Oregon Fishing Forecast - December 13, 2018
Portland/Metro - Anglers continue to wait for metro angling opportunities, the Sandy and Clackamas Rivers are still weeks away from kicking off.
This is the time of year when the 2019 salmon predictions are just coming out, with stakeholders meeting early this week to discuss what the options may be for spring, summer and likely fall Chinook. The numbers released were not surprisingly optimistic, but they are not disastrous either. Managers are likely to take a precautionary approach with this year's fisheries, but undoubtedly, anglers are going to have to work hard for success.
Spring Chinook, no matter what the returns are, come with low expectations and high reward. It often takes several fishing days before an angler gets an opportunity for a fish, but anglers are willing to put in the time for the reward that follows. Willamette fish are the first to enter the Columbia. Termed "snow-bellies," the glaring white undersides of these fish indicate their final destination versus the "dusky chinned" upper Columbia bound springers that also carry a deeper red flesh, more savory for sure.
This year's predicted Willamette River spring Chinook return is just over 40,000 adults to the mouth of the Columbia River. The 2018 actual return was 37,400 so anglers should expect catch rates similar to what was experienced last spring. The Columbia River spring Chinook forecast is for just over 99,000 returning adults, far from the lowest on record, but one of the lowest in the last 15 years. This will certainly limit opportunity as managers need to ensure proper escapement to upriver spawning grounds and tribal fisheries which are governed under U.S. law.
The summer Chinook run is also depressed, with just about 36,000 fish predicted to return. This fishery peaks in late June and early July, and there's likely to be some opportunity, but far from robust.
Seasons will be crafted in January and February, but likely not adopted until March. Until then, these fisheries will prosecute under permanent rules so check regulations if you're so inspired to angle for sparse numbers this early in the season. It's a very rare year when spring Chinook are caught before February.
The Tillamook Report - It's a sad day when crabbing outshines fishing opportunities in Tillamook County, but winter steelhead continue to be elusive in the early-season streams. The North Fork Nehalem continues to report slow fishing, with very few fish in the holding trap. This is the week when we should start to see winter steelhead pop in this system, as well as Three Rivers, a tributary to the Nestucca system.
The Wilson, Nestucca and Trask Rivers should also have a few winter steelhead available, but catches will remain sparse for a few more weeks.
Crabbing in Tillamook is excellent and great tides will persist into the weekend. The expected rain shouldn't damper success too much, but it may become a factor the following week. Netarts remains a good option too.
Lower Columbia River - Crabbing remains an excellent prospect on the lower Columbia River and with the commercial season further delayed, success should remain good for several more weeks.
For a more detailed report, go to www.TheGuidesForecast.com
Bob Rees is a sixth generation Oregonian and a 20-year veteran fishing guide of Oregon's Northwest region. Bob Rees' column, The Guide's Forecast, has been a trusted fishing resource for over 16 years and will appear in the Thursday edition of the Portland Tribune. He welcomes the opportunity to partner with the Portland Tribune to bring the sport fishing community timely and accurate fishing information so you can catch more fish!