As rainwater from early fall storms flows through the valley and into surrounding rivers, some late summer run steelhead along with fall salmon runs of chinook and coho will make their way back home to spawn. With high numbers of salmon being caught commercially offshore in recent months, the predictions for surrounding rivers look to be bountiful for recreational sport fisheries as well, and lots of anglers have been successful early in the season.
Regardless of where you choose to fish, preparation is key to having an enjoyable experience on the water. Check local weather patterns, and seek out days of clearer weather after long periods of heavy rain. As the rivers rise, they fill with debris creating undesirable conditions for both anglers and fish. When the debris in the river washes out into the bay and the water levels stabilize, that’s when you can expect to find the largest surges of fish moving upstream. When the weather is dry, with enough experience on the water you can begin to time the surges of fish that push upriver during high tides.
Avoid harvesting fish with dark coloration or open sores, and don’t harass fish that have already made their way through the river to excavate spawning areas, known as redds. Once they reach this stage of their life cycle, they take on a dark bronze to greenish or reddish brown color, with males sometimes showing vivid spawning color patterns. They begin to deteriorate at this point and the meat becomes less palatable or completely inedible. Bright, chrome scales, with attached sea lice or small scars from sea lice are signs of a desirable fish with quality meat. High quality meat will be firm, and have more of a pink-reddish color, while lesser quality meat will take on a lighter shade of peach or white and have a puffy texture that doesn’t hold together well when cooked fresh. Questionable meat is often more palatable when prepared in a slow-smoke process.
Respect the awesome power of Mother Nature by approaching your fishing holes with caution, and be aware that rising water levels also mean dangerously strong currents. Don’t enter private land without consent, make use of public access areas, and know the local laws. Each river has different regulations regarding individual species, geographic deadlines, seasons, use of bait, tagging systems for both native and hatchery fish, and more.
For details, call the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife headquarters at 503-947-6000 or visit http://www.dfw.state.or.us/.
by Randall Bonner