Pete Heley Outdoors 12/19/2012

Tony Corbett traveled to Winchester Bay from Canby to visit family and spent three wet hours on Saturday at Half Moon Bay trying for crabs. He ended up with 7 legal dungeness crabs. He managed to get 12 more on Sunday including some big ones measuring at least seven inches, but for most everyone else, crabbing continues to be slow at Winchester Bay. However, those that can handle the weather and are giving it a strong effort seem to be catching some legal crabs. Charleston remains the most productive crabbing spot in the area and will remain so until the Umpqua River drops noticeably.

Although our local dungeness crabs are some of the fullest along the northern California through Washington coast, the commercial crabbing season won’t commence until December 30th. The ocean is currently open to sport crabbers, and has been since December 1st, when bar and ocean conditions permit.

The muddy water has limited bottomfishing pressure along the Umpqua River’s South Jetty and seems to also have slowed the bite for the fish usually caught along there. The very few anglers still trying for offshore bottomfish are catching lingcod and rockfish, but often have to start at Charleston to actually access the ocean and our very good bottomfishing spots.

Winter steelhead fishing is slowly improving, but the area streams with the highest proportion of finclipped keepable steelhead appear to be Tenmile Creek and the Coos River system. On Tenmile Creek, try to stay downstream of where Eel Creek enters the stream since almost every hatchery steelhead ascending Tenmile Creek takes the Eel Creek off ramp. Eel Creek will open on January 1st and should have fair numbers of steelhead in it when it does. While there have been some very good catches of steelhead on the Umpqua and Smith rivers, it is a catch and release fishery due to an absense of finclipped steehead.

Local angler and lure manufacturer, Steve Perry, has started using a Hero Go Pro camera to video some of his steelhead catches. He is still working on getting the hang of the audio, but already has a number of recent steelhead videos taken on some of our local streams.

There are still some fairly bright chinook salmon, mixed in with an increasing number of winter steelhead, in most of the smaller south coast streams, but one needs a good local contact to keep track of the river conditions and let you know when things are right for fishing.

The ODFW dropped the seasonal limit for sturgeon down to one fish in 2013 – superceding the previous seasonal limit of two sturgeon which was set just last September. This move will impact the number of repeat trips Columbia River sturgeon guides will get as customers will often have their season limit on their first guided trip. The impact on the catch and release sturgeon fisheries remains to be seen.

Over the next five years, the portion of several strains of chinook salmon ascending the mainstem Columbia River that are assigned to sport anglers will increase to as much as 80 percent for some strains. However, it looks like using barbless hooks when fishing the Columbia River, and some tributaries, will be required beginning in 2013.

Some of the local lakes are providing decent trout fishing, but lakes in our area will not receive scheduled trout plants for several more weeks. The 2013 stocking schedule is not yet posted on the ODFW website, but last year, a few of the Florence area lakes started receiving trout plants during the second week of February, while Loon Lake received its first trout plant the first week of March and Lake Marie received its first plant during the third week of March. Some of the Coos County lakes started receiving trout plants the last week in February. Anglers need to realize that Diamond Lake is closed to all angling until January 1st when it becomes a year-round trout lake.

Some of Oregon’s best winter trout fisheries are: (1) – The stretch of the Owyhee River below Owyhee Reservoir where fair numbers of good-sized brown trout tend to move towards the dam in winter where the water is slightly warmer. It looks like the Owyhee is going to remain catch and release in the forseeable future as the number of browns measuring less than 12-inches is low, while the number of fish larger than 16-inches is fairly good. Ironically, while the entire Owyhee River below Owyhee Reservoir is only catch and release on the brown trout, the use of bait is allowed.  (2) The Crooked River below Bowman Dam (Prineville Reservoir) offers excellent winter flyfishing for redband trout and whitefish. During the winter, the fish tend to move up towards the dam and fishing can be exceptional for fish to about 14-inches with a few larger (Years ago, the Crooked River once produced a rainbow weighing more than 13 pounds to a fly angler.). Don’t get turned off by the somewhat milky water, during the winter the water is about as clear as it is going to get. (3) The portion of Fall River in central Oregon that is above the falls remains open all winter to flyfishing for visable, frustrating rainbow trout. (4) Some very large brown trout (to at least ten pounds) have been caught  recently at Lake of the Woods by anglers casting Rapala-type lures after dark near the resort area. Lake of the Woods is one of two Oregon lakes that allow trout fishing 24 hours per day. Miller Lake is the other one.

It continues to surprise me how many bass boats are on Tenmile Lakes during the winter months. Although they do catch some sluggish bass, including some big ones, the top two current fisheries on Tenmile Lakes are for yellow perch and rainbow trout. Very much overlooked is the fishery for brown bullheads during the winter months in water more than 15 feet deep.

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.

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