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.

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.
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