Tag Archives: Oregon

Stumptown Part I of II

The Esteemed Mr. Whiskers Of Portland

By Terry Otto

Catfish are the Rodney Dangerfield  of Stumptown’s fishing scene: they never get any respect.
Salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and other species get all the  glamour, all the press, all the covers, but catfish are a worthy target themselves. They grow big, they fight hard, bite easily, and their fillets are light and tasty. And while they get little respect from some, they are getting attention from an increasing number of anglers in Portland and Vancouver who have figured out how much fun Mr. Whiskers can be.
In fact, there are so many good local spots that I couldn’t fit them all in one article. So, this issue we’ll look at Portland-area catfisheries, and next month, discover the plentiful opportunities on the north side of the Columbia River.
Get your drawl on, grab some stinkbait and let’s look at PDX waters.

GILBERT RIVER BULLHEADS AND CHANNEL CATFISH
Every single source for this story pointed to the Gilbert River first, and it may well be the best catfishery in the Portland area. This Sauvie Island stream flows from Sturgeon Lake to the Multnomah Channel and is home to big channel cats, a few blue cats and plenty of bullheads. But despite giving the D River a run for its money as the state’s shortest, it’s long been well known for whiskerfish, says Mark Nebeker, the manager of the state wildlife refuge on the island.
“The Gilbert River is very popular for catfish,” he says. “The fishing platform at the mouth is open all year, and they catch a lot of bullheads there, but there are more and bigger catfish further up the river.”
Nebeker says that not all the bullheads are small, and some reach very respectable sizes. Channel cats can run as big as 18 to 20 pounds, and he once checked a blue catfish in the 30-pound range.
Eric Tonsager of the Oregon Bass and Panfish Club is a bona fide catfisherman who spends most of his time on Eastern Oregon rivers, but he wets a line for cats near home once in a while. He likes to fish the Multnomah Channel and the Gilbert River, an area he confirms is no secret.
“There is lots of effort there,” says Tonsager. “There are people at the fishing platform all the time when the weather is warm.”
He says bank access is very good along the Gilbert, and he points to the Big Eddy as being one of the best spots.
“It’s a sharp, 90-degree turn in the river, and lots of big catfish are taken there,” he says.
Worms and other insects are good choices for bait, but Tonsager says anglers need to “gob that worm on the hook. If you leave tips trailing off, the perch and other small fish will nibble them off.”
From time to time, he also uses cutbaits such as northern pikeminnow cut into 1-inch cubes. He leaves them at room temperature for a bit; just to get some smell going.
“But don’t let it rot!” he warns.

THE WILLAMETTE’S MIGRATORY CATS
There is a good population of channel catfish throughout the Willamette, and they migrate out of the big river into the tributaries in the spring to spawn.
“When the temperature hits about 60 degrees, the channel catfish move up into all the rivers that dump into the Willamette,” says Tonsager. “They move into the Tualatin, the Yamhill, and Oswego Creek – all of the tributaries.”
When the heat arrives, the fish head back down to the Willamette to spend the summer in the deep holes, and they become very nocturnal. The bite is best from dusk to dawn.

CATS PROWL ST. LOUIS PONDS
You might expect a set of waters with a name that hearkens to the country’s catfishing heartland to feature whiskerfish, and you would be correct.
“All of the St. Louis ponds have catfish,” confirms Gary Galovich, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife warmwater biologist. “They are in Ponds 1 through 7.”
He reports that there is no stocking schedule, but he puts channels into the small lakes along I-5 just south of Woodburn when his budget allows. Cats to 20 pounds  are sometimes caught here.
The species are also planted in Wilsonville Lake, Woodburn Lake and Hartman Pond on a semi-regular basis.
Henry Hagg Lake is popular for bullheads, which grow well and reach sizes of 12 to 15 inches. Of course, all warmwater habitats around Portland have bullheads, but they are predominately in the 5- to 7-inch range.

THE MYSTERY OF THE TUALATIN TITAN
One of the enduring mysteries of whiskerfish in the Northwest is the story of the 15-pound white catfish caught in the Tualatin River in 1989. Deemed the Oregon record for the species, however, it is the only verified white catfish ever taken in the entire state. How did it get there?
That’s a good question, says Galovich. His research turned up records of 300 white catfish brought up from California in 1951, and placed in a defective holding pond.  “When they drained the pond they only found 12 left,” says Galovich.
While the rest escaped into the Willamette system, Galovich says the chances of them surviving, spawning, and continuing the line, and eventually producing the record fish is unlikely.
“It could have come from somebody’s private pond,” says Galovich. “Or it could have been released in the river, but we  don’t know.”
The Tualatin fishes well for channel cats in the spring, but a boat with a shallow draft is needed. There are few good bank access spots on the river. NS

Stumptown anglers have a lot of choices for local catfish. This leviathan was caught at the St Louis Ponds. (RICK SWART, ODFW)

Stumptown anglers have a lot of choices for local catfish. This leviathan was caught at the St Louis Ponds. (RICK SWART, ODFW)

 

Now Serving Fish ’N Chips

Washington state’s bountiful ocean coast offers a mix of tasty bottomfish in spring.
By Jeff Holmes

Fine fixin’s for fish and chips – saltwater anglers and Capt. Kerry Allen heft a mix of black rockfish and lingcod hooked off the Evergreen State’s rockier northern coast. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Fine fixin’s for fish and chips – saltwater anglers and Capt. Kerry Allen heft a mix of black rockfish and lingcod hooked off the Evergreen State’s rockier northern coast. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Next week when a good friend and his lovely, player-hater wife co-celebrate their birthdays with a big dance party in their new shop, I’m frying, grilling and baking 30 pounds of  halibut, lingcod and rockfish left over from an especially productive 2015 season. Without trying, I’ll probably make a lot of friends at the party while clearing freezer room for 2016’s ocean bounty. Like most of you, I love eating white-fleshed ocean fish, and I could make you a long Bubba-Gump list of dishes. For modest prices often cheaper than sled or drift boat seats, bottomfish charters offer safe and fun fishing yielding big bags of snow-white fillets. For us Northwesterners, the Pacific can be a U-pick fish market where the freshest fish and greatest thrills and memories can be had. Charter prices are often eclipsed by the value of fish taken home when considering retail prices. Pike Place Market brings up the distant rear for quality of Northwest seafood experiences, and charter fishing with fish and chips on the brain is easily on the list of quintessential, must-do Northwest outdoor experiences.
April marks the beginning of bottomfishing opportunities in Washington with the opening of deep-water lingcod fishing for the month’s last two weeks. Typically the only limiting factor to catching big lings out of Washington ports during April is weather, and not too many operators bother. But some do, and private boats also get in on the action closer to shore by fishing jetties and nearshore reefs that have repopulated with bottomfish through the winter months. A friend of mine and his buddies and family make an annual trek to Neah Bay in April to fish the protected waters all the way out to Tatoosh Island, and they do very well fishing over reefs that have seen no pressure in six months. April may not be prime-time ocean fishing season yet, but it is a clear wake-up call with some advantages and excellent payoffs in fillets.

The eagerly awaited halibut season won’t open off the coast until next month, but it should yield good catches, as this nice haul from an All Rivers and Saltwater Charters’ express boat exemplifies.(ALLRIVERSGUIDESERVICE.COM)

The eagerly awaited halibut season won’t open off the coast until next month, but it should yield good catches, as this nice haul from an All Rivers and Saltwater Charters’ express boat exemplifies.(ALLRIVERSGUIDESERVICE.COM)

FROM ILWACO AT the mouth of the Columbia River, north to Neah Bay and beautiful Tatoosh Island, Washington’s coastline offers four ocean ports from which to pursue bottomfish. Early-season ocean angling often goes overlooked, what with spring Chinook mania, trout season, and the reawakening of warmwater fish. A sometimes cantankerous ocean also limits popularity, but getting ahead of the game for early bottomfish means scores of clean, firm fillets. Much of my annual bounty every year comes from British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, but a significant portion comes off the coasts of Washington, sometimes Oregon. One could easily collect all the fish he or she might ever want or need without visiting our friends to the north, and this is especially true of black rockfish and lingcod. Stocks of both tasty species are robust in both Northwest states, especially so in Washington. There, fishery managers allow a daily limit of 10 black rockfish and two lingcod. The poundage adds up fast after a few trips, and whacking limits of these tasty fish on light gear is a lot of fun and sometimes results in incidental catches of salmon and halibut, retention opportunities for which typically commence in May.
I make a point to fish the early season every year, even if it means the loss of a spring Chinook or morel mushroom weekend. Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay offer excellent fishing, and I have fished them all and I  recommend them all. My usual choice is Westport because of the ease of getting there and because I really like All Rivers and Saltwater Charters’ guiding program. But when I fish in April, it’s usually for big lingcod, and always with one of the skippers who licks his chops for a chance at big deepwater lings: Mike Jamboretz of Jambo’s Sportfishing. His immaculate 37-foot boat, the Malia Kai, is good in big water, making him a great bet for early in the year when the ocean is still sometimes sporty. The Washington  Department of Fish and Wildlife allows Jamboretz and other early-season enthusiasts the last two weekends of April and a little over a week in May to chase lings in waters deeper than 20 fathoms (120 feet). He is an extremely good lingcod skipper, with high-end specialized tackle and the most advanced bank of electronics I’ve seen in a sport boat. He’s a bottomfishing specialist with a two-year-plus wait to fish halibut during Washington’s short season. Similarly, his deepwater lingcod trips fill quickly, but it’s definitely worth calling him. After almost three years of waiting, I got out for halibut last year with him, followed by a stop at the deepwater ling reefs, which are fair game later in May on halibut days. I went home with a nice halibut and two lings over 20. Every time I’ve booked with him in April for lings, we’ve laid out a very nice class of fish on the deck by day’s end, along  with limits of extra-tasty yellowtail  rockfish, a species that suspends in deep water near the ling haunts. Neah Bay is worth the trip, and  services are available at Big Salmon Resort.

Capt. Mark Coleman calls new sonar that shows bottom composition “a real game changer, because when locating good bottomfishing zones offshore from Westport, your spot is as much about what the bottom is made of as it is finding a significant rocky feature.” For more on that, see Randy Well’s South Coast column elsewhere this issue. (ALLRIVERSGUIDESERCapt. Mark Coleman calls new sonar that shows bottom composition “a real game changer, because when locating good bottomfishing zones offshore from Westport, your spot is as much about what the bottom is made of as it is finding a significant rocky feature.” For more on that, see Randy Well’s South Coast column elsewhere this issue. (ALLRIVERSGUIDESERVICE.COM)ICE.COM)

Capt. Mark Coleman calls new sonar that shows bottom composition “a real game changer, because when locating good bottomfishing zones offshore from Westport, your spot is as much about what the bottom is made of as it is finding a significant rocky feature.” (ALLRIVERSGUIDESERVICE.COM)

Westport, which is the most popular port on Washington coast, has the most operators and the  widest range of services. Westport’s boat basin is home to several excellent operations such as Deep Sea Charters, which has been running trips here for nearly six and a half decades, Westport Charters, which operates a fleet of eight boats from 40 to 55 feet in length, Ocean Sportfishing Charters, home of the Ranger and Capt. Don Davenport, and Capt. Dave McGowan of the Ms. Magoo. Offshore Northwest and Capt. Kerry Allen, and Tailwalker Charters  and Capt. Patrick Walker are here as well for part of the season, and there are many other options, so see charterwestport.com for more. And while you’re there, check out the annual fishing derbies, which began with lingcod in mid-March and pay out thousands of dollars in prizes for big salmon, halibut and tuna.

MY FAVORITE WAY to fish on the ocean is in fast boats with sporty gear. Lots of awesome Westport skippers will take you to the action and show you an amazing day of fishing and service in some badass boats. My personal choice for speed, versatility, kindness and dry sense of humor is All Rivers and Saltwater Charters’ Mark Coleman and his four express tuna boats.
“Our bottomfishing trip is especially cool because of our custom-built Defiance boats and the fact that we handle just six anglers,” says Coleman. “Once aboard we  travel very quickly to the best fishing zones and get right to fishing.”
Coleman and his skippers are able to rocket around, seeking out the best bite possible on the best class of fish, which often results in an extra-large class of black rockfish and very nice lings.
“We keep an eye on the inshore halibut season too,” says Coleman. “It’s open seven days a week until the quota is met, and we do catch a few each spring while targeting lings and rockfish.”
Although contrary to tradition, Coleman takes an ultralight approach with his gear. Because of the versatility of only fishing six anglers and being able to move fast from spot to spot, his clients can take the extra time to land the occasional nearshore halibut or very large lingcod or salmon on sporty gear.
“We recommend using the lightest tackle you can get away with to feel every bite and have the most fun at the rail,” says Coleman. “For us that usually means 7-foot Okuma spinning rods with Okuma RTX reels loaded with 50-pound TUF-Line braid. From the mainline we attach a 5-foot double-dropper-loop leader, loop on a couple shrimp flies, and a little lead. We have clients let out slowly to convince the rockfish to suspend higher and higher off the bottom and eventually under the boat for wide-open action. Clients tend to love this, and so do I.”
I’m a big fan of top-rated Raymarine electronics and learned about them by fishing with Coleman. Sitting in his pilothouse and reading the displays is almost like watching video of the bottom, even running at 30 knots.
“We rely exclusively on FLIR’s Raymarine electronics to guide us below the water line each day. Our team found that the new CHIRP sonar with DownVision by Raymarine not only improved our vision below the water, but now shows us bottom composition as well. That’s been a real game changer, because when locating good bottomfishing zones offshore from Westport, your spot is as much about what the bottom is made of as it is finding a significant rocky feature.”
All of the operators in Westport have excellent electronics and will get you on bottomfish, and there are lots of cool boats of varying designs. No matter what reputable operator you fish with, I highly recommend a trip to Westport – and Neah Bay, La Push and Ilwaco. All ports offer their own charm and advantages. Look to local chambers of commerce (westportgrayland-chamber.orgilwacowashington.com; forkswa.com; neahbaywa.com) for lodging, dining and tourist activities. If you’re an Oregonian reading this and don’t already know, your coastline is also an excellent place to catch bottomfish and take home a fat sack of fillets. Look to Astoria/Warrenton, Garibaldi, Depoe Bay, Newport, and more, and see the pages of this issue for charter choices to include Yaquina Bay Charters, Captain’s Reel Deep Sea Fishing, and Dockside ChartersNS

By midmonth, lingcod will be fair game up and down Washington’s coast. Some pretty big specimens are out there, with a 48-pounder the largest weighed during 2015’s seasonlong derby in Westport. Wyatt Lundquist slammed his hook home on this nice one while fishing aboard the Slammer, skippered by Rhett Webber, last year. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

By midmonth, lingcod will be fair game up and down Washington’s coast. Some pretty big specimens are out there, with a 48-pounder the largest weighed during 2015’s seasonlong derby in Westport. Wyatt Lundquist slammed his hook home on this nice one while fishing aboard the Slammer, skippered by Rhett Webber, last year. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)