There's no shortage of fishing opportunity in Washington and Oregon. Here's where -- and when -- to take to the water for the best angling action in 2010. (February 2010)
The spring halibut season is a great excuse to play on the big pond and tangle with eating-sized halibut like the one the author boated 22 miles west of Newport.
Photo by Gary Lewis.
Pacific Northwest anglers have so many options, it can be difficult to decide where to go. But you want to catch more fish and bigger fish this year than last year. That means you need to hit the best water at the peak of the runs, when fish are on the bite.
Washington-Oregon Game & Fish knows Northwest fishing -- when it's best, where to go and whom to call.
Steelhead, Snake River
Hit the highway for Hells Canyon. Launch at Heller Bar for the run upstream. January is a great time to intercept summer steelhead on the Snake, and our summer run was exceptional.
"We've got a real good chance of breaking the all-time record this year. It should be good," said Tim Johnson, owner of Fish Hawk Guides. "Early in the year, from October into November, you find the fish in the shallows, in between 2 and 8 feet of water. By January, those fish have gone deeper and you're going to catch them anywhere from 15 to 35 feet."
Drifting bait works good now. You have to be more patient. It takes more weight and you have to work slower water, said Johnson.
For Columbia River Fish Passage Reports, check out the Web site www.nwp.usace.army.mil/op/fishdata/home.asp. Johnson is at (888) 548-8896 or www.fishhawkguides.com.
Cowlitz River steelhead will be found in the water below Blue Creek all the way up to the Barrier Dam.
For fresh steelhead in the Portland area, the Sandy is January's best option.
Steelhead, Grande Ronde River
If you want to catch steelhead on a fly, this Snake River tributary starts fishing well in October. By February, steelhead will be spread throughout the river. Plenty of fish in the pocket water at close quarters make the Grande Ronde a prime destination.
In the cold water, a swinging presentation isn't as effective as a dead-drifted nymph. Fish a beadhead nymph beneath a strike indicator. Present it close to the bottom and work every seam that could hold a fish.
Drive the river or hike in to more remote water, or base-camp at the Minam Motel and take to the rails.
On the Clackamas River, look for steelhead all the way up to McIver Park.
At Rocky Ford Creek, public access and the best fishing are found in the top reach, near the headwaters
Steelhead, North Umpqua River
For winter steelhead, March is your month and the North Umpqua is your river. Bring a drift boat to work the rocky ledges and side-drift the long runs with salmon eggs or a yarn fly.
Put a sliding snap swivel on the main line, and then run a swivel and 24 inches of 10-pound leader to an egg loop on a No. 6 red bait hook. To the sliding snap, attach a slinky weight or pencil lead.
To minimize tangles, each rod and reel should be matched with the same line and weight.
For a guided trip, call Gary's Guide Service at (541) 672-2460 or Chris Carson at (541) 261-3279.
You can catch more bass in the summer, but you get the biggest ones in March on eastern Oregon's John Day River.
Hagg Lake opens earlier than most other reservoirs, and healthy plants of legal rainbows make it a good gamble this month.
Trout, Washington Lakes
Our thoughts turn to trout in April as surely as the dogwood blooms. Close to Vancouver, Battleground Lake can provide fast action. This 28-acre still water is surrounded by trees and fills the crater of an extinct volcano. The WDFW stocks legal and broodstock rainbows, browns, brooks and surplus steelhead. Bank-anglers can circle the lake on a nice trail.
Lacamas Lake is a 315-acre, 65-foot-deep lake, conveniently located near Vancouver for thousands of anglers in search of an early-season limit of browns or rainbows. Bring a boat. The best trout fishing is in the main lake north of the boat launch.
Cowlitz County's Kress Lake, at 30 acres, is another sure bet for fast action early in the season. The WDFW stocks 20,000 rainbows and brown trout each year. Kress is located north of the town of Kalama, just off Interstate 5.
Bring big jerkbaits or baitfish streamers to target bull trout on Central Oregon's Lake Billy Chinook.
Troll for cutthroats and rainbows up to 20 inches on Lake Washington near Seattle.
Halibut, Yaquina Bay
Launch from Pacific City, Yaquina Bay or Depoe Bay or one of several other ports on the Oregon coast to tangle with halibut in deep water.
Rig with 6 feet of 100-pound leader. Loop the leader to accept two galvanized hooks, then thread on herring, squid or a strip of tuna belly. The daily limit is one halibut per person, no minimum length. The possession limit is three halibut on land.
Expect to run 15 to 20 miles out. Be prepared to fish several areas. For regulations, visit www.dfw.state.or.us and click on Fishing Resources.
For a guided trip, call Oregon River Trails at (541) 602-0881 or visit www.oregonrivertrails.com.
May is prime time for big rainbows on the Upper Klamath River. Go armed with tiny tungsten beadhead nymphs.
Detroit Lake starts to warm up in May, and so does the trout fishing.
Trout And Kokanee, Odell Lake
At Odell you can target two species -- mackinaw in the morning and the kokanee in the afternoon.
Macks move up and down in the water column on a daily basis. Find the fish on the depthfinder, and then troll a Hoochie or a large Flatfish or Kwikfish behind a series of flashers. Bait with a large, trailing night crawler to add scent. Ring the dinner bell by dr
opping the downrigger into the mud, then cranking it back up again.
Odell kokanee average 8 to 14 inches. As soon as the sun hits the water, the plankton go deeper and the kokanee follow. Like their nemesis, the mackinaw, kokanee are most easily enticed in early morning, but they can be invited to dinner at lunchtime as well.
For a guided trip, call Odell Lake Resort at (800) 434-2540, or visit www.odelllakeresort.com.
Rainbows, browns and tiger trout come to the surface in early summer on Washington's Lenice chain of lakes (Lenice, Nunnally and Merry).
The ODFW stocks the McKenzie River with legal rainbows, and the fishing gets good when the water begins to drop.
Trout, Wallowa Lakes
Wallowa Lake is the largest natural lake in northeast Oregon. It is home to lake trout, kokanee (the state record came from here), bull trout (must be released) and rainbow trout. Rainbows are the main catch and most anglers pursue them on the southern shoreline. Boat rentals, launch facilities and ample camping and lodging make this a great drive-to destination.
If a backpack adventure is more to your liking, pack your fly tackle when the snow melts in the mountains. Base camp at Wallowa Lake and spike camp in at Ice Lake, Aneroid, Frances, Hobo or Prospect lakes for brook trout that haven't seen a hook in nine months or more.
Sturgeon follow shad up the river to Bonneville Dam, making July one of the best months to bring one of these prehistoric beasts to the boat.
For drive-to high country sport, try Anthony Lake in Oregon's Cascades for rainbows.
Salmon, Buoy 10
Coho and chinook salmon, bound for the Clackamas or the Cowlitz, the Deschutes or the Clearwater or any of dozens of other natal streams, gather at the jaws of the Columbia. Fresh from the salt, the fish pile into a gauntlet of boats and baits that punctuate a spawning journey of anywhere from 10 to 500 river miles.
Buoy 10 marks the western boundary of a 30-square-mile fishery that extends eastward to Rocky Point on the Washington shore and Tongue Point on the Oregon side.
Want to bring home a limit of bottomfish? There's no prettier place to do it than among Washington's San Juan Islands.
For big kokanee, hit Crescent Lake in central Oregon. Get up early because the best bite happens at first light.
Trout, Metolius River
The Metolius River has been managed for wild trout since the early 1990s. Today, it is one of Oregon's best streams for an angler to test his or her skills against native rainbows, bull trout, browns, whitefish and kokanee.
The upper river goes to grassy runs, gentle riffles, bend pools and islands. The best access is on the east bank from Allingham Bridge down to Smiling River, Pine Rest and Gorge Campgrounds. Downstream, from Canyon Creek to Wizard Falls Hatchery, the river widens.
Early in September, focus on rainbows that run from 12 to 18 inches. Nymphs take the most fish, but look for a hatch of October caddis and match it with a No. 8 Orange Tied-Down Caddis.
For local information, stop in at the Camp Sherman Store or visit virtually at www.campshermanstore.com.
Davis Lake is Oregon's premier fly-rod bass fishery. In September, the action can be hot.
For bright cohos, troll plugs or cast spinners on the Cowlitz River.
Rainbow Trout, Rufus Woods
Washington State's biggest rainbow, a 29.6-pounder, came from Lake Rufus Woods in Okanogan County in 2002. This 51-mile-long lake is backed up by Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia and has become more popular as a trout destination since booting out a couple of state records in a row. When the water surface temp drops below 60 degrees, the fishing gets good and continues till January or February.
One favorite technique is to run cured roe beneath a float, salmon fishing-style. Another productive technique is to zigzag troll or cast large minnow imitations, swimbaits, and twitch baits. Cast spinners for 2- to 3-pound rainbows near the shore.
For a guided trip, call Anton Jones at (866) 360-1523, or visit the Web site at www.darrellanddads.com.
As the water cools, Oregon's Crooked River heats up for rainbows.
Spot and stalk big brown trout on the Owyhee. They'll take a dry fly.
Salmon, Skykomish River
Chums average between 5 and 15 pounds in the Skykomish, though a few have been known to tip the scales at more than 20.
When you time the run right, chums are not all that hard to catch. Go small and chartreuse. The larger baits that work well for chinook and silvers do not do as well for chums. When using drift gear, start with a chartreuse Corky and a little tuft of chartreuse yarn knotted to your egg loop knot. When chartreuse isn't working, try red, orange, pink or white. Use stout gear because these fish can pull. Many anglers prefer to use 12- to 15-pound-test line and a rod with plenty of backbone.
By November, the lower Deschutes River is full of summer steelhead. Cast spinners or throw a swinging fly.
Be on the Trask River for fall chinook after the first big flush of rain hits and the water starts to drop.
Steelhead, Peninsula Rivers
Olympic Peninsula rivers offer legendary fishing from late November through April for strong runs of hatchery and wild fish. Olympic Peninsula rivers are short and steep, averaging 30 to 40 miles in length, and run straight into the ocean.
The hatchery run peaks this month. Fish the Sol Duc, Calawah, Hoh, Bogachiel and Queets.
You will have the best fishing when the water is emerald green with 3 to 5 feet of visibility. Some anglers cast flies or spinners or drift a jig and float. From a drift boat, try side-drifting with cured roe.
For up-to-date river flows, visit http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt. For a guided trip, call Jim Mansfield at (360) 374-9018, or visit www.jim-mansfield.com.
The Wilson River peaks later, but it is the river to hit if you want to tangle with a chromer in December.
Stable flows and consistent temps make the Fall River fishable all year, but in the winter, you get some of the best w
ater to yourself.