Coos County lakes that received trout plants this week include Bradley Lake with 800 14-inch rainbows and Butterfield Lake with 600 14-inchers. Powers Pond and Saunders Lake each received 1,300 14-inch rainbows and Upper and Lower Empire lakes each received 2,000 14-inchers. With the exception of Bradley Lake, which is scheduled to receive 800 additional 14-inch or 1-pound rainbows the last week of October, this week’s trout plants will be the last trout plants along the Oregon coast this year.
Avid trout anglers with the means and ability to travel might consider Nevada’s Pyramid Lake which opened on October 1st. Located in western Nevada about 40 miles northeast of Reno, the 120,000 acre lake has offered sensational fishing for Lahontan cutthroat trout ever since the stocking program was changed due to Robert Behnke discovering pure Lahontan cutts in a small Pyramid Lake tributary. Presently, many anglers consider Pyramid to be the world’s best trophy trout lake with several dozen 20- to 25-pound cutthroat trout taken each season. In fact, a 22 ½-pound cutt was caught on opening weekend this year.
As this column is being written, there have been no coho salmon yet reported in Siltcoos, Tahkenitch or Tenmile lakes. Siltcoos offers returning coho salmon the easiest lake access. Once the salmon actually get into the river they can reach the dam and accompanying fish ladder fairly easily, but many of the salmon may not ascend the fish ladder if there isn’t much water flowing through it. Once a salmon reaches the portion of the Siltcoos River above the fish ladder, it can easily swim through the fairly deep slow-moving water between the dam and the lake. The portion of the Siltcoos River between the Highway 101 Bridge and the lake is open to coho fishing and is the only legal stream fishing for coho salmon in the three coastal salmon lakes except for a short section of Tenmile Creek between South Tenmile Lake and the Hilltop Drive Bridge.
Once rainfall allows the dam gates on Siltcoos River to be opened, coho salmon enter the upper Siltcoos River in earnest — as well as a few sturgeon, striped bass and unfortunately a few seals.
Closed areas include Maple Creek as well as the portion of the Fiddle Creek Arm above the bridge on Canary Road on Siltcoos. As for Tahkenitch, the outlet arm is closed below the Highway 101 Bridge. The channel connecting North and South Tenmile lakes is closed to salmon fishing.
This Saturday there is a bassfishing tournament scheduled on Siltcoos Lake and if there is any rainfall preceding the tournament, it could be crowded. But most salmon anglers will most likely wait and see if any salmon are incidentally caught during the tournament by bass anglers.
There are decent numbers of salmon in all of the larger streams in our area and Chinook salmon weighing more than 40 pounds have been pulled from the Umpqua and Rogue rivers within the last two weeks.
Good numbers of salmon are being caught by bank anglers at Winchester Bay. Dwayne Schwartz, who I fish with often, finally landed a limit of finclipped cohos last Saturday after catching nine consecutive wild cohos. Some salmon anglers with sore elbows and not wanting to release wild coho after wild coho are fishing Winchester Bay’s East Boat Basin with bobber and bait for Chinook salmon.
Smallmouth bass fishing on the Umpqua River is still very good with an increased chance at larger bass. The bassfishing starts about nine miles above Reedsport and actually improves as one moves farther upstream. The river is still clear enough that smaller soft plastic lures work best, but some anglers do quite well with nightcrawlers. The best bassfishing is currently in the late afternoons.
As for the Coquille River, the same techniques fool the smallies, but the slightly murkier water allows crankbaits to be effective. A few anglers opt for larger crankbaits in the hope of incidentally hooking a striped bass. Two years ago, during October, a number of adult striped bass were hooked and landed above Arago by anglers fishing for Chinook salmon with salmon roe.
The fishing dock in Tugman Park on Eel Lake continues to produce good crappie fishing, but very few decent-sized fish. In an attempt to find some larger crappies last weekend, I fished the upper lake for about three hours with Dwayne Schwartz in his bass boat. We used the same three-inch Berkley Powerbait worms I had used to catch and release 200 crappies from the fishing dock over the last few weeks.
Although we landed a number of small largemouth and smallmouth bass and more than a dozen rainbow and cutthroat trout to nearly 17-inches, we couldn’t hook a crappie or bluegill until we got within 100 yards of the fishing dock — and then we got bit on virtually every cast for more than 20 minutes with the largest fish being Dwayne’s very plump 11-inch crappie that missed weighing a pound by only an ounce or two.
I am still puzzled by the crappie population in the lower or west end of the lake — and their scarcity in the rest of the lake. The only explanation I can come up with is that the crappie fishing was so poor over the last dozen years that people stopped fishing for them. The crappies stayed in the upper portion of the lake and had several good spawns and then started migrating toward the bottom end of the lake, arriving in early June.
The crappie density in lower Eel Lake reminds me of a similar occurrence about a dozen years ago on the channel connecting the Tenmile lakes. Within about three weeks, only the smaller crappie were left as they were released while the larger ones were kept. Shortly after, the crappie disappeared in what some anglers believe was a disease-related die off. I hope the same thing doesn’t happen to Eel Lake, but extremely dense fish populations are always vulnerable to disease-related dieoffs.
Pete Heley works parttime at the Stockade Market & Tackle, across from ‘A’ Dock, in Winchester Bay where he is more than happy to swap fishing info with anyone.