Willamette Valley/Metro – Fishery biologists came out with the 2018 spring Chinook forecast last week, and although far from the previous highs of the early 2000’s, it’s a respectable 166,700. That is about 51,000 more returning adults then what actually returned in 2017. Of course we all know how volatile these returning numbers can be, but stakeholders will begin to craft a season in the coming months. This will be the second year that the mainstem Columbia will be void of gillnets for the prized return. That said, it’s still too early to pursue spring Chinook, fishable numbers won’t be present until mid-March.
Meanwhile, steelheaders are encountering an occasional winter steelhead on the Clackamas River, and the Sandy may be the better early season bet for those that can tolerate a bitter east wind. Both systems will produce better results by late January, but reports are coming from both that indicate catchable numbers are present. Rivers are dropping and clearing so a stealthy approach is necessary.
The Willamette is in good shape for the few steelheaders that recreate there, it’s more of a sturgeon show this time of year. Most are bypassing the sea lion laden system, hoping to pass enough steelhead upstream to sustain the run. Most of the steelhead are wild this time of year.
Northwest – As we enter peak season for the early component of winter steelhead, catches are picking up on the North Fork Nehalem, Three Rivers and the Wilson River as well. Cold temperatures warrant a later morning start, when temperatures warm up however. One guide reported a 3 steelhead day on the Wilson on Monday.
Side-drifters and bobber doggers aren’t catching boat loads of fish, but the fishable numbers justify meaningful effort. As flows drop, plugs and bobbers and jigs or worms should become more effective. Also, fish will utilize brush and rootwads more effectively as water levels drop.
Wild steelhead are starting to make a showing, but those numbers won’t be robust for another three of four weeks. The Trask and Nestucca also have a few fish available.
Chinook salmon anglers are finding it increasingly more difficult to stay motivated. There will be a rare fresh Chinook taken this week, most likely in Tillamook Bay, as river fish start to degrade in a swifter manner. Wilson River anglers may find a quality late Chinook however. One guide reported taking 2 bright Chinook in the Ghost Hole earlier this week.
Crabbers that took advantage of an overnight soak outside of Garibaldi in the ocean last weekend did exceptional for quality sized and grade Dungeness crab. A good set of morning tides next week should offer up some estuary opportunities, but the ocean forecast doesn’t look promising for safe crabbing. The commercial fleet remains sidelined until after the New Year.
Bottomfishing re-opens on January 1st, but with a reduction in bag limits. The daily limit is 5 fish/day for the seabass/bottomfish complex, but anglers are still allowed to take 2 lingcod/day in addition to your “marine fish” limit. Winter success rates are commonly fantastic when weather allows.
Southwest – From Pet Heley at www.PeteHeley.com
Crabbing at Winchester Bay continues to exceed expectations. Ocean crabbing near the Umpqua River Bar has been very good and most of the crabs have been relatively full. Half Moon Bay has been crabbing well.
Since Coos Bay has reopened for crabbing it has been very good, but Bandon remains closed.
Winter steelhead fishing is well underway and with the exception of Eel Creek (which opens Jan. 1st) most streams are open for fishing. Early catches on Tenmile Creek have been mostly unclipped, unkeepable fish.
Colder weather has slowed, but not stopped the yellow perch bite. Since they normally spawn between mid-February and late March, they should be approaching their peak weight for the year.
With the Chetco, Elk and Winchuck rivers running low and clear, anglers may want hit Garrison Lake for some trout fishing.
Winter steelhead should be arriving to Coos and Coquille rivers.
Winter steelhead fishing is picking up on the Umpqua.
Trolling for wild coho and holdover rainbow has yielded some quality fish in Tenmile Lakes.
Trout fishing has slowed at Diamond Lake after an excellent summer and early fall. Fishing can still be productive under the right conditions, but anglers need to be alert for light bites. Diamond Lake has been stocked with tiger trout. These fish are intended to assist in controlling illegally introduced tui chub. Tiger trout are catch-and-release only and need to be released immediately and unharmed if caught.
SW Washington – From WDF&W
Cowlitz River – From the I-5 Br downstream: 14 bank rods had no catch. Above the I-5 Br: 15 bank rods kept 2 adult coho and released 1 fish. River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 12,700 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Monday, December 11. Water visibility is four feet and water temperature is 42.8 degrees F.
Kalama River – 5 bank anglers had no catch.
Mainstem Lewis River – 34 bank rods kept 1 steelhead and released 1 fish.
North Fork Lewis River – 25 bank rods kept 3 steelhead and 1 adult coho and released 1 adult coho. 1 boat rod had no catch.