Management Gone Right

By Bob Rees

It’s been about two months since I’ve spent any measureable time on the water here in Oregon. Can’t say I felt I was missing much, when late-run Chinook catches were grim, the rivers were high, and the rain cold and ample. Even the drive down from Portland to the coast tonight seemed unusually long. Been a while since I’ve been on Highway 6, when I used to travel it so much.

I often tell folks that I don’t mind the rain here in Oregon. I guess that makes me a true Oregonian, 6th generation, in fact. I don’t think it necessarily impresses anyone, but it makes them glad they live somewhere else in the country; mission achieved.

I drove down to spend some time with Al Noraker, a sportfishing icon that has worked for several different outdoor companies, including a 2 decade stint in my home state. Can’t say when we planned this trip that I was all that excited. The rainy season was here with a vengeance, and surely it was only going to be colder and wetter come early December. Al was here to field test a new line of fishing rods. He has an incredible background in designing rods, a passion for salmon and steelhead and a great respect for our outdoor opportunities here in Oregon. OK, my enthusiasm was building, but it wasn’t just about field testing a batch of nice, new rods.

I left Portland noticing a stiff east wind. I likely wouldn’t have paid such attention if it hadn’t been raining for the last 2 months straight, and moreover, I wasn’t going fishing on the coast the next day. Just as I was entering the no cell coverage zone, I felt it was necessary to check the ocean weather. After all, it is opportunity that gets one excited.

After I punched through the coast range, I dialed up the marine forecast and my anticipation jumped a beat. East wind equals small swell, equals ocean fishing and crabbing. Well, crabbing anyway. First of all, it isn’t all that often that an east wind blows in December, laying the seas flat to the tune of a 4 foot swell every 14 seconds. Yes, that’s a friendly sea. Couple that with an extended crab closure (remains closed to commercial crabbing due to low meat content in the shell, and it closed to recreational crabbing on October 15th) and an unmolested crab population for the last 7 weeks and things get exciting! I know, it doesn’t take much.

I don’t even gorge on crab like many of my family members. My Dad particularly LOVES crab. No matter how much I bring to the house for him, he doesn’t seem to tire of it, I can’t seem to get him to say, “No, I’m good for now.” The last set of the season yielded 96 keeper crab for just 4 pots. It’s been ridiculous. And for whatever reason, there’s no better sight than hauling up a pot full of crustaceans that fetches $8.00/lb. in the supermarket.

There will be something oddly out of place however. Despite super friendly seas, we won’t get to wet a line for fish, as in any fish. Salmon season is closed and the salmon and albacore fishing during peak season was slow enough, that most anglers justified targeting bottomfish, not to mention it was great fishing all summer long.

This story is all too familiar however. Bottomfish limits used to be nil. In other words, there was no limit. When ocean salmon fishing went belly up in the 70’s and 80’s, anglers turned to bottomfish and found the flesh to be quite delectable, fantastic as a matter of fact. So too did the lingcod stocks and groundfish stocks soon plummet.

Time and time again, we’ve proven what just a few generations ago we could not believe. “There were so many salmon, we pitchforked them out of the river!” Or, “We just tossed those trash fish sea bass as we couldn’t keep them off our hook while fishing for salmon!” Our fish stocks are vulnerable, they can be fished out, and without proper management in place such as the Magnuson Stevens Act, they will disappear.

It brings me to the question, what is Earth’s carrying capacity? Thank God for search engines. I found this article pretty informative. It states that Earth’s carrying capacity is about 9 to 10 billion people. We’re at about 7 billion now, and climbing of course. It seems we’d hit that magical 10 billion number around 2100. Maybe not so ironic, the same time frame a plethora of scientists believe salmon populations in the lower Pacific Coast states will be nothing but a remnant run of fish. I’ve written about the Salmon 2100 project several times before.

So, the crab pots are loaded up, sandwiches in the cooler, and maybe we’ll even soak a herring for an unlikely Chinook, and see what Mother Nature brings us in the 57 degree afternoon tomorrow. Wait, WHAT? It may be tough for me to convince Al that it really DOES rain here all the time in Oregon.

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Oregon Fishing Reports for Dec 8

Willamette Valley/Metro – There remains no activity on the lower Columbia River.

The Willamette River is still harboring sturgeon, and in good numbers. Few still pursue them however, despite the good action and quality size. We’ve become a keeper society. We hope to have more information on 2018 catch and keep seasons by next week.

Plunkers working Meldrum Bar should also start to find a few more steelhead, although wild fish are likely to be more common than hatchery fish this time of year.

Nicer weather has metro steelheaders wondering what they can do on their favorite stream systems. Although still many weeks away from substantive opportunity, that won’t stop the die-hards, especially in a moderate weather pattern.

Both the Sandy and Clackamas are unlikely to yield impressive results this early in the season, but you can’t catch any from your couch. Stick with the lower reaches of the river, there are fish present. The Sandy will get the worst of the east winds this week, and it can be bitter cold on that river under these circumstances. Veteran steelheaders know better by now.

Northwest – River systems in the northwest district have finally come down and are all in fishable condition. There remains a few Chinook, but steelhead are on the minds of many. Although not present in big numbers, catchable numbers are here, and it will only get better from here.

Gnat Creek, Big Creek, the Klaskanine and Necanicum Rivers will offer the best options on the far north coast, with hot spots likely closer to the hatcheries than downstream. The Klaskanine and Necanicum should have fish that are more dispersed since there is no hatchery present.

In Tillamook County, the North Fork Nehalem and Three Rivers will likely produce the best results for small stream fishermen, but the Wilson and to a lesser extent, the Trask and Nestucca should boot out a few hatchery and a rare wild steelhead this early in the season. Trask fish are likely strays from the Wilson.

The Siletz remains on the slow side, but should pick up next month. The Alsea system has some fish available. It often peaks right around Christmas and that won’t likely change this year.

Chinook fishermen are still plying Tillamook Bay in hopes of a December Chinook. They are rare, but persistent effort does pay off. And by persistent, I mean many days of effort. A few are still being caught in the Ghost Hole. The Wilson has a few Chinook as well, and the Kilchis even fewer.

The ocean was surprisingly pleasant on Thursday (12/7). Too bad bottomfishing options are so limited. Locations where bottomfishing might be good are far enough offshore to cause a problem when the east wind is blowing. Nearshore crabbing is fair at best; another surprise given how productive October was. Four pots yielded only 20 keepers just to the south of Tillamook Bay for us today (Thursday). There were a couple of dandy’s however.

Southwest – From Pet Heley at www.PeteHeley.com

As of Dec. 1st, recreational crabbing in the ocean is now legal – subject to the existing closures along the Oregon coast. There is some confusion because the commercial crabbers have not started their season yet. The commercial crabbers voluntary delay is due to low meat content in ocean crabs.

Because of rough ocean and bar conditions, most recreational crabbing in southern Oregon is taking place in the first 1.5 miles of the Umpqua River above the ocean and in Coos Bay.

As of last weekend, all the crabbing docks in Winchester Bay were producing crabs, but the most dock last week was the old Coast Guard Pier – which happens to be the “dock-crabbing” option that is closest to the ocean and true saltwater.

Looking for a really good “outdoors-related” job? The new Office of Outdoor Recreation will hire a director in the coming months – and the pay scale tops out at more than $97,000 per year. Check out the Parks and Recreation website for more information.

The hunting and fishing regulation booklets for 2018 are now out and 2018 licenses and tags can now be purchased. Changes from last year, of which there are relatively few, are highlighted in bright yellow. One ironic note regarding the 2018 regulations for Diamond Lake is that it is illegal to keep tiger trout or brown trout.

Salmon fishing is just about over. Siltcoos, Tahkenitch and Tenmile are still producing some cohos but most of the recent catches seem to be salmon that have been in the lakes awhile and the numbers of newly-arriving salmon has been disappointing. The same can be said for the late-run chinook salmon runs on the Elk and Sixes rivers.

Winter steelhead fishing is going well on most streams and the portion of Tenmile Creek downstream of the Hilltop Drive Bridge in Lakeside became legal on Dec. 1st. However, Eel Creek, the stream’s major tributary, does not open until January 1st.

From ODF&W

Rains late this week are expected to increase river flows significantly. Anglers need to pay extra attention to water levels and floating debris this year due to impacts from the Chetco Bar fire. Anglers will want to check flows and USFS road closures before fishing the river.

A few anglers have been fishing the East Fork Millicoma and South Fork Coos rivers in search of the first returning winter steelhead. Anglers fishing the South Fork Coos River above Dellwood will need a permit from Weyerhaeuser, which they can pick up at the Weyerhaeuser Coos Bay office. In the Coos Basin 1 additional hatchery steelhead may be retained per day for a total aggregate of 3 adult fish harvested daily.

Galesville Reservoir should have good numbers of trout from previous stockings. In addition to trout, the reservoir was stocked with coho smolts until 2015. Many people mistakenly think these fish are kokanee. The coho smolts should be adipose fin-clipped, and please remember to release the ones less than 8-inches long.

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.

Eastern – Avid angler Tim Moran reports:

Deschutes River, same story – there are steelhead around and they’re worth targeting above Maupin. The wind could be a big problem or fog if there’s no wind.

Owyhee River Fishing has been pretty good on the river this past week. Metolius River from the guys at the Fly Fisher’s place in Sisters – The river is fishing well from Allingham to Gorge mostly in nymphs, although a friend told me the fish were rising to BWO’s yesterday afternoon about 1 PM.

Bull Trout fishing is still good with some very big fish coming to streamers down near the hatchery and 99. Grande Ronde River is holding up well. Steelhead will continue to be the ticket until it gets too cold to fish.

Crooked River – From Flyfishers Place – Also good. Water temps are getting cold now so the fish are a little more lethargic, but a well drifted nymph and correctly weighted leader is still very effective to put up some numbers.

SW Washington – From WDF&W

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br. downstream: 7 bank rods had no catch. Upstream from the I-5 Br: 54 bank rods kept 8 adult coho and released 7 adult coho and 1 cutthroat. No boat anglers were sampled.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 12,100 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Monday, December 4. Water visibility is two feet and water temperature is 47.5 degrees F.

Kalama River – 7 bank anglers had no catch.

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Oregon Fishing Reports for December 2

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 www.PeteHeley.com

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.

Trout

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

There is always more Oregon fishing information delivered earlier on our site, The Guide’s Forecast.  You can also sign-up for our weekly emails here.

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Thanksgiving: We are a Privileged People

by Bob Rees

It’s been a fun few weeks for me. For one, I’m off the water, out of the weather, working on fish conservation for my favorite organization, The Association of Northwest Steelheaders. This incredible organization has been a leader on fish issues for the last 57 years, with about 50 of those as an all-volunteer organization. How cool is it that I get to build on their historic successes, as they continue to pour over 30,000 volunteer hours into our fisheries each and every year. Thank you for allowing me to lead such an incredible organization! Won’t you join us?

We pulled off a great 30th annual Hall of Fame banquet on Veteran’s Day. We were so honored to have the color guard there, and our members in uniform that served in the military. Our keynote speaker was an incredible person, Brett Miller, who’s done amazing work to get Veteran’s involved in outdoor recreation. We’re so thankful for our Veteran’s. Check out our River Ambassador Program!

How cool is it that I got to venture into the almost exact middle of the great state of Oregon, in search of a Rocky Mountain Elk for food and sport in the wild lands of the Maury Mountains with long-time friends and fellow sportsmen. I harvested an impressive 5-point bull there 17 years ago, yet never saw an elk there for a hard 5-day attempt. Even though our historically productive happy hunting grounds were bare of any elk, we saw a lot of deer, some antelope and a large flock of wild turkeys. Bear and cougar tracks abound as well. It’s just such an incredible privilege to have the opportunity to do this, with the vast amounts of public lands we have here in Oregon, and the management practices our Department of Fish and Wildlife put forth to provide our fish and game. It’s also a reality check as to how dead we’d be as humans, without grocery stores! Civilized man stands no chance.

The Maury Mountains: It’s nice to go terrestrial sometimes!

I was in Seattle just last week, enjoying fresh oysters near Safeco field, with some of my colleagues also very interested in protecting the strong provisions of the Magnuson Stevens Act. Admittedly, I was a bit out of my element as a large commercial fishing expo was underway at the convention center, a rather different crowd than my friends in the sportfishing industry. I was so privileged however, to be amongst another incredible group of stakeholders that need viable populations of ocean seafood to make their businesses work. It’s a bit different from my industry. A fishing guide can sell hope and entertain with stories and jokes, our commercial fishing fleet has to put product on the market to feed his or her family. That’s the stark difference between our industries.

I used to be better connected with the commercial fleet, when I was an observer in the Bering Sea WAY back in the early 1990’s. There are concerned and conservation minded individuals everywhere, these folks have been through the thick and thin and remain staunch advocates for our ocean’s health. I was grateful to get to know more of them the other week.

I’m thankful that we just finished up our last vacuum packed sea bass, in the form of fish tacos. It was a great bottomfishing year, but when will the seas calm again, let alone be open for harvest after a robust season that saw much pressure due to a poor salmon and tuna year. We must be thankful that this resource is managed intensively enough to know that we’ll have ample numbers of quality fish waiting for our baits and lures when the timing is right again soon.

I have a family that is tolerant and supportive of my passion to fish, and protect fish, and a mother, father, and two brothers that supported my drive for this sport, and a community of people that look out for each other and help make each other successful in our endeavors.

And how about Dr. Henry Hughes, an incredibly accomplished writer and Professor of English at Western Oregon University complimenting me on this column, but more importantly, an appreciation for the conservation ethic so many of us have adopted for the future of our natural resources. Dr. Hughes, I’m not worthy, but thank you!

But here’s the real bottom line. How privileged are we, that we get to fish, hunt and crab for an incredible resource that’s just outside our doorstep? I only spend an all too brief of a moment, when I write a check for a mere $35.00 to the Portland Rescue Mission every Thanksgiving, giving me a false sense of satisfaction that I’m making a real difference for some of the homeless on Portland’s streets, that they too get to eat a hot turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. And they have it good. So many other countries don’t have fresh water, don’t have enough food to eat and a warm place to sleep.

We, as American’s CAN afford to conserve our resources for future generations of sport and commercial fishers, and our seafood consuming communities. Sometimes, we just need the political will to do so, and sometimes, even that is not enough.

We are a privileged people, let’s continue to act that way. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Oregon Fishing Reports for November 24th

Willamette Valley/Metro – With the Columbia all done for the year, the Willamette high and muddy, with a chance for a sturgeon, and the Sandy and Clackamas Rivers too high, we’re getting off pretty easy this week here at The Guide’s Forecast. Moreover, anglers are justified in spending quality time with their families in the living room, instead of in a solitary location along some blown-out riverbank.

Trout fishing anyone? Here’s the stocking schedule for your region, and it’s free on black Friday and whatever Saturday. I’m not sure you’ll enjoy the weather however.

Hopefully, we’ll have more to report next week, but despite poor water conditions, we’re between runs, so you’re really not missing anything.

Northwest – It’s been much the same along the north Oregon coast. High waters and few fish, but there have been a few bright Chinook, wild coho and some spent chum salmon (now illegal to target) taken from the smaller streams, such as the Kilchis and, Trask and Wilson Rivers.

The smaller streams were blown out on Wednesday however; the North Fork Nehalem was over 70″ in the morning, with a little more precipitation on the way before a “drawdown” over the weekend. Still no recent reports of steelhead in the district.

It’s just been a miserable place to recreate as of late, even in our more protected bays and tidewaters.

Southwest – From Pet Heley at www.PeteHeley.com

As of 11/23
The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announce the reopening of recreational and commercial bay crabbing from the north jetty of the Coquille River to the north jetty of Coos Bay. The reopening includes crab harvested in bays and estuaries, and on beaches, docks, piers, and jetties. Crab samples taken from the area indicate levels of domoic acid have dropped and remain below the alert level.

Recreational crabbing – Currently open in all bays and estuaries that are not under the health advisory; opens after Dec. 1 in ocean areas where biotoxins are below the alert level.

A last-minute update from the ODFW and ODA announced that the area between the North Jetty at Charleston and Tahkenitch Creek will remain open to crabbing while the coastal stretch from Tahkenitch Creek to Cape Foulweather (south of Depoe Bay) is now closed to crabbing.

For the most up-to-date crabbing information visit: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/shellfish/commercial/crab/season_weekly_updates.asp

The heavy rains got fresh salmon into the coastal coho lakes and south coast rivers. While anglers may have to wait a few days to fish for the jumbo chinooks the south coast rivers are famous for, the coho salmon lakes should remain clear enough to fish.

Bradley Lake, stocked during the last week in October, is the last lake to receive planted trout along the Oregon coast, but Butterfield and Saunders both have fishable numbers of uncaught stocked trout.

A few skilled and determined bass anglers are still catching a few bass, but the catch of anglers using lures designed to appeal to both bass and salmon on Siltcoos, Tahkenitch and Tenmile lakes has consisted almost entirely of salmon and larger trout.

ODFW is waiving all fishing licensing requirements on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to #optoutside with friends and family during the long holiday weekend.

On Nov. 24 and 25, 2017, all fishing, crabbing and clamming in Oregon will be free for both Oregon residents and non-residents. That means no licenses, tags or endorsements are needed on those days. All other fishing regulations apply.

And from ODF&W
#OptOutside on black Friday, Nov. 24 with the help of FREE FISHING. On Friday and Saturday (Nov.25) you won’t need a license, tag or endorsement to fish, crab or clam anywhere in Oregon that is open to fishing. Follow us on social media to learn more about upcoming opportunities.

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

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

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

Middle Rogue River – Hatchery coho salmon and summer steelhead are available. One report listed red-colored plugs as producing the best success for boat anglers between Grants Pass and Grave Creek. Spinners, spoons and nightcrawlers caught fish for bank anglers.

The Umpqua River Mainstem – Chinook fishing is about over in the Umpqua. Most fish have moved onto the spawning grounds. From July 1– Dec. 31, anglers can harvest two wild Chinook per day, and in combination with the other salmon/ steelhead recorded on your salmon tag, up to 20 fish total.

Eastern – From our friend Tim Moran

Deschutes River – With the really warm weather I would fish above the White River this weekend. Steelhead are still in play above and just below Maupin.

Metolius River – Fishing is good on the river and will continue to be good until the weather gets really cold. BWO’s, PMD’s in 18 to 22 should take trout on top and Pheasant Tails, midges and any assortment of small nymphs will take fish nymph fishing.

Grande Ronde River – Steelhead fishing is good in the GRR. This is a remote river a long way from almost anywhere so I’d recommend hiring a guide if you’re not familiar so that you can get on the fish right away.

Snake River – The Lower Snake is now open to the retention of A run (mostly hatchery) fish. Fishing is good in the Heller Bar area and downstream.

Columbia river above Bonneville – Guys are still getting Coho at the mouths of tributaries including the White Salmon and Klickitat.

SW Washington – Here’s what WDF&W provided in this week’s report:

Cowlitz River – From the I-5 Br. downstream: 13 bank rods kept 2 adult coho. 5 boat rods kept 3 adult coho and released 2. Above the I-5 Br: 104 bank rods kept 1 jack and 43 adult coho and released 31 adult coho. 31 boat rods kept 16 adult coho and released 3 adult Chinook and 12 adult coho.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 10,300 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Monday, November 20. Water visibility is seven feet and water temperature is 50 degrees F.

Lower Hanford Reach Steelhead Fishery – From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW Fish and Wildlife Biologist in Pasco WA – Steelhead fishing continues to be slow to fair in the lower Hanford Reach. Bank anglers have averaged a steelhead for 20.5 hours of fishing. Boat anglers are doing considerably better at 1.1 steelhead per boat (9.3 hours per fish). WDFW staff has interviewed 144 bank anglers fishing for steelhead in November with 47 steelhead caught and 33 hatchery steelhead harvested. Staff interviewed 22 boats (62 anglers) with 25 steelhead caught and 15 harvested. The majority of the steelhead caught are double clipped and legal to harvest. Daily limit is one steelhead per day and the steelhead must have both an adipose and ventral fin clip (through December 31). This year’s return to Ringold Springs Hatchery is estimated at 816 steelhead.

 

There is always more Oregon fishing information delivered earlier on our site, The Guide’s Forecast.  You can also sign-up for our weekly emails here.

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Oregon Fishing Reports for November 17th

Willamette Valley/Metro – There are no options on the Columbia River, you won’t see any quality reports in this section until mid-February at the earliest for the Columbia River section.

Hatchery coho options are next to nil on the Sandy and Clackamas Rivers. Wild coho are certainly an option, and numbers aren’t all that bad for those that enjoy catch and release opportunities. Both rivers have come up in recent days, but not out of the realm of possibility. It will be a bit challenging finding wild fish on the Sandy as they move through the system so rapidly, but the Clackamas may provide some opportunity in the deeper pools when flows settle down. Eagle Creek did boast a run of around 5,000 returning adults.

The Willamette remains a good option for catch and release sturgeon fishing. That should stay the case through the weekend, but high water is certain to follow, making boating conditions a bit hazardous after the weekend if the river prediction comes to fruition.

From the Hagg Lake Facebook page – Henry Hagg Lake is one of the lucky recipients to receive a surplus of trout in the tune of 2 truckloads from the O.D.F.W.. Today the lake was stocked with 30,000 fingerlings and 8,000 legals ranging from 8″ to 14″. Buy a parking pass and try your luck at catching one. Saturday’s weather looks promising!

Northwest – Most river systems are done for the year. Tillamook remains the strongest option, with the Wilson and Kilchis putting out the best numbers for late-run fall Chinook. The Tillamook Bay fishery is extremely spotty.

The Kilchis River should be an option over the weekend, but the Wilson likely won’t fish until early next week, Sunday at the earliest. Don’t expect explosive results as this fishery has already shown its face; it’s a sub-par return of fall Chinook this season.

It’s still too early for winter steelhead, but not out of the realm of possibility. Smaller systems such as the Necanicum and North Fork Nehalem will be the best early season options, but no steelhead reported yet. Both systems were too high to fish at this writing (Thursday).

No ocean fishing, but bay crabbing remains an option on Tillamook, Nehalem and Netarts Bays. Note the central coast closure as outlined here. Let’s hope it doesn’t continue to creek to the north so we have some options for Thanksgiving snacks! The lower Columbia remains the best option for coastal crab.

Southwest Sport Ocean Salmon

The Elk River Terminal Area Chinook Salmon season will be open from Nov. 1-30 within the described boundaries with a limit of 2 Chinook per day but no more than 1 non fin-clipped Chinook per day and 10 non fin-clipped seasonal aggregate limit combined with the Elk River, Sixes River, New River, and Floras Creek.

On black Friday, Nov. 24 with the help of FREE FISHING. On Friday and Saturday (Nov.25) you won’t need a license, tag or endorsement to fish, crab or clam anywhere in Oregon that is open to fishing.

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

Trout anglers in the Rogue should be very excited with releases of excess rainbow trout recently. Most Rogue lakes have been freshly stocked for the fall months. Waterbodies offering fresh opportunity include Lake Selmac, Applegate Reservoir, Lost Creek Reservoir, Agate Lake, Willow Lake and Medco Pond.

CHETCO RIVER: Chinook, rains late this week are expected to increase river flows significantly.

Chinook salmon fishing is still open in the Coos Basin although majority of the fish have move up river to spawn.

ELK RIVER: Chinook, most anglers are fishing the estuary. Rains late in the week should improve fishing conditions in the river.

Rogue River, lower: Anglers plunking off gravel bars in the lower river have been doing well for steelhead and coho. Rains late in the week will raise flows and probably make for some tough fishing conditions.

Steelhead fishing has continued to be good in Grants Pass at Griffin Park, Schroeder Park and near the footbridge area by Reinhardt Park. Steelhead anglers should be aware of spawning Chinook, and avoid spooking fish off their redds.

UMPQUA RIVER, MAINSTEM: Chinook fishing in the estuary has slowed. Bank anglers in Half Moon Bay and the boat basin have also seen a decline in catch rates. There have been reports of folks catching fish throughout the main.

From our friend Pete Heley at PeteHeley.com

As of 11/16

Ocean waters are closed to Dungeness crab Oct. 16 – Nov. 30.
Areas closed to crab harvest, including bays and estuaries:
Tahkenitch Creek (north of Winchester Bay and Reedsport) north to Cape Foulweather (north of Newport).
North jetty of Coos Bay south to the California border.

Areas open to crab harvest:
North jetty of Coos Bay north to Tahkenitch Creek.
North of Cape Foulweather to the Columbia River.

Call the Shellfish Safety Hotline before harvesting​ 1-800-448-2474​

The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s (ODA) shellfish biotoxin hotline is toll free and is updated immediately when shellfish toxins reach the alert level. The hotline is your best source for up-to-date clam, crab, and mussel closure information. ​

Chinook salmon fishing is pretty much over except for the late-run fish in the smaller to mid-size streams along the southern Oregon coast.

Additional good news for Winchester Bay crabbers is that the Coast Guard Pier is slated for major renovation which should be completed by mid-March. When completed and the actual cost of the renovation is revealed, those unhappy with the Douglas County Parking Pass will have much less reason to gripe.

The coastal salmon lakes should have fresh salmon entering them after last weekend’s rains. All three lakes were producing a few fish each day last week, but salmon numbers should be much better with additional rainfall.

A few winter steelhead should be entering the Umpqua River which always seems to receive its winter steelhead a month earlier than other area streams. The earliest catches seem to occur between Family Camp and Elkton.

Crappie fishing at Tugman Park on Eel Lake has come to a screeching halt. The fish were becoming fewer and the bites even more tentative, but I think the main reason for the bite stoppage is that the crappie moved.

Anglers targeting surfperch, because inshore bottomfishing is off limits, need to be cautious as stormy weather has created hazardous beach conditions.

Eastern – Sorry, no Eastern Oregon news as of late, paid subscribers may check back tomorrow to see if our friend Tim Moran has any updates. Thank you!

SW Washington – Here’s what WDF&W provided in this week’s report:

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br. downstream: 27 bank anglers with 1 adult coho kept and 1 released. I-5 Br. upstream: 70 bank anglers with 41 adult coho kept and 1 adult Chinook and 24 adult coho released. No bank anglers were sampled.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 1,751 coho adults, 170 coho jacks, 38 fall Chinook adults, 32 cutthroat trout, and five summer-run steelhead during six days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator. During the past week, Tacoma Power employees released 97 coho adults and 26 coho jacks into the Cispus River near the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek, and they released 112 coho adults and 20 coho jacks at Franklin Bridge in Packwood. Tacoma Power released 832 coho adults, 58 coho jacks, five fall Chinook adults, and nine cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and they released 439 coho adults, 32 coho jacks and two cutthroat trout into Lake Scanewa near Randle.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 6,740 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Monday, November 13. Water visibility is five feet and water temperature is 51.3 degrees F.

 

There is always more Oregon fishing information delivered earlier on our site, The Guide’s Forecast.  You can also sign-up for our weekly emails here.

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The Lay of the Land

By Bob Rees

The rain has set in. Maybe it’s not officially winter just yet, but cold, damp and darkness is in the air, and we’re all supposed to have our freezers full of fish, and turn our attention to terrestrial species. My elk hunt starts on Saturday, November 4th, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting to finally shake the salt from my skin and get to the more sparsely treed region of the state, where one can see wildlife across the landscape, not really possible in the Tillamook State Forest, given its dense Doug fir stands.

I’m 22 years into my Oregon professional guiding career and even though I’ll be 350 miles away from “work,” I’m pretty sure I’ll still be looking at the hydrograph and wondering when I’ll get back on the water in pursuit of late-season Chinook. Frankly, these days however, I’m a bit more motivated by any opportunity to pursue lingcod or sea bass, a perfect fish and chips winter treat. Due to a quota that most would say was prematurely attained, the soonest that would happen would be January 1st.

It’s a bit odd, bizarre in fact, bottomfishing is closed, ocean salmon fishing is closed, ocean crabbing and halibut fishing is closed. Here we have one of the world’s greatest producers of protein, and we have nothing to harvest. I’m not arguing the management strategy, but it’s noteworthy in one of the best managed fisheries in the world, we still have a set of complex regulations to maintain healthy stocks of fish for future generations of fishers.

Maybe more bizarre, was my presence at the Longview coal terminal rally on Thursday (November 2nd). Still at stake is the concept of siting a coal terminal on the banks of the lower Columbia, so we can export cheap coal to China and other Asian countries, as a source of energy. I think the quote of the day was, “We can no longer plead ignorance as to the effects of coal on our ecosystems!”

An October 3rd article in The Guardian talks about the current state of our oceans and how carbon emissions are not something we wait for to intensify, we’re already feeling the effects, even in my home state of Oregon. The article states how juvenile oyster spat are already dying at alarming rates due to acidifying oceans, and if it wasn’t for some quick solutions thanks to science, there likely wouldn’t be an oyster industry on the Pacific Coast. The article also states that 70% of the world’s fish populations are currently being over-exploited as we speak. It seems we’re still far from solving the crisis on a world-wide scale, no matter how well our US fisheries are managed.

As we plied the waters of the lower Columbia, taking a television reporter and cameraman to visit the site where the coal terminal is likely to be constructed, it was also odd seeing empty fishing shacks, and having the boat trailer parking lot all to ourselves. Even the fish think it’s time to go terrestrial.

Fishermen are retreating to their wood stove stoked homes, hopefully with enough cash flow to carry them through the winter months. It seems it’s getting more difficult to make a living as a fisherman, and depending on what piece of legislation progresses in Congress, it may become even more difficult.

We’ve been reporting on Congressman Don Young’s HR 200. Anytime you see the word “flexibility” in the title however, you may want to be skeptical. Flexibility is best left to fisheries managers, not politicians. Congressman Garret Graves Bill would wrestle management away from the federal government, and hand it over to the states. Local control always sounds better, but provisions in this bill would allow for overfishing, putting future fisheries, both recreational and commercial, at risk.

It’s hard to wrap our minds around why we should care about these attacks on the Magnuson Stevens Act here on the Pacific Coast, but the fact of the matter is, it opens a door, sets a precedent, as to how fisheries can be managed in other regions of the county. Just imagine, what if we were allowed to continue to harvest lingcod, seabass and cabezon after the mid-September closing. With great ocean weather this fall, and abundant and willing stocks of bottomfish, we’d put a significant dent in the population and future recruitment would be compromised.

In all that we don’t know about our fishery abundance, it’s been an appropriate trend to manage more conservatively, not liberally, and it’s served us and the resource well. In years of clear abundance, we have ample opportunity. In years of declining abundance, it’s best to get ahead of the curve, and stave off longer rebuilding timelines that would be required to ensure a future for our fisheries. That trend started 2 decades ago, now is not the time to turn back the clock.

Lauryn Neely with a honeymoon Chinook from Tillamook Bay in late October (guide Bob Rees)

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