Washington/Oregon's 2011 Fishing Calendar
March 17, 2011
The Pacific Northwest holds an embarrassment of riches when it comes to fishing opportunities. Here are some of the best available each month of the year.
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When people across the globe think of the Pacific Northwest, they think of mountains and forests '¦ and fish, fish, and more fish. Fishing in the Northwest is truly iconic, and it's easy to be smug when you're a sportsman from these parts. How many places across the country, or anywhere on the planet for that matter, can boast of the sheer number and variety of fish and fishing destinations that bless the Northwest?
In fact, the task of putting together a fishing calendar is tough because there are so many options, and covering just three fisheries a month means we are just scratching the surface of all the fishing that is out there. However, these are among the top fisheries the two states have to offer, and local anglers that have lived here long have doubtless tried many of these. Use this calendar as a guide in 2011 to your angling year, but remember that there is more fishing action out there than you can "shake a stick at."
Be sure to check the regulations before you fish, as each fishery is managed differently and changes each year are very likely.
Olympic - Steelhead
The rivers of Washington's Olympic Peninsula are home to some of the biggest winter steelhead in the lower 48. "There are good steelhead runs in all these rivers," says Mike Zavadlov, of Mike Z's Guide Service (360-640-8109), "but my favorite is the Hoh River." He explains that the glacial Hoh has good wild and hatchery runs that pulse through in January and the fishing lasts until March.
"When the Hoh River blows out, which it does quite a bit, I shift to the Sol Duc or the Bogachiel River until it settles back down."
The tight water of the upper Hoh is good for pulling plugs, while the lower sections lend themselves to side-drifting.
Guided trips -- Mike Z's Guide Service: (360) 640-8109
Willamette - Sturgeon
Sturgeon flood into the Willamette River in Portland every winter to escape the cold waters of the Columbia, and the anglers have learned to follow. Wayne Priddy, of Priddy Good Fishing (503-341-2895), loves this fishery in his backyard. "February and March have become incredibly good for keepers," says Priddy, "And every year it gets better." He reports the fishing is good from Robinwood Park down to the Portland Harbor.
Priddy looks for deep holes from 60 to 90 feet deep and fishes with sand shrimp, smelt and squid.
Don't dawdle if you anchor up and don't catch fish. The key to success here is to find a bite. "If you don't get bit within 1/2 hour, move on," he says.
Puget Sound - Blackmouth
Anglers in central Puget Sound's blackmouth fishery troll for immature "feeder" chinook from local hatchery programs during the winter and early spring months. The chinook stay in the sound and feed, feed, feed, according to Gary Krein, owner of All Star Charters of Everett, WA, (425-252-4188). "They feed real good, every day," reports Krein. He reports the average size runs about 7 pounds, and will include kings from 4 to 20 pounds.
"The fishing is best with the big tides," says Krein. "The strong currents push the bait back into the eddies and bays, and that's where the kings are, feeding on that bait." Fishermen troll within 20 feet of the bottom with downriggers, pulling spoons, bait with flashers, or plugs.
Probably the best-known bite in the central sound is Possession Bar, "The Crown Jewel of the fishery," according to Krein. "It's a huge feeding area; a great, big sandbar."
Columbia River - Spring Chinook
Few Northwest fisheries generate as much attention or draw as many anglers as the Spring chinook run on the Columbia River. These oil-rich salmon are considered the finest table fare the Northwest has to offer. Putting one of these 12- to 30-pound fish in the net will get grown men giggling like schoolgirls.
Every April, fishermen jam the Columbia, anchoring and fishing stationary plugs during the ebb, and trolling herring downstream during the slack and rising tides. Look to the Interstate reach in Portland, where fishermen troll between the Hwy 205 and Hwy 5 bridges, and down to the Davis Bar.
Guided trips: Team Hook-Up Guide Service of Troutdale (Jack Glass, 503-666-5370, Brandon Glass, 503-260-8285).
Central Oregon - Trout
For Oregon trout fishermen, the Century Drive near Bend is the holy grail of Oregon trout. The lakes and streams here boast some of Oregon's best trout fishing. Anglers here catch stocked rainbows, giant browns, brookies, mackinaw or lake trout, and kokanee, and a few have Atlantic salmon. This is fly-fishing country, but conventional anglers get in on the action, too.
Umpqua River - Smallmouth Bass
There are few better ways to spend a summer day than floating Oregon's picturesque Rogue River and catching loads of hard-fighting smallmouth bass. Todd Hannah, (800-428-8585), is a long-time Umpqua River guide that likes fishing for the river's bronzebacks. He says you won't have trouble finding bass here. "There are 75 miles of river that have good bass fishing," he says, and the summer months of June, July, and August provide blistering fishing with most boats logging over 100 fish a day. "A really good fisherman can catch 100 fish a day by themselves."
A good drift is from James Wood to Osprey. Just about any favored smallmouth bait will work. Shuttles can be arranged through Arlene's Café (541-584-2555).
Depoe Bay - Tuna
Tuna fever strikes Oregon every summer when the Albacore come within 30 to 50 miles of the coast, and Depoe Bay is one of the most popular jumping off spots for these line-screeching, open-water fish. Loren Goddard is the captain of the "Affair," of the Dockside Charters fishing fleet, (800-733-8915). "July fourth is the usual start to our tuna season here," says Goddard. "That's when they first tend to come into range." The fishing will stay good until mid-September.
Goddard likes to troll with clones and plugs until he finds schools of tuna, and then it's time to cast and jig for the torpedo-like fish. Tuna like water temps of 58 to 68 degrees.
Goddard suggests everyone leaving port bring a
long an EPIRB -- an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. "That's a $600 investment that can save your life," he says.
Buoy Ten - Salmon
The Buoy Ten salmon bite at the mouth of the Columbia River is another of the Northwest's premier fishing opportunities. Starting in late August, king and silver salmon flood into the river's mouth and feed hard before journeying up the big river to their natal streams. This fishery is a favorite of legendary Columbia River fisherman Buzz Ramsey of Yakima Baits. "Trolling spinners and plug-cut herring with divers on the outgoing tides is the ticket to getting the fish here," he says. In 2010 the hot bait was a red and white Bob Toman spinner, which is a popular pattern every year.
Right at the buoy is one of the favorite spots. Other good places are the Washington shore on either side of the Astoria-Megler Bridge, and Tongue Point on the Oregon side. Fish also congregate in the East Mooring Basin and at the mouth of Young's Bay.
Guided trips: Team Hook-Up Guide Service (Jack Glass, 503-666-5370; Brandon Glass, 503-260-8285).
Puget Sound - Pinks
2011 is an odd year, so the rivers of Puget Sound will turn silver with pink salmon this September. Pinks, also called humpies, average from 3 to 5 pounds, have a two-year life cycle, and every other year they return in huge numbers. "I think it's going to be another large run," says Pete Verhey of the WDFW. He explains that final projections are not yet on the table, but persistent good ocean conditions could mean a run similar to 2009, when over 5 million pinks returned to Puget Sound Rivers, 2 million in the Snohomish alone. They will also return in good numbers to the Skagit River, the Puyallup, and the Green River.
Pinks are voracious biters and great fun on light line. If cared for properly, they are good table fare. They stage in the sound early in the month where anglers toss spinners and spoons from beaches and shorelines along Whidbey Island, at Lincoln Park in West Seattle, Kayak Point and Deception Pass.
"They'll start pulling into the rivers about the middle of September," says Verhey. Then fishermen will start drifting corkies and yarn for the fish in the lower sections of the river. "Get them early," he says," and get them low in the rivers. Once they move into the freshwater, they get dark quick."
More info: Call the WDFW at Mill Creek (425) 755-1311.
Snake River - Steelhead
Every year in October thousands of anglers converge on the Snake River, drawn by the prospect of fantastic fishing for summer steelhead among the rugged beauty of Hell's Canyon. Here anglers enjoy sunny, cool days on the water wrestling with powerful, hard-hitting, summer steelhead on one of the West's best-known rivers.
Veteran Washington guide Lee Barkie (360-304-0771), starts fishing the Snake on September 25th, which is when the run starts to build. He fishes from of Asotin up to Heller's Bar in the early season, but fishes lower when the water temp drops below 45 degrees. "The fish seem to move down into those lower, deeper holes when it gets cold," says Barkie.
Barkie hooks steelhead on light gear, switching from free-drifting to pulling plugs, depending on conditions. His preferred bait is salmon eggs cured in Krill Fire Cure.
Snake River steelhead run from 4 to 10 pounds until November when the larger, B-run fish arrive. They will run from 12 to 16 pounds, with a few topping 20 pounds.
Tillamook Bay Rivers - Fall Kings
Fall rains will pull plenty of bright king salmon up out of Oregon's Tillamook Bay and into the rivers where bank anglers can get their best shot at these runs. The best fishing takes place right after the rivers first come back into shape following the rain. Each storm will bring a fresh pulse of kings from 25 to 50 pounds out of the tidewater and into the deep pools of the Tillamook, Miami, Trask, Kilchis, and Wilson rivers.
Cast bobber and eggs in the deep pools, and throw spinners in the runs and heads of the pools, but avoid the tail-outs where the dark fish will be spawning.
There will be bright, fresh chinook available until the season ends on December 31st.
More info: Garibaldi Marina at (503) 322-3312.
Chetco River - Winter Steelhead
The Chetco may not be as popular a winter steelhead fishery as the Umpqua and Rogue Rivers; it is probably the best river in southern Oregon for winter steel, according to southern Oregon writer Larry Ellis. "It's a phenomenal fishery," says Ellis, "And it's good from boat or bank." The fishing really starts to heat up in December as hatchery and wild steelhead start to return. "It really picks up about Christmas," says Ellis.
While many fish are taken by boaters, plunkers fishing spin-n-glos do very well, especially when the river first starts to drop following the rains. There is lots of shore access along the river, and Social Security Bar is a good place to start.
These are some of the biggest steelhead in the region, with a few brutes topping 20 pounds each year.