September 3, 2011 - The Oregonian - Deschutes River fires up summer steelhead anglers

October 11, 2011
September 3, 2011 - The Oregonian - Deschutes River fires up summer steelhead anglers

Deschutes River fires up summer steelhead anglers

By Bill Monroe, Special to The Oregonian

While crews struggled to contain a gnarly blaze blackening tens of thousands of acres and closing an entire section of the river upstream, the lower Deschutes lit up literally and figuratively the past few weeks. A monster run of summer steelhead has detoured into its cool water, finding haven beneath billowing clouds of smoke and the summer-heated Columbia River.

Anglers are finding willing biters throughout the lower river's popular 12-mile stretch. One guide reported a whopping 90-strike day recently (fish, not lightning), with 54 summer steelhead landed. Most were released.

This, beneath another pall of smoke from a range fire that burned down to Kloan, seven or eight miles upriver, after a bird short-circuited a transformer on Fifteenmile Creek, a drainage to the west. Just days later, the Washington shoreline of the Columbia burned directly across from the Deschutes' mouth.

Anglers dodged it all to find premier fishing.

"It's not quite as good as the (19)80s, but it's still really good," said Bob Toman, a Carver fishing guide. "You won't find any complaints out of me."

Toman hosted Grant McOmie, outdoor reporter for KGW on a morning trip Wednesday for footage McOmie said will probably air Thursday.
fishing filmingBill MonroeGrant McOmie, left, watches as KGW8 cameraman Jeff Kastner films a steelhead battle involving Patty Kaseberg of Wasco, aided by guide Bob Toman and his grandson, Cobey Pentecost of Milwaukie.

Along were friends Kevin and Patty Kaseberg of Wasco and Toman's grandson, Cobey Pentecost, 11, of Milwaukie, who cleaned the day's catch of five hatchery steelhead.

The 2011 predicted run of 391,000 summer steelhead got plenty of attention from anglers in the lower Columbia River. Fish and Wildlife departments and the sportfishing industry made an effort to raise angler awareness this season on a typically under-attended fishery.

A record kept catch of 8,500 hatchery fish in July was followed by 13,000 kept in August, the largest catch of summer steelhead since at least 1969, said Joe Hymer a spokesman for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

As they crossed Bonneville Dam, though, lingering cool spring weather and high water drew much of the early run upriver past the Deschutes. The river is a historic detour for basin steelhead that typically shortstop there to wait for cooler fall before continuing up the Columbia into northeast Oregon, southeast Washington and Idaho.

Some changes were made in the mixing chambers at the new passage operation at Pelton Dam, the upper Columbia heated up and, for the past few weeks, steelhead returned to their old patterns.

Quote of the day: Patty Kaseberg, leaning back in the boat, napping in the
Nap in the sunBill MonroePatty Kaseberg of Wasco soaks in some rays during a recent fishing trip on the lower Deschutes River
Deschutes Canyon sunshine after hooking (and, unfortunately, losing) the day's largest steelhead: "I love it here; I wish it could stay like this forever."

Big smallmouth: The first fish of the day wasn't a steelhead.

In a fast-paced steelhead riffle several rapids above the mouth of the river, Kevin Kaseberg tied into a smallmouth bass that went better than three pounds. No one weighed it, but it was large enough to feed Toman and the Kasebergs that night.

The smallmouth bit a brightly colored wobbling steelhead plug in a "watermelon" pattern; iridescent green on top changing to yellow on the sides and orange on the belly.

Back at the river's mouth that afternoon, Rod French, district fish biologist at The Dalles office of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, was just landing from an upriver excursion looking for smallmouth bass fry, an indication of spawning.

French said Kaseberg's bass was unusually large, but not an unusual catch for the lower Deschutes River. Smallmouth aren't sedentary like their largemouth cousins and frequent fast water in rivers such as the John Day, Umpqua and Willamette, to name a few.

two fish hookedBob TomanChris Wheaton of Happy Valley hooked a hatchery summer steelhead Friday on the lower Deschutes River. When the steelhead got close to the riverbank, a smallmouth bass tried to get the lure, too. Both fish went into the cooler.
They've made their way up the Deschutes from the Columbia, where smallmouth abound along the river's rocky shoreline structures.

French said they've been reported as far upriver as Sherar's Falls (but not above), but his survey Wednesday didn't find any fry.

"That's good," he said. "The last thing we want in the Deschutes is spawning smallmouth bass."

Fitting memorial: Popular Rentenaar Road on the Sauvie Island Wildlife Management Area will be closed all week (Monday through Saturday morning) so crews can construct a levee creating the new David Boys Memorial Wetland, aka "Boys Lake."

The new wetland in the Pope Unit is dedicated to the late duck hunter and past president of the Oregon Duck Hunters Association, which contributed $22,000 to the project. Boys died in 1996 while hunting on Tillamook Bay.

Last cast: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reminded us all this past week that not only is there an unprecedented (in recent years, anyway) any-coho salmon fishery going on right now in the ocean off the central Oregon Coast, but wild-coho sport fisheries will also open Sept. 15 in even more coastal river systems.

They include: Nehalem, all in Tillamook Bay, Nestucca, Siletz, Yaquina, Alsea, Siuslaw, Umpqua, Coos and Coquille rivers and Tenmile Lakes. Established wild coho fisheries will continue in Siltcoos and Tahkenitch lakes.

So, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, add it all up for yourself:

A terrific Buoy 10 season, off-the-charts fall chinook fishing in the lower Columbia, summer steelhead across the board and coming soon to the upper Columbia Basin, offshore salmon limits, healthy wild coho in coastal streams, an eight (yes, eight) trout limit in Diamond Lake, abundant smallmouth bass, crappie in the Portland harbor, walleye, catch and release sturgeon in the Columbia ...

Refer to Patty Kaseberg's quote above.

Then get out there and enjoy these good old days!

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