10,000 More!

10,000 MORE!

Let’s pick up from where we left off last year…

So far, this year’s winter steelhead season has produced some real surprises.  Welcome surprises! Going into the season it appeared like another rough ride was ahead but that’s not what was delivered.  In fact, this year, steelhead fishing’s been pretty good.  Especially for wild steelhead. 

That bodes well for the future.  Bolstering wild steelhead runs will add to the wild fish bank that we can draw upon for future broodstock programs which return at a much higher rate, 4% or better, than traditional hatchery steelhead plants which generally perform poorly…around 1% or less in their return rate.

And because so little is shared these days on where fishing is good much of this good news flew under-the-radar. There’s always next year.

Spring chinook have begun to show, and just this week, the last week of March, the trickle of fish seems to be picking up with more and more caught fish reported. More good news.

If you suffered through last year’s abysmal return, you’re not alone, several of us were with you. We had high hopes with the strong run forecast that never materialized.

In talking to the folks that manage these runs they pinned it largely on the fires in the Upper Willamette Basin tributaries. That piece of reality never made the models that generate the forecasts for these runs — live and learn.

This year, with the fire-factor added in, 10,000 more springers are expected in the Willamette River. So while fishing was subpar last year, it’s expected to be better this year with 48,700 forecast to return.

So how’s that match up to previous years?

Glad you asked!

Since 1971 (53 years) there have only been 11 years that exceeded that total. The 20-year average is 38,943 spring chinook so if we hit 48,700 we’ll be bucking the trend.

The previous three years, all less than last year, delivered some pretty good late season fishing through June.

2019 was a disaster with only 18,882 fish verified. Return numbers that low have only occurred 4 times over the same 53 year period. 2008 was even worse with 14,151 springers counted. That was four years after a high water mark in 2004 of 95,968. Just goes to show you how quickly our fortunes can turn in the salmon return business.

OMG did we have fun in 2004! There was a week that year when the water conditions were perfect and it was a salmon catching free-for-all from Willamette Falls to the mouth.

If you attended any of the spring chinook Sportsmen’s Show seminars or made a point to walk the miles of aisles through the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show in Portland…you’re ready and chances are you’re in for a good season of fishing.

As discussed at the show, early in the season (now) herring behind a triangle flasher or a stuff bait (Super Bait or Spin-N-Fish) loaded with your favorite mix of chunky goodness, is the ticket and will remain so until mid-May.

Backtrollers in Oregon City may find success on eggs, prawns or sandshrimp backbouncing or backtrolling whether it’s lead or a Jumbo Jet Diver that’s preferred.

Whatever and wherever you choose to fish for spring Chinook in the Willamette, from now until July two words sum up what’s ahead, “game on.”

Keep an eye out for more installments to the Sportsmen’s Show blog through the season.

Thank you!