The Umpqua River is still very muddy as this is being written. The muddiness has seemed to pretty much stop the spring chinook anglers and any early season striped bass anglers. A few sturgeon anglers have been fish, but catches of legal-sized sturgeon have been few and far between. Virtually all the crabbers are waiting until the river clears up, but a few jetty anglers have been catching bottomfish off the South Jetty, even off the muddier South Jetty side, when using sand shrimp.
The offshore bottomfishing closure will resume on April 1st and this year it will be closed beyond 30 fathoms rather than the usual 40 fathoms. Hopefully, by shrinking the depth closure, it will not be necessary to occasionally shrink it even more (to 20 fathoms or 120 feet) as has happened in recent years. Also, as of April 1st, the keeping of one cabezon at least 16-inches in length will become legal (until October 1st).
The very few people that are fishing the surf for redtailed surfperch have been doing very well. While most anglers in the Reedsport area tend to fish the North Beach area at the end of Sparrow Park Road, many Florence-area anglers fish the beach at the end of the Siltooos Beach Access Road and they have been doing quite well. Of course, ocean and surf conditions have a lot to do with how well one can fish the beaches.
Spring chinook fishing in the Umpqua River should show a major improvement as soon as the water drops and clears up. Unfortunately, a number of fish will have managed to get past the gauntlet of anglers fishing between the Scottsburg Bridge and Elkton. While the lower reaches of the Umpqua above tidewater should offer the best fishing since most of the springers have yet to enter the river, there are almost certainly salmon all the way upriver to where the North and South Umpquas meet at Roseburg.
Steelhead fishing is slowing down. A few anglers have stopped fishing Eel Creek because they heard that few fish have recently entered the fish trap located where Eel Creek leaves Eel Lake. What these anglers did not consider is that a large proportion of the steelhead that enter Eel Creek actually spawn in the creek in places downstream of the fish trap.
Numerous lakes in our area have received trout plants in the last two weeks, but cold miserable weather seems to have slowed the trout bite and definitely decreased fishing pressure. Lake Marie, usually a consistent producer following each trout plant, was very inconsistent. One angler reported that he limited out one day and could not get a bite the next day. Most of the recently planted trout, at least the ones that manage to avoid the ospreys and cormorants, should be available to anglers when the water temperatures increase and the weather gets better.
To date, every striped bass weighing at least 70 pounds that has been caught by an angler has been caught on the east coast of the United States. Landlocked, or strictly freshwater stripers, have come close to the 70 pound mark, but failed to reach it. The heaviest near-miss was a 67 pound eight ounce fish from California’s O’Neill Forebay.and a 67 pound one ounce fish was landed on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. The next largest freshwater striper was landed by fishing guide Ralph Dallas who landed a 65 pound six ouncer from Tennessee’s Cordell Hull Reservoir. However, Dallas had a near miss on an even larger striper when he got a client into a giant that managed to spool the client and break off. The hookup occurred on a favorite stretch of the Cumberland River and when Dallas fished the same area a couple of days later, he found a floating dead striper that had the terminal rig and line from the earlier breakoff. Calculating what would have been the live weight of the striper from length and girth measurements, Dallas determined that the striper would have weighed at least 70 pounds – and would have been a new world record for freshwater stripers.
A short article in the April issue of Popular Mechanics deals with a new find at an archaeological dig in East Timor that unearthed what is, so far, the oldest fishhook yet found. Determined to be 16,000 years old, the fishhook pushes back the age of the earliest fishermen 5,500 years from the previous oldest fishhook which was “only” 10,500 years old. Since bones from deep sea fish have been found among human bones that were dated back to more than 40,000 years ago, there may have been even older “fishermen”. Most likely, these early humans gathered up fish carcasses, but even earlier fishermen remain a very real possibility.