Monthly Archives: December 2012

Last Minute “Outdoorsy” Xmas Gifts

FISHING, HUNTING or SHELLFISH LICENSES – These are great gifts and if they are bought prior to January 1st, they are at their most valuable since they will cover all of 2012. The prices are the same as last year and they can be purchased without the the intended recipient being present as long as you know the exact name they are in the system under and their correct birthdate. One can also sneak down to the license -issuing retailer with a copy of their old license to scan. Of course, if the intended recipient tries to purchase their license and find out that their only option is to purchase a duplicate, the element of surprise is gone. If it is an either/or situation, most fishing licenses are used earlier in the year than are hunting licenses.

SUBSCRIPTION to an OUTDOOR MAGAZINE – Although such a gift might not have the initial impact of the usual Xmas gift, it will provide pleasure for the entire length of the subsciption. There are lots of good magazines, but my favorite is “The In-Fisherman” which is loaded with very exact fishing information and techniques. However there are numerous other good choices, one of which may more closely match the intended recipients outdoor interests. Also, a magazine subscription is a wonderful gift for your local library. Many branch libraries have to jump through a few “hoops” regarding donated magazine subscriptions or books and one should make sure that the intended subscription is of interest to a large number of people.

GIFTS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN – A child-sized fishing outfit is a wonderful gift for a young child – unless they already have one. Combining the gift with an early season, yet comfortable, fishing trip makes the gift even more wonderful. Please don’t forget the short attention span of young children when showing them how to use you present. This gift is actually easier to pull off as a birthday present for young children with non-winter birthdays as a panfish trip would be the perfect way to cap off the present-giving.

FISHING or HUNTING ELECTRONICS – Improvements in outdoor-related electronics make them a rather safe, although possibly quite expensive, Xmas gift. Even if the intended gift recipient already has some fishing or hunting electronics, the pace of improvements in outdoor-related electronics almost guarantees that your gift will supercede anthing they already own. The variety of such electronics is considerable and should require some serious research on the part of the “gift buyer”.

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Oregon Fishing License Fees Getting A Bum Rap

A recent series of online posts on the fishing website,, revolved around how many would be anglers would not be buying fishing licenses in Oregon because of the high price of non-resident fishing licenses.

Most of the posters were ill-informed. As somebody who works at a tackleshop that sells thousands of licenses each year, I can safely and accurately vouch that Oregon is at least as fair as it’s neighboring states when it comes to pricing its non-resident fishing licenses. A non-resident Oregon angler purchasing a yearly fishing license pays $106.25. If they intend to fish for anadromous fish such as salmon and steelhead or for sturgeon or halibut, they would need to purchase a combined angling tag for an additional $26.50 (which is the same for residents and non-residents) and if they would want to clam, crab or dig sand shrimp, they would need to purchase a non-resident shellfish license for $20.50 which would be good for a year. The total cost for all three items is $153.25. All of Oregon’s fishing and hunting licenses expire at midnight on December 31st.

When Oregon increases the fees for its fishing and hunting licenses, it tends to shock people – because Oregon only does so every five or six years and the jump is usually quite noticeable – and people tend to ignore the fact that they are able to purchase these items at a slightly reduced rate during the several years between actual increases. Many states raise their fees for their fishing and hunting licenses yearly, or every couple of years and the more frequent increases are much more nominal.

When Oregon raised its annual non-resident fishing license to $106.25 from the previous price of $61.50, it got the full attention of virtually every non-resident angler planning to fish in Oregon. After all, that increase was $44.75 or 72.8 percent over the old fee. However, at that time, I was doing some fishing in north-central California and I had purchased a non-resident yearly basic California fishing license for several dollars more than non-residents were paying for yearly Oregon fishing licenses. Although I had big plans to make several fishing trips to California, I actually only fished it one day that year. However, I kept the license in my wallet and took great delight in showing it to complaining Californians griping about Oregon’s license fees. It invariably shut them up immediately.

While selling hundreds of non-resident shellfish licenses to people visiting Oregon from the state of Washington, I decided to look into why so many Washington residents were doing most or all of their crabbing in Oregon. The answer I came to was that Oregon has a consistent limit on the numbers of dungeness (12) and red rock (24) crabs. In past years in Washington, the seasons may not be consistent, there was some varience in minimum size limits and different areas had different limits regarding numbers of crabs that may be legally taken. This year, Washington is charging $35.00 for a shellfish/seaweed license which is 70.7 percent higher than the $20.50 that Oregon is charging. Although the Washington non-resident shellfish license is $14.50 or 70.7 percent more than Oregon’s non-resident shellfish license – I strongly suspect that the big attraction of Oregon crabbing is the simplicity of it compared to Washington.

Please bear in mind that the licenses issued by the different states are usually slightly different and there will always be some comparing of “apples and oranges”.

To cut to the chase, a people from other states visiting Oregon and wanting to purchase yearly licenses would pay a total of $153.25 ($106.25 + $26.50 + $20.50). Someone purchasing the correlating non-resident licenses separately in Washington would pay $84.50 for their annual freshwater fishing license, $59.75 for their annual saltwater fishing license (which includes the report card/tag) and $35.00 for the corresponding shellfish license. In other words, an angler visiting from Oregon or another state to Washington would pay a total of $179.25 or 17 percent more than a non-resdient would pay in Oregon.

The cost of a basic non-residentishing license in California is $123.38 and there are numerous small additional charges for different things – but the cost for a sturgeon tag is $8.13, a steelhead tag costs $7.05 and a salmon tag is $6.22. A non-resident angler wanting to fish for all of these fish would pay at least $144.78 ($123.38 + $21.40). Since shellfish are included in California’s fishing licenses, an angler intending to fish and crab or clam would pay less than they would in Oregon. But if all they intended to do was fish, but for fish requiring the three additional tags, they would pay $12.03 or nine percent more.

Since most of our fishing spots are far less crowded than those in Washington or California and the fishing is often every bit as good, this writer/angler thinks Oregon that out-of-state visitors fishing in Oregon get a relative bargain when compared to the rates that non-resident visitors pay to fish in neighboring states – so let’s stop heaping abuse on the ODFW – they are very fair and if you think the licenses are too expensive . . . . FISH MORE! Isn’t it all about getting your money’s worth.

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Cleawox Lake – The 2nd Most Heavily Planted Lake On The Oregon Coast

At 82 acres and located inside Honeyman State Park (near Florence), Cleawox received nearly 18,000 rainbow trout this year – not included some unannounced plants of the largest rainbow trout and surplus steelhead.

At times, shortly after receiving a trout plant, Cleawox appears literally full of trout. This is partly because virtually all of the trout plants take place in the main part of the lake and nearly half of the lake’s surface acreage is located in a nearly two mile long narrow arm that is barely connected to the main lake by a narrow, very shallow interface that the trout do not immediately enter. This narrow arm, which has a number of homes located along its shoreline receives very little fishing pressure and actually offers better fishing than the main lake late in the season.

Very much overlooked are Cleawox’s warmwater fish species. The best fishing, if you can cast accurately, is for largemouth bass, but there are good populations of yellow perch and bluegills and some black crappies and brown bullheads also present.

Even more overlooked, is the small lake located next to the park’s RV Park (Lily Lake) which has largely ignored populations of largemouth bass and bluegills with some brown bullheads also reported.


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Pete Heley Outdoors 12/19/2012

Tony Corbett traveled to Winchester Bay from Canby to visit family and spent three wet hours on Saturday at Half Moon Bay trying for crabs. He ended up with 7 legal dungeness crabs. He managed to get 12 more on Sunday including some big ones measuring at least seven inches, but for most everyone else, crabbing continues to be slow at Winchester Bay. However, those that can handle the weather and are giving it a strong effort seem to be catching some legal crabs. Charleston remains the most productive crabbing spot in the area and will remain so until the Umpqua River drops noticeably.

Although our local dungeness crabs are some of the fullest along the northern California through Washington coast, the commercial crabbing season won’t commence until December 30th. The ocean is currently open to sport crabbers, and has been since December 1st, when bar and ocean conditions permit.

The muddy water has limited bottomfishing pressure along the Umpqua River’s South Jetty and seems to also have slowed the bite for the fish usually caught along there. The very few anglers still trying for offshore bottomfish are catching lingcod and rockfish, but often have to start at Charleston to actually access the ocean and our very good bottomfishing spots.

Winter steelhead fishing is slowly improving, but the area streams with the highest proportion of finclipped keepable steelhead appear to be Tenmile Creek and the Coos River system. On Tenmile Creek, try to stay downstream of where Eel Creek enters the stream since almost every hatchery steelhead ascending Tenmile Creek takes the Eel Creek off ramp. Eel Creek will open on January 1st and should have fair numbers of steelhead in it when it does. While there have been some very good catches of steelhead on the Umpqua and Smith rivers, it is a catch and release fishery due to an absense of finclipped steehead.

Local angler and lure manufacturer, Steve Perry, has started using a Hero Go Pro camera to video some of his steelhead catches. He is still working on getting the hang of the audio, but already has a number of recent steelhead videos taken on some of our local streams.

There are still some fairly bright chinook salmon, mixed in with an increasing number of winter steelhead, in most of the smaller south coast streams, but one needs a good local contact to keep track of the river conditions and let you know when things are right for fishing.

The ODFW dropped the seasonal limit for sturgeon down to one fish in 2013 – superceding the previous seasonal limit of two sturgeon which was set just last September. This move will impact the number of repeat trips Columbia River sturgeon guides will get as customers will often have their season limit on their first guided trip. The impact on the catch and release sturgeon fisheries remains to be seen.

Over the next five years, the portion of several strains of chinook salmon ascending the mainstem Columbia River that are assigned to sport anglers will increase to as much as 80 percent for some strains. However, it looks like using barbless hooks when fishing the Columbia River, and some tributaries, will be required beginning in 2013.

Some of the local lakes are providing decent trout fishing, but lakes in our area will not receive scheduled trout plants for several more weeks. The 2013 stocking schedule is not yet posted on the ODFW website, but last year, a few of the Florence area lakes started receiving trout plants during the second week of February, while Loon Lake received its first trout plant the first week of March and Lake Marie received its first plant during the third week of March. Some of the Coos County lakes started receiving trout plants the last week in February. Anglers need to realize that Diamond Lake is closed to all angling until January 1st when it becomes a year-round trout lake.

Some of Oregon’s best winter trout fisheries are: (1) – The stretch of the Owyhee River below Owyhee Reservoir where fair numbers of good-sized brown trout tend to move towards the dam in winter where the water is slightly warmer. It looks like the Owyhee is going to remain catch and release in the forseeable future as the number of browns measuring less than 12-inches is low, while the number of fish larger than 16-inches is fairly good. Ironically, while the entire Owyhee River below Owyhee Reservoir is only catch and release on the brown trout, the use of bait is allowed.  (2) The Crooked River below Bowman Dam (Prineville Reservoir) offers excellent winter flyfishing for redband trout and whitefish. During the winter, the fish tend to move up towards the dam and fishing can be exceptional for fish to about 14-inches with a few larger (Years ago, the Crooked River once produced a rainbow weighing more than 13 pounds to a fly angler.). Don’t get turned off by the somewhat milky water, during the winter the water is about as clear as it is going to get. (3) The portion of Fall River in central Oregon that is above the falls remains open all winter to flyfishing for visable, frustrating rainbow trout. (4) Some very large brown trout (to at least ten pounds) have been caught  recently at Lake of the Woods by anglers casting Rapala-type lures after dark near the resort area. Lake of the Woods is one of two Oregon lakes that allow trout fishing 24 hours per day. Miller Lake is the other one.

It continues to surprise me how many bass boats are on Tenmile Lakes during the winter months. Although they do catch some sluggish bass, including some big ones, the top two current fisheries on Tenmile Lakes are for yellow perch and rainbow trout. Very much overlooked is the fishery for brown bullheads during the winter months in water more than 15 feet deep.

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Long Lake – Washington’s Late Season Gem

Spokane County’s Long Lake Still Producing Lunker Bass and Panfish

Through the middle of December, Long Lake, a long narrow reservoir on eastern Washington’s Spokane River has been producing some surprisingly good fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass and black crappie and yellow perch. With some of the best fishing located within the city limits of Spokane, the reservoir is easy to access during increasingly rare moments of nice weather.

While many of the largemouth and smallmouth bass are being caught in water no more than 15 feet, the crappie and yellow perch are being pulled from much deeper water – sometimes slightly more than 30 feet deep. While the numbers of bass taken hasn’t been all that impressive, the numbers of smallmouths weighing more than three pounds has been – and largemouth weighing from four to seven pounds have dominated the otherwise unimpressive numbers of bigmouths taken.

However, the numbers of panfish caught on a given trip can be impressive and the numbers of good-sized fish make up a good portion of the catch. Yellow perch measuring from nine to 12-inches and black crappies measuring from ten to 13-inches seem to show up on a regular basis.

While Long Lake, sometimes referred to as Spokane Lake, has numerous fish species including brown trout and northern pike (Long Lake holds the state record for northern pike with a fish weighing more than 34 pounds), the other fish that seems to enter the catch of every recent trip is the northern pikeminnow and there seems to be a growing tradition of squeezing until it is incapacitated and chucking it overboard when a bald eagle flies near.

Walleye anglers fishing the Columbia River in water between 25 and 35 feet have recently, it seems, been catching more jumbo smallmouths than walleyes – with some of the smallmouths weighing more than five pounds.

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Empire Lakes – Most Heavily Planted Lake On the Oregon Coast

Receiving more than 40,000 planted rainbow trout each year, Empire Lakes, by a more than two to one margin is the most heavily planted trout lake on the Oregon Coast.

Not only do the lakes receive the normal barely-legal rainbow trout, it also receives trout in the 12-inch class, trout in the 16-inch class that the ODFW refers to as trophy trout, Empire also receives unannounced plants of brookstock rainbows and surplus steelhead.

Of course there is a downside to dumping in thousands of trout into a shallow 50 acre lake – and that is that the warmwater fish in Empire have to complete with hordes of always hungry trout. As a consequence, the numbers of yellow perch, bluegills, black crappies, brown bullheads and largemouth bass is only fair. But once a bass gets big enough to grab some of the smaller unsuspecting rainbows, they can gain weight in a hurry. Bass weighing at least nine pounds have been pulled from the lake – but not very often.

The usual occurence following a trout plant is that bank anglers do well for a few days, but then their fishing success falls off as most of the fish will be caught by anglers fishing from small boats or float tubes. The fishing for these non-bank anglers holds up for a while as most of the fish they catch are released to be recaught again and again.

The trout that do venture close to the bank are usually caught by anglers that will keep them – making the anglers able to fish mid-lake waters more successful in the weeks following a trout plant.

Curtis Reed’s four pound nine ounce Empire Lake rainbow took a dry fly on three pound tippet.


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Kobe Bryant’s Best Season – Or Not

As someone who has thought for several years that Kobe Bryant has been vastly overrated as a basketball player, I must admit that this season, his 17th, at the ripe old age of 34, he is having his greatest shooting season.

His field goal percentage through his first 22 games is .488 – a full 20 percentage points higher than his previous high for field goal percentage for a season set way back in the 1999-2000 season. His three point field goal percentage of .393 easily bests his previous high for a season, of .383 – set back in the 2002-2003 season. As for Kobe’s best free throw percentage for a season, it occurred back in 2006-2007 when he shot .868 for the season. But this season, Kobe has made 86.1 percent of his free throws and through 21 games, his percentage was higher than in any previous season, but he only made seven out of ten free throws in his 22nd game to drop below his previous high percentage.

And Kobe isn’t taking it easy this season. He is averaging 37.6 minutes per game and is leading the league in scoring with 29.2 points per game – a full 1.5 points per game more than Carmelo Anthony (27.5 ppg) and 2.2 points per game over last year’s scoring champ, Kevin Durant who is averaging 27.2 points per game.

That said, the Los Angeles Lakers, who are obviously loaded with basketball talent, have underperformed badly winning only nine of their first 22 games and are stuck in 12th place in the Western Conference. Even more ironic is the fact that despite Kobe’s good shooting this season, the more he shoots, the less the Lakers win. In fact, the Lakers have won only once this season when Kobe has scored 30 or more points in a game.

So,barring major changes, it appears that Kobe will win the NBA scoring title with his highest scoring average in the last six years – and the Lakers, barring much better play, will not make the playoffs.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 12/12/2012

Coos Bay, and more specifically Charleston, continues to dominate our area’s crabbing and the crabbing has held up well. However, despite the fact
hat most crabbers attempting to crab Winchester Bay have been disappointed, two young men enjoyed some exceptional crabbing after dark off the Coast Guard Pier last Friday night.

Their lights revealed that the water was high and muddy, but they decided to try anyway and using four crab traps they ended up with 24 legal crabs that night. To top matters off, they briefly crabbed off Dock A on Saturday morning and got three more keepers which they gave to another crabber that had been crabbing for a couple of hours without success. Then they hauled a small johboat into the Triangle and in a couple of hours, they ended up with 14 crabs, although most of them were red rock crabs. The only downside to their weekend outing was that they caught no fish and only had a few bites while they were crabbing in the Triangle. Sunday morning, things were back to normal for them as they worked hard to land three crabs out of the Triangle.

While the success of Michael Kezer and Cole Downing, both of Eugene, could only be described as an abberation, it should also point out that not all of Winchester Bay’s crabs are already in the ocean. Cold water and few numbers of crabs can mean crabbing success can be very limited, but still a possibility.

Here are a few things that these young men, who have only been crabbing for about a year, do right. They use plenty of bait and try to use several kinds at once. Then they suspend their bait in a socklike holder that is attached to both sides of the inside of their trap so that it is suspended in the middle of the trab and above the trap floor. This seems to minimize crabs reaching the bait while still blocking access from other crabs that want to get to the bait and inside the trap. So here is sincere congratulations to these avid crabbers who managed to some holiday hope to other would-be crabbers amidst what has recently been rather limited crabbing success.

Anglers still wanting to try for some salmon before switching over to steelhead need to keep an eye on our south coast streams. A smart move would be to get some creditable sources that can give up-to-the-minute reports on river conditions and fishing success. These streams are going to be going up and down and like a yo-yo and fishing conditions are going to vary. Anglers that are there at the optimum times are going to catch some salmon and some of them will still be bright. Usually, the quickest stream to clear is the Elk River near Port Orford.

As for anglers wanting to catch some steelhead that they can keep, they should consider the Coos River system (including the Millicoma). This system has a very active STEP program and a large portion of the steelhead caught are finclipped. Closer to home, Tenmile Creek between the ocean and Eel Creek will have a fair percentage of finclipped steelhead. When it opens on January 1st, Eel Creek will also have a very high percentage of finclipped steelhead in it.

Tenmile Lakes continues to put out nice stringers of yellow perch. Part of the reason for the good perch fishing is probably due to the anglers refining
their techniques, but as the perch approach the spawn (most likely in March) they should continue to bite well and be as chunky as they are ever going to get. Undoubtedly, many other local waters are capable of providing good perch fishing, but “fishing-pressure-wise”, Tenmile is at the top of the angler popularity list.

As for other northwest fisheries, jumbo triploid rainbows are still being caught in eastern Washington’s Rufus Woods Lake, a Columbia River impoundment, a 32 pound northern pike was caught recently at Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Lake, and Lake Chelan is offering very consistent fishing for mackinaw weighing from three to six pounds with some larger – the lake and Washington state record is more than 33 pounds. A 24 pound cutthroat was recently taken by an angler fishing from shore (from a ladder set up in several feet of water) at Pyramid Lake in Nevada.

Once again, both the big game and the fishing regulations booklets for 2013 are now available and fishing and hunting licenses and tags for 2013 are now available. There are not a lot of holiday or birthday gifts that can be useful the entire year.

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Butterfield Lake Fishing Map

Butterfield Lake, a 25 acre lake located on the west side of Highway 101 in Coos County, is one of Oregon’s newest and most overlooked trout fisheries. Back when the lake was mostly privately owned, trout to nine pounds were hand fed near where the current dock on the lake sits. Of course, the lake has always had largemouth bass, bluegills, black crappies and a very few warmouth.

After much of the work was completed to turn the land adjacent to the southeast portion of the lake (the old Riley Arena) into a day use area and rv park, the state tried a few trout plants. The first plant didi not result in many trout catches being reported, but the lake is deep enough that they carried over fairly well.

The lake doesn’t get much fishing pressure, but still holds some uncaught planted rainbow trout, a fair population of bass to three pounds with a few larger, a seemingly shrinking population of black crappie averaging about nine inches with the largest running 11-12 inches and a fair bluegill population averaging about six inches in length, but a few that will weigh at least 12-ounces. The warmouth seldom top five inches in length.

Because of the low fishing pressure, some of the trout will remain uncaught for at least a year and adjust to eating smaller fish. The last plant, in October, consisted of trout in the 16-inch range and those that remain uncaught should be impressive fish this coming year.


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Central Oregon Trout Fishing – Antelope Flat Reservoir

Some of Oregon’s fastest-growing rainbow trout reside in Antelope Flat Reservoir. Somewhat overlooked because of such nearby larger fishing spots like Ochoco and Prineville Reservoir, Antelope Flat was treated to get rid of a population of stunted bullhead catfish. When the reservoir was treated, rainbows to at least 30-inches in length were collateral casualties. The trout replanted into the 170 acre reservoir have been growing like crazy and fish weighing more than five pounds will be pulled from the reservoir in 2013 – or possibly before since the reservoir is open to fishing the year round.

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