Lane County stocks up on trout in February

Rivers have been running high, offering only small windows where conditions have been suitable and safe for boating. Conditions were fair at the start of this day but heavy showers settled in and the Siuslaw blows out about noon. Frank Armendariz/The Chronicle

There’s something for just about every angler in this week’s report – although every opportunity, depending on what you enjoy fishing for, is not necessarily an ”on-the-water adventure.”
For trout anglers, the first week of February will see a significant increase in the number of hatchery-raised trout releases that will be distributed into a larger number of water bodies across Lane County and to many other parts of Oregon.
Some locations will get a combination of legal-sized trout that will be about a half-pound each and trophy-classed trout that are all two pounds or more. Some locations will get only trophy trout and some places only legal-sized.
The number of water bodies seeded with hatchery trout will continue to steadily increase as we transition to spring, and rivers will get planted starting in April.
Locally, Dexter Reservoir will get 2,500 trophy trout and Hills Creek Reservoir is scheduled for 4,000 legal-sized. Cottage Grove Reservoir will be planted with 2,500 trophies and Alton Baker Canal will get 700 legal-sized and 100 trophy trout on top of plants of trophy fish last December and in January. Dorena Reservoir will also be planted with 2,500 legal trout and next week Row River Nature Park will get 1,500 legal-sized fish.
Over in the west part of Lane County near Florence, Munsel Lake is scheduled for 2,000 legal-sized and 150 trophy trout and Cleawox Lake, adjacent to Honeyman State Park, will get 2,600 legal trout and about 190 trophies.
More fish news …
”Free Fishing” dates for 2020 will be on President’s Day weekend (Feb. 15-16), June 6-7, Aug. 15-16 and Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 27-28). Like the name says, fishing is ”free” and no license or tags are required on those dates.
Also, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s office in Springfield has announced the dates of several local family fishing events. Staffed by ODFW volunteer instructors, these family events are not only fun but educational, where you and your kids can learn basic angling skills and all the gear and even the bait is provided.
The kickoff family fishing day is on April 4 at Row River Nature Park, followed by a May 3 event at Alton Baker Canal. June 6 falls on a ”free fishing weekend” and volunteers will again be at Alton Baker Canal teaching folks to fish.
The final event of the season, which I think would be a lot of fun, will take place at the McKenzie River Trust’s Green Island property on the Willamette River near Coburg. Along what was once the original path of the McKenzie River where it once joined the Willamette are now several isolated ponds that will be open to fishing for the day. I have some personal angling experiences on Green Island and can tell you that you don’t want to miss this one.
I’ll have more information about these events in future reports, but mark your calendar for these dates.
Winter steelhead fishing season has hit full stride and what are among Oregon’s toughest anglers are finding decent success on many coastal rivers. Most rivers have been running high and off-color for much of January and for drift boat anglers the conditions have been very hit-and-miss, offering only small windows where river levels have been good for floating.
Bank anglers fishing in rivers above the boating deadlines have had more success through the early season. The hot ticket this winter has been the North Fork of the Alsea.
Restricted to bank fishing, the Alsea has three distinct runs of steelhead: an early steelhead run, currently in progress, that peaks in the next couple of weeks consists entirely of hatchery stock; a second run of mostly fin-clipped broodstock – a mixture of wild and hatchery steelhead that you can retain and a broodstock run that peaks in early March; and lastly, a wild steelhead run that peaks in late March.
Bank anglers have also done well on the Siletz River upstream from Moonshine Park and on the Siuslaw around Whittaker Creek. We may see a break in the rainfall this weekend and the boating sections of the Alsea, Siletz and Siuslaw rivers should fall into shape too, and river conditions should begin to stabilize.
Now, for everyone else, the Eugene Boat and Sports Show returns to the Lane County Fairgrounds on Jan. 31 and runs through Feb. 2. An enduring festival of the sporting world, the annual local show has evolved over the decades. Once primarily dedicated to angling and hunting, the Eugene Show now includes many other adventure sports available to local folks. So, in addition to fishing and hunting, snow, sand and dive operations are among the river and hunting outfitters.
Tips from top pros …
There are two venues where, over the duration of the show’s tour in Eugene, top pros will offer tips and advice on a number of advance angling tactics. Several caught my attention. At the ”Fish Tank” on Friday and in the lecture hall on Sunday, river guide Jody Smith will present a seminar on Umpqua smallmouth bass. On Saturday, again in the lecture hall Capt. Jamie Standifer will be talking about tuna fishing. Also in the lecture hall on Saturday, Norma Evans will be discussing pink-fin perch.
These fisheries represent a growing opportunity for anglers up and down the coast and in many inland water bodies. Smallmouth bass are not only in the Umpqua but can be found in the Willamette River and many other water bodies in the southern Willamette Valley, and their range continues to grow.
The popularity of tuna fishing has increased by leaps and bounds every season and surf perch are one of the few sport fish that actively feed in the surf along our county’s beaches every month of the year in what is maybe our most underutilized fisheries.
One final seminar that caught my attention, and one I will be sure to attend, will be given by Capt. Charles Loos on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday morning in the lecture hall. Loos will be offering tips on crossing the many river bars that separate our best ports from some of the best fishing that eastern Pacific waters have to offer.
Although salmon numbers have been a disappointment in recent years, many of our near-shore fisheries including bottom fish, tuna and crabbing remain strong, prompting more and more anglers to attempt what could be a hazardous adventure. I love being out past the breakwater; a youth spent fishing the ocean off the California coast put that fire in me. But the ocean and especially the river bars can be very dangerous places. If you have that bug, this is a seminar you should not miss.

Contact Frank and find the ”Perfect River Levels” at rivertrailoutfitters.com.



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