. Hardware kicks in at about 57 degrees on the Willamette.
There was a fair amount of sturgeon effort in the lower reach of the Willamette last week, and catches were robust. It of course helps to have fresh smelt, but boats averaged about 2 keeper-sized fish and several shakers, making for some pretty good action. The middle river was productive as well, while the upper reach was not.
The Guide’s Forecast – After a slight rise in river levels, the Willamette is slated to be on the drop for the near future:
This will bode well for the river, but one can’t overlook the fact that the lower reaches will continue to produce the best catches as long as water levels remain stable. Until we get a good rain freshet that will allow low river migrants to work through the masses of baits and flashers, Oregon City will remain the red-headed step child. That’s not to say there won’t be fish caught, you’re just less likely to find one that is missing that critical fin that allows for retention.
With the Columbia showing greater promise, effort on the mainstem Willamette may see a slight dip this weekend and into next week however. That won’t necessarily translate into better catches on the lower Willamette but at least you’ll have more room.
The lower river will continue to witness the best catches, but action should remain stable throughout the Willamette, below Willamette Falls anyway.
Temperatures are likely to remain stable as well. A dropping river and stable weather pattern will keep the Willamette fairly comfortable all weekend and into next week.
Trollers in the middle river have had it hard recently. There’s already a pile of people trolling herring downstream of them so innovation may provide more opportunities. The Sultan had a grab on flasher and spinner the other day, there’s not likely a bunch of that going on downstream… just yet. Mix it up, it may provide more opportunities, at least until the Willamette gets a nice rain freshet.
Sturgeon fishing in this reach of the river, especially if you have this year’s smelt, will remain productive if you’re not impressed with the salmon fishing. The middle reach should also be productive.
Oregon City anglers are pretty stuck in their ways. Hogliners will hogline, and the rare backtroller working the area will be using shrimp and maybe some eggs this time of year. You’ll still work for them in this reach, but for those that fish here with confidence, it will be the best option. There were 9 summer steelhead caught in the Oregon City reach last week, most likely while targeting spring Chinook.