License to thrill: Time for family to get fishing, hunting tags

The Siuslaw like most coast steelhead streams was in perfect shape last weekend. More rain is in the forecast and conditions are right for improving success. Frank Armendariz/The Chronicle

At the top of the report this week is the annual run of folks heading to their local sporting outlet for a new fishing and/or hunting license and their related tags.
For those enthusiastic ”resident” hunter/anglers, the charge will exceed the value of a couple of hundred dollars. In fact, there were fee increases pretty much across the board, though most were rather modest.
The annual angler fee increased to $44, and a salmon or steelhead tag is now $33. If you fish for salmon or steelhead on the McKenzie, Willamette or any river that eventually reaches the Columbia, you are also required to have a valid $9.50 ”Columbia River Endorsement.” And drift boaters don’t forget that $10 ”invasive species” tag. Children 12 to 17 are covered by the ”Youth License” for $10 (what a deal!) and can fish and hunt for game without an additional tag.
The youth license includes a Columbia River Endorsement. An additional $5 tag will allow kids to collect most every type of fish or game available in Oregon, but excludes some big game species.
Kids under 12 fish for free but there are age restrictions regarding hunting. The details are on the ODFW website, and considering the price of a family evening at a movie theater, it’s a small investment in the outdoors life, particularly for your kids.
If you want, you can still head to your local sports shop or the sporting department of many retailers and buy a paper license. But the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has developed a convenient online store through the years where you can purchase an electronic license and tags. On your computer or other internet-enabled device in the comfort of your home office. If you choose, you can even maintain your license and tag information on your smartphone and not carry a paper permit at all.
The ODFW website was completely rebuilt a couple of years ago, making it much easier to use. When you log in (myodfw.com) you will see the ”Buy a License” icon on the top of the page. Follow the link and the license and tag options come up shopping-cart style, pick the options you want and check out with a credit or debit card. If you have purchased a fishing or hunting license in the past three years, you already have an account set up in the ODFW’s system.
When you log on to the site you will need only to confirm information that you already have provided the ODFW.
I wasn’t born in the internet age, a tight string and a couple of cups was my generation’s idea of a text message. But the ODFW has done a very good job at making its license and tag purchase website easy to use, intuitive and I like the option of carrying my license and tag information on my cell phone.
You can view or download a full version of the 2020 fishing regulations that include all the fee requirements at eregulations.com.
Clearing the deck of all the paperwork talk, there are some fairly decent fishing opportunities out there, a chance to take advantage of the new license and head into the new year with even more on the horizon.
To start, the ODFW continues its winter trout stocking schedule of trophy-sized hatchery trout into several southern Willamette Valley ponds. Last week, on top of previous plantings, Row River Nature Park got an additional 400 and Alton Baker canal got 500. This week Junction City pond will get 1,500 of the trophy-sized fish and in late January and February the trout stocking will pick up in earnest. I will update you in future reports.
On the west side of the county, last weekend’s rain brought the Siuslaw, and just about every coast river, up to levels that are now negotiable in a drift boat. At press time more rain is on the way. The numbers of steelhead landed are still on the low side but considering all of the anglers that hit the rivers last week it even looks like the winter steelhead season has arrived.
A few steelheads have come out of the lower Siuslaw as the river fell but on Lake Creek the fish have been somewhat elusive so far. After this first big rain event of the season it was folks plunking from the bank on the high water that have had the most success.
”Plunking” is a high and muddy water bank fishing technique that targets steelhead as they move up river often just a few inches from the shore. Migrating at the wettest time of the year, the instinct has developed over thousands of years that causes the winter steelhead spread to the edges of the current along the bank when the river blows out.
They move upstream in bank-side pockets of slower water where the silt from the muddy river starts to drop out. The plunking technique is effective even in some generally poor conditions; of course, adapting to the fishes instincts is ”learning to steelhead.”
Better catches of steelhead have been reported from rivers on the north Oregon coast, the Trask, Nehalem and Siletz rivers. But I also have reports from steelheaders down south on the Coquille, too. So winter steelhead should be now, or in a very short time, will be in all other coast streams too.

Contact Frank at www.rivertrailoutfitters.com, where you can find the ”Perfect River Levels.”



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