Pete Heley Outdoors 2/20/2013

Although Charleston remains the best crabbing option, some decent catches were made last weekend at Winchester Bay. One boast, crabbing in Half Moon Bay last Saturday ended up with 14 keepers, but admitted they had to work hard for them. With the gradual wind-down of commercial crabbing in the ocean and a steady decrease in Umpqua River water flows, the crabbing at Winchester Bay should at least hold steady or show a gradual improvement.

Fishing off the South Jetty and in the Triangle Area at Winchester Bay has been good for greenling and striped surfperch with some rockfish and lingcod also enterting the catch.

There are still plenty of steelhead in most area streams, but the bite is tough in low, clear water conditions. While the Millicoma/Coos river system, as well as Eel Creek and Tenmile Creek below the Eel Creek confluence and the South Fork Coquille River seem to have good numbers or finclipped steelhead, the best fishing is most likely on the Umpqua for unclipped and unkeepable steelhead.

Like most Februarys, there already has been unverified reports of spring chinook catches on the Umpqua. However, until one of the businesses at Wells Creek report a spring chinook catch, I would not give much credence to any unverified catches. There are almost certainly a few springers in the river as this column is being written, but it takes a verified catch to jumpstart the fishing pressure directed at the Umpqua’s springers – and that usually doesn’t happen until the last week in February through the first week in March. The ocean usually opens for chinook salmon in mid-March and some spring chinooks are taken each year by ocean sport anglers.

A few anglers have been buying striper plugs, but it seems that cold water temperatures have pretty much stopped any striper activity in the upper tidewater areas of the Smith River. Some warmer temperatures should see some stripers being caught.

The spring halibut fishery is tentatively scheduled to open on Thursday, May 9th and run through that Saturday. The rumor has it that the quota will be surprisingly generous to the point where the poundage quota for future seasons may be negatively impacted. Hopefully, the minus tide the morning of May 9th won’t cause a lengthy delay to the start of any halibut trips out of Winchester Bay. Once again, I would like to go on the record as thinking the fairest days for three day halibut openers is Saturday, Sunday and Monday, while the fairest days for summer’s two day halibut openers are Saturday and Sunday. Partial week openers for other fish species also seem unfair regarding anglers that are forced to work a normal Monday through Friday work week, but the halibut openers seem the most unfair.

The biggest walleyes of the year are coming out of the Columbia River, but cold water temperatures have kept the bite slow. Almost all of the serious walleye fishermen are targeting the pre-spawn females from a couple of miles below Bonneville Dam upriver to where the Columbia flows through eastern Washington. The heaviest fishing pressure is in the couple of miles below each dam (Bonneville, The Dalles, John Day and McNary), but the pre-spawn walleye fishery in the Portland area has yet to be solved by even the most serious walleye anglers – even those in the Lower Columbia Walleye Club – yet they catch plenty of jumbo Portland area walleyes during the late spring through fall period. Anglers seeking late winter jumbo walleyes on the Columbia need to realize that although the walleyes are at their heaviest, the fishing can be some of the year’s slowest numbers-wise.

Not many reports regarding fishing success on the trout plants dumped into the Florence-area lakes last week – so there should be plenty of trout left to catch. A few of the lakes are scheduled to receive additional trout this week and they are: Alder and Dune lakes (500 barely legal trout each); Cleawox Lake (2,000 barely legal trout) and Munsel Lake (1,000 barely legal trout and 150 16-inchers).

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.
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