January 26, 2017
So you are sitting at home, listlessly scanning through your Facebook account. All the posts seem the same dull stuff. Or maybe you're in the man cave, clicking the remote so fast your finger blisters, stunned at how many shopping channels and stupid reality shows blight the airwaves.
Suddenly, a thought strikes and it becomes crystal clear that all your malaise can be cured by taking yourself fishing. You've got rods and reels that work for bass, even though you've only used them for trout. Heck, that spinning rod will work in the salt; you just need to take care of it on arriving home. The day seems bright. Heck, your life seems brighter. It's time to go fish.
What follows is a calendar highlighting accessible rivers, lakes and saltwater fishing spots in Oregon and Washington. You'll find trout, bass and panfish, steelhead and even some saltwater suggestions. Some are well known. Others travel under the proverbial radar. All have fish. Read on for some great spots to hit and species to target.
JANUARY - Nestucca Steelhead in Oregon
This is a user-friendly river for boaters and bank-anglers alike. Boaters can run the river from the Sixth Bridge boat ramp near Blaine all the way to the mouth. The river above Fourth Bridge is for truly experienced boat drivers due to river hazards including an known as The Falls. Bank anglers who want to avoid boat traffic can hit the river above Blaine where the river changes character. For catching Nestucca steelheads, gear fishermen traditionally pulled plugs. That method has given way to running jigs under a float. Fly fishermen drift nymphs under an indicator or make the traditional steelhead swing. For the best upper river fishing, pay attention to high water events that push fish upstream.
Other Options: Head to Seattle's Lincoln Park for some early morning coastal cutthroat and resident coho fishing on either the incoming or outgoing tide. When the ice is thick, go to Oroville's Sidley Lake for some yellow perch and rainbow trout.
FEBRUARY - Sandy River Steelhead in Oregon
This remarkably productive river that lies within easy driving distance of the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area is a consistent producer of winter steelhead. The run begins as early as December and continues through March, with most of the fish running between 8 and 12 pounds. The angling methods run the gamut. You'll see folks plunking from chairs set up on the bank or boaters pulling plugs. Jigs under a float are becoming more popular. Fly-fishermen tend toward swinging with spey or switch rods. As with every river, Sandy comes with boating hazards. The stretch from Dodge Park to Oxbow Park is known for eating boats. Oxbow to Dabney Park is a popular and productive run.
Other Options: Washington's Puget Sound Blackmouths may come shallow and make themselves available. Check the regulations to confirm the season is open for these lively fish. Walter Wirth Lake in Salem, Ore., is an easily reached urban water where rainbow trout eat worms and PowerBait.
MARCH - Lenice Lake Trout in Washington
Broad-shouldered rainbows cruise the shallows of Washington's Lenice Lake. Open March 1, the rainbows in this selective gear water are willing participants. Fly-fishermen choose between black or olive Woolly Buggers or their favorite chironomid patterns. Gear tossers use small spinners or Rooster Tails that have been modified to meet the selective gear rule. There is limited bank access so most fishermen make the short hike with float tubes on their backs. Most of the early season trout will be 14-16 inches.
Other Options: Oregon's Long Tom River crappies love a well-placed white marabou 1/16-ounce jig around the drowned wood and bushes. Over on the coast, Munsel Lake has rainbow and a nightcrawler might also produce a largemouth bass.
APRIL - Bogachiel Steelhead in Washington
The Bogie gets a late run of silver torpedoes that results in some days of really good fishing. These late fish are wild, hefty brutes that shame their hatchery cousins. Angling focuses on the river above the hatchery All the usual tactics work and the river is a favorite of fly-fishers. Skunks, Purple Perils and General Practitioners do some heavy lifting here. Road access is through the South Bogachiel River Road. For those willing to shun their vehicles and get some exercise, the Bogachiel River Trail opens up miles of river. The river also has native coastal cutthroat and some bull trout. Think of the Bogie as a catch and release river for all species.
Other Options: Intercept Oregon's Willamette River spring chinooks at the Multnomah Channel, catch them with a whole or plug-cut herring trolled close to the bottom. Lake Sammamish smallmouth in Washington will be moving into their pre-spawn pattern. Get them interested in tubes and grubs fished over rock humps.
MAY - Galesville Largemouths in Oregon
Little known outside a few local bass fishermen, this 630-acre Douglas County reservoir has largemouth bass, bluegill and rainbow trout. The bass get big — some ranging close to the 10-pound mark. The stands of drowned timber and laydowns are perfect bass habitat. Smaller bass will be all along the lake edges. When fishing the timber, expect to find the larger fish between 15-20 feet down.
Other Options: Drifting an egg cluster through the holding spots or trolling a Kwikfish will put a Kalama River spring chinook on the line in Washington. Fly-fishermen should try Washington's Chopaka Lake for the callibaetis hatch.
JUNE - Columbia River Carp in Oregon-Washington
When was the last time you had the opportunity to sight fish for a freight train that swims? Fishermen can expand their angling horizons when the common carp head into the backwaters and sloughs of the Columbia River. These guys can be spooky-hard to catch but so much fun when hooked. Gear fishers used to flipping jigs will experience success by downsizing their baits and making precise casts because carp don't chase after food The precise casting rule applies to fly-fishermen as well. Carp are vacuum feeders and eat tons of crayfish, snails and aquatic insects. Dark-colored baits and flies in black, brown, or olive work best.
Other Options: Some broodstock rainbows await Mineral Lake fishermen in Washington. In addition to the usual lake forage, the lake is full of crayfish. Go hit the lake trout in Oregon's Cultus Lake with a plug that imitates mountain whitefish before the water warms and the fish move deep.
JULY - Brownlee Reservoir Cats in Oregon
In the land of salmon, steelhead and trout, channel catfish fall well below the glamour line. That's a shame, as they put up a rugged, rod-bending fight, grow bigger than most salmon and are tasty at the table. Tradition says stinkbaits and chicken livers, plunked on the bottom are the best way to hook these guys. Those baits take advantage of the channel catfish's extraordinary sense of smell. A less stinky but effective method of catching takes advantage of their highly piscivorus nature. Gear fishermen use cranks and lures that imitate forage fish. Fly-fishermen cast and strip fish-imitating streamers. For a fun outing, try fishing for catfish after the sun goes down when these nocturnal creatures go on the prowl. Top areas on Brownlee are in the upper reservoir near Farewell Bend State Park.
Other Options: This month marks the beginning of the Oregon and Washington albacore tuna fishing. Early season means trolling tuna jigs and large plugs that imitate the squid being eaten by the tuna. This is an offshore trip lasting up to three days as the boat may travel over 50 miles from port. Once a school of Oregon's Green Peter Reservoir kokanees are located, try vertical jigging a Gibb's Minnow in green or red instead of trolling.
AUGUST - Buoy 10 Chinook in Washington-Oregon
An insignificant buoy in the Columbia River, Buoy 10 evokes memories of past salmon runs and anticipation of the current run. Fishing for the tule strain and the more-favored upriver brights, starts close to the buoy. Consult the tide table and target days that have a high tidal exchange that pushes fish upriver. Start near the buoy at slack tide and work upriver, essentially back-bouncing as the tide pushes the boat along with the fish. When the tide reverses and pulls some fish with it, troll downstream with the river current and outgoing tide. Herring, either plug-cut or whole, is the bait of choice, though red and white or chartreuse and white spinners sometimes outcatch herring. Chinooks run deep, so it's critical to use enough weight to get the lure or herring down to the fish.
Other Options: A float trip for smallmouth bass on the Grande Ronde River (WA) from Boggan's Oasis to Heller Bar is a perfect August adventure. Crayfish and topwater baits are the ticket. If the Deschutes River (OR) is cooler than the Columbia, steelheads will come into the lower river.
SEPTEMBER - Puget Sound Pink Salmon in Washington
Pink salmon return to Washington's Puget Sound and rivers this month in great numbers. After spending but 18 months in the ocean, these feisty fish attract attention from gear and fly- fishermen. Gear fishermen favor small pink Buzz Bombs. If the store shelves are bare, another good choice is a Dick Nite spoon in the same size and color. Fly-fishermen do well with a variety of small flies tied with pink Estaz or UV pink or cerise Spirit River marabou. The fish run in schools, so catching one fish usually means catching another on the next cast. Beach fishing is popular, though a boat is handy when the fish are running just beyond casting range.
Other Options: As the water begins to cool, Detroit Lake rainbows in Oregon return to higher levels of activity and will hit a wedding ring spinner and worm combination. An evening float in Oregon's McKenzie River will result in bright coastal cutthroat or rainbow trout.
OCTOBER - East Lake Trout in Oregon
Home to some double-digit brown trout, East Lake also has kokanee and rainbow trout. The rainbows are easily caught by bank-anglers casting from the rocky bank around the Cinder Hill Campground. The brown trout grow big here on a diet of tui chubs and small kokanee. A highly effective troll method is running a Rapala on a long line without weight along the edges of the weedbeds where the browns are hunting the chubs. The lake is popular with fly- fishermen as well. This is black bear country so if camping, keep a clean camp and store your food appropriately.
Other Options: Oregon's Smith River, an off the beaten path water, has a run of fall chinooks. The lower reaches also have striped bass. The trout in Washington's Rattlesnake Lake, a selective gear rules lake east of Seattle, have grown into decent size and the fishing pressure is modest.
NOVEMBER - Puget Sound Chum Salmon in Washington
Known as junkyard dogs by fishermen both for their fearsome appearance and nasty fighting ability, chum salmon gain favor among the angling crowd this month. The rivers that run into Hood Canal are good choices. The Hoodsport Hatchery should be avoided, unless you think combat fishing is enjoyable. A small powerboat provides better access to creek and river mouths. Anchor in shallow water and look for pods of fish. Chartreuse curl tail grubs are popular with gear fishermen. Fly- fishermen prefer small chartreuse or cerise flies.
Other Options: The lower Rogue River (OR) has plenty of summer steelhead and half-pounders that eat flies or jigs drifted under a float. Coffenbury Lake in Oregon's Fort Stevens State Park gives up trout and maybe a surplus steelhead on Blue Fox and wedding ring spinners.
DECEMBER - Banks Lake Lake Whitefish in Washington
Lake whitefish, so popular in southern Canada and the Great Lakes, are a mystery fish to most fishermen. Lake whitefish spend most of the year in deep water, rarely caught by anglers seeking Banks Lake walleyes or bass. That changes in December when the fish move up shallow to spawn. They are strong fighters and grow to 5 pounds. Gear fisherman use small white or silver spoons. The take, usually soft, often occurs on the drop, so close attention is necessary to detect. Fly-fishermen should use small white streamers or Woolly Bugger-type flies on sinking lines.
Other Options: It's a long way from most everywhere, but the chinooks and steelheads in Oregon's Chetco River are worth the travel. Closer to where most Oregonians live is the Trask River, where winter steelheads and fall chinooks swim.