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Contact Pete Heley
PO Box 264
Reedsport, OR 97467
Monthly Archives: March 2012
(1) – MIDDLE DESCHUTES RIVER (Oregon)- Since I am writing this column, I am arbitrarily going to use the term Middle Deschutes River to include the river from Crane Prairie Dam down to where the river enters Lake Billy Chinook. After all, that stretch includes the stream’s best brown trout fishing and while some hefty browns can ascend the river out of Wickiup Reservoir, the river is closed when that is likely to happen. However, any section of the river is capable of growing trout weighing more than eight pounds and browns weighing more than 15 pounds have been taken on numerous occasions. Most of the really big browns are not landed – especially when the irrigation water is back in the river. Access is shrinking on this section of the Deschutes, but anglers now can float sections of this stream in pontoon boats, canoes or kayaks. The most inaccessible reaches seem to have the most outsized browns, but they are present in all sections. Fly anglers should have their best luck in the fall, before the end of the irrigation season shen the stream is down-sized and many browns are in the easy-to-fish tailouts. When ever I am exploring this section of the Deschutes, I try to use polarized glasses and a minnow-imitating plug. If I spot a large trout move towards my lure, but not take, I try to make a second attempt in the very early morning or late evening. There are definitely enough big browns in this river to warrant targeting them.
(2) – SOUTH FORK SNAKE RIVER (Idaho)- Starting at the dam forming Palisades Reservoir, the South Fork Snake River is a predominately cutthroat trout fishery. However, the brown trout in this stream are capable of reaching gigantic sizes. Two consecutive Idaho state records weighing at least 26 pounds were pulled from this stream, before the current state record brown trout was recently pulled from Ashton Reservoir. Over the years, the South Fork has produced several browns weighing at least 20 pounds. Limited bank access gives anglers making float trips a big advantage, although there are always some huge browns hanging below Palisades in the fall.
(3) – OWYHEE RIVER (Oregon – below Owyhee Reservoir)- A current favorite of fly anglers, the ten miles of the Owyhee below Owyhee Reservoir produces good fishing for browns up to four pounds with a fair chance at browns up to at least ten pounds. Lure anglers seem to be frowned on, as are float anglers since they often spook the fish shore anglers are targeting. In my opinion, the very largest browns are probably slightly farther downstream than most anglers are fishing in water that seems less “troutlike”.
(4) – COWICHAN RIVER (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)- Somewhat overlooked for brown trout, the Cowichan River remains best known for producing the heaviest ocean-run coho salmon (30 1/2-pounds taken from Cowichan Bay in 1950). However, the stretch of river from Skutz Falls upriver to where the river leaves Cowichan Lake is capable of producing browns to at least ten pounds. The river has had restrictions on fishing from a floating device in the past, but a boat or float tube will help an angler reach less-pressured browns. In this river, the browns seem to school up tightly in the best holding water. Some of the best spots are beneath stretches of shoreline trees.
(5) – LITTLE DESCHUTES RIVER (Oregon)- Since much of the shoreline of this small stream is privately owned, access can be a problem. Float trips in small craft is a good way to fish the river. While floating, one will be amazed at how many homes are alongside stretches of this stream, but if one really concentrates on casting to cover (logs, undercuts and overhanging trees) with large flies or Rapala-type plugs, they have a chance at hooking some impressive browns. While browns weighing more than ten pounds have been caught, fish from 14 to 20-inches are far more likely. Concentrate on fishing the toughest-to-reach spots and you will encounter some impressive browns.
(6) – WOOD RIVER (Oregon)- Almost sterile-looking, most of the Wood’s brown trout would probably be in Agency Lake which has more food if it wasn’t for the high PH levels during sunny days. The springfed Wood has impressive-sized brown trout scattered throughout its length from Kimble Park down to Agency Lake, but the best chance at brown trout doesn’t start until one gets below Dixon Road. Because the river is springfed, some of the bridges are built very close to the water and a jon boat is best-suited for floating it. Downstream from where Annie Creek pours in, the river flow can change dramatically depending upon how much snowmelt the slopes below Crater Lake is putting into Annie Creek. Fishing to shoreline structure before reaching it is a key strategy on the Wood and there are times when fishing is almost useless during a sunny day. For this reason, the 45 minutes following daylight and the 45 minutes before dark are very important fishing times.
(7) – COLVILLE RIVER (Washington)- Despite access problems due to private property, the Colville River produces some sizable rainbows and even bigger browns in its middle and upper reaches. The lower reaches above where it pours into the Columbia River at Roosevelt Lake is pretty much a warmwater fishery. Anglers able to execute float trips on the river have a reasonable chance to hook browns measuring 24-inches or more.
(8) – SAN POIL RIVER (Washington)- This pretty stream is offers similar angling opportunites to the Colville River. Also flowing into the Columbia River and Roosevelt Lake east of where the Colville does, the San Poil is also capable of offering good fishing for brown and rainbow trout that may exceed 20-inches in length. Like the Colville, the lower reaches of the San Poil is pretty much a warmwater fishery.
(9) – SILVER CREEK (Idaho)- This famed flyfishing stream holds lots of browns which do not often enter the catch because of the flyfishing-only regulations Twenty five years ago, when lures could be used on the stream, more than half the fish I caught were brown trout and some were lunkers. Anglers fishing leech and streamer patterns would most be most likely to hook browns, but the overwhelming majority of the anglers that fish this productive stream target the more cooperative rainbows.
(10) – NORTH FORK UMPQUA RIVER (Oregon)- The upper reaches of this stream, from a couple miles above Lemolo Reservoir downstream to several miles below Soda Springs Dam holds almost entirely brown trout. This has been the case since rainbow trout plants were pretty much discontinued. Although the stream sections between the three reservoirs (Lemolo, Toketee and Soda Springs) is not very fertile, relatively low fishing pressure combined with the difficulty most anglers have in catching brown trout allow this stream to hold good numbers of brown trout to 12-inches with the occasional much larger brown being infrequently taken. Most of the decent-sized trout in this stream hold in the larger pools and slow-moving sections beneath overhangling rock. The section immediately below Soda Springs Dam is closed to all angling, but starting one-quarter mile below the dam, the North Umpqua becomes a flyfishing-only fishery.
The few spring chinook taken so far on the Umpqua River have not yet resulted in intense fishing pressure usually associated with this fishery, but fish have been caught upstream at least as far as Sawyers Rapids and there are definitely fishable numbers of springers in the river. Anglers catching jumbo-sized salmon should consider entering them in the annual spring chinook contest held annually by the Wells Creek Inn.
The ocean opens on March 15th for sportsmen targeting chinook salmon. Those first two weeks allow anglers to combine ocean salmon fishing with bottomfishing – which will close down offshore on April 1st. Since the numbers of Umpqua River bound spring chinook is always way less than fall chinook entering the Umpqua, a good strategy for targeting the ocean springers is to fish near the Umpqua River bar where the fish should be slightly more concentrated.
Crabbing at Winchester Bay remains somewhat tough for the dock crabbers, but boat crabbers targeting Half Moon Bay are usually getting partial limits.
A few anglers have been fishing the surf for redtailed surfperch, better known as pinkfins, and doing quite well. The key is to fish when the surf isn’t too heavy, although a few anglers manage to minimize the heavy surf effect by using long rods and heavy weights. Using braided line will also reduce the effect of heavy waves or strong tidal currents, but few anglers seem to take advantage of its super-thin diameter. Sand shrimp is the most frequently-used bait, but some anglers dig their perch bait (sand worms) on-site at low tide and then fish it on the incoming tide. The most successful surf anglers tend to be those who don’t waste much time when they are not getting bites, but keep moving until they find cooperative fish.
Fishing pressure on the South Jetty has increased and, in general, been quite good. Greenling and striped surfperch remain the most common catches, but rockfish, cabezon and lingcod have all been caught recently. Cabezon are not legal to keep through the end of March and most of the larger rockfish are caught by anglers fishing the outer half of Umpqua River side of the South Jetty. The few anglers actually targeting lingcod report that the fishing has recently picked up. Very few anglers have been targeting the offshore bottomfish areas, which are almost always very productive and will close as of April 1st. The retention of one cabezon measuring at least 16-inches in length will become legal as of April 1st and remain legal until October 1st.
Striped bass continue to be caught by the few anglers actually targeting them on the Smith River at night. The fish are still hanging around the upper end of tidewater and most easily reached by boat anglers. It seems that the stripers taken last year were chunkier than those taken in recent past years and maybe this year a lucky angler will hook and actually land a pre-spawn female striper that actually reaches the 60 pound mark.
Recent rains have allowed most area streams to receive additional winter steelhead. Water conditions usually determine the best fishing opportunities. While Tenmile Creek usually receives fair numbers of late winter steelhead, Eel Creek will close to steelhead fishing on April 1st.p
Area trout plants for this week are restricted to Butterfield Lake and Mingus Park Pond which are each slated to receive 2,000 trout and Empire Lakes which is scheduled to receive 6,000 trout. Most of the other smaller lakes in the Florence area have received trout plants and have enough trout left to merit fishing them. Best warmwater opportunities are for largemouth bass and yellow perch. A bass weighing nine pounds 11 ounces was reported caught from Freeway Lakes which lies beneath Interstate 5 at Albany. The winning five bass weight at last weekend’s American Bass Tournament at Tenmile Lakes was 23.64 pounds and was taken by the team of Chris Carpenter and Travis Glass. The Carpenter/Glass team also landed the tournament’s big bass at seven pounds four ounces. Tenmile has been producing some very large early season largemouths this year.
It seems that Polk County is asking for grant money to fund a a study regarding feasibility of constructing a dam on the South Fork of the Siletz River. I find this especially irritating since Boise-Cascade once had a dam on the South Siletz about a mile upstream from where the North Fork Siletz poured into the South Fork Siletz and the resulting reservoir covered about 400 acres. The reservoir was called Valsetz Lake and offered good fishing for rainbow, cutthroat and even brown trout as well as such warmwater species as largemouth bass, black crappie and brown bullhead catfish. If a reservoir on the South Siletz is a good thing, one can only surmise that it would have been much, much cheaper to purchase the dam, reservoir and perhaps even the company town of Valsetz (which had several hundred inhabitants) than to allow Boise-Cascade to remove the dam and reservoir and raze a perfectly good town than to build another dam from scratch.
A lotter will be held by the ODFW on April 27th to award 12 sea urchin harvest permits. The allowable number of permits is 30 and whenever the number of permits drops very far below 30, a lottery is held to bring the number back up to 30. The application fee for the lottery is $102 for residents and $152 for nonresidents. To retain the permit, 5,000 pounds, or more, of sea urchins must be harvested annually and after harvesting 20,000 pounds, a permit owner may sell or transfer his permit. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and not currently hold such a permit. The applications for the lottery need to be received no later than April 15th at the ODFW Salem office. Unsuccessful applicants’ fees are refunded and successful applicants need to purchase an individual commercial license within 30 days at a cost of $82 residents and $132 nonresidents. Nearly 600,000 pounds were harvested in Oregon last year and they are processed in California or Washington before being shipped overseas – usually to Japan where consumers will pay up to $100 per pound for them and sometimes even more.
The number of posts on ifish.net that attacked an angler posting a photo of a huge largemouth bass taken from Freeway Lakes (near Albany) recently was eye-opening – and depressing. It seems that there are a lot of fishermen that believe that information regarding catch locations, or even fishing techniques are in poor taste.
I think that they are very, very wrong, In fact, I think anglers that receive truthful fishing information are morally bound to provide the same.
If anglers regularly revealed accurate information regarding their fish catches, the effects of such posts would be spread out. If the “haters” regarding the revealing of actual catch locations were to accurately post their catch locations, that alone would diminish the effect of the posting by the person they are complaining about.
I personally think it is wrong to pick and choose when to stop giving accurate fishing information and resort to inaccurate information and, in some cases, outright lies. Usually, the misinformation is given by anglers that lack eithics and are insecure when it comes to how well their fishing ability matches up to other anglers.
I do not keep any fish when I am fishing out of my float tube as it would require me to quit fishing before I want to, if I want to properly prepare them for consumption. So when I am fishing a spot that I found through information provided by others, the only think I am guilty of is educating some of the fish and possibly making them more difficult for others to catch – at least for a while after they are quickly released.
The angler that caught that lunker bass from Freeway Lakes did so in very cold and very muddy water and my guess is that anybody immediately visiting the lake because of his online posts most likely did not even attempt to fish. As fishing spots go, information not promptly acted on is usually quickly forgotten.
I commend those that actually provide detailed, accurate online fishing posts. They often realize that they may have to share their fishing spots with a few more anglers, but they are willing to do so, without remorse, knowing they may have to fish better and smarter to maintain their catch rates.
It seems that in the last several years, both online and print fishing information as well as the ODFW and even retailers selling fishing tackcle seem determined to herd anglers into fishing the same waters at the same time for the same fish species. Anglers willing to provide fishing info on less popular waters, especially when it comes to overlooked fish species, do much to counter this trend.
Kudos to those not afraid to share.
Rick Kruitt used to spend a lot of time catching late winter/early spring Smith River stripers and only several years back, the fish he caught were quite thin for striped bass. I still remember one fish he brought into the Stockade Market to get weighed weighed only 34 pounds, yet was 49-inches long. Years ago, a pre-spawn striper of such length would have weighed 60 pounds. This pictured striper was caught in the early spring last year and weighed 25 pounds. More importantly, it appears to be a very robust fish. Hopefully, this will be the norm for the stripers taken in 2012.
YEARLY FISHING LICENSES THAT AREN’T?
It seems that the current furor on at least one online fishing site is whether, or not, fishing licenses issued to a 13 year old (free) so that he can purchase a harvest tag to allow the pursuit of salmon, steelhead, halibut or sturgeon. The answers to the apparent question seem to be all over the board, but in the interests of consistencey, this writer believes that the license should be valid for the rest of the year – even if the holder of the license turns 14 later in the year.
The number one reason for my thinking is that the license was issued as a yearly license.
The number two reason is that requiring the newly turned 14 year old to get a second yearly license for the same calendar year just does not seem right.
The third reason is consistency and fairness. If that if that newly-turned 14 year old immediately loses the use of his free fishing license, then senior or pioneer anglers should get some sort of rebate upon turning 70 or 65 years of age for the portion of the year that they are eligible for a free license or less expensive license.
The fourth reason is that doing otherwise would make the issuance of fishing licenses to juvenile anglers more complex, or less simple, than it needs to be.
It is bad enough that youngsters need to have their social security numbers in the license-issuing system to purchase any yearly licenses immediatley upon turning 14. Unless one actually works at a retail establishment that sells a ton of fishing licenses, they be unaware of how many youngsters suffer from this requirement – especially if they are traveling with people other than their parents. Many of these youngsters, or the adults with them, end up purchasing a much more expensive short term license because they cannot come up with the young teens social security information.
Before someone brings up the shellfish license which is required of anyone 14 years old or older, let me state that it is very different in that no shellfish license options are available for those under 13 years of age and there is no other purchased documents available that complements the shellfish license. Currently, a newly-turned 14 year old cannot purchase a fishing license after turning 14 on the online license system – if he already has a yearly license that was issued to him at age 13.
Having said all this, the reality is that a 14 year old angler with a fishing license issued to him as a 13 year old is basically at the mercy of the enforcement person actually checking his license. However, his chances would seem fairly good in court or after writing a letter to the court as there seems to be no concensus among enforcement and policy people. Right now, the online license will not allow the license to be issued and the only semi-easy way to get the license as a 14 year old would be to make handwritten licenses available for juveniles who have recently turned 14 – kind of like the handwritten shellfish licenses now available for Oregon residents.
The fairest, and simplest, thing to do – is to is to keep yearly licenses yearly and let those youngsters concentrate on actually fishing.
In a previous post, I mentioned some of the state of Washington’s most vulnerable state fish records. I left off the record of hybrid or tiger muskies. The reason that I did this is because current fishing regulations for Washington only allow tiger muskies to be kept if they measure 50 or more inches in length. According to Bruce Bolding, a fisheries biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the tiger muskies tend to max out at about 48-inches before dying of old age. However, there are a few exceptions and in 2010, a 52-inch tiger musky was pulled from Curlew Lake. Possibly because Washington musky anglers are so used to releasing their jumbo muskies, that fish was also released before it could be certified as a state record.
The only one of several formulas that estimate the weight of muskies based only on their length is the one developed by Doug Hannon who is well known as the bass professor. His formula is: WEIGHT = LENGTH (to the third power or cubed) / 2800. If that released 52-inch tiger musky was of average build, it would have weighed (52 cubed/2800 = 140,608 / 2800) 50 pounds. Since the current state record is a 31 pound four ounce fish pulled from Mayfield Lake way back in 2001 before Washington set the current minimum length limit at 50-inches. Please remember, this formula only gives a rough weight for a musky of average body shape.
The current length limit is generally well received by Washington’s musky anglers, but if the minimum length limitation is ever reduced, there will be a lot of muskies measuring between 45 and 50-inches that may top the current state record. Even if the length limit remained intact, but the state allowed a fish to be retained long enough to be weighed and photographed before being released, the current state record tiger musky would almost be short-lived.
Since the minimum length limit on the tiger muskies is set through 2013, someone is just going to have to catch and officially weigh a musky measuring 50-inches – a extremely unlikely, yet still possible longshot. – and musky anglers in the state of Washington will continue to catch and release more tiger muskies than any state in America.