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Where to Fish on Labor Day

by Michael Teague
News-Register, August 30, 2007

The ocean out of the Columbia River south to Cape Falcon closed to salmon retention on August 25. The quota had filled as of that date.

Now for some good news. Sorta.

According to the ODFW, 81 percent of the ocean quota had been landed south of Cape Falcon as of August 26. Winchester Bay has been the top producer. Count on end-of-day September 4 to be the final day for ocean salmon fishing from Cape Falcon to the California border.

Rumors of an imminent closure this week of chinook fishing at Buoy 10 were exaggerated, though not by much. It will remain open through Friday this week and perhaps beyond, as another ODFW/WDFW telephone conference to review catch numbers took place at 3 p.m. Wednesday with no announcement available in time for this column. Anglers are hoping to fish through the Labor Day Weekend.

Most anglers targeting chinook at Buoy 10 are fishing hardware now, mostly wobblers such as Alvins, Simons or Brads in 30 to 40 feet of water although some are fishing deeper. Other reports indicate success with herring. These are generally fished on anchor during outgoing tide which improves the river current. Anglers are fishing a five-foot dropper to their lead and a leader of equal length to the lure. Trolling on the incoming tide is another option, though is generally not as effective.

Boaters found decent action over the past weekend out of chinook with fish taken on plug-cut or whole herring at 25 to 30-foot levels. About half the boats fishing above St. Helens are hooking up in 30 to 40 feet of water.

Chinook counts are starting to climb at Bonneville Dam and anglers near the mouths of the Kalama, Cowlitz and Sandy rivers are entering peak season right now. Wobblers fished deep will take the majority of the fish. The river section from Warrior Rock to Bachelor Island will close for chinook retention from September 530.

Steelhead are being taken with regularity below Bonneville by anchor fishermen using Flatfish or spinners, primarily at tributary mouths.

Crabbing out of Hammond has been good near buoys 20 to 22 in 20 to 30 feet of water. There have been a number of reports of thievery, however, so staying within eyeshot of your pots would be a good idea.

Warm water upriver on the Columbia has kept steelhead kegged between Bonneville and The Dalles Dams. As of Monday, Aug. 27, over 156,000 summers were holding between the dams. Cooler water temperatures will have these fish charging upstream. In the meantime, the Bonneville Pool is producing some good catches.

Given the fine offshore catch rates for coho, count on end-of-day September 4 to be the final day for ocean salmon fishing south of Cape Falcon to the California border.

The YTD count of summer steelhead at Bonneville was 242,450 as of Monday this week. Of those, only about 68,500 were unclipped.

Sturgeon fishers on the Columbia have reported nary a keeper although few are trying. Below the 205 Bridge to the mouth of the Willamette seems barren of fish and above Beacon Rock has offered only shakers oversized.

While there is no mention as to the reason on the ODFW Willamette Falls Fish Passage website page, the counts for spring chinook and jacks were rewound to start at zero on August 15. If memory serves, they started counting these as fall chinook on that date. If this is the case, the final count for 2007 spring chinook, forecast at 52,000, would finish at a dismal 22,818.

Willamette Falls water temperature has dropped to 70 degrees. Coho have started to cross the Falls in single digits. Sturgeon fishing is still in the doldrums for shorter-than-legal fish. Smallmouth bass fishing is improving on the Willamette, both upper and lower, and will only get better as water temperatures drop into September.

Summer steelhead continue to trickle into the Clackamas River, providing anglers with occasional first-light hookups but interest is low and pressure light with the water level extremely low. The Sandy still isn't worth the trip.

Steelheading is slow in the warm water of the North Santiam. The water of the South Santiam remains extremely low, which is making for tough fishing conditions.

According to sea surface temperature charts, warm water should put albacore within reach of well-equipped recreational craft this week, but these conditions can change rather quickly so it remains to be seen if these conditions persist through the weekend. Then there's the wind and wave conditions to take into account. Tuna have been scattered recently with concentrations difficult to locate.

Trollers at Nehalem Bay are taking only a few chinook per day, mostly at the jaws. This fishery is overdue to get underway. Crabbing has been fair.

Crabbing has improved in Tillamook Bay with cooler nights encouraging an earlier -than-normal hardening of the Dungeness' shells which has resulted in a better number of hard crab in nets and pots. Offshore coho has slowed out of Garibaldi, but should show some improvement this week. Coho are being taken inside the bay which is creating heavy boat pressure.

The Nestucca River is seeing very light pressure now and is once again very low and clear following a brief improvement from rain last week. Fall chinook have yet to show in the estuary, but it won't be long. It should be worthwhile by mid-September.

Chinook usually enter the Salmon River earlier than the Nestucca, but since nobody talks about it, there have been few reports. Only one chinook has been confirmed and crowds are yet to form on the banks. It may be worth a look for those who don't mind fishing amidst some surly anglers.

Only a handful of chinook have been taken by anglers fishing the lower Siletz with Hannah Yellas setting the bar for biggest fish of the season so far with a 36 pounder landed on Aug. 25.

Coho limits have come to many boats fishing out of Depoe recently. Fish are being taken at 22 to 26-foot depths over about three hundred feet of water. Tuna have been far offshore.

While crabbing at Newport has improved, limits are rare with about half the crab too soft to keep. All-depth halibut, open every Friday through Sunday, was rewarding for most boats launching out of Newport in marginal ocean conditions over the past weekend.

Mild tides and mid-morning lows off the southwest coast may help boaters launching to cross the bar early in the morning this weekend but afternoon winds should motivate anglers to get back to port as soon as possible. Surf conditions are predicted to be mild this week, building once again into the weekend, but wind forecasts look problematic for offshore anglers.

Ocean coho fishing slowed on Tuesday this week out of Florence. Boats averaged one or two silvers each, disappointing following the recent period of easy limits.

Tidewater on the Siuslaw produced a couple of chinook over the past weekend but it's still early. Anglers who crossed into the ocean caught decent numbers of coho but only 25 percent were fin-clipped keepers.

Chinook catches have been slow inside Winchester Bay for most anglers but knowledgeable locals have been hitting fish averaging in the mid-twenties trolling the Umpqua River tidewater.

A few chinook have been hitting trolled, plug-cut herring inside lower Coos Bay. Some hot pinkfin action has been reported off the ocean beaches near Coos Bay, but rewarding surfperch fishing is not limited to this stretch. Anywhere the beach drops off or features a low spot should hold fish.

Anglers are experiencing slow fishing in the Rogue River estuary with water temperatures above 70 degrees at times. The good news is that coho are entering the bay in good numbers now. When the temperature of the Rogue River begins to drop either seasonally or with a decent rain the fish will be on the move and on the bite. This is historically the time of year that steelhead and half-pounder action heats up in the lower Rogue near Agness. Bank anglers do well here.

Bottom fishing for rockfish remains excellent out of Brookings. Some very large ling cod are also showing in catches with several going well over the 20-pound mark.

Waters scheduled for trout planting in the Willamette Zone include Faraday Lake, Harriet Lake, North Fork Reservoir, Roslyn Lake, Small Fry Lake, Trillium Lake, West Salish Pond, the McKenzie River above Leaburg Lake and Salmon Creek.

Michael Teague
Where to Fish on Labor Day
News-Register, August 30, 2007

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