Oregon Fishing Report for June 23

Willamette Valley/Metro – Despite the increased opportunity for salmon and steelhead on the mainstem Columbia, catches remained subdued as most would have expected. Chinook did outnumber a depressed steelhead run, and that will likely be the case for the remainder of the season. Bonneville boat and bank anglers are catching fish however, but beach plunkers working water downstream of Portland are coming across occasional success. Paid members be sure to check out our longer version report for the Columbia River. Now that the mainstem is open again, we’ll be reporting on it, of course!

Willamette River anglers continue to surprise with fair to good catch rates around the head of the Multnomah Channel. Trollers working spinners and even herring (a surprise in the warmer water) are doing fairly well with full day interest drawing a fair number of chances. This fishery is likely peaking about now. A nice bump in passage is also being seen at Willamette Falls; hopefully, there’s more fish to come.

Shad fishing remains good in Oregon City, especially on sunny days.

Clackamas anglers continue to struggle to find hatchery keepers, but catch rates are improving and remain fairly good for summer steelhead. The weekend splash and giggle crowd however will quell opportunity and success.

Sandy River anglers continue to target primarily summer steelhead but the upper reaches do harbor catchable numbers of spring Chinook. They will only hunker down even more as the weekend warm weather approaches.

Sturgeon action remains fair in the lower Willamette, but action is slowing as river sturgeon likely migrate to the lower Columbia in hopes of better forage.

Northwest – Spring Chinook anglers on Tillamook Bay continue to sing the  blues. It’s rarely a good day, but there have been some impressive sized fish landed recently. Of course those are of the wild variety, requiring release. Minus tides this weekend will focus effort in the upper bay, and last year, this is when fishing finally got good. It may be worth a try.

River anglers did see a nice bump in water levels late last weekend and a few boats did fairly well in the Trask and to a lesser extent the Wilson and Nestucca Rivers. River levels have dropped back down and the warm weather front will make success more challenging this weekend. For trout anglers too.

Only the nearshore is open for halibut this weekend. Wisely, the department discourages bar crossings during big tide exchanges such as the one predicted for this weekend. There is ample quota left in both the all-depth and nearshore fisheries. Be careful if you venture out on big blue this weekend. Be sure to check the last minute bar conditions and ocean forecast.

Bay crabbing will be tough this weekend, given the big tide exchange and all.

Razor clam digging remains closed.

Southwest – The Pacific halibut nearshore recreational fishery in the Columbia River Subarea will close for the remainder of 2017 effective 11:59 p.m., Friday, June 23.

Days on which Pacific halibut fishing is open will be announced on the NOAA Fisheries hotline (1-800-662-9825) and posted on the ODFW Marine Resources Program sport halibut webpage.

Although none of our local lakes have received a trout plant in more than two weeks, trout fishing in some lakes continues to be surprisingly productive. I visited Loon Lake last Tuesday and found the bass fishing disappointing – especially for larger bass, but the trout and panfish angling was exceptional. I hooked at least 30 trout and settled for a five trout limit and also caught double digit numbers of bluegills and smaller bass and landed eight crappies to boot. The lure I was using was a three-inch Berkley power worm threaded on a black 1/32nd ounce jig head. I’m sure other small lures would also have worked.

Siltcoos River gets surprisingly little fishing pressure despite producing trout exceeding 20-inches and largemouth bass exceeding five pounds. A dam three miles downstream of the lake marks the downstream end of most floats and the stream is large enough and deep enough that smaller motorized craft can easily travel back upstream to the lake – as can those fishing from canoes and kayaks.

A few crappies were caught at Eel Lake last week and it seems that the lake now contains fishable numbers of bluegill. Fishing at Butterfield Lake on Riley’s Ranch has been slow, but there are still some planted trout left.

Smallmouth bass fishing on the Umpqua and Coquille Rivers is improving and smaller incidentally-caught striped bass are starting to surprise smallmouth anglers on the Coquille.

While some anglers believe the daily surfperch limit of 15 is too generous and a daily limit of eight or ten fish would be more sustainable, the state of Washington recently raised their daily surfperch limit from nine fish to 12 because they believe the surfperch population is strong and not overfished.

Eastern – Local angler Tim Moran reports the following.

Diamond Lake continues to fish well. It was hot in late May in shallow water but the fish have moved deeper but the bite is still good. Still fishermen are scoring with garlic Power Bait while trollers are fishing a worm or flatfish behind a flasher. Five fish limits are the rule with rainbows running 14 to 18 inches with the occasional brute.

Over on the Snake system Brownlee Reservoir is fishing well for crappie 8 to 12 inches. Small tube jigs tipped with a worm or a little pike minnow meat are the ticket. The fishing is good around docks and submerged structure in 12 to 20 feet of water. Smallmouth bass fishing is good to on 4″ plastics and small crankbaits. The bass are shallow early and then move out on the points as the sun warms the water.

It’s been a great year for the bounty fishermen on the Columbia so far chasing Northern Pike Minnows. Over 40,000 have been caught since the season opened May 1st and the fishing has been good from Cathlamet all the way to the Snake River. This year fish are worth 5 to 8 dollars apiece and tagged fish are worth $500.00 so you can go fishing and make a little cha-ching! Get all the information on check in stations and how to catch and keep them cold at http://www.pikeminnow.org.

The Deschutes from Warm Springs to Maupin is fishing good. Nymphing is the way to go during the day with sparkle pupa’s, and PMD and Caddis emergers. Dry fly fishing has been great in the last hour or two before dark with Caddis and PMD adults and rusty spinners size 16 to 22.

Hosmer lake is fishing very well. The “hot” fly tends to change with the hour but you can’t go wrong stripping damsel nymphs or fishing red chironomids under and indicator. Look for fish in the evenings on top with elk hair caddis or small spinner patterns.

SW Washington – From WDF&W:

Cowlitz River

I-5 Bridge downstream – 63 bank rods kept 3 adult and 4 steelhead. 3 boat rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Bridge – 217 bank rods kept 31 adult and 3 jack spring Chinook and 2 steelhead and released 2 adult spring Chinook and 1 steelhead. 56 boat rods kept 1 adult spring Chinook and 23 steelhead and released 5 cutthroats.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 11,000 cubic feet per second on Monday, June 19. Water visibility is seven feet and water temperature is 48.9 degrees F.

Kalama River – 27 bank anglers kept 3 adult spring Chinook and released 1 adult and 1 jack spring Chinook. 10 boat anglers kept 4 adult spring Chinook and 2 steelhead. Lewis River – 3 boat rods had no catch.

North Fork Lewis River – 23 bank rods kept 1 jack spring Chinook. 3 boat rods had no catch. Wind River and

Drano Lake – At Wind River, June 30 is the last day to fish for spring Chinook above Shipherd Falls. It is also the last day for the two-poles, boat limits, and barbed hooks for both Wind River and Drano Lake. Drano Lake will be open 7 days per week beginning July 1 and the bank only area near the mouth will be open for boats.

Drano Lake – 8 boat rods kept 1 adult spring Chinook. Klickitat River – 7 bank anglers with 4 adult and 2 jack spring Chinook.

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – During the first 3 days of the summer Chinook season we sampled nearly 1,000 salmonid anglers (179 boats) with 107 adult and 12 jack summer Chinook, 15 steelhead, and 7 sockeye. 75 (70%) of the adult summer Chinook and 13 (87%) of the steelhead were kept. Though legal to keep clipped and unclipped fish, 6 (86%) of the sockeye were kept.

Sturgeon

Lower Columbia mainstem from the Marker 82 line downstream – We sampled 27 sturgeon anglers (9 boats) with 16 legals released. Only open for catch-and-release angling.

Mainstem Columbia River from Bonneville Dam upstream to The Dalles Dam (Bonneville Pool), including adjacent tributaries – Friday June 23rd (1 retention day) open for white sturgeon retention between 38-inches and 54-inches fork length.

Note: Sanctuary – Angling for sturgeon is prohibited during May through July from The Dalles Dam downstream 1.8 miles to a line from the east (upstream) dock at the Port of The Dalles boat ramp straight across to a marker on the Washington shore.

Shad

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – We sampled 292 shad anglers (including 6 boats) with 2,408 shad kept and 55 released. With the drop in river flows (to only 334,100 cfs) daily shad counts at Bonneville Dam jumped to nearly 100,000 fish yesterday.

Walleye

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – 2 walleye anglers (1 boat) had no catch.

Always more on our website – The Guide’s Forecast

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Summertime NOT in the City

By Bob Rees 

The year’s first heat wave is set to besiege the city this weekend. Maybe the high 90’s by Saturday? Time to exit the Willamette Valley and head to the coast, where the ocean breeze is sure to satisfy, and not just in soothing temperatures.

Coming off of summer solstice (June 21), the theme of cusp (definition: At the dividing line or border of two conditions or categories) comes to mind. Like the west coast’s nearshore habitats, June often provides some of the best opportunities for fishers to take advantage of cusp month fisheries. Temperatures warm, plankton bloom and countless micro-organisms are pushed up into the water column for juveniles of all sorts of species to feed on and in turn, get preyed upon themselves. Many salmon fishers already know this, but it’s not uncommon for a salmon to gain a pound per week this time of year, when ocean conditions allow for it. We’re all hoping for a turn-around in ocean conditions, our returning salmon and steelhead need it as we witness the counter-productivity of slight returns of steelhead in the Columbia and Willamette River basins this year.

I might take the kids on a catch and release sturgeon trip this weekend, but ocean salmon opens up on Saturday, halibut, bottomfish, crab and soon, the albacore will be running. There’s so much swimming protein in the Pacific right now, many of us don’t know which way to turn when the tide allows. I’ve been having fresh pink shrimp nearly every meal by the way.

The mountains got their due attention this year, with a heavy snow-pack and ideal skiing conditions, now it’s time for us to enjoy the ocean bounty as coastal communities suffered a low tourist season over the winter. Ask nearly any traveler at the coast why they decided to head west this weekend, their first reaction might be to escape the heat, but their second priority will certainly be to enjoy some of the fresh seafood that will grace the region’s restaurants as we enter peak season.

When one understands all that we get to still enjoy from our salty sea, we have sound marine fisheries management to thank. The fact of the matter is, we’ve seen the low of lows and the high of highs, all in our lifetimes. It’s a bit befuddling to me, how we can have such wild fluctuations under what appears to be somewhat consistent conditions across our region, less the drought of 2015 mind you.

Despite the salmon disaster declaration that Oregon and California senators called for in previous weeks, there are some good opportunities for salmon and a multitude of other species through the summer. It’s hard to feel all that good about harvesting in abundance, when our neighbors to the south will be going without for much of the year. One has to wonder, especially after coming off some really impressive salmon production in recent years, how did we get to this point?

Certainly, having a short life-span doesn’t help. That certainly makes most short-lived species much harder to manage, and less resilient in years of fluctuating climate swings.

We have to feel fortunate however, that we’re not going through the red snapper wars going on in the gulf states right now. Managers seem willing to compromise this sensitive stock of fish to appease the recreational fleet, no matter what the cost. Of course we’re all about a fair allocation for the recreational fleet, but at the cost of future opportunity? We’ve tried that before, it doesn’t pay dividends.

I’m not really sure how politics were when Warren Magnuson and Ted Stevens were in office, but I think it’s safe to say, nowhere near as partisan as they are now. I do remember Senator Stevens was pretty pro industry, and even the oil industry, much to the chagrin of the more liberal left. What can’t be overlooked however, was the forward thinking vision these two change agents had to protect our ocean resources from what was certainly near the brink of disaster at that time. Relatively speaking, it didn’t take much time to fish down age-old stocks of fish once we gained the technology, which still advances fisheries technique nearly on a weekly basis.

We’ve seen it time and time again, fishermen are some of the most innovative minds of our time. We have figured out every conceivable way to take the last salmon, halibut, sturgeon or bottomfish from our waters, it’s only federal law that prevents us from doing so. You don’t suppose foreign fleets would have ever had to ply what’s now US waters if they had ample amounts of fish in their own home waters do you? Although the Magnuson Stevens Act didn’t establish the Exclusive Economic Zone that enables the United States to manage ocean waters out to 200 miles, it has been instrumental in establishing how the US can maximize profit for our country’s fishermen. I’m sure it’s still a rodeo in International Waters.

So this summer, let’s appreciate the fact our west coast ocean fisheries are pretty well managed; we don’t have to go 200 miles offshore to catch a halibut or lingcod. Now is the time to take advantage of our ocean’s bounty, but be mindful, we have laws for a reason; so that future generations of fishers can experience the highs and lows of our resources that we currently get to.

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Oregon Fishing Reports for 6/16/17

Willamette Valley/Metro – The big news is, the Columbia is re-opening after a 2-month hiatus. Be sure to check regulations here if you’re fishing the mainstem Columbia. Hatchery salmon and steelhead is open, but sturgeon closed effective on Wednesday. There will be no estuary sturgeon opener this Saturday.

The Willamette is also open 7-days per week now, although the bulk of the run has gone through. Effort remains low, but some anglers are unlocking the late season secrets (I’m not one of them) and finding some success. Stray summer Chinook should start to show in the lower Multnomah Channel and around the head of the channel too. This is a common occurrence in high water years. Shad fishing has been slow in the Oregon City area since the sun disappeared.

The Sandy remains challenging although some summer steelhead and springers are falling to small spinners in the upper reaches below Cedar Creek.

The Clackamas is starting to produce a few spring Chinook, but anglers still have to work hard for them. Summer steelhead remain the better option, but better numbers of Chinook are sure to show in the coming weeks.

Northwest – Spring Chinook fishermen remain largely disappointed in Tillamook Bay action. As we’ve mentioned before, some of the best fishing of the season happened in late June and into July last year, we’re all holding out hope for that to happen again this year.

River anglers have been equally disgruntled, but with a fresh shot of rain, enthusiasm will be on the rise again, and a fresh batch of spring Chinook should be available in the Trask and summer steelhead and a few spring Chinook in the Nestucca and Wilson Rivers.

The nearshore halibut fishery is producing a rare fish, and the ocean was a bit rough for anglers to enjoy the all-depth opener today. It’s very likely anglers will get to enjoy more options in the coming weeks as we’re far from attaining the quota.

Ocean crabbing has picked up a little bit and bay crabbing is fair. Bottomfishing remains excellent and some nice lings are coming from the nearshore.

Southwest – From Pete Heley at PeteHeley.com – As of the last halibut opener for our central coast subarea (June 1st – 3rd) 80,382 pounds of the 151,712 pound spring quota had been caught and 71,330 pounds, or 47 percent of the quota still remains.

With much better weather during the last two openers, Bandon has accounted for 7,806 pounds and compares favorably with Newport on a per angler basis. The next all-depth spring halibut opener for our area is scheduled for June 15th – 17th and may not be a full three-day opener dependent upon the poundage caught during the June 8th through 10th opener.

Trout plants along the Oregon coast have been discontinued and will resume on a very limited basis in October.

The redtailed surfperch or “pinkfin” fishery on the lower Umpqua River above Winchester Bay is becoming more consistent. Pat Jones, one of our South Jetty’s most successful lingcod anglers reported consistent lingcod limits over the last few weeks.

The few anglers fishing the ocean for salmon are enjoying limited success and fall chinook salmon will start entering the Umpqua River around the first of July. July 1st is when anglers are required to mark their Umpqua River chinooks as fall run fish instead of spring run fish.

The North Umpqua has been fair for spring chinook recently, but that fishery will close on June 30th.

As for our local bass and panfish waters, high water on the road to Horsfall Beach continues to make access to Horsfall Lake difficult.

The water level at Beale Lake, which normally covers 130 acres when full, is higher than normal and it is still easy to move back and forth between the lake’s three sections.

The Loon Lake bluegill bite continues to be red hot. One angler who regularly fishes Fords Pond in Sutherlin stated that largemouth bass anglers fishing with Senkos were enjoying the best success and a few of the incidentally caught crappies measured all of 12-inches.

The smallmouth bass in Woahink Lake completed their spawn and quickly moved back into much deeper water, but a few of the largemouth bass are still shallow.

Tenmile Lake bassfishing has been good, but panfishing has been terrible. Part of the “lack of panfish” problem might be the tournament-based bass regulations which ensures that the lake has an artificially high population of larger bass.

Pete Heley works weekends at the Stockade Market & Tackle, across from ‘A’ Dock, in Winchester Bay where he is more than happy to swap fishing info with anyone.

Eastern – Local angler Tim Moran reports:

John Day is now at about 2000 CFS….the temperature is climbing and with the nice weather next week it should fish well from Monument to Cottonwood. Last week it was still a bit high which makes for great floating but only good fishing.  We manged around 30 bass a day and this time the color was brown for both flies and plastics.

The Deschutes River is empty and fishing is pretty good!   Not much in the way of dry fly fishing with all the wind and rain last week but nymphing was good with all the usual suspects like pheasant tails, copper johns.

The Cascade Lakes are fishing good.  Reports are that trout are making a comeback at Davis and some big ones have been landed there recently fishing damsel nymphs.  The bass fishing is hit or miss based on the weather.

Davis is full this year so there are lots of under water reeds so use heavier leaders or those bigger bass will wrap you and break you off as I learned the hard way yesterday.

Crane Prairie is giving up some nice fish to the fly guys fishing leech patterns while trollers are getting fish with worms behind a flasher or small flatfish.

Kokanee fishing is holding up at Odell.  As the weather warms the fish will head deeper.  Your electronics will be your friend in the coming weeks as you look for the schools in 30 to 50 feet of water.

From ODF&W:

OWYHEE RESERVOIR: The Owyhee Reservoir is currently at 100 percent of capacity and irrigation season has commenced so managers have lowered the flows below the dam and there is not another influx of water anticipated. Crappie fishing has been great these past weeks with anglers catching them throughout the reservoir and especially around the state park and day use area. Recent reports indicate that a lot of the bass have already spawned and that bass fishing has been slow at times when the wind and rain have pushed them into deeper water.

Look for bass and crappie around submerged rocks and other structures. In the past, when there has been a prolonged drought followed by the reservoir filling up, the bass fishery has often been stunted and some bass have experienced die-offs. This may be attributed to the burning of energy reserves during spawning activities followed by a lack of forage available caused by the inundation of water.

The Hines ODFW office and warm water biologists from Salem will be sampling the reservoir this month to assess the warmwater fishery in Owyhee Reservoir to monitor any changes attributed to the drought and subsequent filling of the reservoir. The results of the sampling will be reported in the weekly Recreation Report.

SW Washington – From WDF&W:

Cowlitz River – 258 bank rods kept 27 adult and 1 jack spring Chinook and 3 steelhead and released 1 steelhead and 1 cutthroat. 29 boat rods kept 15 steelhead and released 1 cutthroat. Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 357 spring Chinook adults, 27 spring Chinook jacks and 33 summer run steelhead adults in five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 6,200 cubic feet per second on Monday, June 12. Water visibility is seven feet and water temperature is 50 degrees F.

Cowlitz River from boundary markers at the mouth upstream to the Lexington Drive Bridge/Sparks Road Bridge – Effective June 16 through July 31 and September 1 through October 31, only 1 hatchery steelhead may be retained. From August 1 through August 31, release all steelhead.  Effective June 16 through October 31, night closure in effect except for anglers enrolled in the Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Program and actively fishing for pikeminnow.

Kalama River – 29 bank anglers kept 1 adult and 2 jack spring Chinook and released 3 adult spring Chinook. 13 boat anglers kept 1 adult and 1 jack spring Chinook.

Lewis River – 4 bank rods had no catch. 4 boat anglers kept 1 adult spring Chinook. Lewis River from the mouth upstream to the mouth of the East Fork Lewis – Effective June 16 through July 31 and September 1 through October 31, only 1 hatchery steelhead may be retained. From August 1 through August 31, release all steelhead.  Effective June 16 through October 31, night closure in effect except for anglers enrolled in the Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Program and actively fishing for pikeminnow.

North Fork Lewis River – 28 bank rods had no catch. 18 boat rods also had no catch. Wind River from the mouth (boundary line markers) upstream to 400 feet below Shipherd Falls – Little to no effort for spring Chinook.  Effective June 16 through July 31 and September 1 through October 31, only 1 hatchery steelhead may be retained. From August 1 through August 31, release all steelhead.  Effective June 16 through October 31, night closure in effect except for anglers enrolled in the Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Program and actively fishing for pikeminnow.

Always more fishing informaiton at The Guide’s Forecast

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Casting the Next Generation of Guardians

By Bob Rees 

It’s been three years since sport anglers had a consumptive opportunity for keeper-sized sturgeon. Not so coincidentally, it’s been three years since I was a full-time fishing guide. When the catch and keep season for sturgeon went away, so did my clientele, my charming personality only gets me so far through the day, ya know.

I’ve told countless individuals that we’d never see another catch and keep season as long as I was alive. Just another notch in my belt, one of many for my mis-calculations. It may be hard to call a 5-day fishery much of an opportunity however.

But, it wasn’t even like the old days, it was like the old, old days, when cars and boats were lined up for a ½ mile down the highway, waiting their turn to get to the ramp, launch their boat, and begin their day. I don’t remember seeing any days like I did on the only Saturday it was open, it was mayhem.

With the slot size narrowed, a 2:00 p.m. closure (kinda sounds like a 2-hour Sitka herring opener, doesn’t it?) and a meager quota of 3,000 keepers, this fishery was managed very conservatively, as it should have been. There’s a lot of pressure on sturgeon right now, in particular, the shift in life history that has the spawning population hiding in tributaries of the Columbia, to escape predation by the Stellar Sea Lion population that has decided these seven to nine foot spawning sturgeon are a good source of food for them. With a fraction of the water quality, habitat and strong flow that make the sturgeon spawn successful, well, recently, the sturgeon spawn hasn’t been so successful.

There is a sizeable keeper population however, and the Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife agencies allowed a limited consumptive harvest. It’s over now however, at least for this year.

When I think about sturgeon however, you can’t help but revel in the fact that these things have been around for much longer than the dinosaurs have. Like all species, they too have fluctuated in population, but in their 200 million years of existence, let me restate that, in their 200 million years of existence, they have survived, even thrived in their environment. And not just white sturgeon, whose population still remains relatively intact. Other species of sturgeon have this same life line, hundreds of millions of years of history. Yet, in the last 200 years, we’ve brought several populations of sturgeon to their knees. Quoting from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Eighty-five percent of sturgeon are at risk of extinction. I’m pretty some of the opponents of the conservative season stated this factoid. It does cause one to pause.

Somewhat more intriguing, these are a long-lived species and it often takes a 30-year time span before they become able to spawn. Overharvest could certainly be easily achieved. Given the reduction in spawning range and capability our localized white sturgeon stocks have had to put up with since the construction of dams on the Columbia River, one might be somewhat surprised we have as many as we do. Despite the life history similarities of some of the longer-lived rockfish species in our oceans, they have a much more complex life-cycle that I’m not sure anyone has figured out. One thing is for sure, they’re doing something right in order to survive for 200 million years.

My personal observation is that we’ve seen a jump in the population when we saw more robust returns of Eulachon smelt. In years of low abundance in the Columbia River, we found sturgeon in good numbers in my home waters, Tillamook Bay. I once caught a 53-inch sturgeon with nine juvenile Dungeness Crab in its stomach. Those couldn’t have gone down all that easy.

Now despite my conservation ethic, I wasn’t going to sit on the side-lines while all my fishing buddies took advantage of such an opportunity. This was just too good an opportunity not to take advantage of. Besides, before the concept of a re-opener ever came about, I had lots of people telling me, “If they ever open it up again, put me first on your list…”.

I put in two days during the 5-day catch and keep season, and it brought back fond memories. Most importantly, it gave me another reality check that our fishery resources are pretty spectacular, yet fragile, and we owe it to future generations of fishermen to take care of these fish. We still have the opportunity to take advantage of well-managed stocks of salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, halibut, rockfish and albacore, but not many other nations do. That not only makes the United States unique, that makes our fishery resources worth a lot more on the open market, and a lot more on the social market as well.

This is just another reason why reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Act is so critical for our federally managed species. Although many species under MSA don’t have the same, large home ranges that sturgeon do, they too are susceptible to over-harvest and negative impacts that we’ve had a hand in. Hindsight doesn’t work for species that are already gone. Do you ever get upset after seeing those iconic pictures of 100+ pound Columbia River Chinook salmon that you’ll NEVER have a chance to catch one? I do, I kinda get super-pissed about it actually.

Here’s to sturgeon, salmon and a strong Magnuson Stevens Act. And to Dad (Bing) Perrine when describing his two son’s experience in pursuit of sturgeon in early June, “Our boys can’t stop talking about today, they are so excited to go again! Oh, and Audrey, my 5-year old, is NOT going to let me go again without her!”

So really, here’s to the next generation of guardians of our fishery resources!

L to R, Bing, Maddox and Jetty Perrine with a Columbia River keeper sturgeon

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North to Neah Bay

I have often written about how fortunate I am to have the job that I do. I get to go into communities all across the region and talk to people about fish conservation issues. In the last few years, I’ve gone to places that I have only dreamt about since about learning about the opportunities in the Pacific Northwest. Neah Bay was high on the bucket list.

My friend Captain Mike has only been fishing out of Neah Bay for a couple of seasons, but he seems to have the place pretty well dialed in. Now I know not every halibut can be 50 or 60 pounds, and limits don’t fall easily every day, but Capt. Mike seems to back up the stories with photographs, making it hard to dispute.

Neah Bay is intriguing for several reasons. Most of all, it’s the furthest north you can go before you reach Canada; the Fishermen’s Mecca next to Alaska. It’s remoteness, and therefore it’s likely productivity, should make a fishing unparalleled too many places I recreate. Finally, this is home to the Makah tribe, The last known American Indian tribe to hunt whales taking place on May 17, 1999. While I can’t say I support whale hunting, do you have to admire a people still motivated to hunt one of the worlds most awesome mammals as a protein source.

Ron Chamness (right) and crew with their limit of Neah Bay halibut 5/25/17

I grew up hearing the fabled stories of awesome fishing in the Straights of Juan De Fuca. Unparalleled salmon fishing where the salt meets the sound (as in Puget); a massive body of water where salmon, crab, bottom fish and the incredible spot prawn could be harvested year around not that many years ago. Fast forward to today where most steelhead fisheries are closed in tributary waters, the famed blackmouth fishery is a fraction of its magnificence, the spot prawn fishery lasts only a few hours, and Puget Sound has several Superfund sites within its boundaries waters. Where did we go wrong? And what exactly was the draw?

The drive alone however was worth the 11 hour round-trip investment. The fishing wasn’t all that bad either. Because we were on an unplanned halibut extension day, the crowds were a fraction of what they normally are for halibut openers. Typically, halibut is only open for about four days during the spring season out of this port. Spring seas were rough, and halibut were a bit scattered, so additional days were scheduled. I wouldn’t have known it, but that tiny town turns upside down when the halibut are running.

We ran to a few spots, rumors of recent success that didn’t pan out. It didn’t take long before Captain Mike had adopted the “Go with what you know” rule. He had an American flag icon on his high capacity GPS system. Sure is heck, as soon as he figured out the drift, spill down the 600 feet to the bottom with a square then sardine combination, it was game on. Doubles and even a triple were at X Marks the Spot. Before you know it, the seven of us had our one fish daily limit and were headed back to the dock for processing. There’s no greater feeling of accomplishment then a 10:30 a.m. run back to the dock with the fish hold full. Neah Bay certainly lived up to my expectations.

Did I leave out the part referring to electric reels? Yeah, you can call me a sissy, but I dare you to drag up 3 pounds of lead from 600 feet deep just to see if you still have bait left after that last bite.

Re-entering Puget Sound after the 16-mile run to the West puts things back into perspective. You’re almost instantly greeted by a fleet of sport boats; anglers not willing to pound their way out to the more productive fishing grounds; I guess that may mean more halibut extensions. The bigger reality is however, even after the two hour round-trip, we’re still headed to port with seven halibut while those more inland folks are scratching for their first bite. It’s a clear sign of what happens when humans over-exploit.

I don’t really know enough about Washington management to judge whether or not their fisheries have been managed properly. I’ll leave it to the residents of that great state, but I don’t think you’ll find glowing reviews. Having steelhead fished many of the rivers that I crossed over on the Olympic Peninsula, I got the sense of a barren wasteland, again reinforcing the value of strong fisheries laws.

The Magnuson Stevens Act is working, working quite well for those plying the waters of the Pacific anyway. There’s no longer enough fish, crab or prawns for anyone to get greedy, but there’s still enough for everyone to have some. In the words of my 8-year old daughter, “You git what you git, and you won’t gripe a bit.” Halibut have been “managed” since 1924, yes, halibut stocks have already been fished down nearly a century ago, but have since rebuilt under a structured management plan. Halibut are certainly a high-profile species, and one of many that have thrived under strong conservation management laws.

Bob Rees
The Guide’s Forecast
http://www.TheGuidesForecast.com/

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Oregon Fishing Updates for May 26th

Willamette Valley/Metro – With the Columbia still closed, and a quashing of a potential consumptive sturgeon season, anglers remain focused on the Willamette River itself, and justifiably so. Chinook counts are Bonneville are currently robust, and jack counts more optimistic than last year at this time. Hopefully that means we’ve had our rock bottom this year.

The Thursday Willamette River re-opener is always highly anticipated; at least it used to be. Crowds were down today (5/25) for what reason I don’t know. Did people think the run was over when over 3,000 fish passed Willamette Falls earlier this week? It was nice to get a parking place fairly close to my boat moorage today. And fishing, well, fishing was quite good!

The wobbler bite took off in the warmest water of the year; 61 degrees at daybreak today. The Lake Line produced bountiful catches with most fish falling to either plugs or wobblers. It was a nice sight to see. Those working the Garbage Hole with eggs weren’t that impressed and jiggers were only taking an occasional fish. Trollers downstream fared mediocre on Thursday.

The shad are IN!

The Clackamas remains high, but summer steelhead and spring Chinook are present. Effort remains somewhat low but fishing conditions are improving.

The Sandy has a fair slug of summer steelhead available and spring Chinook can be taken in the morning according to pro guide Jeff Stoeger (503) 704-7920. Jeff stated that the river conditions are ideal and summers are falling to bobber and jig, as well as spinners.

With over 10,000 fish over Willamette Falls, the upper Willamette and Santiam River fisheries should get underway. With periodic closures happening downstream of Willamette Falls, there should be more biters escaping into upriver fisheries. Summer steelhead counts remain dangerously low.

Northwest – Spring Chinook are starting to show with more regularity in Tillamook Bay. Herring trollers working the upper bay on the current extreme tide series aren’t knocking them silly, but it’s a worthwhile effort. And of course the grade of fish is nicer than their Willamette cousins. Spinners don’t seem to be producing all that well, but that could change at any time.

The Trask has fish too, with some driftboaters faring pretty well at times. Bank anglers working the Hatchery Hole have the best chance, but it does seem like lock-jaw does set in at times.

The Wilson and Nestucca also has some spring Chinook and a rare, and I do mean rare summer steelhead. Seems steelhead numbers across the region are depressed this year.

Rockfishing in the ocean remains excellent, but halibut did slow following a great Garibaldi opener last Thursday. Ocean crabbing is fair at best and poor in the estuaries.

The next mid-coast halibut opener is June 1 – 3. The all depth halibut season out of the Columbia is now closed. That didn’t take long.

A busy week of trout stocking here however. Go here to find the district’s schedule.

Like what’s here?  There is more on our site – http://www.TheGuidesForecast.com/

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Working Waterfronts “Spring” to Life

After a long and harsh winter, coastal businesses and ports are finally getting their well welcomed rush of visitors. I was one of those visitors this week, as I went down to talk to my colleagues about the Magnuson Stevens Act. Despite being a weekday, much to my surprise, Newport, Oregon was bustling with activity.

Fewer coastal towns can define themselves better then Newport as a “working waterfront.” It’s the crowning example of the social change that’s happening in rural Oregon. Historically, people lived in coastal towns to work in extractive industries. After our population grew, along with demand for those natural resources, we were harvesting fish and forests at unsustainable rates. We’ve since, and to some degree, still are, going through the challenges of overharvest, but a lighter touch tourism industry is going strong. Those tourism dollars, at least in Oregon, are driven by the ups and downs of our winter weather patterns.

Visitors were walking the waterfront, viewing the barking sea lions, asking who has the best clam chowder and what is everyone fishing for. Ice was being transported, sport and commercial fishermen filled the local supply store and to top it off on my way home, it was a constant parade of boats headed west for the Thursday sport halibut opener. Everybody was benefitting from the visitors that seemed to embrace that everything was right in the world today.

Given the winter we’ve witnessed this year, the Portland/Metro tourism dollar was spent in the Cascade Mountains instead of our coastal communities. Skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling are not my forte, but even the wicked winter weather kept the sportfleet at bay given the ocean conditions we were presented with. On more mild winters, with low snow abundance, coastal communities are abuzz with activity. That was clearly not the case this year.

Now, being a fisherman myself, I find it egotistically challenging when I have to buy seafood. My favorite seafood, those beautiful, sweet and luscious pacific pink shrimp I have no capability of harvesting, therefore, I buy. Those fishermen work for their money, and I would pay about anything for the season’s first catch. I’ve been finding myself consistently asking seafood retailers, “when are those shrimp coming in? The season opened on April 1st.”

Well, between foul weather, and the bigger issue, a fishermen’s strike for a fair price, I’ve gone without for a month and a half too long. The shrimper’s strike is still on, but I managed to find some “scab shrimp” to satisfy my needs. Now, I can subscribe to fishermen banding together to get their just pay, but don’t get between me and my pink shrimp! That said, now I can’t reveal my source, but I did enjoy the most delectable halibut fish and chips one could expect that wasn’t prepared by oneself. I even tolerated the coleslaw! At least I can blame my lack of halibut on rough weather. See False Start for Flatties.

So “spring” has more than one meaning for blog piece. With the last sport halibut opener on hold due to rough weather, the port was quite quiet until this week. The shrimp fishery is about to launch, the next halibut opener looks like a go, and folks seem a bit burned out on skiing, and are showing up on the waterfront once again. It was almost hard to get a seat for my halibut lunch! Motels, restaurants and tackle shops have felt the pinch this year, between rough weather, high water and a downturn in salmon and steelhead returns, it’s high time that our coastal communities start to pop.When you see all the hustle going on and the cash registers ringing, it’s a clear indication that you have a viable and working waterfront. Why would we want to change that?

But, there’s always got to be some monkey wrench thrown into the mix. Yea, I went there. But so did Congressman Garret Graves of Louisiana. He’s spearheading HR 2023 and with terms like “alternative management” you know things are about to go sideways.

If there’s one thing that came out of our conversations with fellow fishermen here on the west coast, it’s “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Magnuson Stevens Reauthorization is largely falling under the radar for sport and commercial fishermen on the west coast, but that may need to change.

For more on this bad bit of legislation, go to the Marine Fish Conservation Network’s page on the resolution, but here are the main issues we have with the bill:

The Modern Fish Act inserts too much uncertainty into the fisheries management process by adversely changing catch limits and how they are applied, muddies the waters between state and federal management, and allows political and economic considerations to override science in management decisions. H.R. 2023 would undo many of the conservation gains made over the past 10+ years in ending overfishing and rebuilding depleted stocks by removing or loosening the requirement of setting scientifically-based catch limits.

H.R. 2023 would undo many of the conservation gains made over the past 10+ years in ending overfishing and rebuilding depleted stocks by removing or loosening the requirement of setting scientifically-based catch limits.

  • Annual Catch Limits (ACLs) would not be required for stocks where fishing rates are below fishing targets, the very management tools that have ended overfishing in so many fisheries across the U.S. Removing catch limits removes any semblance of conservation and protections against returning to the days of widespread overfishing.

 

The bill provides new authority to Regional Fishery Management Councils to use “alternative fishery management measures” in recreational fisheries, including alternatives to catch limits.

  • Councils would effectively be exempt from using catch limits in recreational fisheries. While using so-called alternative measures may sound appealing, there is little evidence to support their use as an effective fisheries management approach. Coercing Councils to use alternatives to proven catch limits in recreational fisheries is fraught with peril.

 

The bill attempts to formalize the inclusion of information from third-parties into fisheries management decisions, particularly from the recreational sector.

  • While laudable and something the Network agrees to conceptually, this bill unfortunately lacks any requirement for the scientific standards and rigor needed for science used in stock assessments and fish surveys. This provision would ultimately do more harm than good, and should be improved with more attention to those challenges.

If there’s any way to slow a working waterfront, it’s to compromise the ability of fish stocks to fully recover. We’re just now realizing the benefits of our sacrifices from the early 90’s. There’s even talk of increasing the lingcod limit to 3 fish per person. Of course before we go exercising all the “interest” we’ve accrued in our bank accounts, let’s make sure we maintain our “principle” so we have these healthy sport and commercial fisheries for future fishermen to enjoy. And if you go messing with my pink shrimp again, we’re going to have words…

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