The 2016 Spring Chinook season is shaping up to be an odd one to say the least. Snow pack is much improved over last year but it seems that perhaps the poor ocean conditions of 2015 may have had an adverse effect on our Spring Chinook stocks at sea. The Columbia has been closed for two weeks now and given the lackluster counts at Bonneville thus far, I would be surprised to see it reopen before June.
To make matters worse, Oregon’s tried and true fail safe river known as the Willamette hasn’t exactly been on fire either. Many top guides are struggling to find two or three fish a day with the occasional skunk happening at times too.
In addition to ocean conditions being to blame, one can’t spend more than a few minutes at Clackamette Park or the falls without realizing what a huge problem Sea Lions are causing for Fisherman. Between their presence in high numbers putting fish off the bite, or straight up stealing them off an otherwise successful angler’s line, the lower Willamette is an absolute bloodbath. What to do about the situation with the Pinnipeds is a discussion for another forum but one can’t help but notice the appearance of these predators in northwest rivers over the last fifteen years or so has begun to make a huge impact on our Salmon runs.
Things are not all doom and gloom however. The truth is that there are still fish to be caught, it just may take a little more time and patience than it has in previous years. Bites are precious now more than ever so be sure to make each one count by keeping your hooks sharp and your gear in top working order.
Summer and Fall Salmon Seasons have been set! This includes my all-time favorite fishery, Buoy 10. There will be a few changes this year down at the red can that aim to help extend the season all the way to Labor Day. While the majority of Chinook strains remain very healthy, the Snake River, and Lower River Tule stocks are down. This means managers have decided to designate Sundays and Mondays between August 1st and September 5th as “clipped Chinook only” days to help limit the number of wild fish taken. If this season is anywhere near as good as last year, it shouldn’t hurt your ability to load your freezer and cupboards with plenty of Salmon, you may just be faced with the prospect of having to turn back one of those stud wild URB’s we run into up there from time to time. Other than that, the bag limit will remain similar to past years with two Salmon only one of which may be a Chinook and Coho must be clipped.
The trout stocking schedule is in full swing as well as Spring Bear (Hopefully you were luckier than I was and managed to draw a tag). The full Schedule is on the ODFW page where you can also sign up to receive email updates on which lakes and reservoirs have been stocked. Another activity that is fun for the whole family is the sport reward bounty program for Northern Pikeminnow, which begins May 1st. Chicken livers or cheese balls fished in and around wing dams and along current seams where they congregate, will produce bites.
Did I mention Summer Steelhead? No. But these feisty brats are entering the tribs in good numbers now even if the DFW’s aren’t stocking them in numbers like they used to. The Sandy and Clackamas on the Oregon side as well as the Cowlitz, Kalama, and Lewis are starting to see catchable numbers show up.
Whatever you plan to do, make sure you take advantage of this great weather we are having and get outside with the family!