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Contact Pete Heley
PO Box 264
Reedsport, OR 97467
Monthly Archives: June 2012
One of the most overlooked trout/bass lakes along the Oregon coast is Floras Lake located west of Highway 101 in the Langlois area. Covering 250 acres, the lake receives very little fishing pressure and a major reason is that it may be the windiest spot along the entire Oregon coast.
The lake does receive such anadromous fish as salmon and steelhead, but also has fair numbers of cutthroat and rainbow trout. The sleeper fishery is for largemouth bass. The proximity to the ocean somewhat limits bass spawning success, but the scant fishing pressure allows for a relatively strong bass population and the fish tend to be more aggressive than those in more heavily fished lakes.
Small boats can be dumped in just above the New River outlet, but the the main body of the lake is often taken over by windsurfers. A record of 37 miles per hour was set here and there is only about two hundred yards to achieve that speed.
Once you get past the wind surfers, if you started early enough, you may get a temporary respite from the wind as you follow the near east or near shoreline around to the left. There is some wood structure and a few docks in this area and the area fishes fairly well for bass and a decent number of the bass will weigh from three up to at least seven pounds.
There are two winding arms on the north and northwest end of the lake and one would think that these areas would be out of the wind. They sometimes are, but every so often, a strong gust will shoot through these relatively narrow arms and temporarily foul up your casting or fishing.
One unfortunate aspect of the Floras Lake bass fishery is that most of the fishing pressure on the lake is by relatively novice anglers that tend to keep their fish. Never-the-less, the bass fishing on this lake can be very good – if somewhat inconsistent.
The photo below this article is from the author’s first time he fished the lake from a boat and caught largemouths weighing five pounds nine ounces and six pounds two ounces as well as several others weighing more than a pound. Even in that euphoric state, the short trip across the main lake around 11 am was terrifying in a 14-foot boat.
The last fishing days of the spring all-depth halibut season will be Friday and Saturday (June 29th and 30th). By choosing Thursday as the day to drop when all indications were that the quota would be exceded by allowing three days of fishing, the ODFW only gave retired and non-working anglers twice the chance to get a halibut trip in that someone working a normal Monday through Friday job would have. Normally, during the spring halibut season, a those anglers working a normal work week only have one-third the chance to get a halibut trip in that more flexible anglers do. The previous three day opener brought the total halibut catch up from 52 % to 79 % and convinced the ODFW that another full three day opener wouldmean that the spring quota would be more than met.
Through June 17th, 96,017 pounds of the 120,821 spring all-depth halibut quota had been caught. Rough Umpqua River bar conditions and poor ocean conditions kept Winchester Bay from being much of a player in this spring season and most of the halibut were caught in the northern portion of our zone. The leading halibut ports so far with their catches for this season are: Newport (55,144); Garibaldi (24,031); Depoe Bay (6,353); Charleston (4,321); Bandon (3,030); Port Orford (2,165). Pacific City and Winchester Bay reported less than 700 pounds of halibut caught through June 17th. The summer halibut quota of approximately 48,000 pounds may be adjusted upward slightly due to the spring quota not being met.
Ocean salmon fishing, when possible, has been fairly productive for chinooks and this Sunday, the finclipped coho become legal to keep and should make limits somewhat easier to come by. So far, the chinook have seemed to be holding in water less than 100 feet deep and the cohos somewhat deeper. Those salmon anglers that have been dropping crab pots in the ocean while salmon fishing have been making some good crab catches. The bait dock does have some live herring and will be attempting to add to their live bait inventory during the next several weeks. There was a rumor circulating around Winchester Bay that the ocean coho season started early and it appears that at least a few salmon anglers believed it. Some of the charterboats targeting the ocean chinooks have been doing quite well -Strike Zone Charters had boat limits three out of four days entering this week.
The South Jetty seemed to take Friday and Saturday off this last weekend, a most unusual occurence, but rebounded somewhat on Sunday and should, once again, be our area’s most consistent fishery. Umpqua River sturgeon fishing remains slow, while nighttime striped bass angling on the Smith River is fair.
The Umpqua’s pinkfin run has been giving up some good perch catches, but as we move into the middle third of the run (timewise) the boat traffic directed at these perch has them spooked to the point – that, once again, the most consistent fishing is in the first couple of hours after daybreak. Sand shrimp remains the most popular bait.
The water flows on the Umpqua River have gradually dropped to the point where some anglers are starting to wade or walk the shorelines while targeting smallmouth bass and some nice-sized bass have been caught. Of course, those anglers floating the river in small boats or float tubes will almost always catch the most fish. While nightcrawlers is a great choice for fishing from the bank, those floating the river and concentrating on covering lots of water usually do best with soft plastic baits.
Some Reedsport area anglers have been making some good catches of crappies from Loon Lake. Fishing pressure for crappie at the lake has dropped off markedly since the bluegills became established and the pesky “gills” make it difficult to target the crappie. That said, Loon Lake has a few cralppie that will top a pound and a half. A couple of ways to minimize the bluegill problem is to fish for the crappie in somewhat deeper water or fish in the evening or at night when the crappie become more active. Crappies also become active earlier in the spring than do the bluegills and that time period sometimes offers the year’s best crappie angling.
Trout fishing at Tenmile Lakes has been good for trollers and a number of pre-spawn bullhead catfish have been taken by the trout anglers. Usually at this time of year, the bullhead catfish have already spawned and are in the shallows guarding their nest or fry. The much later than normal bullhead spawn tends to prove that this has been a very cool spring and early summer.
Central Oregon’s Wickiup Reservoir has changed a lot since I began fishing it. Back in the early 1970’s, it was primarily a brown trout fishery with fair numbers of kokanee and coho salmon. There were a few rainbow and brook trout present as well and plenty of whitefish. But effective brown trout techniques were in short supply back then. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Donald Ivan LaDuke, of Oakridge, developed some very effective streamer flies which he trolled for the big browns and he caught lots of big fish One fish he caught just before dark was especially large and despite being left overnight in Don’s boat, it weighed 24 pounds 14 ounces and became the state record brown trout for Oregon – a record that lasted more than 40 years from 1957 when the lunker brown was caught.
While the largest browns were usually taken in the slackwater areas of the 11,000 acre reservoir (when full), I spent most of my time casting Rapalas to bassy looking spots in the reeds above Sheep Bridge Campground and I gradually learned how to catch nice-sized browns to more than seven pounds, but as I anticipated that fall’s arrival of larger browns to the upper reaches of the reservoir, I managed to arrive for my last trip of the season and left my oars to my eight foot pram back home – and could not find a suitable piece of wood anywhere.
So I watched helplessly as browns in the 15 pound class jumped and splashed and had to resort to casting my plugs from shore to fish measuring less than 20-inches – not knowing that this was going to be the last season that the upper end of Wickiup would be open to fishing through October.
My proudest moment on Wickiup actually took place on the half-mile of the Deschutes immediately below Wickiup’s dam on my first trip to the area while on Marine Corp leave in early October in 1970.. I had read an article by Colonel Dave Harbour about using minnow-imitating plugs for brown trout on the Green River in Wyoming. So I tied on a 3 1/2-inch sinking gold Rapala to my six pound monofilament. Unfortunately, the ultralight rod I used to lob the surprisingly heavy lure was completely inadequate when it came to setting the hook. But amidst about 30 anglers fishing that half-mile stretch, only one angler had managed to hook a six-inch trout. I managed to land three of the 16 trout that struck my Rapala and every one of them ran from 15 to 24-inches. It took several more years before anglers started regularly using Rapala-type lures on rivers and streams.
Although I knew that eventually Crane Prairie’s largemouth bass would end up in Wickiup, but it was my friend, Jim Wilhelm, who informed me that he had landed several bass while fishing the Deschutes above Wickiup in late July. I quickly talked me into showing where he was catching these fish and in a small 20 foot long backwater, we had bass weighing five or six pounds come within inches of taking our jigs and plastic worms. At that time, the bass were not much evident in Wickiup.
Now, Wickiup has good populations of largemouth bass and brown bullhead catfish and produces brown trout exceeding 20 pounds and rainbows exceeding 14 pounds in most years. There is a small population of brook trout that reach decent size that seem to hang out in the cooler areas of the reservoir such as the springs in and near the North Davis Arm.
But most of the fishing pressure seems directed at the reservoir’s kokanee which regularly top two and a half pounds in weight and are taken by trolling and stillfishing.
Wickiup is a tremendous largemouth fishery and fish weighing at least seven pounds are taken each season with lots of fish weighing four to six pounds. Some bass anglers fish bobber and nightcrawlers in the shallow reedy areas on the east side of the reservoir above the dam. Other anglers concentrate on casting to any downed wood or stumps they can find and both methods produce lots of bass.
Some of Wickiup’s brown bullheads will easily top two pounds and they are often taken in the same shallow areas as the bass, but one overlooked spot for the bullheads is in the rocks along the face of the dam. Some anglers have found that they can catch fair numbers of bullheads by casting to them when they are feeding on or near the surface on insects or small fish. It seems when casting a small wacky-rigged senkos to a cruising bullhead -the bullhead will follow the sinking senko to the bottom and then nail it.
At some point, Crane Prairie’s bluegills and crappies will end up in Wickiup, but currently, they seem to seldom enter the catch. In the meantime, Wickiup may be Oregon’s best two tier fishery and will most likely remain so in the forseeable future.
The photo below this article is of Logan DeGree, who despite not yet being a teenager is one of Oregon’s most accomplished anglers. He is holding up largemouth bass from Wickiup Reservoir that weigh five and six pounds.
While many Oregonians think that the hybrid striped bass program that ran in the early 1980’s was a failure, many anglers think quite differently. I was first introduced to the hybrids by Darrel Gable when the initial plants weighed between three and four pounds. At that time, they were targeting very small prety and much of their diet consisted of the freshwater shrimp that were common in the lakes back then. It seems like it took a while for the hybrids to begin targeting the intended population of somewhat stunted bluegills and they eventually did – and the battle they put up and the speed they could swim when hooked was amazing.
The snag in the program was when several times the normal number of hybrids were stocked one year. They pretty much had to expand their horizons to find more food and they did. I happened to be walking across the small dam that maintains consistent water levels on Tahkenitch Lake when I noticed some flashes from fish below the dam. A closer look revealed that they were either hybrids or small striped bass and I decided to fish for them.
The 200 foot closed area below the dam made fishing difficult, but I finally hooked one on a tube jig. Since I was only using monofilament testing four pounds, I had reduced the drag setting to almost zero. The fish swam back and forth, seemlingly avoiding any snags and swam with such speed that the line slicing through the water made an audible sound. Eventually, the line broke, despite the light drag, and I believe it was simply due to the water pressure on the rapidly moving line. It was one of the most amazing fish battles I have ever had and I could scarcely feel the fish due to the absense of any noticeable drag.
After the break off, I once again walked out on the dam and could easily see the the school of fish and the one with my lure in its lip clearly stood out. It did not make me feel any better to see that it was the largest fish in the entire school and I became determined to hook and actually land one of these fish.
Over the next few weeks, I managed to hook 16 more of the hybrids and land 12 of them They ran from about 24 to 27 inches in length and weighed from six to eight pounds. The first one I hooked and lost most likely weighed at least nine pounds, but I never saw it again – at least I never saw it again with my lure stuck to its upper lip. I introduced three different anglers to these fish and the two novices got their clocks cleaned by these strong fish. John Griffith, who was the outdoor editor of the World Newspaper landed the fish he hooked, but then he was used to hooking and landing big fish. John took the photo , at the end of this article, of the two hybrids I used to convince him to accompany me on a hybrid trip the next day.
During these three weeks that I fished for these fish, I noticed that on a number of occasions, small fish would swim up and practically take the bait out of a hybrid’s mouth. I am talking about five inch sculpins, five inch largemouth bass and six inch cutthroat trout. They obviously did not fear these fish and I never caught one of those hybrids with anything in their stomach.
During this same period of time, I noticed some hybrids below the dam on the Siltcoos River. These fish were not legal angling fare because the pool below the dam was less than 200 foot long and had numerous snags at the lower end of it. So the four to five pound hybrids that hung out below the dam were immune to angling pressure.
As I fished for these stripers, I became quite curious as to what they were feeding on. I was using sand shrimp to catch them, but they did not reach the sizes they were by not eating. When “Scrap Iron” Johnson opened up Tahkenitch Dam on November 1st of that year (to allow migratory fish to enter the lake), I thought that some of the hybrids might enter the lake, but they simply dropped down into the sand dunes area of Tahkenitch Creek and eventually back out into the ocean. Some of the holes they stayed in for a short period of time in the lower creek were quite small. At the same time, about 10,000 three-inch long yellow perch dropped down into the creek from the lake and hung out just below the dam and I would have loved to see if the hybrids could have ignored such a plentiful source of forage – but I never saw any interaction between the juvenile perch and the adult hybrid stripers and I never saw hybrids in either Tahkenitch Creek or the Siltcoos River again.
I have fished Ana Reservoir in southeast Oregon for the hybrids and managed to catch a four pounder with my very first cast with a soft plastic lure on a jighead. My last Ana hybrid weighed ten pounds 12 ounces and fought a lengthy, if unspectacular, fight. The fish was tremendously fat and my impression of the reservoir’s largest hybrids is that they are very fat and do not put up nearly the fight that the fish from Tenmile Lakes did.
To me, it seemed like the fishing pressure on Tenmile Lakes was at its highest while the hybrids were in the lake and that the numbers of outsized largemouth bass that were caught at Tenmile was at its highest as well. I can’t explain why, but it semmed pretty obvious at the time.
Over the last several years, a number of anglers have reported catching hybrid stripers out of Tenmile Lakes, but if that is true, they would have to be several times older than the oldest hybrid stripers ever recorded. Some people mistakenly believe that only hybrids have broken horizontal lines on their sides, but striped bass have always been in Tenmile Lakes. When they rehabilitated the lake approximately 40 years ago, the ODFW netted several stripers to 25 pounds just above the bridge over Tenmile Creek at Hilltop Drive in Lakeside. I also noticed a large chunk of striped bass a couple of days later that had been mostly consumed by birds that had to have come from a striper in the 30 pound class.
Sometimes angling pressure does not reveal what is actually in a lake. The main reason that Tenmile Lakes was rotenoned was to eradicate a stunted population of yellow perch and bluegills. But at nightfall, that first evening after the treatmean, thousands of yellow perch in the 13 to 17-inch class popped to the surface and the numbers of goldfish that floated to the surface that weighed between two and three pounds was truly amazing. A few sturgeon were seem thrashing on the surface, but when they died they sank. The lakes anglers obviously were not doing a good job of harvesting these fish, but they most likely would have done a better job if they had realized that these fish were actually there.
`Last weeks three day all-depth halibut opener was the best yet for the spring season. However, approximately half (48%) the spring halibut quota was uncaught going into that opener and there may be future spring openers remaining. If so, they will be on alternating weeks with the next potential opener being June 28,29,30 (Thurs. – Sat.). The summer all-depth halibut season will start on August 3rd and will operate on a seperate quota.
Although salmon fishing success slowed somewhat over the weekend, there were some very good chinook catches made last mid-week. As usual, the chinooks are being caught well above the bottom in water less than 100 feet deep. The ocean finclipped coho salmon season will begin on July 1st and right now, the coho seem to be holding in deeper water than the chinooks with virtually no coho catches in water less than 100 feet deep. Right now, the salmon fishing near Eureka, California is the best it has been in many years and hopefully not all of the fish are going to stay south of us.
Crabbing in the lower Umpqua River has been fairly productive for boat crabbers. Dock crabbers have had to put some time in to catch any legal crabs and that will probably continue until the amount of water coming down the Umpqua shows a major reduction. When possible, ocean crabbing has been the most productive with the average catch per person running between a limit and a half-limit.
Bottomfishing has remains quite good off the South Jetty/Triangle area and some anglers targeting rockfish have been quite successful casting crappie-sized curly tail grubs during evenings, nights and low-light conditions. While cabezon and lingcod are taken each week, the bulk of the catch remains striped surfperch and greenling which are usually taken on small hooks baited with sand shrimp.
The Umpqua River spring run of pinkfins is still going strong and the fish checker on Sunday reported that 15 perch limits were the rule rather than the exception. At the same time that all these female perch are swimming around the lower Umpqua River above Winchester bay, the male perch that stay on the local beaches provide some of the best surf fishing of the year due to their aggressive nature at this time of year.
Fishing for rainbow trout in the Tenmile Lakes remains good. Lots of sizable trout have been caught recently,measuring all the way up to 26-inches,
but it seems that the smaller trout bite on a different schedule than the bigger fish and most recent catches have been dominated by either larger or mediu-sized trout – but seldom both. Similar trout fishing should also be available on Siltcoos and Tahkenitch lakes.
While there are plenty of trout left in Eel Lake, many of the larger trout and the post-spawn steelhead that usually get trapped in the lake when Eel Creek, the lake’s outlet shrinks to the point where the larger fish opt not to enter it. Such is not the case this year since the creek flows were high enough that those fish left the lake – thus depriving the lake’s fishing dock of some of their most exciting fishing.
Umpqua River smallmouth bass are biting well, but the higher-than-normal river flows make wading or bankfishing much more difficult than normal. The high flows have also caused some smallmouth anglers that fish from such small crafts as canoes, kayaks, float tubes or pontoon boats to delay their smallmouth fishing. However, those high flows are not nearly as noticeable when fishing the upper reaches of tidewater (between the Umpqua Wayside (9 miles above Reedsport) all the way upriver to Scottsburg and should be quite safe for the previously mentioned small craft.
The shallow sand dunes lakes between Lakeside and North Bend will definitely benefit from this year’s high water. For one thing, it greatly increases spawning success and allows some of the most shallow lakes to be naturally restocked with fish from the larger lakes. However, the amount of fish-holding water in these shallow lakes is several times larger than it is during normal water levels and that means the fish are much more scattered than they usually are and fishing is much tougher. When these high or good water years are separated by several years, the year class of fish spawned during the high water often dominates the catch for several years.
Umpqua River sturgeon fishing remains slow, but striped bass are being caught nightly on the Smith River. A few of the more serious spring chinook anglers on the Umpqua have discovered that putting an anchovy on a Rogue Bait Rig will infrequently result in a striped bass take as well as the intended spring chinook.
Some of Oregon’s most exciting bass fishing takes place along the Oregon Coast between North Bend and Winchester Bay. Because of the difficulty of access for some of these lakes and the tremendous popularity of nearby Tenmile Lakes, these waters tend to be very much underfished. Some of these lakes nearly dry up during drought years and may require a high water year to receive a natural restocking from the overflow from a larger or deeper lake.
Let’s take a look at these waters starting from the South. I will skip a few smaller waters with very marginal bass fisheries.
Horsfall Lake – This very shallow 200 acre lake averages only a couple of feet deep and contains largemouth bass, yellow perch and brown bullheads with the bass the most numerous. Every several years, the lake has a good spawn and that year class dominates the fishery for several years. Because of occasional droughts, the number of bass weighing more than two and a half pounds is very low, but in some years two pound fish are very common and due to the compeition for food the bass tend to be aggressive biters. Much of the lake is privately owned, but there are some easily wadeable spots along the south end. The lake lies on the right side of the road to Horsfall Beach.
Snag Lake – This 30 acre lake is reachable by 4-wheel drive vehicles suitable for sand dunes travel. The entry point is via Hauser Depot Road and then south at the railroad tracks. Located just southwest of Beale Lake and contains largemouth bass, yellow perch and bullhead catfish. Subject to complete fish kills during drought years, but receives fish from Beale Lake during periods of high water.
Beale Lake – Located on the west side of the railroad tracks just south of Butterfield Lake and contains about 130 surface acres when full. With an average depth of about 5 feet, Beale can suffer during low water years. The lake consists of three sections with the east section along the railroad tracks the smallest and the west section the largest. Capable of producing lunker bass after several good-water years, Beale also contains yellow perch and some bluegills with very few black crappies, brown bullheads and warmouths. While occasional high-water years are necessary for good fishing, the amount of fish-holding water can be several times that of a normal or low-water year and Beale is very high this year and probably will not provide its best fishing until this fall.
Butterfield Lake – This 20 acre lake became much more accessible when Riley Ranch was turned into a park with RV parking. Most people don’t realize that some of the best fishing water is on the west side of the railroad tracks. Butterfield now receives trout plants and also has largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill and a very few warmouths. Don’t expect many bass over two pounds, but some of the bluegills and crappies are decent-sized.
Saunders Lake – Probably not considered a sand dunes lake by most anglers, but the west side of the lake borders the dunes. Saunders is heavily stocked with trout, but also has good populations of largemouth bass and yellow perch as well as smaller numbers of white crappie and bluegills and very few brown bullheads. A number of years ago, a four pound walleye was pulled from the lake – obviously thrown in by someone back from a trip to the Columbia River. All of the warmwater fish species in Saunders are capable of reach good size.
Clear Lake – This 30 acre lake is located just north of Saunders Lake and has limited access. It contains fair numbers of largemouth bass and yellow perch with a few bluegills also present. Despite limited productivity, the lake does produce some decent-sized fish.
Hall Lake – This lake of about six acres is located on the west side of Old Highway 101 opposite Eel Lake. Hall Lake has native cutthroats along with largemouth bass. Most of the north end of the lake has shorefishing possibilities.
The photo shows the author with an average-sized Beale Lake largemouth bass.
Located about 20 miles east of Ukiah in northwest California, Clear Lake is an almost unanimous inclusion when it comes to picking the nation’s top five largemouth bass fisheries. It covers more than 43,000 surface acres (68 square miles), but averages only 27 feet deep and is tremendously fertile.
The lake is large enough to withstand the tremendous fishing pressure it receives and while the lake record largemouth (Florida strain) weighed more than 17 1/2 pounds, the lake is best known for producing fast-growing bass weighing from three to seven pounds. Largemouth bass dominate the fish catches at Clear Lake with approximately two-thirds of the fish taken by anglers being largemouth bass.
However, those other fish swimming around in Clear Lake make the fishing much more interesting. Channel catfish provide good fishing and average good size with fish weighing more than 25 pounds taken each year. The lake record weighed more than 33 pounds.
Clear Lake contains both black and white crappie and they tend to run big. It is not at all unusual to catch a string of crappies with the individual crappies averaging two or more pounds each. California’s state record white crappie of four pounds eight ounces was pulled from Clear Lake back in 1971 and while the state record black crappie from New Hogan Lake weighed four pounds one ounce, several black crappies matching or exceeding that weight have been pulled from Clear Lake. Crappies to at least four pounds three ounces have been caught by bass anglers casting diving crankbaits around Rattlesnake Island at the south end of the lake.
The lake also has small populations of bluegill and redear sunfish. Both species average close to a pound in weight while the bluegills will top out at more than two pounds (a 3 1/2 pound bluegill was taken this summer) and some of the redears will approach or reach the three pound mark. In a lake the size of Clear Lake, these schools of panfish are tough to find and the schools are rather small.
Almost every year has someone catching a rainbow trout, or two. The population is very small and seems to consist of migrants out of sections of Cache Creek that holds water the year around. The trout tend to be small and almost certainly don’t have long life spans.
There are also very small numbers of smallmouth and spotted bass in Clear Lake. Catching one is a novelty, but spots weighing at least five pounds and smallmouths weighing more than seven pounds have been caught. Check out the photo of an unusual bass double (spotted bass/smallmouth bass) caught near Rattlesnake Island on crankbaits.
Because of its tremendous productivity, Clear Lake is often subject to massive summer algae blooms, Clear Lake fishes best during the spring and fall.
Although the two acre slough between Highway 38 and the condominius located nine miles up the Umpqua River from Reedsport, Oregon still offers good bass and panfishing, years ago it was really special.
I first started fishing it more than 40 years ago and there was a definite learning curve. In fact, I had mediocre success, at best, on North Slough until one March day when Wayne Overstake and I were trying for striped bass. We launched our small boat at the Umpqua Wayside boat ramp and began casting Rapala-type plugs for striped bass. After an hour, we hadn’t had a strike or seen a fish, when Wayne quickly hooked a pair of one pound largemouth bass. Thinking that it was going to be bass, or nothing, we went downstream and entered North Slough. Wayne was using a rather large sinking Rebel and I was using a smaller sinking Rapala.
In about an hour, I landed two largemouths weighing about two pounds each, while Wayne landed seven bass weighing between two and three and a half pounds each. After that, we motored out into the Umpqua near the island and immediately were surrounded by a large school of stripers of various sizes that had a severe case of lockjaw. With hindsight, I wished we had hung around until dark and kept trying for them.
Of course, I fished the slough on a regular basis after that outing and had some very interesting days on it. I found that I could catch the bass in the slough by casting spinnerbaits or diving crankbaits from shore as early as early January. Those early season bass ran from 14-17-inches in length and fought well – even in the winter.
After talking to an angler from Roseburg that fished the slough on a regular basis, I learned that there were white crappie present and he stated that he had caught one the previous week that weighed one pound 12 ounces. So the next time I fished the slough I was definitely going to try for crappie as well as bass.
On that next trip, I resolved to catch some largemouth bass on my flyrod while fishing from a float tube. I wore a cheap set of stocking foot waders that allowed some water over their back every time I backcast. I could only take it so long, but quickly caught a couple of bass to a pound and a half on a black leech. Giving up on the flyrod, I switched to my ultralight spinning rod and a crappie jig and quickly caught my first “North Slough Crappie”, a 12 1/2-incher at the upper end of the slough. In the next half hour, I caught 19 more crappie all measuring between 12 and 13 1/2-inches, but I had five strong fish pull free and if they were crappie were almost certainly larger than any I landed.
After getting out of the water and trying to dry off, I wandered down to the middle of the slough and observed a school of largemouth bass attempting to warm themselves in that October’s mid-day sun. The fish seemed to run from a pound and a half to two and a half pounds except that in the middle of the schook, there was a tremendous female bass that had to weigh all of nine pounds and she seemed very interested in my floating Rapala.
Unfortunately, every time she made a move for the lure, one of the smaller bass would beat her to it. I would land the fish, and since I did not want to keep them, I would release the bass about 50 yards towards the upper end of the slough. I kept doing this until I had caught about 20 bass (almost the entire school), but there was just about as many fish around the sow as when I had started. She still seemed interested in my lure when I finally gave up and quit fishing.
In future trips, I discovered that the bass and crappie in the slough would feed intensely for short periods separated by almost complete shutdowns. I once caught 12 largemouths in 20 casts with a spinnerbait on the slough with one weighing a pound and a half and the other 11 weighing between two and four pounds.
As for the crappies, they could be tough at times. Once when fishing from a canoe, I fished crappie jigs tight to some brush near the upper end of the slough on the Highway 38 side. I caught 90 crappies in barely an hour that averaged ten inches as well as an eight inch bluegills and a one pound bass. However, an angler attemping to cast across the slough to fish the same water could only come within five or six feet of where I was fishing did not get a bite. As I quit fishing, I released half my crappies and gave the unlucky angler the other half.
The “feast or famine” fishing on this slough still exists. About ten years ago, after two fishless hours near the uppermost dock on the slough, I caught 40 crappies in 30 minutes that averaged about nine inches. The presense of the condos pretty much ensures that there is more fishing pressure on the slough that there was years ago and size of the fish certainly indicates that.
However, there are several more panfish species in the slough now than when I used to fish it and smallmouths now inhabit the slough. The slough was dredged several years ago and should definitely be more “fish-friendly” than when it was silted in and quite weedy. The best time to fish the slough for bass and crappie is almost cetainly early in the season when it has received fresh fish from the Umpqua and before most people start fishing it.
I will always feel fortunate that I was one of the lucky anglers that was able to fish North Slough before the condos were built. The occasionally sensational, if erratic, fishing is definitely worth remembering.
The rather poor photo below is of me, 40 years ago, with a flyrod-fooled largemouth bass that struck a black leech pattern.
Leslie Jackson’s tragically short life will be remembered. Her upbeat personality and outgoing nature made it virtually impossible to not remember her. She may have had more friends, both actual and on facebook, than anyone in the Reedsport area.
However, when I think of Leslie, I think of her as possibly the most “outdoorsy” woman in our area. She was a camping and fishing fool who actually did both on a regular basis – rather than think or talk about it like people like me so often do.
And Leslie did more than just fish – she caught fish – including some really big ones – and managed to refrain from excessively bragging about them.
The photo below of Leslie with a nearly 40 pound chinook she caught while fishing the Umpqua River near the Elk Viewing Area may help some of her many friends remember her doing what she loved to do.
Leslie, we miss you so much.
Although the bass spawn in Oregon is pretty much over except for a few coastal waters and higher elevation lakes, the overall fishing is very, very good. This is the perfect time to explore new waters as bass and panfish in these waters are biting about as well as they are going to. The book that lists the most bass and panfish waters in Oregon as well as the most complete listing of each water’s fish species is “Oregon Bass and Panfish Guide”. It is available on this website in the book section.