|Oregon Coast Notes|
|Oregon Coast Fishing: Early Winter Steelhead by David Johnson|
If you find Spawning Salmon, chances are, there will be Steelhead nearby.
Right now on the Oregon coast winter steelhead season is in full swing. From the Chetco to the Columbia, if you can find water that’s in half way decent shape you have a great shot at taking home some steel.
If we have been having a lot of rain, which is the usual, concentrate on smaller streams. And the good news is, many of the smaller streams have fish hatcheries on them. In addition, these small streams have early returning strains of steelhead. Meaning their peak return time is from Thanksgiving until mid January. NF Alsea, Three Rivers, NF Nehalem, Big Cr and Knat Cr are the major hatchery rivers. The Siletz, Nestucca, Wilson and Kilchis also get plants of these early fish.
When we move into January we will be seeing more and more “Broodstock” steelhead in our rivers. Chetco, Lake Cr, Coquille, Alsea, Siletz, Nestucca and Wilson get these fish. I’ve caught them in the Wilson from Nov 4th until April 29th.
What is a broodstock steelhead? It is the offspring of wild steelhead that the ODFW spawns from each individual river’s wild population. These hatchery steelhead match the timing and quality of their wild parents and since each river has fish that have the native Genes of their perspective river, they are a healthier product, bred to the specific conditions of that river.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, I will write about those brood stock fish in a later article.
Let’s talk about catching the early run fish that are around right now.
Recently I did what I usually like to do on my day off from guiding, I went fishing. I love to hit the banks of the smaller streams. I caught my first steelhead of the season on my first trip out.
Here are four tips to help in your steelhead success this time of year:
Cover water- It’s not uncommon for me to walk two to six miles per stream. Unless you are standing right at the hatchery (which isn’t a bad idea either) cover water and find the fish.
Stealth- Wear dark clothes, keep your shadow off the water and approach the river quietly and with caution.
When I was fishing the other day I had just caught a steelhead and had two other hits when some kids showed up and started throwing a stick in the river for a dog. As quick as the bite started it was over, they were spooked. As I was packing up to move there came another fishermen walking right down the middle of the river putting a nail in the coffin for that spot.
Be prepared with different techniques- I caught four fish on four different rigs. When steelhead fishing, the “one size fits all” approach to techniques doesn’t always work. I prefer to fish with jigs, shrimp, eggs, yarn, artificial eggs and pink worms, fished under floats, but spinners and drift fishing should not be overlooked.
Food Sources- Lastly, if you find some spawning salmon fish near them, there will likely be some steelhead around. I’m not saying harass them but make your casts so that your gear can drop in behind the redds. They will lay behind the salmon and eat the loose eggs. A lot of times, in this case, they will lose their mystery and act like big dumb trout. If it looks like an egg they will eat it! This was the key to my success the other day. I spotted a group of old Coho spawning and just behind them there was a hungry steelhead.
And not only will you find fish right behind the spawners but in the next few immediate holes downstream.
Don’t delay, get out there, try these techniques and cash in on some steel.
David Johnson is a renowned Northwest fishing guide.