Late summer brings diverse mix of fish

Florence’s Matt Burdett landed an 18-pound dorado, along with plenty of tuna, about 30 miles west of Winchester. Frank Armendariz

At the top of this week’s fishing report is ”diversity” – as in, the many varieties of fish species that become available in the late summer to anglers in western Oregon.
Salmon, tuna, halibut, bass, trout and steelhead are all out there. It doesn’t matter how you reach the water – on foot, pontoon boat, kayak, drift boat or power boat; whether you canoe or have a big offshore cuddy with all the electronics, it’s time to go fishing.
It does take a little planning to take advantage of the bounty. Along with the multiple species, there are multiple and specific regulations for many individual fish. So keep it fun, understand the species and regulations, and do what you can to release non-targeted bycatch successfully.
The warm-water bubble that wells up from the southern Pacific every summer has arrived, bringing albacore tuna as close as 30 miles from the Oregon coast. The fishing has been very good and ODFW fish checkers say we are on track to set a tuna record this season. It really does depend on the day as to how far out you need to go. The bubble moves, but water 66 to 68 degrees has been what the sport-fishing fleets and capable private sailors have been looking for.
My Florence neighbor Matt Burdett is one of those ”capable sailors.” The warm-water bubble often brings more than just tuna to the ocean waters near the 45th parallel. Just this week, 30 miles west of Winchester, along with a couple dozen tuna, Matt landed an 18-pound dorado. More common to the ocean around Baja, California, the warm water brings them north among the tuna.
Near to us, the best in the state are the reports out of the Winchester and Charleston harbors. The captains tell me their customers are catching an average of six to seven tuna per person on every trip.
The big catches are the reason the excitement around tuna grows every season. But being 30 or more miles offshore is not a float on a pond. It takes a lot of skill, a capable boat and the correct gear. So even if you own an ocean craft, invest in a charter for your first tuna trip. Take notes. It will advance you along the learning and safety curve by several leaps and load your cooler with tuna. The tuna fishing generally lasts into early October.
Inshore, the rain last week brought salmon into many bays along the coast, including the Siuslaw, where trollers are now working the incoming tides all the way up to Cushmen. The bite has been light over this first push of fish but should pick up in the next couple weeks toward the peak in October. Limit is one wild fall chinook per day (five total per fall season) and only hatchery-marked coho can be retained as part of a two-salmon limit.
Bass fishing across our region remains one of the best opportunities for anglers in general. Valley- and Florence-area lakes, ponds and the nearby Main Umpqua River are all fishing as good as any time of the year. I do have to put the Umpqua at the top’ the smallmouth bite just continues to provide some of the best and most easy-to-access bass fishing in western Oregon. Plenty of landings, parks and other public accesses line the bank from Umpqua to Elkton. A pontoon boat, fishing kayak or drift boat will offer unlimited opportunities and access to miles of warm-water fishing. The Umpqua is not real technical fishing, which makes it great for kids. A lot of lures work for smallmouth; spinners, flies and plastic baits are all effective day to day. The bass fishing on the Umpqua should hold up well into late September.
Let me wrap up with a little item about trout fishing. The lakes, ponds and small creeks that get stocked early in the season across the south valley are pretty much depleted by late August. The exceptions are the recently planted McKenzie River, including Leaburg Lake, which will still get a couple more plants of hatchery trout this season; Alton Baker Park Canal was planted last week and will get more fish in September. If you are not familiar, Alton Baker Canal is essentially a channel of the Willamette River that flows through Alton Baker Park in Eugene. A park trail system makes for a lot of bank access and you can even canoe or kayak fish in the canal.
On the McKenzie access is a little more complicated; it is best to float the river. Above Leaburg Lake, the river is demanding of your attention and here again you should consider hiring a guide for your first float. Below Leaburg Lake the river tends to be less technical to navigate, but always wear a life jacket. For bank anglers, focus on the state, county, Forest Service campgrounds and day use parks.
Now go fishing. Take your kids or a friend. Those will become some of the best memories of your life….

Frank Armendariz writes for The Chronicle, and can be reached at [email protected]. Find the perfect river levels for drift boat fishing, bank angling and high-water plunking at www.rivertrailoutfitters.com.



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