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Buoy 10 Opens, Fall Chinook Fishing Begins

by Michael Teague
News Register, July 27, 2006

The Buoy 10 salmon opener August 1 is one of the most highly anticipated of all Oregon fisheries. With strong coho numbers and plenty of fish offshore, anglers are especially optimistic this year. About 780,000 silvers will enter the Columbia in August. With the curtailing of commercial ocean fishing, catches of coho and fall Chinook are expected to be good. The opener is expected to be slow but action will ramp up as the season wears on.

A recent teleconference between NOAA Fisheries, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and recreational fishers resulted in a change in the regulations for the salmon fishery offshore out of the Columbia (Leadbetter Pt., Wash., to Cape Falcon) from Sunday through Thursday to seven days a week as of August 11. As of that date, the daily limit will be two salmon, either Chinook or finclipped coho.

The summer Chinook fishery in the Columbia is winding down with daily numbers at Bonneville gradually dwindling. It's been a decent run after all, with a combination of spring and summer Chinook over 191,000.

Summer steelhead counts are encouraging with numbers increasing this week to exceed 2,200 a day recently. Nearly 46,000 metalheads have crossed Bonny and over 17,000 have been counted at The Dalles with many of these fish destined to delight anglers in the Deschutes River. While the YTD total is low, this run, as with the salmon this year, is likely late.

Although the mouth of the Cowlitz is historically reliable this time of year, it was slow the last week. There has been an improvement early this week, however, with run numbers increasing.

Bonneville Pool closed to sturgeon retention on July 23. Anglers won't have many sturgeon options after the first of August other than catch and release. The Columbia closes to retention from Bonneville to Wauna Powerlines along with the lower Willamette. Catch-and-keep sturgeon fishing will resume in October.

Daily steelhead counts at Willamette Falls have fallen to low double digits. Chinook numbers are down to single digits. With the water temperature approaching 80 degrees, this is strictly a tributary fishery for salmonids and a warmwater fishery in the lower Willamette.

The upper Sandy has produced a few steelhead at first light. Glacial run-off continues to hamper visibility Daily fish counts are all over the chart at Faraday Dam on the Clackamas River. Over 50 hatchery Chinook on Monday this week followed by 11 on Tuesday, July 25. Prior to that, four days of zero fish. It's been single digits or none since the first week of July. The water is extremely low and clear.

Everyone remarked about the slow season on the Clackamas River but a record of nearly 6,500 spring Chinook returned to the hatchery facility. Recycling of summer steelhead is ongoing weekly. A few have been caught near McIver.

Water in the North Santiam is a bit high but has good color. Tempt steelhead with small baits or lures. Recently, a pink and white jig presented under a float has been effective. Over 1,500 steelhead have been trucked down river from the fish trap at Mehama to provide anglers with an additional opportunity to catch them.

Over 5,500 summer steelhead and 2,600 springers had been counted at Foster Dam on the South Santiam as of July 25. Most of the hatchery fish are recycled downstream. Fishing is slow to fair.

Crabbing is rewarding in Nehalem Bay for those who put in their time. Expect one in four Dungeness to be too soft to keep as these critters are molting this time of year. Summer Chinook fishing is slow but a few are being taken daily by trollers using herring or anchovies. The water temperature in the bay is still pretty cold for a decent Chinook bite. August is prime time for salmon in the bay.

Salmon fishing out of Garibaldi will close after July 31. Fishing was good late last week for anglers able to find 54 degree water to fish in. This was at about 300 feet NW of the Tillamook Bay entrance. Since then, ocean conditions have been rough, keeping most anglers docked. The catch has been mostly coho but a rare Chinook is being taken, too.

Steelheading in the Wilson, Trask and Nestucca has been frustrating in water that is too low and clear. A stealthy approach at first light is the best option.

According to an ODFW bulletin on Tuesday, July 25, radio-tagged Chinook may be retained on the Siletz River starting August 1. Retention of these fish outside of the Columbia is illegal in all other waters.

Hot weather and high winds kept boaters off the north coast ocean over the last week. The weather looks promising this weekend for an offshore foray. Coho fishing out of Depoe Bay and Newport has turned on, rewarding anglers with many limits. Fish are 20 to 30 feet deep over 180 to 200 feet of water.

Ocean anglers are anxiously anticipating the opening of the all-depth summer halibut season August 4, 5 and 6. Additional three-day opportunities will follow.

Surf perch fish has remained hot and will continue so until they're finished producing young. Red-tailed or pinkfin sea perch are live-bearers and it's not unusual to have them issue miniature clones when hooked. Winchester Bay remains the top producer for boaters launching in search for offshore salmon. A total of about 4,200 Chinook and 6,100 coho had been taken as of mid-July in the ocean fishery coast-wide. Over 60 percent of the coho quota remains available off the central Oregon coast as of July 23. Water offshore over the weekend was too cold to produce decent catches, however. When the wind subsides, fishing is expected to produce limits.

While the selective coho season is scheduled to close at the end of August, it may be extended if the quota doesn't fill. It should be extended. Since only hatchery coho can be retained, that means these are our fish. We paid for them with our license and tag fees.

Smallmouth bass action is steady through the heat of the day on the Umpqua River. They're running small so use light tackle.

Baitfish are thick in Rogue Bay as the fall Chinook gets underway. Anglers have been allowed to keep both wild and hatchery Chinook as of July 15. Trollers report mixed results and it was slow late last week although many fish exceeding the 30-pound mark have been taken. Salmon fishing in the bay will improve into August. Warm river temperatures will keep them kegged until fall. Trout are scheduled to be planted in Section 5 of the Rogue River.

There's still plenty of water remaining in Diamond Lake following an eight-foot drawdown in preparation for rotenone treatment this fall to eliminate an exploding tui chub population. The lake remains open with a 20-trout limit although few are catching any.

Easy limits are the rule for bottomfish off the southern Oregon coast. Black rockfish make up the bulk of the catch. As of July 24, vermillion rockfish may no longer be retained.

Crabbing remains good in the ocean out of Brookings in 30 feet of water or so with softshells still rare. Use caution dropping pots or traps offshore in shallow water.

In the Willamette Valley, Breitenbush River, Carmen Reservoir, Leaburg Lake, Upper McKenzie River, Quartzville Creek, Salmon Creek and North Fork Santiam River are scheduled to be planted with trout.

Michael Teague
Buoy 10 Opens, Fall Chinook Fishing Begins
New Register, July 27, 2006

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