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Oregon Fisheries Update: December 1st, 2017

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by | Nov 30, 2017

Willamette Valley/Metro Although the Columbia is done for the season, the Willamette is yielding good catches of sturgeon for this interested in this great catch and release fishery. Sturgeon to 5 foot are not uncommon, but the action is good throughout the Portland Harbor. Smelt and sand shrimp are the preferred baits.

The Willamette and Columbia River spring salmon forecasts are due out in a few weeks. Historically, catchable numbers of fish were available by early February, but a lack of the larger and earlier returning 5-year olds has squashed early opportunity. Salmon won’t start showing in catchable numbers until mid-March.

Plunkers are working Meldrum Bar for early run winter steelhead, and a few have been reported recently. Rumors have the tally at about three steelhead for the season, of which all were reported as wild, requiring release. Hatchery fish won’t likely show in better numbers until mid-February, but January fish aren’t uncommon.

Nearly a dozen sea lions are reported at Willamette Falls already. It’s going to be a hard year for wild steelhead if the sea lions aren’t removed from the area.

The Clackamas likely has a few steelhead, but like the Sandy, catchable numbers of hatchery fish won’t show until mid to late January. There will be very few December Eagle Creek fish in the Clackamas system this year; that run is being discontinued, but production will transfer to Clackamas broodstock fish. There should be some wild coho for those seeking catch and release opportunities.

Northwest – Tillamook rivers are finally back in shape, but still high. Results from the early part of the week weren’t impressive. Late season Chinook numbers have been lacking, but opportunity does exist on the north coast, where it doesn’t anywhere else this time of year.

The Kilchis and Wilson remain top targets for late run fall Chinook, with the Wilson fishing best earlier this week. The Kilchis was slow despite perfect conditions on all week.

This time of year, Chinook become quite receptive to plugs as they become more territorial during their spawning run. Fresh fish should be available on the Wilson through mid-December, but as flows drop, fish will hunker down in the deeper holes, requiring special techniques to present your offering appropriately. Backbounced eggs and plugs will become effective by the weekend.

The Trask and Nestucca appear to be done for the year. The Nestucca below Three Rivers, Three Rivers itself and the North Fork Nehalem should have winter steelhead available this week. Some steelhead have already been tallied at the NF Nehalem, and anglers are likely to catch them by this weekend.

Crabbing has become quite popular on Netarts bay so success rates have dropped. Bay crabbing remains fair on most north coast systems, and by the weekend, bigger tides will provide a stronger salt water influx, which should also draw crabs in, eager to feed on dying salmon carcasses.

Extreme tides will be a problem for lower Columbia River crabbers this weekend, but if you pay attention to your gear, you should come up with good numbers of keepers.

Despite good clam tides this weekend, the surf is expected to be big and will likely keep razor clams down, out of digger’s reach.

The minus tide series is also good for mussel gatherers, but again, a high surf poses extreme danger. We advise against it.

Southwest – From Pet Heley at

The normal re-opening of ocean crabbing of December 1st was extended to at least mid-December by a combination of low meat content and elevated levels of domoic acid. Until the ocean reopens to crabbing, the only options available to recreational crabbing along the southern Oregon coast are Coos Bay and the lower Umpqua River at Winchester Bay.

While relatively high salinity in Coos Bay means that the entire bay is capable of producing decent crabbing, as heavier rainfall shows up.

Fishing for yellow perch at Siltcoos, Tahkenitch and Tenmile lakes has been productive with Tahkenitch the best for numbers and Siltcoos having the largest average size. Another 15-inch perch was caught out of South Tenmile Lake last week.

The coastal coho lakes are still producing salmon and will continue to do so until at least mid-December. Over the last few weeks there were a few anglers fishing Tenmile Creek below the Hilltop Drive Bridge – claiming to be fishing for winter steelhead.

From ODF&W

Expo Pond at the Jackson County Fairgrounds and Reinhart Park Pond in Grants Pass were freshly stocked in time for Thanksgiving weekend.

Around 400 summer steelhead excess to broodstock needs at Cole Rivers Hatchery were released back into the fishery in the vicinity of Touvelle State Park before Thanksgiving as well.

Continue to look for recent rains to bring Chinook into the Chetco, Elk and Winchuck rivers.

With December around the corner, anglers may want to start thinking steelhead on the lower Rogue River. One of the best methods to target winter steelhead is plunking a Spin ‘n Glo off bank. Before heading out, anglers will want to check river flows and fish when flows are dropping.

Recreational fishing for bottomfish opened on Oct. 1 outside 40 fathoms but only for anglers using “long-leader” gear only. The daily bag limit for the long-leader fishery has been increased to 10 marine fish but retention of black rockfish, cabezon, lingcod, and other nearshore rockfish (blue, deacon, china, copper, and quillback rockfishes) are not allowed at any depth for the remainder of the 2017 season.

Anglers using the “long leader” gear have reported good catches, but it took a little getting used to the long dropper weight.

Eastern – Avid angler Tim Moran reports:

Deschutes River – Steelhead yes steelhead. They’re still a viable option but they act more like trout now.  They are best targeted from Warm Springs to Maupin. Use a big stonefly nymph or a jig fly and a bead trailer below a big strike indicator (bobber) or if you’re using spin gear a jig and bobber combo is the ticket.      

Metolius River – Snow in the forecast this weekend and then cool dry weather forecast for the rest of the week. Most of the action has been on small nymphs and small egg patterns as the whitefish spawn has occurred. Pheasant Tails, midges and any assortment of small nymphs will take fish nymph fishing.  As lead is not allowed I always fish a bigger weighted fly and another smaller one 20 to 30 inches behind it.   

Grande Ronde River – Steelhead fishing took a big dip with the weather.  Rain and melting snow up top pushed the river up near 5000 CFS.  It’s on the drop now and fishing should be great this week with the cooler (but not freezing) dry weather forecast this coming week.    

Snake River – The Snake is a good bet right now because it can absorb a lot of water and stay in reasonable shape. Side drifting puff balls soaked in your favorite scent is a good way to go to put a chromer in the boat!     

Columbia river above Bonneville – Coho fishing at the mouths of tributaries is waning but there are still a few die hard’s getting fish.  

The weather is turning quickly now, and my reports will mainly focus on the rivers above as for the rest of the rivers on the east side I don’t get many reports from this time of year..and try as I might…I can’t fish them all!   

Good luck if you’re able to get out this weekend! 

SW Washington – Mainstem Grays from the mouth upstream to the Hwy. 4 Bridge and West Fork from 300 yards below the salmon hatchery road bridge upstream to the hatchery intake/footbridge – Effective November 16, the night closure, antisnagging rules, and stationary gear rule restrictions are no longer be in effect.

Mainstem Grays from Hwy. 4 Bridge upstream to the South Fork and West Fork Grays River from mouth upstream to 300 yards below hatchery road bridge – Opens to fishing for hatchery steelhead, hatchery coho, and adipose and/or ventral fin clipped Chinook beginning December 1.

Green River, North Fork Toutle River, and mainstem Toutle River from mouth to forks – November 30 is the last day to fish for hatchery steelhead and hatchery coho.

Outlet Creek (Cowlitz Co.) – November 30 is the last day to fish for hatchery steelhead and hatchery salmon.

South Fork Toutle River – From 4100 Bridge upstream, November 30 is the last day to fish for hatchery steelhead and hatchery coho. The mouth to the bridge remains open to fishing for hatchery steelhead with selective gear rules in effect beginning December 1.

Mill Creek (tributary to Cowlitz River) – Beginning December 1, opens to fishing for hatchery steelhead, hatchery sea run cutthroats, and hatchery salmon from the mouth to the salmon hatchery road crossing culvert. Selective gear rules, night closures and anti-snagging rules will be in effect for this one month fishery.

Cowlitz River – From the I-5 Br. downstream: 11 bank rods had no catch. No boat anglers were sampled. Upstream from the I-5 Br: 18 bank rods kept 1 jack and 8 adult coho and released 7 adult coho. 1 boat rod had no catch. Under permanent rules, the night closure and anti-snagging rule is lifted from Mill Creek upstream to the Barrier Dam effective Dec. 1.

Klickitat River – Under permanent rules, the Klickitat River from Fishway #5 upstream closes to fishing for salmon and trout (including hatchery steelhead) beginning December 1. The whitefish only season from 400 feet above Fishway #5 upstream to the Yakama Reservation boundary begins December 1. Whitefish gear rules will be in effect.


Swift Reservoir from the dam upstream to the Eagle Cliff Bridge – No report on angling success. Remains open to fishing through November 30. Until then, the daily limit is 10 hatchery rainbows. Landlocked salmon rules are in effect (salmon count towards the trout daily limit); however, all salmon larger than 15 inches must be released. Recent plants of one-pound rainbows into SW WA waters. No report on angling success.

Below: Chris Vertopoulos (right) and Robby Davis with limits of Wilson River Chinook from the 2016 season

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