winchester bay canada geese

A small gaggle of Canada geese relax along the shores of the marina in Winchester Bay. 

The 2019 regulation booklets are now out for both hunting and fishing and the good news is that the rumors of no fee increases were absolutely true and 2019 licenses and tags can now be purchased — in several different ways.

You can purchase your licenses and tags the way you always have from your usual ODFW license retailer, ODFW regional office or print at home (after visiting the ODFW website), which will provde you with hard copies of the items purchased. You can purchase digital licenses, tags, endorsements or validations that can be displayed on your smart phones. The ODFW website (myodfw.com) can offer assistance with this type of purchase.

If opting for the smart phone option, keep in mind to keep your phone fully charged, as the purchased documents must be immediately available upon request.

Different law enforcement officials may have different ideas of “immediately available” and last spring an angler fishing for shad at Yellow Creek was ticketed for keeping his fishing license in his car — less than 100 yards from where he was fishing.

There were very few changes in the 2019 fishing regulations, but the one that jumped out at me was the removal of numbers and size limits on striped bass. The stated reason was to simplify Oregon’s angling regulations, but what it tells me is that fish species that have been in Oregon for only 130 years are just not very important.

Since I had not heard anything about the tiger muskies and tiger trout that had been stocked for several years in eastern Oregon’s Phillips Reservoir, I decided to call Tim Bailey, the District Biologist for the ODFW office in La Grande. Tim informed me that both programs were pretty much failures and in the process of being discontinued or had already been terminated.

When I suggested that perhaps the ODFW’s efforts were somewhat “half-hearted,” since several other states were enjoying major success with both fish species, Tim quickly assured me that lack of effort was definitely not the case. Over a five year period the ODFW had planted about 50,000 tiger muskies into Phillips Reservoir — a body of water of about 2,200 surface acres when full — and had very few of them caught by anglers. Most of the early muskie plants were of 5-inch fish. The later plants were of 10-inch fish, but both fish sizes suffered extreme mortality — most likely from fish-eating birds like mergansers and cormorants and with the 10-inch planted muskies, ospreys.

The average size of the tiger muskies stocked by Washington state in their very successful tiger muskie program is 12 inches. The Washington tiger muskie program is basically a catch-and-release fishery since the minimum size for retention is 50 inches. Even the first tiger muskie exceeding 50 inches that was landed, although legal to keep, was promptly released. Both that muskie and the current state record of 37.88 pounds were pulled from Curlew Lake in eastern Washington.

According to Wikipedia, much better survival rates for larger stocked tiger muskies translates into the larger planted muskies being more cost-effective. Western states that have tiger muskie stocking programs include: Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

As for Phillip’s Reservoir’s tiger trout, the reservoir simply was not suitable habitat for them. More suitable are Diamond Lake and Fish Lake (Medford area), which currently have catch-and-release fisheries for tiger trout with a few of the hybrids exceeding 18-inches in length.

We’ve had enough rain to get coho salmon into the three coastal lakes that allow fishing for them. Recently, Siltcoos Lake has been providing the best salmon fishing. Tahkenitch Lake got some fresh salmon after a very slow three weeks and Tenmile Lake finally received fishable numbers of coho salmon. The Bite’s On Tackleshop in Empire reported that one of their customers trolling South Tenmile Lake last week, hooked and landed a 25-pound Chinook salmon.

A good salmon fishing strategy is to fish near where tributary streams enter all three of these lakes as it is late enough in the season for the salmon to actually enter these spawning tributaries should we get more rain. However, the actual tributaries are closed to fishing during salmon season.

Tenmile has also been giving up fair numbers of decent-sized yellow perch and some of the more serious bass fishermen have been having fair, if inconsistent success, on largemouth bass.

South coast streams such as the Elk and Sixes rivers both have good numbers of chinook salmon in them and anglers familiar with these rivers adjust their fishing plans almost daily as the Elk River tends to clear more quickly than does the Sixes.

Recreational ocean crabbing is now legal and while crabbing in Oregon’s bays and the lower portions of Oregon’s coastal rivers is definitely slowing down, some decent catches are still being made. Winchester Bay’s South Jetty has been offering fair fishing for striped surfperch, greenling, rockfish with some lingcod when it has been calm enough to actually fish it.

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.

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