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Prospects Good for Columbia and Coast Chinook

by Staff
News Register, September 23, 2004

It's not just a date on a calendar, you can smell it in the air. It's fall in Oregon.

Columbia chinook continue to cooperate with anglers as the counts at Bonneville Dam demonstrated sufficient numbers to allow retention through Sept. 30.

Over three-quarters of a million chinook have crossed at Bonneville Dam so far this year with daily counts averaging over 10,000. A mind-boggling 34,000 chinook were counted on Sept. 14 alone.

Despite discussion of an early closure last week, numbers this good allowed officials to keep the lower Columbia open until Oct. 1. The river will remain open for coho and steelhead for the remainder of the year.

The hot spots and techniques detailed in this space last week will hold true with gorge below Bonny offering anglers the best chance of striking chrome.

Columbia River crabbing is producing limits in the Buoy 20 to 22 area, but soft-shelled Dungeness should be culled in favor of harder specimens that will yield much more meat.

Coho are entering the Columbia and Willamette tributaries, providing inland anglers with additional chances at an encounter of the silver kind.

The Sandy River holds the best prospects and has been remarkably productive at times. If coho is the target, the Sandy River is the place to be.

This is no secret, however. Fisherfolks should plan on plenty of company. Get there early for a parking spot.

The thousands of coho salmon that already have entered the hatchery on Cedar Creek have hopefuls jamming the banks. Scores of fish have been taken by Sandy fishermen on scented corkies and yarn, drifted salmon eggs and a wide variety of lure. Now that showers have subsided and the river has dropped and cleared, concentrate efforts above Dabney.

In sharp contrast to the productive Sandy River, Clackamas anglers report very slow fishing despite good numbers of coho present. Water temperatures have dropped into the 50s and coho are now scattered and stacking in the deeper holes. Fish are entering the hatchery at Eagle Creek.

Efforts and catches remain very low on the swollen North Santiam River. While prospects are slightly better on the South, there are most certainly more productive destinations at this time of year.

Pressure is expected to be light upon the reopening of the lower Columbia from Wauna Powerlines to Bonneville Dam for the retention of sturgeon on Friday, Oct. 1. Sturgeon may also be kept on the lower Willamette River as of this date. The Columbia estuary remains closed for the rest of the year.

Tuna fishing has been very good far offshore, with albacore reaching remarkable dimensions. Catches regularly include fish over 30 pounds, although a trip of many ocean miles is required for an encounter.

Boats are returning with tuna from the Columbia, Depoe Bay and Yaquina Bay. Albacore should be available for sale this weekend at the respective ports.

It's amusing that the ODFW continues to ‘spin' the bottom-fishing closure with weekly mention of the "many fishing opportunities" remaining available, which list invariably mentions sanddab as an alternative to rockfish.

There are legitimate alternatives for saltwater sportsman, not the least of which is the opening of all-depth halibut every Friday and Saturday through Oct. 31, or the fulfillment of quota. In light of the closure on rockfish, halibut bag limits also have been increased to two fish measuring at least 32 inches. Halibut fishing remains open within the 40-fathom line seven days a week.

The last series of rain showers brought coastal rivers up, allowing unusually early opportunities for drift boaters and enticing fresh salmon into estuaries and tributaries. While this situation doesn't necessarily ensure red-hot fishing, it's certainly reason for optimism.

Reports from the Nehalem River are surpassingly dismal. Chinook and coho catches are few and far between although the commercial trollers working the mouth seem to be doing well.

Tillamook Bay is approaching prime time and the number of boats crowding the popular areas reflect that fact. While trollers in the bay have not ‘killed ‘em,' chinook are being taken daily. The best prospects are reported outside in the ocean when conditions allow safe bar crossing.

Crabbing in T-Bay, while receiving lots of attention as indicated by the fields of crab floats, is less than productive. It will improve in October.

Razor clamming is scheduled to reopen Friday, Oct. 1, but it'd be a good idea to call the Oregon Department of Agriculture's shellfish hotline at 503-986-4728 for last-minutes updates.

While the Trask and Wilson Rivers boast good numbers of chinook and coho, pressure is surprisingly light. Anglers trying are taking fish primarily on bait. Two chinook or fin-clipped coho may be kept during the fall season.

The Nestucca produced good catches of fresh chinook earlier this week, but fishing has slowed with the river dropping and stabilizing. Chinook followed the freshet upstream over the weekend and fresh fish have yet to enter to replace them in tidewater. The mild weekend tides hold little promise for improvement in the lower river, but the time of year is in the angler''s favor.

More than two dozen new pictures have appeared this week at Coyote Rock on the Siletz River, indicating that this fishery is holding up well and is producing hundreds of pounds of fresh chinook.

Trollers in the lower Alsea report fair fishing for chinook on plug-cut herring. The Siuslaw River turned on this week, producing both coho and chinook to trollers.

Coos Bay is productive for chinook on the troll. The bay and river are expected to continue to fish well into October. Anglers willing to pony up $20 are eligible for cash prizes up to $1,000 in the 5th Annual Coos Basin Amateur Salmon Derby taking place this Saturday and Sunday. Guides are not eligible in this derby, the proceeds of which benefit Salmon Trout Enhancement Project (STEP). Contact Coos Bay Marine or Englund Marine for details and tickets.

Fishing in Winchester Bay and the lower Umpqua has been slow this week although a 42-pounder was landed on a guided trip Monday, Sept. 20.

Trout stocking in the Northwest Zone is wrapped up for the year but holdovers are available and many temperate coastal lakes offer decent bass and panfish opportunities. Rainbows have been planted this week in Mt. Hood Pond, Foster Reservoir, North Fork Reservoir and Small Fry Lake in the Willamette Zone and the South Fork of Crooked River in the Deschutes watershed.

Thanks to all who share information by e-mail to and a special tip o' the fishing hat to Grant "the Fish'n Magician" Lansing who reminds us that it's not about the numbers, nor is ours a competitive sport; fishing is fun!
Prospects Good for Columbia and Coast Chinook
News Register, September 23, 2004

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