Pete Heley Outdoors 10 / 19 / 2016

I, like many others, had heard conflicting reports regarding Tenmile Lakes coho season. So I called the ever helpful folks at the ODFW office in Charlston and they informed me that there was no coho season for Tenmile Lakes. I had not really paid much attention to Tenmile’s coho season because they typically arrive very late – several weeks after the official opening of Tenmile’s coho opener, when it has one (Oct. 1st).

It seems that the coho salmon seasons on Siltcoos Lake and Tahkenitch Lake are somewat “grandfathered in”, while Tenmile Lakes needs to be “authortized” every year – kind of like the nonselective coho seasons on Oregon’s coastal rivers. And with anticipated extremely low coho returns this year, such authorization was not forthcoming. The plan is to lump Tenmile Lakes in with Tahkenitch and Siltcoos lakes next year so that if there isn’t a special meeting resulting in an emergency closure, all three lakes will have a coho salmon season running from Oct. 1st through December every year.

On a positive note, it appears that 2-rod licenses will be valid on Tenmile Lakes during October, November and December of this year for the first time in quite a few years. That alone should make Tenmile a preferred destination for serious late-season yellow perch anglers.

As a teenager living in Lakeside, Tenmile Lakes had a reputation as Oregon’s top producer of coho salmon. Although a number of different lures were popular, by far the most popular was a “Hotshot” in the fluorescent red finish. At the same time. the most popular salmon lure on Siltcoos Lake was a “Hotshot” in a green frog finish.

Thirty four years ago, on Thansgiving Day, Chris Engel, a frequent fishing buddy and I were trolling for coho salmon on Tenmile near Shutter’s Creek. The reason that we were there was that Chris had heard that someone had landed a 14 pound coho and we agreed that a coho that big was a fish worth catching. I believe that Chris was using a red Hotshot and I was using a red Tadpolly. We had been fishing less than an hour when I had a solid strike and a large salmon leaped three feet in the air. Since I was using monofilament that tested only six pounds, it took a while to get the coho near the boat. Every time I managed to get the salmon close enough for it to see something it didn’t like (I’m pretty sure it was me), it would effortlessly peel off at least 30 yards of line. This went on long enough that the only other boat on the lake during that rainy windy day pulled up to watch the battle. They parked their boat about 40 yards fron Chris’ boat and actually netted my fish when one of its runs went directly under their boat. Their netting job was incredible and when they returned the salmon to me, it was even heavier than I thought. At 22 pounds, it remains , by far, the largest coho salmon I have caught. The chunky coho was starting to turn dark, so I promptly released it with the hope that its superior genetics would endure.

Over the years, Tenmile’s cohos have had much to endure. For a number of years, there was a major sandbar where Eel Creek entered Tenmile Creek. While the sand bar created a nifty fly fishery in the late spring for native and searun cutts as they terrorizes schools of small bluegills as they navigated the sand bar on their journey down Tenmile Creek. But that same sandbar would block the upstream migration of cohos – sometimes for several weeks. At one time a small dam was proposed on Tenmile Creek near where Eel Creek flowed in, but the dam was opposed by a student activity group at Southwestern Oregon Community College and was never built. It would have definitely helped the coho salmon entering Tenmile Creek reach the lake much earlier.

Presently, a number of small well-placed boulders in lower Eel Creek divert the stream flow so that a significant sand bar no longer forms and Tenmile Lakes produces more salmon smolts than Tahkenitch Lake and about the same as Siltcoos Lake.

It doesn’t produce as many salmon for anglers as does Tahkenitch and Siltcoos, but that is primarily because the returning salmon are more difficult to target on Tenmile. A natural place to fish for cohos on Tenmile is the channel between North Tenmile Lake and South Tenmile Lake, but the channel has not been open for salmon fishing and there is only about 40 yards of Tenmile Creek where salmon are legal to catch and that is between South Tenmile Lake and the bridge over Tenmile Creek on Hilltop Drive. Almost all of Tenmile’s tributaries are small and difficult to see while out on the lake.

Anyway, the key thing to remember amidst all this reminscing is that there is no coho salmon season on Tenmile Lakes this year.

There was some pretty good crabbing at Winchester Bay last weekend despite the heavy rains. Hopefully, those catches were not due to crabs that reached areas above Winchester moving downriver because of the added freshwater. Ocean crabbing has been closed since Oct. 16th and will remain so through November.

Other regulations that may result in an angler getting a ticket might be using two rods on Tahkenitch or Siltcoos Lakes between Oct. 1st and Decenber 31st or using two rods on the lower Umpqua River after October 31st.

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.
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