Pete Heley - 6/8/2012
Although a few diehard spring chinook fishermen, willing to deal with the increasing amount of moss in the Umpqua River, are still catching some fish, the best recent salmon-fishing news has been a rather consistent bite in the ocean between the Umpqua River Bar and Charleston. Over last weekend, when sport anglers could get out, they had consistent chinook action as long as they were fishing in water less than 100 feet deep. Deeper water seemed to yield only cohos and let’s hope they stick around until the July 1st ocean opener makes the finclipped ones legal angling fare. Almost all of the recent chinook catches have been feeder chinook weighing from eight to 16 or 17 pounds with a few larger chinook, possibly late-arriving spring chinook, also entering the catch. One of the larger chinook, a 30 pounder, was taken by Dave Roe of Lakeside, on Sunday, while fishing between Tenmile Creek and Charleston.
Some of the Coast Guard personnel stationed in Winchester Bay have been casting spinners into the East Boat Basin near their station over the last week and hooked a number of cutthroat trout as well as a steelhead, and adult and jack spring chinooks.
Although the halibut fishing has been somewhat disappointing so far this season, especially when it comes to the size of most of the fish, some very nice-sized halibut were taken last week by boats fishing northwest of Florence. Bill Gates, our very seasoned fish checker, reported that the boat he was on accounted for halibut weighing 70 and 90 pounds. Usually the quality of the halibut fishing gradually shrinks, but let’s hope this year is different.
Fishing has been erratic for the “pinkfin” that run up the Umpqua River to spawn between Winchester Bay and Gardiner. While a few anglers seem to get limits or near limits each day, the perch have been hard to find for most anglers over the last week. If the perch anglers are concentrated in only a few spots (such as across from the entrance to the East Boat Basin and near Marker 12), the chance of finding the perch when they are elsewhere is unlikely. While the perch run should last at least six more weeks, there is easily enough perch in the Umpqua right now to provide hot action when they are biting and nearby. A good portion of the flounder taken in the Umpqua each year are incidentally taken by anglers fishing sand shrimp for pinkfin during their spawning run. As usual, the male pinkfin remaining along the local beaches after the female perch ascend the river often bite much better than the females do.
Sturgeon fishing remains slow and although they are available to be caught in the Umpqua, the fishery will never rebound until the Columbia sturgeon fishery achieves its former glory. It wasn’t so many years ago, that sturgeon spawned so successfully in the Columbia that thousands of the small sturgeon had to leave the river to find enough food to survive. Competition for food in some sections of the Columbia among the smaller sturgeon was tremendous and some of my friends have even caught sturgeon while fishing spinnerbaits for on the Columbia for bass and walleyes. The small sturgeon that left the Columbia River were usually right at or just above the minimum legal length when they entered the lower reaches of many Oregon coastal rivers and the Umpqua always seemed to get more than its share of the migrant sturgeon. With a burgeoning stellar sea lion population added to the sport and commercial sturgeon fisheries, the long term health of the Columbia’s sturgeon population does not look good.
The South Jetty has been fishing well for bottomfish. Tony Stark, who caught a limit of rockfish on a herring rig recently, while fishing the South Jetty from a boat, caught a quick limit of rockfish on Sunday while using crappie jigs. On Sunday, his rockfish averaged two pounds.
A very few anglers are enjoying consistent striped bass action on the Smith River at night. Most are fishing with some sort of bait and the amount of floating or suspended debris in the Smith makes fishing lures rather difficult. There has been some very good shad catches made on the Umpqua, but overall fishing success has been fair at best.
Many area lakes will be stocked this week prior to the “Free Fishing Weekend” this coming Saturday and Sunday (June 9th and 10th). Lake Marie will be stocked this week with 1,000 legal rainbows and will have a kid’s fishing even on the lake from 9 am through 1 pm on Saturday. Area lakes that will be stocked besides Lake Marie include Loon Lake (1,000 legals); Empire Lakes (6,000 legals); North and South Tenmile lakes (3,000 legals each) and Cleawox Lake (2,000 12-inchers and 250 14-inchers). This weekend pretty much ends the spring trout plants for our area.
With very few exceptions, the smallmouth bass spawn is over and the same can be said for the largemouth bass spawn in inland waters. However, in some coastal waters the bass are just entering the spawn and there will be at least some bass spawning throughout June. (Eel and some of the deeper lkkes). In lakes like Saunders and Tenmile, many, if not most, of the bass have already spawned. The importance of the bass spawn is that it means that fair numbers of decent-sized bass are in shallow water and can often be seen or more easily fished for than when they are deep. Panfishing, even for yellow perch, along the Oregon Coast has been disappointing, but early morning fishing farther east has been very productive for crappies and bluegills with some yellow perch also biting.
While the Umpqua’s smallmouth are becoming more active, the river is still high enough to make wading the edges of the river difficult, However, boating the river is easy and the fish are cooperative. While the river is still relatively high, it is important to concentrate one’s fishing efforts on backwaters and the slower-moving sections of the river.
Pete Heley lives in Reedsport, Oregon and works at the Stockade Market in Winchester Bay. He is also an outdoor writer and his favorite pasttimes are: fishing, playing pool, doing trivia quizes and crossword puzzles. His three most impressive catches of Oregon fish include a 22 pound coho salmon from Tenmile Lakes, a brown trout of more than 15 pounds from the Crooked River Ranch area of the Deschutes River and a nine and a half pound largemouth bass from Loon Lake.