Angler’s Log: Pumping up rainbow trout

FRANK ARMENDARIZ/PHOTO – Cleawox Lake is adjacent to Honeyman State Park in western Lane County. With two wheelchair-accessible and numerous fishing access points, it is a favorite among spring breakers from the Willamette Valley. It was recently stocked with several thousand trout and the fishing was “good.”

While having breakfast one morning last week with the wife at a popular eatery in Florence, I happened to glance out the window as an attendant at the gas station across the street was finishing up making adjustments to the fuel prices on the station’s reader board. Stunned, a little quick mental math, brought me to the realization that the next time I filled the tank on my truck it was going to cost me well over $100. I momentarily lost my appetite …

My work is fishing, filling the tank with the boat in tow and a day in the field provides me with the photos and written content I share with you. But I will more thoughtfully consider where I travel in my leisure time until things change. For most other people, gas to get to the job site, office or factory often takes priority over jaunts to the lake, river or over to the ocean. Most disappointing is the geopolitical situation at the root of the gas price surge comes just as we were shedding the effects of the pandemic and like a bucket of cold water it has set a chill on the potential enthusiasm to venture out for most families.

But every cloud … not so much as a response to our social funk, but more a function of the calendar and in preparation of spring break in Oregon. The good people at Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife have been busy and the trucks that haul planter rainbow trout covered thousands of miles last week and abundantly spread trout into lakes and ponds all over the state. 

No doubt even to a lake or pond near you. 

In the southern Willamette Valley, the list is extensive and will only grow in opportunities as the season progresses. Always at the top of the list and regularly planted from February to October each year are Row River Nature Park (aka Cottage Grove pond), Alton Baker Canal and Junction City Pond. By the time it’s all done next fall thousands of trout will be spread just into these three popular urban fisheries. 

Ramping up the season, last week the ODFW also planted Hills Creek Reservoir with 2,840 rainbows, Blue River Reservoir received 1,500 and Dexter Reservoir got 3,000. In western Lane County and near Florence, Alder Lake was planted with 900 legal sized and 40 trophy trout that run up to about 3 pounds. Cleawox Lake got 4,000 legal sized and 300 trophy trout, Dune Lake got 400 legal sized and 36 trophies, Carter Lake 1,000 legal sized. On Siltcoos Lake the trout are planted at the Westlake Park and boat landing, a Lane County Park with a nice dock and fishing platform and where 1,330 trout were planted last Thursday. Buck Lake got 700 pan sized and 36 trophy, Mercer was planted with 2,000 pan sized and finally Munsel Lake got 3,000 pan sized and 150 trophy trout. The complete list of freshly stocked resources and a map directing you to the location can be found at myodfw.com. 

A little bit about still water trout fishing; I’ll tell you a lot of baits will work, worms, Power Baits and a variety of other trout attractants. Remembering that trout are not “bottom feeders” but rather prefer emerging food sources and other morsels that are suspended in the water column. I recommend running a small puff ball or corkie up your line a few inches above the hook and pegging the floating bobble in place with a toothpick. Thus getting your bait just a few inches off the bottom and into the fish’s feeding zone will definitely up your game. 

In the last Angler’s Log, I highlighted the upcoming catch-and-release wild trout fishing season on the McKenzie and Willamette rivers that kicks off with the hatch of the March brown mayfly. Two weeks later on the lower McKenzie that fishery is now in full swing. Moving into spring the March brown hatch will migrate up river and peak above Leaburg, generally in early April. Also remember that through the entire length of the McKenzie, only catch-and-release fishing with flies or lures is allowed until the end of April. That rule generally applies to all the streams that drain the west slopes of the Cascades where you can C&R fish all year.

Looking to the future, a few summer steelhead and a couple of spring chinook have passed over the falls at Oregon City and Springer fishing below the falls in the Portland harbor has been good. If the ODFW predictions pan out, we can expect about 36 thousand spring salmon and 10,000 summer steelhead to reach the tributaries of the upper Willamette River this season. Recent biological assessments strongly suggest that we are coming into a period of good ocean conditions for salmon and steelhead that should benefit our local anadromous fish runs. Stay tuned, I’ll have updates as the spring season in the Willamette Valley progresses. 

On the side, we may have already experienced the benefits of improving ocean conditions. Last fall’s coho run was one of the best in a decade or more. Followed by what has been an outstanding winter steelhead season, that is still producing dime bright steelhead at the end of March. Just last week the Florence STEP group process about 180 winter steelhead that after last week’s rain storm, had found their way into the weir and trap they manage at Whitaker Creek. And that was pretty much the case all up and down the Oregon coast where winter steelhead surged on a late spawning run on the ample precipitation that has fallen in the last two weeks. On most winter steelhead streams the season comes to a close on March 31 but until then, although winding down the fishery is well worth the effort. Most coastal rivers reopen in late May for trout. 

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