An Aussie's first time fishing in Oregon

G'day guys, a little about me:
I've done a trip between highschool and uni backpacking up from baja california to vancouver to get a taste for the wild outdoor environments of the pacific coastline and am coming back to oregon soon for a holiday and to scout out some cool places around south west oregon to get a job in adventure tourism, as I fell in love with the siskiyou wilderness and southern oregons proximity to many other great american wildernesses - as I one day hope to live there.

On to the fishing! After nosing about for job opportunities, I plan to do a solo journey down the umpqua river from just upstream of the grants path region down to the coast over a 2 week duration so progress can be slow and allow for lots of fishing! I plan on living out of my hiking pack which holds my packraft - a feathercraft 'beast' capable of tackling white water. I love catching any fish, however asides from dropping a line in deep holes, around snags or weedbeds, into eddies and around reefy, rocky or sandy bottoms (in the sea), I love estuary fishing the most here in Australia. Here fishing for black bream (actually not a real bream but a member of the snapper family) down south where I live, or the mighty barramundi up north in the estuaries not only requires one to call upon their knowledge of fishing freshwater rivers and how to target fish (in snags, behind rocks, around weedbeds, in eddies and slack water, and assuming fish will often be waiting for food to come to them down the river), but must also take into account not only how the tides effect the best bite times, but where the fish will be.

Please excuse me if what im about to explain is really common knowledge, but after a bit of research about fishing in the US i have found none of this information, whereas this information is bread and butter in an aussie fisherman's arsenal:
Black bream and barramundi (predatory estuary and bay fish) can be found in typical structural ambush locations at low tide in estuaries, estuary mouths and shallow bays (reef, snags/timber, weedbeds, mangrove roots, shade of a willow tree etc) however as the tide rises the baitfish and prawn/shrimps the bream eat (or the mullet which the barra eat) are pushed up into the shallow flats (tidal 'mudflats' generally only submerged during high tide) or onto previously exposed reef tops, and as the tide rises overwise exposed sandflats which hold both sandworms and 'bass yabies' (a tiny crayfish) as well as snails and stuff are exposed - this means on a rising and high tide the predatory bream and barra focus their efforts on these shallow areas, so it makes sense you too focus fishing efforts on the shallow flats or the tops of otherwise exposed reef areas where the predators follow the bait. On a falling tide the bait are reluctant to leave these areas until they have to - and are ambushed at chokepoints when they do (such as at the mouth of feeder streams and run-off gutters) by the predators.

Anticipating the movements of estuary predators chasing tide affect bait is my favourite method of fishing as it is so visual and active - with the knowledge you know where to place your bait or work your lure and is a really thought provoking method of fishing from my experiences.

The reason i'm talking about this is because when you think of estuary fishing in the US (or atleast live in oz and do a google search) you hear all about salmon runs which, whilst i am greatly looking forward to, dont from my understanding involve the same tactics i described above as they only make runs into the rivers to spawn, and they dont eat during this time (forcing to use lures for reaction bites), which i'm assuming means they wont follow baitfish onto shallows and ambush them on the runoff. So after that huge explanation, I have a few simple questions.

1. At any time during the year in southern oregon, are there estuary, estuary mouth, or bay dwelling fish that you use similar tactics to target, i.e. as the tide rises and provides fish access to shallow flats and otherwise submerged reefs you target fish here, whereas on a falling tide you target runoff chokepoints as the bait fish head back into deeper water, and finally at low tide just fish structure like you would a non-tidal river? Would one target striped bass, american shad, or spawning bass (assuming american bass make annual winter runs into the estuary to spawn like our aussie bass)?

2. Is catching market squid in the bays and seas off the southern oregon coast a possibility? Squiding (for calamari) is big here, and whilst market squid I here arent in numbers in oregon like they are in san fran and washington, you often hear reports of saltwater salmon fishermen finding market squid in the bellies of their salmon - so I would assume around weedbeds, particularity at night with lights would be a good place to target them? I am not talking about humbolt squid, however if I arrive on the coast ahead of schedule might try and organise a last minute charter trip :)

3. What can I expect during your winter months (our summer) on the umpqua river from grant pass down to the ocean in terms of species variety?

4. Finally, we have introduced populations of wild brown and rainbow trout where I live. How do cutthroat and stealheads compare? Make me jealous please :)

I apologise for the long post, any grammatical errors or any misconceptions I may have about how the fishing is down on the pacific coast, as I feel not much information is readily available about american fishing to us in the land of aus, I'm really sorry if I came across as jerkish, i'm very keen to get to learn how it is done in the states :)

Cheers :)

First OFF, the Rogue flows through Grants Pass, not the Umpqua (the South Umpqua flows through Roseburg, which is about the only decent sized city on its route, shortly before the confluence with the North Umpqua, forming the mainstem Umpqua).

Maybe someone will tell you different, but the tidal areas/estuaries aren't really like you describe yours. Banks are generally steep and muddy (with exceptions). Not much fishing in "the shallows," but clams love it.

You can bait fish for salmon -- they feed in the estuaries, and still bite bait from a "latent urge" in the freshwater, which has never been well explained, but happens. Most people bait fish, with shiny lures working well.

A steelhead is an anadromous (ocean going) rainbow trout. Incredibly hard fighting, great tasting fish. Cutthroat fishing is a blast (which is what I did today, on light gear). There's resident cutthroat, and there's sea-run cutthroat which spend a short time in the close-in ocean and come back to the rivers with the fall salmon. Not as large as the other salmonids, but fight well, and taste the best of any of the salmonids, if you don't mind whacking a native (non-hatchery) fish now and then.

I think fishing here isn't quite what you think it is, but Southern Oregon has AMAZING fishing, and you won't be disappointed.
Thanks for clearing that up DrTheopolis, I do love my trout fishing in rivers and whilst I was unsuccessful at getting a take, I did enjoy fishing for chinooks in new zealand when I was little, trout and salmon are quite different to many other predatory river/estuary/bay fish to catch here as most of our predators are lazy and/or stick close to structure (asides from our barra, bream and mullet).

I was a bit unclear in my first post about where on the estuaries I tend to fish. I tend to fish close to or on the mouth of the estuary or in the bay itself, as well as tidal lakes. These areas definitly have many more sandbars/banks, gravel beds, shallow banks and shoals than the upper and mid estuaries which other than taking into account whether there is a run in or run off tide and adapting whether I cast up or downstream (thinking of the estuary as a 'food highway'), I fish just like a freshwater river.

I was under the impression striped bass, shad, redtail perch and croakers inhabiting bays and the lower regions of estuary systems are less active and/or more structure orientated than salmon and trout, therefore would be more likely to follow baitfish (or sand shrimp, worms and snails if they are forage fish like the pacific croaker) and/or ambush them on the falling tide, however I don't know anything about catching salmon when they aren't in their annual spawning run having never done it or know anyone who has.

Asides from the salmon family, are you aware of any esturine fish (or saltwater fish that frequents the lower estuary) that will follow baitfish/shrimps into shallow waters on a high tide?
What about foraging fish such as pacific white croakers (I think greenling look like they might be foragers as well, maybe sturgeon too but i'm not sure) using the high tide to access areas less accessable during the low tide to eat the crabs, snails, shrimps and worms they normally would.

I have included a picture of the kalmath with a red outline of where I would fish during the low tide, and green during high tide. Also is a picture of the salmon river, which is an (extreme) example of the kind of estuarine/river mouth/bay features I'm talking about :) I realise that further down stream the tide has less and less of an influence on the baitfish and benthic species (food for foraging fish).

If not, how do tides affect estuary, mouth and bay fishing, asides from bite times? :)

Finally, do surfperch and hake venture into the lower most regions of the estuaries often?


Klamathriveroverlookkey.jpgsalmon river.jpg
There are a couple of rivers in Southern Oregon that have populations of striped bass (Coquille and Umpqua/Smith). They were introduced to California from the east coast many years ago and we have a few here. It's not a huge fishery but it may be more your style and you would need to do a bunch of research.
1. There are all types of fishing on the coastline. Lots of bass fishing that is very predetory including rock fish along the rocky outcroppings near the beach that are ambush predetors. They sit out side rock structures and wait for bait fish to emerge.

2. If you were willing to invest in a charter im sure you could find some options for catching squid. There is not a huge movement to chase them though that I am aware of.

3. From grants pass to the ocean in the winter you will encounter, Salmonoids! Rainbow trout, Cuttthoat trout, Steelhead, and the flagship Chinook Salmon! (King) The species will diversify once you get to the salt.

4. Cutties are fun on light tackle. Steelhead are the Beez Kneez. The average steelhead is larger than most peoples largest trout ever. Big, Powerfull. (lace into a coastal Chinook salmon though, and you will be amazed)

The trout that is mentioned in the article are not freshwater trout like rainbow or browns. They are speckled or spotted sea trout, a completely different species. Try doing a search on "speckled trout" and you will see the difference.
Bush, welcome to our forum and best of luck moving to Southern Oregon for the ecotourism job. It is really God's country.

Fishing in estuaries is a very productive way to go for catching fall chinook, as DrT mentioned. If I were you, I'd forget about catching squid and focus on what is unique to the PNW, salmon and steelhead! Maybe throw in some crab fishing and you will have it all.

eugene1 said:
If I were you, I'd forget about catching squid and focus on what is unique to the PNW, salmon and steelhead! Maybe throw in some crab fishing and you will have it all.

I'm sure at some point, the light bulb will come on, and he'll realize there's a reason we focus our fishing efforts where we do (and it's not lack of vast opportunity).

Or, reinvent the wheel, either/or.
Hey guys sorry for the delayed response, i've just gotten back from a uni camp to our snowy river in my state's high country - had lots of oppertunities to chase one of the two wild populations of river trout in our country and the only wild population on the mainland :)
I wasn't too successful trolling in the clearer water with what I think you guys call spoons and diving plugs but did well with sweet corn and worms - albeit on a handline (space was a real issue as we were carrying 2 weeks food, wet gear, clothes, cooking stuff, sleeping stuff and inflatable rafts and the oars :)

Caught a nice few bream and even got a flathead (imagine a flounder crossed with a catfish or lizardfish - we even call them lizards and the monsters crocodiles) for tea in the brack and brine at the end of the trip, but i'm experienced in that kind of fishing and we were setting a far more laid back approach due to the lack of white water at the lower reaches of the snowy. However actually seeing trout briefly in the crystal clear waters of the high country was amazing and i'm investing in a fly rod as soon as I can afford one - it really inspired me.

I understand Dr T, if I could think of a perfect fishing experience it would be wading or yaking a crystal clear, fast, snowmelt fed high country river with a fly rod for trout or salmon - with snowcaped mountains and a pine/birch forest backdrop - the mountains/forest feels like going home to me, despite growing up in the burbs and visiting the lakes and muddy rivers I imagine quite common on the American East coast - and not even having pine/birch/oak/cedar trees over hear at all :D Just an overnight stay in one of NZL's pine forests with the mountains in the background and the cold crisp air and the sound of white water - it was just amazing! But having recently gotten into fishing for our salt and estuarine species (having grown up chasing tench and carp with Dad and chasing the sleep murray cod you may or may not have heard about on inland holidays) and experiencing the diversity, I don't think I could give up living somewhat close to the coast - if not for a feed of shark, reef fish or squid, a good winter surf when you have the place to yourself :D

Forgive me for going all tree hugger on you guys, and I look very forward to learning and loving the salmon and trout fishing, but i'm not about to just forget the fact there are ocean dwellers eating all the yummy squid and no one else is chasing them - some of the finest bait and dining there is :D

After speaking to Dad about the awesomeness of the snowy river trip I got him reminiscing about his trout and salmon chasing days and he reckons the sea-run browns would come into the estuary mouth at night to chase the baitfish that sheltered there, would coastal cutthroat behave in a similar fashion (when not doing their spawning run of course)? :)

Please don't feel I don't like the idea of chasing salmanoids through pristine rivers, streams and creeks on the fly that Oregon is so famous for - thats what I look forward to the most, but I love lots of variety of fishing, and from the reading i've done I feel Oregon can offer most of that variety, i'v just found it difficult coming accross detailed fishing information in Oregon not relating to trout and salmon - i've grown up chasing freshwater cod (more like bass) that are lazy and heavily structure dependant, and more recently chased the estuarine and inshore/bay fish (similar range to that of a coastal cutthroat i believe) who chase shrimp, baitfish and the odd muscle/oyster - and are heavily tide dependant (well the bait they chase is anyway) and its fast become my most mentally satisfying way to 'hunt' fish i've tried so far and am keen to see if I can give that a go if i decide to mix things up a bit :)

Seriously though eat some squid it's the best (next to venison or bluefin tuna!!!)

Cheers :)
My Dad lived in NZ where the introduced browns, rainbows and chinooks have long since established themselves without the need for stocking - just to clear that up :)

And thankyou for the welcoming! :D
Top Bottom