Pete Heley Outdoors 4 / 29 / 2015

One of the more popular bass tournaments in the northwest took place last week at Potholes Reservoir. The Potholes Open enjoyed better weather than usual and warmer water temperatures – and fishing was very good with some teams weighing in more than 20 pounds on each day of the two day tournament. What was most unusual is that the average weight of the 179 smallmouth bass weighed in was the same, at two pounds 11 ounces, as the average weight of the 907 largemouth weighed in. The heaviest largemouth weighed in exceeded 7.5 pounds and the heaviest smallmouth weighed more than five pounds.

Fishing for smallmouth bass on the Umpqua River and for largemouth bass in lakes and ponds in our area has been good, but should get even better with stable, warmer weather.

Fisheries that are plugging along at a slow pace include Umpqua River shad where most of the fishing pressure is occurring at Yellow Creek (about halfway between Elkton and Sutherlin), Spring Chinook salmon(above Scottsburg) and the larger trout lakes along the Oregon coast.

Until warmer water stops the trout plants, the smaller, more heavily planted lakes usually offer better trout fishing, but when trout stocking takes its annual mid-summer break, the larger lakes quickly catch up – as they have more carryover trout and some searuns. Anglers using worms, or nightcrawlers for bait are less dependent on trout plants as their bait choice will target all the fish species in a body of water although not so much the crappie.

The annual run of female redtailed surfperch on the Umpqua River could start any day. This very popular fishery usually runs from mid-May through July and takes place from across the river from where Winchester Bay’s East Boat Basin connects with the Umpqua River upriver as far as the rows of pilings above Marker 12. However, the “official” start of the run and the intense fishing pressure associated with it is dependent upon someone actually catching the first fish.

Here’s some tips to improve your surfperch catch. (1) – Use a superbraid line. It’s thinner diameter allows you to cast farther and use lighter sinkers. It also does not stretch nearly as much as monofilament and will telegraph bites much better. (2) – Use two or three hooks spaced just far enough apart that they won’t snag each other. You won’t be able to keep the hooks from from occasionally snagging your mainline, but that won’t keep a perch from biting your bait. (3) – The most popular bait for surfperch when they are in the Umpqua River is sand shrimp (called ghost shrimp in California). They are easily torn off the hook by both perch and such nuisance biters as sculpins – or during a cast. Using long shank hooks or elastic thread will somewhat help keep the sand shrimp on the hook, but the most effective way to ensure that you are not fishing without bait is to use a hardy artificial bait such as Berkley Gulp on one of your hooks – preferably the bottom hook where most of the nuisance bites occur.

Surfperch are generally not considered a wary fish, but if you treat them like they are, your catch will almost certainly go up. Using fluorocarbon line for your dropper hooks may not be necessary, but what is the downside? You certainly won’t catch less fish if the line attached to your hooks is less visible. Several years ago, a commercial fisherman that was participating in the live commercial rockfish fishery down there told me about his friend who he considered the most successful angler in that particular commercial fishery.  When that angler switched from green line to clear line, he became even more successful.

Common sense would indicate that some perch will move away from a boat as it moves into anchoring position. That is why I think upriver surfperch anglers should cast away from the boat into undisturbed areas for at least the first few minutes. What keeps some surfperch anglers from adopting this logical strategy is that every once in a while they will hook a perch immediately upon dropping their bait straight to the bottom. The mistake they are making is in thinking that no perch shied away from the path of their boat.

Another common mistake is to attempt to fish near a group of boats that are not hooking fish. While there is undoubtedly some benefit to “community chumming”, a more effective strategy might be to fish elsewhere – after all, that group of boats is telling you where the perch are not biting.

And if you do see a group of boats that are hooking perch, rather than charging into their midst, approach them from down current, keeping a respectful distance. Surfperch schools almost always move with the current and they should meet up with you in mere minutes.

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.

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