Pete Heley Outdoors 7 / 20 / 2016

A friend of mine talked me into watching a fishing show last week in which the featured guide twice made statements about the size of the yellow perch in Idaho’s Cascade Lake that were obviously untrue to the point of being ridiculous. The guide stated that the record yellow perch was more than eleven and a half pounds (11.688 to be exact).

The world record for yellow perch is a New Jersey fish of slightly more than four pounds – a record that has not even been threatened in more than 150 years.

While the guide’s claim might get him a few new clients, it will almost certainly cost him clients that realize he is completely disconnected from fishing reality. The current record perch from Cascade Lake and the Idaho state record weighed 2.96 pounds and was caught in late February of this year. The incredibly fat fish only measured 15.63 inches in length.

The wild claim from from the Idaho fishing guide started me thinking about some other ridiculous state record fish claims. One such record is for brown bullhead catfish for Washington state. The 11.04 pound state record is nearly fifty percent heavier than the IGFA world record of seven pounds and six ounces.

Perhaps to make up for it – the Washington state record for blue catfish is ridiculously small at 17 pounds 12 ounces for North America’s largest catfish. In fact the weight of the Washington record blue cat is less than thirteen percent of the weight of the IGFA record blue cat of 143 pounds from Virginia. My opinion is that Washington’s record blue cat was a misidentified channel catfish and their record brown bullhead was a misidentified channel, flathead or white catfish.

Oregon is not immune to misidentifying jumbo fish. Years ago, a Bend area ODFW district biologist identified a trout of more than eleven pounds from Suttle Lake as a brook trout – even though a black and white photo of the fish definitely appeared to be of a brown trout. At the time, Oregon’s record brookie was an uncertified five pounder from Mink Lake. It is possible that one of the rare brookies in Blue Lake jouneyed down Link Creek into Suttle lake and then grew to incredible size amid Suttle’s healthy brown trout population, but that scenario is so extremely unlikely that I cannot bring myself to even consider it.

While on the subject of state fish records, here are some of the most likely to be broken in the Pacific Northwest. Washington warmouth, Washington flathead catfish, Washington white crappie, Oregon yellow perch, Oregon pumpkinseed sunfish. Washington’s record warmouth weighed .53 pounds and it was caught only an hour’s drive of Oregon’s record warmouth of one pound 14.2 ounces caught in Columbia Slough. I’ve talked to a couple of serious anglers that fish southwest Washington’s Silver Lake where the record warmouth was caught and they stated that they have caught warmouths of about a pound – but like almost every other angler, they did not bother to get it officially weighed for record consideration. Still, the fact that Oregon’s record warmouth weighs more than three and a half times what the Silver Lake record weighs should bother more than a few Washington state anglers.

Washington’s state record flathead catfish came out of the same Snake River system that produced the Oregon and Idaho flathead records. But at 22.80 pounds, it is barely one-half the size of the Oregon record (42 pounds) or one-third the size of the Idaho record (58.5 pounds).

Washington’s state record white crappie of 2.80 pounds is smaller than Idaho’s (3.0 pounds) and Oregon’s (4.75 pounds) and much smaller than Washington’s state record black crappie of 4.5 pounds.

Of course the easiest way to get a state record fish is to catch a fish species that is newly eligible for state record consideration – and Oregon does not keep records on a bunch of fish species including virtually all saltwater species as well as common carp. Oregon also does not differentiate between the various species of bullhead catfish – instead lumping the various species under the catagory of bullhead catfish.

The biggest recent news flash regarding Oregon fishing is the bottomfishing closure for waters more than twenty fathoms or 120 feet deep that went into effect on July 15th. The reason for the closure is to protect yelloweye rockfish which usually inhabit deeper water but were being hooked often enough by anglers fishing near the thirty fathom line to justify amending the restriction, which is expected to be in effect through the end of this year.

The Umpqua River pinkfin run is starting to wind down and while there is plenty of perch still hanging out in the spawning area above Winchester Bay it is getting harder to find the perch or entice them to bite. While there are still good catches made daily, the fishing success is becoming less consistent.

Crabbing seems to have hit a plateau at Winchester Bay recently, but should continue to gradually improve through mid to late fall and while river crabbing is legal the entire year, ocean crabbing will close the last half of October and the entire month of November.

Rough bar and ocean conditions have limited the ocean salmon catch and the 26,000 fish quota for finclipped coho salmon has hardly been touched. Most of the fishing pressure and salmon catch for our zone has been out of Garibaldi, but as of July 10th, less than two percent of the ocean finclipped coho quota has been caught.

An Umpqua River exception was Chris McAyeal who trolled from the Umpqua River Bar north to Tahkenitch Creek on Saturday and Sunday with one partner and kept a two-day boat limit of two Chinooks and six finclipped cohos. However the largest salmon taken recently have been Chinooks in the 25 pound class taken on the Umpqua River within a couple miles downriver of Reedsport.

Unfortunately, warm river temperatures and windy ocean conditions mean the best time to fish both the river and the ocean is early morning – making it less feasible to fish both.

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.
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