JANUARY - Diamond Lake Trout, Oregon
Why not start out the new year with some ice-fishing at Diamond Lake, home to rainbow trout measured in pounds, not inches. Anglers will also have the chance to hook tiger trout. New regulations that take effect Jan. 1 allow up to five ice-fishing rigs per angler that greatly improve the odds of finding fish. The maximum hole size regulation is unchanged and remains not to exceed 12 inches in diameter. Cutting the hole requires an auger. Use a tin can nailed to a stick to keep the hole open. A camp stool or lawn chair and insulated boots makes for a comfortable day on the ice. It's a big lake, nearly 3,000 acres, but most ice-fishing is concentrated around the Diamond Lake Resort.
Other Options: Patterson Lake Trout: Head to Winthrop, Washington's Patterson Lake for some ice-fishing for rainbow trout. North Fork Nehalem Steelhead: If steelhead are your game, take a shot at the North Fork Nehalem in Oregon.
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FEBRUARY - Umpqua River Steelhead, Oregon
This is big water that produces big steelhead. The best way to know if the Umpqua is in shape is if all the other coastal rivers are running low. The main stem from Elkton down to Sawyers Rapids and even down to Bunch Bar provides plenty of boat and bank access. Farther upstream, the South Fork from the confluence with the North Fork up past Roseburg has some hatchery winter fish. The South Fork is smaller water and can be in fishing shape when the main stem is not. There is boat access at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Roseburg and Happy Valley plus some informal sites along the river. Both the main river and the South Fork have mandatory release of wild fish so make sure to check for a healed adipose fin scar if you intend to retain a fish.
Other Options: Puget Sound Coastal Cutthroats: This Washington fishing experience is always available in the South Sound. St. Louis Ponds Trout: These ponds, located north of Salem, Ore., get their first dose of trout this month.
MARCH - Coffeepot Lake Trout, Washington
Set in Washington's wild and scenic channeled scablands northeast of Odessa, Coffeepot Lake and its plentiful rainbow trout await anglers. Expect to find rainbows averaging 16-18 inches, with larger fish going up to two feet. Early season in that part of the country can still be a bit chilly, but the trout will be feeding. Fly-anglers fish chironomid patterns on long leaders. This is selective gear, artificial fly or lure with single-point hook, so change out those treble hooks on your Rooster Tails. The 2017 winter rains raised the lake by several feet, making it easy for power boats to access all six miles of the lake. The topography, not to mention the large population of rattlesnakes, makes a boat the only way to fish the lake.
Other Options: Oregon's Garrison Lake Trout: This is a pleasant urban fishery with plenty of stocked rainbows. Dorena Reservoir Trout: Dorena Reservoir, near Eugene, Ore., gets a healthy plant of rainbows.
APRIL - Mineral Lake Trout, Washington
Those who know Mineral Lake love it. Those yet to experience it will love it once they fish it. Known as the home of the 10-pound trout, the lake gets plants of rainbow fingerlings, catchables, triploids (when available) and brood stock. In addition to the hefty rainbows, the lake also has brown trout that could almost eat the largest rainbows. The lake record brown is 15 pounds. There is limited bank access but boatless anglers can rent rowboats from the Mineral Lake Resort for a nominal charge. All the usual lake fishing methods work here. Still-fishers favor PowerBait and worms. An under-utilized technique that gets plenty of fish is trolling a floating Rapala on a long line. It also has plenty of big largemouth bass that get active when the water warms.
Other Options: Fern Ridge Reservoir Crappie: The crappie in this western Oregon destination will move into the shallows to spawn. Crescent Lake Mackinaw: These fish should be on the prowl this month in Oregon's Crescent lake.
MAY - Crane Prairie Reservoir Trout, Oregon
The central Oregon sun starts to warm Crane Prairie water, the insects grow and the fish respond. When the lake first filled, it flooded standing timber. And much of that timber is still standing. It provides habitat for insects and breaks fishermen's hearts when a pig rainbow gets hung up in there. Plenty of double-digit (pounds, not inches) rainbows show up each year. If the lake level is up, the fish will be scattered, so the key to catching is covering ground and trolling. Fly-fishers use chironomids under a bobber and dragonfly nymphs run through the weed beds.
Other Options: Yakima River Smallmouths: Fishermen looking for smallmouth bass should hit Washington's Lower Yakima River. East Lake Trout: This central Oregon lake should be ice-free and full of hungry rainbow and brown trout.
JUNE - Umpqua River Shad, Oregon
These ocean-going members of the herring family are great fighters on light tackle, having honed their skills during their ocean phase. Once hooked, they often demonstrate their ability to shimmy while airborne. These guys hang on the edge of current seams in large pods. The pod moves up and down along that current seam until they all bolt upstream to be replaced by another pod. Gear fishers toss small chartreuse plastic skirt-like hoochies. Fly-fishers go with small shad darts, heavily weighted with a dumbbell head, wrapped with red or green wire over body covered with silver tinsel.
Other Options: Pend Oreille Bass: Smallmouths, largemouths and brown trout swim in Washington's Pend Oreille River. Coldwater Lake Trout: Lake fishers should go to Washington's Coldwater Lake for trout near Mt. St. Helens.
JULY - Roses Lake Catfish, Washington
Now it's time to switch gears and get your catfish fix. Fishermen raised on trout and other coldwater fish need to give the channel catfish in Roses Lake, a mile out of Manson, a try. WDFW stocks the lake with foot-long catfish that then grow to 20 pounds or more — an impressive fish in anyone's book. These fish eat almost everything that swims in, flies near or hops along the lake edge. That means most every bait will work. You can go stinky or something less offensive like nightcrawlers. A ball sinker, sufficient length of leader to keep the bait out of the weeds and a stout fishing rod are all it takes. Once night falls, the catfish become more active and the fish move into the shallows.
Other Options: Odell Lake Kokanee: This is trolling for kokanee time at Odell Lake near Oregon's Willamette Pass. North Santiam Steelhead: Give Oregon's North Santiam River a try for steelhead.
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AUGUST - Puget Sound Salmon, Washington
Puget Sound is home to resident coho, salmon that seemingly have separation anxiety as they never leave the Sound for the open ocean. In August, they are joined by their siblings who have spent time in the Pacific eating and getting fat. That means, on any given cast, fishermen might get a resident or tie into a returning adult that is many times bigger. While in the salt before heading upriver, these fish will eat, often putting on a pound per week, making them a favorite quarry from the beach. Look for place names that include the word "point," "spit," or "head." Some of those places fish best on an incoming tide. Others catch best on the outgoing. Explore until you find what works best.
Other Options: Lower Deschutes Steelhead: Hit Oregon's lower Deschutes River for steelhead. Buoy 10 Chinook: Buoy 10 on the Columbia River is always a good bet for Chinook right now.
SEPTEMBER - Henry Hagg Lake Bass, Oregon
The pleasure boaters and water skiers have left the lake to the fishermen. Couple the lack of traffic with some cooling water, and fishing rebounds. Located in the foothills southwest of Forest Grove, Henry Hagg Lake is a top smallmouth bass and largemouth bass water. Bass guys love their Senkos and other soft plastics. Smallmouth tend to orient toward rocky structure including the face of the dam. Largemouth bass favor large woody debris.
Other Options: Columbia River Chinook: If there are enough fish to have a season, consider fall chinook on the Columbia. Grand Ronde Steelhead: An early run of summer steelhead makes its way upstream in Washington and Oregon's Grand Ronde River.
OCTOBER - Pend Oreille River Trout, Washington
Way up in the northeast corner of Washington, the Pend Oreille River comes in from Idaho, then flows north into Canada after passing over Box Canyon and Boundary dams. The river is a mixed bag of trout — mostly browns that get into double-digits. Only 45 minutes out of Spokane, the river is lightly pressured despite an abundance of fish. Numerous water access sites dot the river. The river is also home to huge hexagenia mayflies.
Other Options: Oregon's Coquille River Smallmouths: This river is a good bet for smallies right now. Lake Lenore Lahontan Cutthroats: These fish are making a comeback at this Washington destination.
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NOVEMBER - Sixes River Chinook Salmon, Oregon
This southwestern Oregon river that puts out lots of Chinook, with the biggest fish starting to show in November after the fall rains have blown out the sand bars that formed over the summer. The Sixes is roughly 22 miles south of Bandon and five miles north of Port Orford. Highway 101 crosses the river about five miles above the mouth, and the lower river is accessible by several secondary roads. Cape Blanco State Park is on the south bank of the estuary, and the lower river is accessible by several secondary roads. Three miles upstream of Highway101 is a half-mile of public water that has a couple of good salmon holes. Leave the lightweight gear home.
Other Options: Pass Lake Trout: Fly-fishers use streamers to catch rainbows and browns on Washington's Pass Lake. Stillaguamish River Cutthroats: Coastal cutthroat action can be found on Washington's Stillaguamish River.
DECEMBER - Clackamas River Steelhead, Oregon
Focus on the lower river from River Mill Dam just below Estacada to the mouth. Pay attention to the Eagle Creek tributary, home of the Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery, which produces the bulk of hatchery smolts released in the river below River Mill Dam. The Clackamas is subject to wildly varied river flows (33,000 to 800 cfs) which can make fishing difficult at best. For up-to-date streamflows, call the PG&E Fish Line at (503) 464-7474.
Other Options: Banks Lake Whitefish: Lake whitefish at this Washington lake move up shallow in December and are good fighters. Crooked River Oregon Trout: This location produces numbers, with thousands of trout per square mile.