Pete Heley Outdoors 8 / 12 / 2015

Crabbing remains the hottest thing going right now at Winchester Bay. Half Moon Bay remains very productive, but the heavy crabbing pressure means that most of the legal crabs are taken shortly after entering the river and the stretch of river just upstream of Winchester Bay has not yet become productive.The best crabbing has been in the ocean in water from 40 to 60 feet deep. Virtually all of the crabs caught recently have been full of meat.

The next best thing is the fishing for smallmouth bass in the Umpqua River as far downriver as the Elk Viewing Area. Many smallmouth anglers believe the fishing is the best it’s been in at least ten years. Nightcrawlers and such small plastic baits as worms, grubs and gitzits seem most productive – and the Umpqua River is definitely open to fishing past 2 pm for nonsalmonid species.

Some good catches of yellow perch were made last week at Siltcoos Lake in water about 15 feet deep. While most of the perch measured seven to eight inches, but a few reached and even topped 12-inches. Pieces of nightcrawlers were the preferred bait.

The ocean finclipped coho season ended August 9th with the quota hardly dented. Out of Winchester Bay, most of the cohos were caught in water more than 300 feet deep, but 40 to 60 feet beneath the surface and recently the catch was about 80 percent unclipped cohos. Over last weekend, it seems that the Chinooks have been moving closer to the Umpqua River Bar and the best bite has been a couple of hours before low tide rather than an hour after high tide. Perhaps the Chinooks that are entering the lower Umpqua River are starting from a farther distance off shore than they usually do. It may also be a water temperature thing.

Anglers fishing the lower Umpqua River or the ocean near Winchester Bay should expect improving success for Chinook salmon. Increasing numbers of Chinooks are entering the river and it seems that most of them are holding below Reedsport rather than venturing farther upriver. A slight drop in river temperature should improve and lengthen  the river bite, but a larger drop in water temperature will probably send those salmon farther upriver to continue their spawning run. A few salmon anglers have switched from their usual herring baits to sardines which was the major salmon forage off Winchester Bay this year. Some sardines are still being caught jigging off the docks at Winchester Bay.

Anglers casting spinners from the bank are starting to consistently catch Chinook salmon at Half Moon Bay and to a lesser degree, at Osprey Point and at Gardiner. Chartreuse has been the most popular and productive color, but that will switch to pink when the cohos start entering the lower Umpqua in a couple of weeks. These bankbound anglers have historically endured hours of uneventful casting interrupted by short periods of intense action. A few of these anglers have got in the habit of trying to “cherry pick” these bites. But past fish behavior seems to becoming an increasingly poor predictor of present or future fish behavior. Just last Thursday, a signicant number of boats gave up on fishing the Umpqua River Bar less than an hour before a short, intense, but belated bite put more than a dozen Chinooks  into the boats of the anglers still fishing.

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.
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