September’s The Month
September just may be the best month of the year for outdoor recreation. So much to do and only 30 days to get it all done.
We’ll roll into September on a wave of silvers. Coho fishing has been exceptional in the Buoy 10 fishery at the mouth of the Columbia. September should mark the peak of what’s already been a very good start.
There’s some really soft tides on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd, again on the 14th and 15th and also at the end of the month on the 29th and 30th. These tides will make for easy boating and fishing and you can soak your crab traps for hours and not worry about the tide taking them to the ocean.
Silvers like spinners but will recklessly crush a spinning herring too. When they’re in a mood to bite in the estuary, there’s not much they won’t bite. Above Tongue Point you can keep Chinook, check the regs always as these fisheries are tightly regulated.
To the north in Puget Sound pink salmon will arrive in the millions. Tons-of-fun! This is a wonderful way to introduce kids to fishing and have a ball catching lots of fish easily. Your best bet is to stop by Sportco or Outdoor Emporium and check-in with them on best gear and places to catch these abundant salmon. One caveat…it’s a short season. These fish come in like an army around the middle of August and the run starts winding down sharply by the second week of September. Good news…you can catch them in Puget Sound or in several rivers that drain into the Sound which means there are lots of ways to easily access these fish.
Tillamook Bay is always a dependable choice for Chinook in September. Use anything as long as it’s trolled herring. Be careful…this bay is littered with sand bars, bedrock and narrow channels — it’s best to go with a guide before sacrificing your boat.
Crabbing is always best in the months that end in “R”. I can tell you from direct experience that the crab are still filling with meat. Crab went through their molt in July and August but September should yield some nice full crab. Oregon crabbing is wide open but you’ll want to check the regs in Washington to make sure it’s open in the places you want to drop a trap. I’m even more sold on chicken as bait than ever. For sure, tuna heads and carcasses work great as do other fish like salmon but when it comes to ease and effectiveness I’ll take chicken thank you.
Trout are really the unsung heroes of fall. There are hundreds of great options across the Northwest, especially in the mountains — pick one — Coast Range, Cascades, Wallowas. There’s as many lightly fished streams, most are completely ignored in the fall.
Expect crisp mornings and warm afternoons as fall starts to breathe its colors into the trees and trout perk up and are more eager to chase a spinner or slurp a fly. A handful of Roostertail spinners in black, brown, red and green are good choices. So is the trusty Panther Martin spinner in gold (it has a gold blade with a black body and green dots). ¼ ounce is a perfect size, matched to four pound test. Ants, hoppers and attractor patterns like a Royal Coachman or Renegade flies are often effective in a size 12 or 14. You can fish these behind a clear float too.
Another species of trout can be found on the coast. Searun cutthroat trout. These trout, sometimes called “harvest trout” reside in saltwater and move into the rivers to spawn in the fall. You’ll find them first in estuaries and further upriver later in the fall. They’re the aquatic version of Ninja warriors. Stealthy, lurking in dark waters and ready to pounce a spinner, fly or worm with savage abandon, these trout are strong, fierce and beautifully marked.
Know the river. There are navigation hazards, some areas fish better than others, tides play a huge role in where to fish and stay out of the main channel unless you’re running from point-to-point.
It’s important to know where Clatsop Spit is (navigation hazard) and Desdemona Sands (another navigation hazard) are. If you don’t have a GPS (these days every boater should) then you should have a compass and know how to use it. Throughout the Buoy 10 season and through each day, fog can set in. Your GPS can keep you clear of the navigation hazards as well as the main channel. Your compass and depth finder will do the same but you need to know where you are in the river and which direction to go. North is generally a good direction to head if you need to get out of the main channel. When you get into 25’ of water you should be fine. If you ever hear five blasts of a ship’s horn it means you or someone else is in their way. Ships have the right of way.
Bass have a strong reaction to the changing season. Fall is their signal to feed heavily. They need to fatten up before winter sets in and prey becomes increasingly scarce as does their vigor. Warmwater fish slowdown in cold water. Their bodies see it coming and fall is their chance to prepare for the cold.
There’s so much great bass fishing across the region it totals into the thousands of prospects, try something new like a slow moving river or name lake with a reputation for producing good bass. You’ll likely find it close to home. For me, that might include the Willamette above Willamette Falls, Hagg Lake or the Columbia above and below Chinook Landing. If you’re in Seattle, then Lake Washington and any of the dozens of close-by lakes. If you call The Dalles home you’ve no doubt fished the Columbia, lower John Day or any one or more of the freeway ponds. Spokane’s Long Lake has bass and lots more. Box Canyon Reservoir is another great option for bass. The Central Oregon Coast has name getaways like Tenmile, Siltcoos, Mercer and Woahink Lakes. There are lakes in the dunes worth exploring too. Every corner of the region boasts exceptional opportunity for bass and panfish.
Silvers won’t only be available in Astoria. They’re already trickling into rivers like the Cowlitz, Lewis, Clackamas, Sandy and others. By mid-September all these rivers become strong options, especially on the heels of a good hard rain. With the number of silvers forecast, all of these rivers should be filled with Coho.
The tuna fishery should still be crankin’ the first couple weeks of the month. It often comes to an abrupt halt as the water cools and the fish move out, so don’t wait if you’re interested in filling the freezer with fresh albacore
Hunting season ramps up quickly in September with archery elk, turkey, black bear and mourning dove all available in Oregon, most of these are available in Washington too. Hopefully you’ve done your scouting so you know where to go and have an idea of what you’ll find. Check the regs and be particularly mindful of tinder-dry conditions.
One of the loneliest places you’ll find is the High Cascades. Temperatures will be dropping sharply and with so many other things to do it’s a place that’s out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Early in the month you should find fields of wild huckleberries. They’ll be ripe and sweet at 4,000’. Pitching a tent lakeside and having it all to yourself for a weekend is a pretty satisfying experience. You’ll learn the lake quickly just by watching. Over 3 days you’ll know more than you ever imagined and catching a quick dinner meal should be easy.
NW Fishing Secrets is hardly a secret anymore. With nearly 400,000 YouTube subscribers it’s the region’s most popular fishing and outdoor program and you’ll find it on YouTube. Leif Steffny, the show’s host, has a genuine enthusiasm for getting out and exploring the northwest, one lake, one stream, one bay at a time. He’s doing what you can do, find a place on a map, do a little nosing around to see what’s available and go. What makes Leif’s adventures so good is the fun he’s having…the fun we should all have when we’re out enjoying the outdoors. Check out some of his shows…they’re well worth watching and will inspire your efforts to find those quiet, forgotten getaways you can have all to yourself
The list certainly goes on and on…surf perch, panfish, C&R sturgeon, upland game birds and more! September is definitely the month to get it done. By October, things shift sharply and the clock’s ticking to its eventual end with winter when much of this runs out.
Wherever you go and whatever you do, please, do it safely and leave things better than when you arrived. We all have a responsibility to preserve and even enhance the outdoors. Thank you and enjoy!