Monthly Archives: August 2017

Winchester Bay Salmon Fishing Improving.

Heading into the ocean nonselective coho season, fishing vear the Umpqua River Bar has shown steady improvement. Fishing is still inconsistent for the average sport angler, the fishing guides have been catching salmon on a more consistent basis.

Ray Allen with his two fish on his 88th birthday,,Jim with a nice chinook and4 limits of crab. – photo courtesy of Bryan Gill (The Umpqua Angler).

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Pete Heley Outdoors 8 / 30 / 2017

The annual STEP salmon Derby will be held this Labor Day Weekend with more prizes than ever. As usual, the angler catching the heaviest salmon on Saturday, Sunday and Monday will each win $150 with the heaviest salmon taken by a derby entrant also winning the $500 grand prize. This year’s derby is jointly sponsored by the Gardiner-Reedsport-Winchester Bay STEP Chapter and Cabelas. Local individuals and business are also chipping in with Saturday’s big fish sponsored by local dentist Gerhard Goorhuis. Sunday’s big fish is sponsored by North Coast Lures and Flies in Florence. The Y Marina in Empire is sponsoring Monday’s big fish.

The derby runs from daybreak until 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday and from daybreak until noon on Monday (Labor Day) and entry fees are still only $10 per individual and $25 per boat, which may contain three or more anglers. Tickets are good for the entire three days if purchased before the derby or for the remaining portion of the contest if purchased during the derby. Tickets are available at Ace Hardware in Reedsport, the Stockade Market in Winchester Bay and at the weigh-in stations which are the Rainbow Plaza Boat Ramp in Reedsport and the East Basin Boat Ramp in Winchester Bay.

Other ways to win are by being one of three “blue ticket” winners which are drawn from among the slips made out for each salmon actually weighed in during the derby or by having your derby ticket stub picked during the Lucky Ticket Stub Drawing”. Of course, additional raffle tickets may be purchased that may win more than $1,500 in outdoor gear from Cabelas and other businesses. For additional information about the derby call Doug Buck at 541-271-3144.

Thousands of farmed Atlantic salmon were accidentally released into the Washington State waters between Anacortes and the San Juan Islands, and officials are asking people to catch as many as possible. Tribal fishers, concerned about native salmon populations, call the accident “a devastation.” Similar incidents have occurred over the last 20 years and some Washington streams now host runs from five different salmon species. Trying to exterminate a fish population through sportfishing is never successful because as the fish population decreases, so does fishing success.

Both finclipped and unclipped coho salmon 16-inches or longer become legal angling fare along the Oregon coast on Saturday, September 2nd. Salmon fishing in the ocean and Umpqua River has been gradually improving and was exceptionally good during Tuesday of last week near Reedsport and the Umpqua River Bar for boat anglers and at Half Moon Bay and Osprey Point for spinner flinging bank anglers. Unfortunately, the rest of the week didn’t live up to Tuesday, but overall, the salmon fishing is improving.

Salmon fishing on the lower Rogue River near Gold Beach is much improved with most anglers using anchovies that are either plug cut or hooked on a “Rogue Bait Rig” – which is similar to an oversized wedding ring fished with an anchovy or other baitfish instead of a nightcrawler.

Crabbing remains very good at Winchester Bay for boat anglers and fair for those crabbing from docks. However, it seems that the crabbing has recently been less consistent than it previously was due to unkeepable female crabs dominating the catch on some days. An angler fishing off the dock at the Gardiner Boat Ramp was recently rewarded with a 26-inch flounder.

There were zero halibut turned in south of Newport during the latest summer all-depth opener on August 18th and 19th. The total catch for the opener was 7,034 pounds of which 6,225 pounds or more than 88 percent were caught out of Newport. The remaining summer all-depth quota for Oregon’s central coast is 24,967 pounds or 38 percent of the quota.

Very warm water temperatures have made trout fishing in Jackson, Josephine and eastern Douglas counties an early morning, deeper water affair. Bass anglers can fish at night in most waters, but current water temperatures probably mean that pre-dawn fishing will be more productive than late evening fishing. ODFW personnel netted a smallmouth bass while doing net sampling at Hyatt Lake. The most surprising thing is that it didn’t happen sooner since Hyatt Lake is only three miles from Howard Prairir Reservoir which has a strong smallmouth bass population.

Currently, the top warmwater action for our area is Loon Lake for bluegills and the Umpqua River for smallmouth bass.

There are no scheduled trout plants for our area until October, but there should be plenty of the 15-inch rainbow trout left that were stocked in Lake Marie last week.

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

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Central Oregon Coast Halibut Update.

The all-depth halibut Central Oregon fishery is open next on Sept. 1-2. This will probably be the last summer opener if ocean conditions are good. There are 24,967 pounds of the summer all-depth halibut quota remaining.

The summer nearshore halibut fishery for the central Oregon sub-area will reopen beginning September 3rd. Boats targeting halibut must have a ready-to-use descending device on board.

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Coho Added To Ocean Nonselective Coho Quota.

8/28/17 ACTION NOTICE- Recreational Salmon Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. : NOAA Fisheries in consultation with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, has taken in-season action with respect to the recreational ocean salmon fishery in the area from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain:

ACTION TAKEN: An impact neutral transfer of the remaining coho quota from the June 24-July 31 mark selective coho fishery to the September non mark selective coho fishery was approved. This transfer resulted in an increase of 1,900 coho in the September 2-30 Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. recreational non mark selective Coho quota.

RATIONALE: The preseason intent in the ocean salmon season development was to allow for any remaining quota from the summer mark selective season to be transferred to the September non mark selective season on an impact neutral basis for critical stocks. There were 11,814 Coho Salmon remaining on the Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. recreational mark selective quota of 18,000 coho. This resulted in a modeled conversion that resulted in 1,900 coho being added to the September non mark selective season, and a resulting increase in the September quota from 6,000 to 7,900 Coho Salmon.

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It’s Buzzbait Time For Western Oregon Bass Anglers.

My fishing buddy Dwayne Schwartz is a very avid spinnerbait /buzzbait user when bassfishing and the last few weeks have provided him with some of the season’s best fishing.

Last week for example, I talked him into checking out a couple of old log ponds near Yoncalla. I have been curious about these ponds for the last few years, but have only fished them from the shore with limited success. Dwayne and I arrived before daybreak at the Yoncalla Log Pond, a very shallow lily pad covered pond of more than 50 acres. Until the last few years, legal access was not available, but that changed when Douglas County Betterment acquired the pond in May of 2012.

Scattered among the lily pads are several smallish areas of open water that are not reachable by casting from the bank. These areas intrigued me greatly, but when we arrived at the pond I developed a cramp in my left calf that I could not make go away. Since the swim fins I use when fishing out of my polyethylene float tube had straps that are weed magnets and the pair of fins without straps didn’t stay on very well, I opted to be a cheerleader and stayed on the bank.

I definitely wasn’t second guessing myself when Dwayne went strikeless while fishing the first two areas of open water, but when he reached a somewhat larger area of open water his buzzbait accounted for three 12-inch largemouth bass in three casts and eight bass in 20 casts.

Dwayne caught 17 bass to two pounds before moving on to the next area of open water and ended the two and a half hour trip with 22 bass to 17-inches with a couple of blow-ups from obviously larger bass that chickened out before actually grabbing the lure.

The next destination was Mt. Baldy Pond, a couple of miles west on Highway 99.

It took Dwayne only three casts to land his first bass and despite fishing the buzzbait in full daylight, he landed nine bass to 13-inches in less than two hours. Dwayne only spent a few minutes trying for panfish with no success, but the ponds do contain small numbers of crappies, bluegills and brown bullheads.

Since oxygen levels and water depth seem to be limiting factors in both ponds, dredging a few deeper spots and installing aerators would allow for a major improvement in fish carrying capacity. In the meantime, fishing any open areas during pre-dawn hours seems to work just fine.

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

This phot shows what anglers have to deal with at the Yoncalla Log Pond.

Although private vehicles are not allowed, a rough former road serves as a footh path encircling the pond.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 8 / 23 / 2017

Winchester Bay salmon fishing is still inconsistent, but seems to be gradually improving. A fair number of chinook salmon are being caught in the Reedsport area, but the “per boat catch rate” is not impressive. An increasing number of boats are fishing near the Umpqua River Bar but anglers doing so need to know the regulations. The only legal ocean salmon are chinook salmon 24-inches in length or longer. Beginning September 2nd, coho salmon 16-inches long will become legal to keep. During the nonselective ocean coho season no ocean salmon needs to be finclipped.

As for the Umpqua River, No salmon less than 15-inches in length is keepable. Coho salmon must be finclipped but chinooks don’t have to be. Salmon are being caught every day by bank anglers fishing at Half Moon Bay, Osprey Point and near the Gardiner Boat Ramp. The official dividing line between the Pacific Ocean and the Umpqua River is a straight line connecting the outermost (westernmost) tips of the Umpqua River’s South and North Jetties.

Large schools of albacore tuna were reported last week moving north at about 14 miles per day. If the pattern continues, they should be arriving off Winchester Bay about the time you read this.

Fishing for redtail surfperch along pretty much all of our area beaches has been very good. Our beaches got somewhat torn up by last winter’s storms and there seems to be more fish-holding structure than there was in previous recent years – meaning shorter walks for surfperch anglers to catch their limits.

Lake Marie received 800 15-inch trout this week and with the leftover trout from previous plants, fishing should be very good. Several Coos County lakes will receive trout plants during the second week of October.

The exceptionally high water this year has changed many area fisheries. Butterfield Lake now has an established population of yellow perch – to the detriment of its crappies and bluegills while the nice-sized rainbow trout that made their way into Beale Lake this winter will almost certainly be gone by next summer. This winter, Beale Lake almost certainly restocked Snag Lake, a 30 acre lake south of Beale that dries up on a regular basis.

If those small bluegills caught last year in Bluebill Lake were still alive last fall, they are now almost certainly in adjacent Horsfall Lake. Horsfall Lake almost certainly received some warmwater fish from large shallow privately owned lakes adjacent to its north shore such as Spirit Lake and Sandpoint Lake – and ceded brown bullheads, yellow perch and largemouth bass to Bluebill Lake.

The small sand dunes lake at the Overlook adjacent to the Trans Pacific Parkway, where I was catching my largest bluegills last summer overflowed its bank and the resulting erosion now has the pond smaller and weedier than ever.

As for other changing fisheries, Sutherlin’s Ford’s Pond has a fast-growing population of smallmouth bass and yellow perch which seem to have impacted the pond’s bluegills and crappies and to a lesser extent its largemouth bass and brown bullheads.

Hardly any area water has undergone more changes than Siltccos Lagoon. This relatively small section of an old channel of the Siltcoos River never seemed to have yellow perch (which exist in the river), but used to a fair population of largemouth bass and good-sized bluegills. Then the ODFW began heavenly planting the lagoon with all size classes of stocked trout. Otters soon moved in and when the trout stocking was discontinued, the bass and bluegills seemed to have disappeared. However, a small population of crappies seems to have hung on and seem to have had a successful spawn two years ago. Hopefully the otters have moved to “greener” pastures and won’t be targeting the crappies when they get large enough to interest anglers in two years.

A friend of mine, who has his heart set on catching a state record fish in Oregon started out targeting pumpkinseeds. He felt he could break the record on the Smith or Umpqua rivers, but virtually all of his largest pumpkinseeds turned out to be hybrids having larger mouths than the bluegill-type mouth of a typical pumpkinseed. Oregon’s state record pumpkinseed remains an unimpressive 7.68 ounce fish from Lake Oswego that was caught in 1996 – a lake without access to the general public that should not be eligible for state records.

His next target will be the yellow perch in Siltcoos Lake. Over the last decade, Siltcoos has produced a number of perch with the length to threaten or exceed the state record- should they be caught prior to spawning – but in every case, they were caught after spawning. My friend is determined to fish Siltcoos Lake between early February and mid-March when adult female perch are at their heaviest. Oregon’s state record yellow perch weighed two pounds and two ounces and has held the record for 46 years. A pre-spawn 14 to 15-inch female perch may topple it – Tenmile and Tahkenitch lakes have a shot too.

On the subject of state record fish, I cannot believe how many peope lie, or greatly exaggerate the size of their fish. I will make an effort to possibly explain their mindset. A person catches a good-sized fish and not knowing the state record weight of that particular fish speces, he chooses an estimated weight for his fish that he is certain won’t “short” it. Even if the fish was weighed on a scale, the angler’s mind starts thinking that the scale “weighed light” and starts mentally adding weight so that won’t happen.

The problem with this “practice” is that it literally forces me to do the same thing – for me to be able to properly converse with you.

An 11 pound two ounce Tenmile Lake largemouth bass reportedly weighed at Ringo’s Lakeside Marina prompted this “rant”. When I talked to someone at Ringo’s that actually saw the bass, a bug-eyed lunker that looked huge when viewed on the IphoneI saw it on, she estimated the bass’s weight at about seven pounds and the reason she estimated the weight was because she didn’t have a scale available. While a seven pound post spawn largemouth bass is quite impressive, it is certainly not a Tenmile Lakes record.

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

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Pete Heley Outdoors 8 / 16 / 2017

As I am writing this column, there has not been any official word from the ODFW regarding a possible upcoming all-depth halibut opener this coming Friday and Saturday. The catch from the last central Oregon halibut opener (Aug. 4th and 5th) was 34,427 pounds, which leaves 31,855 pounds or 48.1 percent of the starting summer quota of 66,281 pounds.

Here’s how the different ports in our zone fared on the first summer opener: (1) – Newport(27,088 pounds; (2) – Florence(2,211 pounds); (3) – Depoe Bay(1,842 pounds); (4) – Bandon(1,550 pounds); (5) – Pacific City (699 pounds); (6) – Winchester Bay (658 pounds; (7) – Garibaldi (295 pounds) and (8) – Charleston (75 pounds).

By the time this column is published the ODFW will have announced their decision, which depending upon projected ocean conditions will most likely be one or two days. The ODFW seldom adds more than 30,000 uncaught pounds to the next future all-depth halibut season.

Still no word on whether there will be an adjustment to the quota for the upcoming nonselective ocean coho season beginning September 2nd – since 55.6 percent of the quota, for finclipped ocean coho salmon was uncaught – or nearly 12,000 cohos – an upward adjustment of the quota seems reasonable.

Salmon fishing in the ocean off Winchester Bay and in the Umpqua River below Reedsport has been fair at best, but last Tuesday (August 8th), anglers caught about 30 chinooks on the Umpqua River below Reedsport and six chinooks were caught by bank anglers casting spinners at Half Moon Bay. Later last week, it seems the spinner flingers were having their best success at Osprey Point.

Very few reports from successful striped bass anglers on the Smith and Umpqua rivers – and fishing pressure and success appear to be down on the Coquille River as well.

Crabbing at Winchester Bay has been very good and fishing the South Jetty has been fair to good for bottomfish and striped surfperch.

A walk around Lake Marie convinced me that the largemouth bass population is definitely down from where it was several years ago.The most likely reason is that the bass fry spawned in at least some of the last several years did not reach sufficient size by late fall to survive their first winter. At least the yellow perch population appears stable, but the lake has very few perch over seven inches long. I didn’t notice any uncaught planted trout while walking around Lake Marie, but I did notice some of the smaller trout planted recently by our local STEP Chapter and they seemed healthy and active but probably won’t be legal to keep for at least a year. I also noticed a few even smaller trout about two inches long that have me wondering if there was some successful spawning by uncaught planted trout during this year’s high water.

Other local lakes that seem to have reduced bass populations include Perkins Lake and Elbow Lake. But the bass population in Lost Lake appears to have grown somewhat over the last several years.

For those planning on fishing during our upcoming total solar eclipse this upcoming Monday (April 21st), most experts do not think there will not be much of an effect since the duration of the total eclipse will be less than two minutes in Oregon. Of more importance will be the approximate 90 minutes of partial eclipse surrounding the total eclipse and that period of dimished light may be enough to influence insect hatches and baitfish activity. It also will offer many Oregonians their first opportunity to legally fish for salmon, trout or steelhead in near total darkness.

I am someone who believes many of the actions taken by the ODFW are well thought out, actually make sense and are beneficial – but that doesn’t mean that the ODFW can’t do even better. Here are a few things they could start doing that would really impress me.

(1) – Work to ensure that all suitable Oregon waters have populations of suitable fish species. This will ease crowding on many popular fishing spots and possibly reverse the trend that seems to be forcing anglers to fish the same waters, for the same fish species, at the same time.

(2) – Don’t automatically close a fishery because an agency says they would have difficulty overseeing and enforcing it. At least give Oregon’s angling public a chance to show they can’t be trusted.

(3) – Review and rescind unwarranted closures on streams or lakes, or more tightly define the closures or restrictions to minimize any lost angling opportunities.

(4) – Work with landowners to increase access to potential fishing spots or hunting spots and educate the public on what types of behavior will result in loss of access. Also educate the property owners on what their actual property rights are. Currently, restricting access by water to a cove or or restricting access below the high water mark of a navigable stream are offenses far more likely to be overlooked by law enforcement officials than unpermitted trespass – but should it be?

(5) – Start keeping official state records on all of Oregon fish species of interest to anglers. Every other state does.

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

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ODFW Test-Drops Larger Trout In Eagle Cap Mountain Lakes.

Thousands of juvenile trout were airlifted to the Wallowa Mountains last week by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to supplement the fish populations of lakes within the 361,000-acre Eagle Cap Wilderness in Northeast Oregon.

The Eagle Cap Wilderness has some of Oregon’s most beautiful mountain lakes, including the state’s highest lake, Legore Lake, perched above the Wallowa Valley at an altitude of 8,950 feet. More than 40 lakes in the Eagle Cap are above 7,000 feet.

“The extreme conditions involved in maintaining healthy fish populations in a landscape above 7,000 feet has its own challenges,” said Jeff Yanke, ODFW district fish biologist in Enterprise, adding, “but anglers have consistently told us that fishing is one of the recreational experiences they expect when they go to the wilderness.”

ODFW stocks Eagle Cap Wilderness lakes by helicopter every two years. The stocking program is paid for with federal Sportfish Restoration Program dollars, which is funded by a 10 percent excise tax on the sale of fishing equipment. In this way, ODFW seeds off-the-beaten-track lakes with rainbow trout that will hopefully grow to become the eight inchers that anglers can legally retain.

The challenges juvenile trout face in the high mountains are considerable. First there is the long fall from the aerial stocking device (ASD) or “shuttle” underneath the helicopter to the cold waters of the high lake. In some of those lakes, the rainbows may encounter eastern brook trout, which were stocked in the high lakes decades ago and are a voracious predator. Freezing cold water is another factor in the high lakes that can take a toll on fish.

One way to improve survival rates is to start with larger fish. Fish biologists have long known larger fish are better able to withstand the forces of nature than smaller fish. However, larger fish also take up more space, which means fewer of them will fit into the two-gallon containers on the helicopter shuttle that ODFW uses to transport fish to the high lakes.

This year ODFW’s Enterprise office began testing three sizes of rainbow trout to see which one may fare better with the presence of brook trout in Oregon’s highest lakes. The control group, raised to a target size of 2.5 inches, is similar to what ODFW has released into the high lakes in the past and most commonly used for aerial stocking in other locations. This year two larger sizes: 3- and 4-inch rainbows – were also tested to see if there is any improvement in survival rates as the result of using larger trout. This part of the study will be completed in three to four years.

“Our study was initiated to see if we could increase rainbow survival in our lakes enough by raising a larger fish to overcome predation and competition by naturally producing brook trout,” said Kyle Bratcher, ODFW assistant district fish biologist in Enterprise.

One of the concerns was that larger fish might suffer more severe injuries when they hit the water after a 70-foot free fall because their bodies have more surface area to injure. Finding little or no documented evidence of this, the biologists simulated an air stocking event by dropping these different groups from varying heights into a small reservoir in advance.

Preliminary results indicate that all three size groups have high post-drop survival rates, according to Bratcher, who noted that samples were sent to ODFW’s fish lab in La Grande where they will be assessed for bruising, injuries and other signs of trauma.

In addition, ODFW crews will sample survey the stocked lakes two years from now, with captured fish identified as to species, length, weight, and other criteria that will lead to estimates of population abundance, growth, and condition.

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ODFW News – Beach Camping During Upcoming Eclipse.

Oregon State Park officials are warning people not to camp on the beach during the upcoming solar eclipse because the high tide will be very high and the low tide will be very low.

Oregon’s Monday high tide during the eclipse will be close to midnight and will not leave much beach to camp on anyway. The adjacent very low tide can mislead some would-be beach campers as to how much beach they can camp on – putting them at risk when the very high tide arrives after dark.

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Mardon Resort / Potholes Reservoir Fishing Report

The water level has dropped two feet this past week and is currently at 1030.95 feet. The water temps back in the dunes are reaching 83 degrees during the day with the main lake surface temps are in the low 80’s.
The walleye have scattered – but are eating! The Reservoir continues to drop at a quick pace – there are big fish as far as you can go up in the dunes, there are fish on the face of the dunes, and fish are holding around Goose Island. You will have to search shallow to deep to dial them in. Once you find one – work the area hard. The walleye are in transition – slowly moving out of the dunes as the Reservoir drops and the bait moves out. Best bet – troll #5 or #7 Flicker Shads in 8-15 feet of water on the face of the dunes and around Goose Island.
Several reports of big crappie being caught incidentally while fishing smaller crankbaits on the face of the dunes. The MarDon Dock fishing is coming on very strong with quality crappie, bluegill and perch. Largemouth bass in the 2-5-pound range have moved in under the dock. The dock fishing will continue to improve as the water level drops. Dock fishing is only available to registered guests staying at MarDon Resort.
The Channel Catfish and bullhead is as good as it gets! Fish around Goose Island, the face of the dunes, and up Crab Creek for Channel Cats up to 20 pounds!
The largemouth bass fishing excellent. Fish the dunes with SPRO Bronzeye Pop 60s, Rebel Pop-R’s and Zara Spooks for topwater action and Strike King square bill crankbaits in Bluegill or Perch patterns. There are good numbers of quality smallmouth bass in the dunes as well. Bass fishing along the face of the dam has been good this past week for both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Throw crankbaits, tubes, and 5” Kalin’s grubs for both.
Upcoming Events
August 26, 2017
Lake Poker Run and Beach Party (A CWFAC Event)
All day event – challenging game competition with
payout, beach party, social fun w/ music and dancing

August 26-27, 2017
ABA Bass Tournament, Angie Dover
(206) 669-5983 |
Must be a member of ABA, sign-ups at the resort.

September 1-4, 2017
Yard Sale Saturday, Sept. 2nd / Labor Day Weekend

September 8-10, 2017
Skagen Jet Boat Weekend and Beach Party

September 15-17, 2017
Marathon Dock Fishing Tournament and Potluck

Ken Kernan, retired Grant County Under-Sheriff, caught his “personal best” Channel Catfish at 18.70 pounds! Ken was fishing Crab Creek when he caught the big cat.

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