As I am writing this on Sunday there have yet to be any verifiable reports of a spring Chinook salmon being actually landed on the Umpqua River. If it doesn’t happen soon, the Umpqua’s first shad may precede it. The Umpqua’s first shad should arrive in early April and river levels and water temperatures will have a lot to do with how well they bite. The best early fishing for them is usually in the Yellow Creek area, but during low river levels the shad often stack up below Sawyers Rapids and fishing can be incredible.

Perhaps the first Umpqua River springer will be caught by an angler fishing the ocean near the Umpqua River mouth.

Striped bass anglers are the most close-mouthed of all area anglers, but the fishery on the Smith River and to a lesser extent on the Umpqua River typically starts in late March with the best fishing occurring in the upper several miles of tidewater — and stripers are definitely more active at night than during daylight hours, but the increased difficulty of fishing at night might come close to evening the score catch-wise.

Some very good catches of largemouth bass were made during the warmest days of last week. Cooler weather is projected, but sunny afternoons with low wind should have the bass active in any shallow lake or pond. Tenmile Lake receives most of the area’s bassfishing pressure, and rightfully so as it is a very productive nationally esteemed bass fishery. But I feel that Tenmile Lake’s biggest value is ensuring virtually every other bass fishery in our area is relatively underfished.

My favorite early season technique for smallmouth bass on the Umpqua River is to target significant indentions or backwaters. If the upper ends of a backwaters is upriver from where it meets the river, so much the better, because the amount of cooler river water entering such backwaters will be greatly reduced and the upper ends can easily be several degrees warmer than the lower ends. There are a number of these spots in the Yellow Creek area, but no matter where they are located, they always seem to productive early season smallmouth spots.

Crappies have yet to show up at the upper end of Loon Lake and the lower end of Eel Lake. Loon Lake was recently planted with legal-sized rainbow and a few anglers have used trout-imitating swimbaits to catch some sizable early season largemouts following Loon’s initial trout plants in year’s past. Because the BLM Campground is not yet open and the lake’s Mill Creek outlet is at the lower end of the lake, Loon Lake’s trout are planted at the boat ramp at the lake’s upper end.

I fished the upper end of Loon Lake for less than an hour last Sunday and found a few sluggish bluegills near the old Fish Haven/Ducketts dock and the first one I caught measured 8.5-inches. There were a few even larger bluegills present, but they were inactive and will likely move to deeper water with this week’s cooler weather. Ten casts with the same lure I was using for bluegill, a one-inch section of a white Berkley Gulp trout worm on a 1/64 ounce jighead, netted me five 9- or 10-inch recently planted rainbow trout.

Eel Lake is scheduled to receive its initial trout plant this week. The 2,500 legal rainbows may increase fishing pressure enough that a few warmwater fish may be caught. It seems that many of the lake’s anglers seem unable to tell the difference between Eel Lake’s trout, which are legal to keep and the coho salmon that don’t leave the lake which are illegal to keep.

After several last-minute changes to the ODFW stocking schedule, it appears that both Upper and Lower Empire Lakes received 400 trophy rainbows last week. Other trout plants made last week include Johnson Mill Pond (Coquille) with 50 trophies; Garrison Lake (Port Orford) with 200 trophies; Bradley Lake (Bandon) with 200 trophies; Lake Marie with 2,000 legals and Loon Lake with 1,500 legals. Cooper Creek Reservoir in Sutherlin, which received 1,500 legal rainbows last week, also contains fair numbers of stocked coho salmon which are legal to keep, if they are at least 8 inches long.

Crabs are still being caught in the lower end of Coos Bay near Charleston, but it isn’t hot by any means. Boat crabbers crabbing the lower end of Half Moon Bay in Winchester Bay have made some decent catches, but crabbing off the old Coast Guard Pier, only a few hundred yards farther up the Umpqua River, is much tougher.

Jetty anglers are still enjoying good fishing for lingcod and most likely will continue to do so until late April when the lingcod that have taken up temporary residence to spawn move back out to deeper water leaving only resident lings for anglers to target.

The ODFW has initiated a program designed to connect hunters with landowners who complain about or report problems with wild turkeys. The program will initially deal with property owners on the outskirts of Eugene, Springfield and Corvallis.

Oregon occasionally makes me quite proud, such as when the state recently enacted a 10-year ban on fracking in the exploration for oil and natural gas, so it appears that Oregon’s groundwater will be safe, or at least safer, for the next decade — and hopefully longer.

It’s sad, but kind of ironic, that Wickiup Reservoir is going to be full this spring mere months after being drawn down to the river bed. So central Oregon is going to have a very rich 11,000 acre reservoir — with almost no fish in it. Also of interest are the many thousands of rainbow trout, brown trout, brown bullhead catfish and largemouth bass that ended up in the Deschutes River below the dam.

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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