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Lower Willamette, Upper Columbia Producing Chinook

by Michael Teague
News-Register, April 26, 2007

While the Columbia remains closed below Bonneville for spring chinook, Drano Lake is open and productive for bright springers to 20 pounds but results have been unreliable. Wind River also has kicked out a few chinook.

Counts at Bonneville Dam are skyrocketing with over 4,200 crossing on Monday and Tuesday this week. If the numbers remain strong, a reopener of the lower river is likely. The total so far this year is nearly 15,000.

It seems the hazing program at Bonneville Dam has been less than effective in deterring California and Stellar sea lions which have consumed well over 400 salmon and steelhead this year.

Salmon fishing on the mainstem Columbia above Bonneville is scheduled to close on April 30 but managers will meet by phone to determine if more time can be added to this fishery.

The bounty program to reduce numbers of voracious pikeminnows which dine on steelhead and salmon smolt will begin on the Columbia and Snake rivers on May 14 this year, paying from $4 to $8 per fish. Anglers must pre-register to collect the funds. More information on this worthwhile program is available online at

Soft plastics are taking smallmouth bass on the Columbia now that the water temperature has reached 50 degrees. The upper and lower Willamette has been productive for the last few weeks.

Spring chinook crossing Willamette Falls daily have yet to do so in numbers reflecting that late April is historically near the peak of the season. Water temperatures have remained in the low 50s and that factor is likely responsible for the unremarkable counts. Only one day in early April when water temps hit 53 degrees has the count topped 100 chinook.

Seasonal counts at the falls were 761 springers, 759 summer steelhead and as numbers wane, 4,672 winters as of April 23. Warm, dry weather this week should improve conditions and encourage passage.

Springer fishing was fair to good last week but slowed over the weekend. This time of year, numbers are guaranteed to increase which factored in along with improving water temperatures will contribute to improved catches. Prawn spinners seem to be most effective recently.

While a few spring chinook have entered the chilly water of the Sandy River and can be seen rolling in the lower river, low water temperatures have kept these fish off the bite. Summer steelhead are entering and high-tailing it upriver where they're being intercepted by anglers plying the water in the Oxbow to Cedar Creek stretch with baits of sand shrimp or bobber 'n' jig rigs. Winter steelhead also are being hooked but most are natives or slanky specimens which have spawned and are headed back to the ocean.

Crabbing has been slow to terrible at Nehalem and Tillamook bays, fair at Netarts.

With winter steelhead counts finally tapering off, the North Coast is in hiatus until better numbers of spring chinook enter the Tillamook and Nestucca systems in a few weeks. There have been rumors of a few spring chinook taken in the upper bay and Trask tidewater.

Sturgeon success remains poor in Tillamook Bay despite last week's good tides. Marty Codino of Portland, however, took a healthy 52-incher from the middle bay over the weekend. The fish took sand shrimp fishing in 5 feet of water.

Strong northwest trade winds are doing their job for the proper upwelling effect for our juvenile salmon but will once again challenge offshore anglers seeking rockfish. There is no relief in sight for the rough ocean.

The few trying for ocean chinook have had nothing to show for their efforts as fish are far offshore in deep water.

Spring chinook fishing is improving on the lower Umpqua as the season ramps up. Smallmouth bass fishing slowed with a drop in water temperature. Sturgeon fishing is fair to good below Reedsport.

Most of the winter steelhead which have entered the Rogue are now upstream spawning although fishing for the remaining numbers is fair to good. The water was quite high earlier this week but on the drop with no rain in the forecast. Springer fishing was slow over the weekend but is expected to improve this week.

Wind and rain kept boats in port last week but resourceful anglers still caught fish from ocean beaches as the surf perch fishing continued to reward anglers with plenty of fresh fish.

Conditions are excellent for the Cascade Lakes opener this Saturday, April 28. Following several years of less-than-optimal water levels and ice-out, anglers are anxious to get out and catch some fish this weekend.

Oregon Cascade lakes open April 28 and fishing is expected to be good. With a limit of 25 kokanee and a naturally-reproducing population, Odell is expected to draw a crowd for the opener. Crane Prairie, also opening this Saturday, is another popular destination.

Lake Billy Chinook is slowing for bull trout action but kokanee should be a strong option in the coming weeks. The boat ramp at the Cove is closed until May 15 for repairs but the Deschutes Arm ramp is still an option.

Paulina and Odell, both top kokanee producers, also are well-known for kicking out jumbo trout. Crane Prairie is a legendary location for large rainbows and the waters of Diamond Lake are so rich that rainbows grow so rapidly that their bodies look disproportionately large compared to their heads.

Since planting of trout at Diamond Lake for the opener Saturday, April 26, is weather- and water quality-dependent, it wasn't until this week that anglers got confirmation. Trout will be planted for fishers to once again enjoy this resource. No other trout stocking is scheduled this week for the Southwest Zone.

Diamond Lake will receive an initial stocking of 6,000 trout this week and a total of 80,000 will be planted this year in an effort to return this Oregon resource to the jewel-like status it earned prior to a tui chub infestation. The chubs, inadvertently stocked by illegal bait fishermen, multiplied and consumed resources to the detriment of trout populations.

Hagg Lake has been producing trout on the troll. Take a variety of lures and keep changing to find out what they prefer on any particular day.

Scheduled for trout planting this week in the Willamette Valley is Haldeman Pond, Henry Hagg Lake, Huddleston Pond, Sheridan Pond, Silver Creek Reservoir, Timothy Meadows, Trojan Ponds, Blue River above Reservoir, Carmen Reservoir, Clear Lake, Detroit Reservoir, EE Wilson Pond, Fall Creek, Foster Reservoir, Freeway Lake East, Green Peter Reservoir, Junction City Pond, Leaburg Lake, McKenzie River above Leaburg Lake, Salmon Creek, Smith Reservoir, Walling Pond, Walter Wirth Lake, Willamette River Coast Fork and Willamette River Middle Fork above Hills Creek Reservoir. Hebo Lake will be stocked in the Northwest Zone.

Michael Teague
Lower Willamette, Upper Columbia Producing Chinook
News-Register, April 26, 2007

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