Willamette Valley Fishing Report – Spring Chinook anglers remain diligent but their efforts are not paying large dividends. Trollers working the I-5 to Cathlamet reach are producing occasional results but the gorge troll fishery remains the best bet for the few anglers fishing it. Anglers fishing at Cathlamet finally saw decent results on Thursday and test results from the last 16-drift effort showed improved numbers in the system along with a lot of wild steelhead making their way upstream. Unless sea lion predation becomes an issue again this season, catch rates should dramatically improve in the coming weeks. For the more inspired spring Chinook anglers, a weak tide series this weekend may produce good spring Chinook results in the estuary. Gillnetters working Young’s Bay took an inordinate number of upriver (listed) stocks of Chinook, leaving Young’s Bay wide open to sport harvest. Trolling the ledge at the mouth of Young’s Bay may be the best bet in the NW for anyone willing to do a little experimenting. Springers could be piling up in there and willing to bite on these smaller tides.
While we’ve been reporting on spring Chinook fishing in the lower Willamette for several weeks and not glowingly, this might be a good time to remind angers that the run is just getting started and the best by far is yet to come. Consider that harsh offshore conditions and extreme tides will slow the migration of salmon into ocean tributaries. Conditions are improving and tides are becoming softer now so Chinook will be coming. McKenzie flows increased from 2,500 cfs to 3,500 cfs at Vida with rain earlier this week but the water level rose only slightly. It has since dropped and cleared.
North Santiam water levels remain high at this writing, flows were around 2,000 cfs as the precipitation started this week and are currently 33,600. The prediction is for water levels to drop into the weekend, however. Rains this week brought fresh water into the Clackamas, which levels have continued to rise as of this morning, March 26th. water is forecast to start dropping later today and, depending on the color, it could fish but certainly will, and well, by the coming weekend. While still early to optimistically pursue spring Chinook, a handful have been caught on the lower river.
Water levels at the Sandy River rose about 15 inches and have just started dropping (as of mid-day on March 26th). Steelheading had been fair but steady prior to the increase in water levels.
Northwest – Steelheaders have been a bit turned off by the downturn in steelhead success in recent days. After such a productive early season, many, especially me, expected a strong finish to a strong season. That hasn’t been the case on most north coast systems, even as we’re coming off a nice river rise in the recent 24 hours.
Trask anglers are reporting low effort yet fair-at-best success fishing the lower reaches of the river. Of course most of the fish are wild but an occasional hatchery fish is hitting the floor. No real big brutes reported recently.
The Wilson and Nestucca systems have been sub-par recently with guides reporting a difficult time finding fresh fish in the system. Broodstock needs are likely met if not close to being met as the early season went very well. There should still be some fair fishing ahead but serious anglers will be looking to the Willamette Valley for our tasty spring Chinook now on tap.
With a volatile weather system on top of us, anglers have been denied safe and fun access to the ocean, despite anxious and willing bottomfish. The ocean Chinook season is also open right now with no reports of a sport effort, yet.
Weak tides this week won’t do much for clammers and crabbers will likely remain disappointed with estuary results. Sorry shellfishers, you’ll have to wait for better times that are sure to come this spring.
Central & South Coast Reports – Anglers casting for surf perch from area beaches have continued to take good numbers of large fish. Anglers on the Umpqua mainstem have shifted their focus to spring Chinook, particularly following the precipitation of earlier this week. Water levels are now dropping and clearing, increasing angler optimism. Boats launching out of Charleston have been taking quick limits of large ling cod in both shallow and deep water haunts. Catches of rockfish have also been good. Despite low water over the past weekend, boaters caught spring Chinook every day on the lower Rogue although bank fishers had a tough time in those conditions. Rogue level and flow peaked overnight on Tuesday this week and have been dropping and clearing since. Rain this week boosted levels. Water levels will return to pre-freshet levels by Saturday, March 28th according to NOAA forecasts. While winter steelheading is winding down on many south coast rivers, this time of year is historically the peak of the run on the Grants Pass stretch of the Rogue. Winter steelhead are scattered throughout the upper Rogue. Waters of the Chetco crested overnight this week on Tuesday, March 24th. With the water steadily dropping and the possibility of new fish enticed into the river by this freshet, steelheaders may as well give this one last shot as the Chetco closes to steelheading at sundown on Tuesday, March 31st. Diamond Lake received a foot of snow from the passing storm this week but most has melted and it should be only a memory by the weekend.
Central & Eastern – Weather forecasts or Bend and the Deschutes River are extremely appealing for the coming weekend. Just be certain to check the regulations to be certain the stretch you’d like to fish is actually open.
Trollers have been making good catches of kokanee at Lake Billy Chinook but one boat limited in less than half an hour this week on jigs. Some anglers are chasing bull trout after fishing kokanee and catching a few, too.
SW Washington- The Cowlitz River remains the only viable district river for steelhead and salmon and it is producing good results, especially for steelheaders. The late season steelhead fishery is in full bloom with boaters able to take the most advantage of ample returning adults. Spring Chinook is on the hook for the coming weeks but the peak is still 2 weeks away. Bank anglers are catching a few at the trout hatchery while springers are falling at the salmon hatchery.
Despite a fair Bonneville crossing, spring Chinook are not falling very regularly at the Drano Lake or Wind River fisheries. It won’t be long however before these fisheries turn on but in the meantime, the Columbia River Gorge is producing fair springer catches to the trollers working the Multnomah/Horsetail Falls areas.