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Top Spots for Washington/Oregon Fishing in 2012

Top Spots for Washington/Oregon Fishing in 2012
Fishing with the Big K Guest Ranch, Gary Lewis caught this big smallmouth bass while the party was stopped for a shore lunch. Photo by Gary Lewis.

You want to be there when the run is at its peak and the fish are biting. This year we did the scouting for you, for the biggest fish and the hottest bites. Here are our picks for your best Northwest fishing trips — three for each month. Get out your calendar, clean out your tackle boxes and put fresh line on the reels — it's time to go fishing!



Cowlitz River, WA

Early in the year, you can find great steelheading from the mouth up to Blue Creek and beyond.

Side-drifting helps you make a natural presentation of your bait in front of steelhead for a maximum amount of time.

Every angler on the boat should use the same rod, reel, line and weight to keep baits drifting in unison. Use 48 inches of ten-pound leader, knotted to a No. 2 or 4 single red hook. At the hook, use an egg loop knot with yarn or a cork drifter for color.

Your baits should be positioned upstream of the boat. When the strike comes, it will be a gentle tap-tap-tap as the fish takes the bait, or a tap and jerk as the fish grabs the bait and runs.

For a guided trip, call Mike Pallas at Bear's Fishing (360-740-0583).




Olympic Peninsula Rivers, WA

The Sol Duc, Calawah, Hoh, Bogachiel and Queets offer some of Washington's best steelhead action from late November through April. Fin-clipped steelhead average 6 to 8 pounds and wild fish run a little bigger.

Time the trip to hit the water after two days of rain when the water is "steelhead green" and dropping, with a visibility of 3 to 5 feet.

From a boat, side-drifting is a favorite technique. Bank anglers score with flies, spinners or a jig-and-float.

Check out for current river flows. For a drift boat run, call Jim Mansfield (360-374-9018;



Clackamas River, OR

Just minutes from Portland, the Clack is one of Oregon's most productive streams and the winter run is the main event.

By March, fish are spread throughout the river up to Estacada. One of the most popular floats is Barton to Carver. A jighead tipped with a pink plastic worm is a favorite bait.

Tie a leadhead jig to 2 feet of leader with a float positioned above the swivel. Slide a bubblegum-pink plastic worm on the hook. Adjust the float so the worm runs at the level of the fish. Set the jig to run 18 inches off the bottom. Cast across and upstream, keep your rod high, and let the current take the lure through the run.

For stream flows and local information, stop in at Fisherman's Marine in Oregon City. For a guided trip, call Rob Crandall (503-704-6449).


Spring Chinook

Willamette River, OR

The action in April takes place in 10 miles of river below the falls at Oregon City. "It's never about whether the fish are there or not. It is all temperature," guide Lance Fisher said. The peak hits between April and early June. Fisher likes it best when the water temperature runs under 56 degrees.

As to bait, Fisher recommends using prawns when the water is lower and herring in higher water. Some of the best water is in the Oregon City area, at Sellwood, near the Port area and at the head of the Multnomah Channel. Use a depthfinder and look for shelves and depressions where salmon can rest on the way upstream.

For water conditions, check in with Fisherman's Marine Supply in Oregon City. For a guided trip, check out or

Check out page two for top Washington/Oregon fishing options for May, June, July and August


Smallmouth Bass

Umpqua River, OR

In '64, when the river blew the bridge at Elkton and ran through farmer's barns, a handful of smallmouth bass washed out of a pond and into the lower Umpqua. Now, every ledge or rock bigger than a basketball holds a bass. You won't catch as many fish in May, but you might catch your biggest of the year.

On spinning gear, cast white plastics or shake a Rapala or a Daiwa TD Minnow to make the fish chase the bait. A big skirted jig is a great choice to target bass in close quarters.

Prospect from Cleveland Rapids down to Scott Creek. Look for ledge habitat and probe the transition points between the shallows and deep water.

To hire a guide, call the Big K Guest Ranch (800-390-2445) or Jody Smith (541-643-6258).



Columbia, OR/WA

They say there are a million sturgeon between Astoria and Bonneville.

On the depthfinder, look for slight depressions in the ever-changing bottom. Food collects in such spots and where food collects, sturgeon collect.

"Often the fish will pick up the bait and run right at the boat," Jody said. "When it bites, pick up the rod and wait for it to bite again. When you set the hook, set it hard and start reeling and keep on reeling."

Sturgeon that are between 41 inches and 54 inches may be retained. An angler may keep one per day and five per year till the quota is reached. Oversize fish must be returned to the water. For a guided trip, call Jody Smith (541-643-6258;


Rainbow Trout And Kokanee

Wallowa Lake, OR

Wallowa Lake holds the world record for kokanee, a landlocked sockeye that tipped the scales at 9.67 pounds. In July, the kokanee go deeper to follow the shrimp and plankton. There may be another record lurking in this northeast Oregon lake. Jig or troll for kokanee or set your sights on rainbow trout.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks Wallowa with thousands of rainbows. Some of the best water is at the head of the lake at the inlet of the Wallowa River. Another good bet is the outlet at the other end.

The trout can be tempted with jar baits, salmon eggs and worms, but aggressive rainbows can be caught on Rooster Tail and Promise Keeper spinners. There is a good shore fishery at the inlet.

For a place to stay, check out



Crescent Lake/Odell Lake, OR

Kokanuts, kokaholics, koke addicts, kookoo for kokanee — whatever you call them, you can find them April to September, at Crescent Lake and Odell Lake in Oregon's Cascades.

Odell kokanee average 8 to 14 inches. Crescent Lake kokes run a bit bigger. Kokanee are easily enticed in early morning, but they can be invited to dinner at lunchtime as well.

An easy trolling rig consists of an eight-inch flasher with 4 feet of leader terminated at an Apex or Wedding Ring spinner. Most anglers add white corn and season it with a scent like Pautzke's Krill.

Anglers who want to learn more about kokanee have a great resource in Kokanee Power (

For local conditions, call Odell Lake Resort (800-434-2540; and Crescent Lake Resort (541-433-2505;

Top Washington/Oregon fishing options for September, October, November and December can be found on page three


Chinook Salmon

Siuslaw River, OR

Salmon fishing on the Siuslaw hits its peak in late September as Chinook that average 20 pounds and wild silvers begin to push up through the tidewater.

Early in the run, launch at Old Town in Florence and later in the month, start at Mapleton. The best bait is herring, but anglers also score with large wobbling spoons, Wiggle Warts, KwikFish and large spinners.

Wheelchair accessible fishing docks can be found in Florence and at Mapleton. Best bets from the bank are big Blue Fox spinners.

For a guide, check out


Fall Chinook

Tillamook Bay, OR

The Wilson, Trask, Miami, Kilchis and Tillamook rivers empty into Tillamook Bay. These streams boast strong salmon production, making for good bay fishing in October as fall Chinook make their way to their home rivers.

One of the best baits is a mooching rig with cut herring or a small whole herring. Start with 30-pound test and tie on a 3-way swivel. Tie 20 inches of leader to one eye and attach a snap swivel. This leg will hold the weight. Tie 2 to 4 feet of 25-pound leader to the other leg, then attach a bead chain swivel. To the bead chain, tie another 4 feet of leader, terminating at two 2/0 hooks. Herring is hooked through nose and tail and should spin in the water.

Above Bay City, switch tactics and rig with a large rainbow-pattern or chartreuse spinner. Another weapon, good for the upper bay is a Kwikfish rigged with a herring filet. Use 1 1/2 ounces of lead to keep your spinner or Kwikfish 2 feet off the bottom.

For a guided trip, check out or

Other Choices

Point the car to southwest Washington to cast spinners for coho on the Cowlitz.

The Keno Reach of the Upper Klamath River reopens this month and the big rainbows like to grab orange spinners as well as crayfish imitations.



Grande Ronde, WA

For some of October's best steelhead action, spend a few days on the Grande Ronde River in Washington.

Bring your fly rod to the Grande Ronde River and spend at least two days on the water. On the swing, fish Red-butt Skunks, Woolly Buggers and Muddler Minnows. These are active fish that will come to the surface to take a fly. To tempt fish to the surface, skate a Bomber pattern. With a nymph and indicator, try the Green Rock Worm, or October Caddis.

These steelhead will take a spinner, as well. Use No. 2-4 brass-, copper- and black-bladed spinners with green or red accents. Only adipose fin-clipped steelhead may be retained.

For a guided trip, call Tim Johnson, of FishHawk Guides (888-548-8896).



Snoqualmie River, WA

This month, Snoqualmie River steelhead are on their way up to the Tokul Creek hatchery. Ambush them from the mouth of Tokul Creek to Carnation/Fall City. The area near the mouth of the Tolt River and several hundred feet up the Raging River are also good bets. Boat anglers pull Hot Shots and other diving plugs while bank anglers score with spoons, spinners, floats and jigs, roe or sand shrimp.

If the river is blown out, the Skykomish and the Green River are good options, less than an hour's drive away.

For water conditions, check out

* * *

To order a signed copy of Freshwater Fishing Oregon & Washington, send $23.75 (including S&H) to Gary Lewis Outdoors, P.O. Box 1364, Bend, OR 97709 or visit

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