John Day smallies

Luis Dominguez
Looking to hit the John Day River for some smallmouth, any spots or parks I should look into? I've heard stuff about the mouth of the john day but that's about it. It's overwhelming to pick a spot because of how long it is
 
portlandrain
I would go to Cottonwood canyon/ JS Burres State park. There's a really convenient trail from the parking lot at JS Burres (on the south side of the river, not the camping side) that goes for a long ways down stream. It was the closest place I could find to civilization that had good access. There's a lot of private land that makes it hard to get to the river. My brother and I went out there last summer and lost count at 50 landed smallies. If it's soft plastic they'll eat it. I'm sure we hooked a hundred or more. It was like "oh you lost that one? There are 12 more right there!"

Edit: Looking at the map there's a trail on the north side too, so take your pick.
 
EOBOY
You would have to drive another 60 miles to reach Service Creek, to find river access between Service Creek and Spray.
 
Luis Dominguez
portlandrain;n606910 said:
I would go to Cottonwood canyon/ JS Burres State park. There's a really convenient trail from the parking lot at JS Burres (on the south side of the river, not the camping side) that goes for a long ways down stream. It was the closest place I could find to civilization that had good access. There's a lot of private land that makes it hard to get to the river. My brother and I went out there last summer and lost count at 50 landed smallies. If it's soft plastic they'll eat it. I'm sure we hooked a hundred or more. It was like "oh you lost that one? There are 12 more right there!"

Edit: Looking at the map there's a trail on the north side too, so take your pick.

Thank you! I've been going to a lake 53 mins away from cottonwood canyon and have only been catching 5 fish a day and a friend of mine told me he's been going to the John Day river and catches about 22 a day I just feel awkward asking him where his honey hole is at lol!
funny thing is, I'm the one that got him into smallmouth fishing haha
 
Aervax
Bass fishing on the JD is red hot right now. Water level is super low, which is concentrating the fish in deeper holes. Water temp has started cooling off, which is triggering fish to be more aggressive. I was passing by today and fished for an hour and caught 33 bass on 4" Senkos.
 
Aervax
There are many public access points on the JDR all of which fish well if you walk a little bit to get beyond the easy places next to parking areas. Be careful to avoid trespassing on private land. Accessing from a public trail or parking area will get you on the water, which is low enough and still warm enough to wade straight down the river, or stay on gravel bars to stay below high waterline and off private property.
 
Luis Dominguez
Aervax;n606936 said:
There are many public access points on the JDR all of which fish well if you walk a little bit to get beyond the easy places next to parking areas. Be careful to avoid trespassing on private land. Accessing from a public trail or parking area will get you on the water, which is low enough and still warm enough to wade straight down the river, or stay on gravel bars to stay below high waterline and off private property.

Thanks for the tips! Went to JS Burress state parke and caught 24 with my son on Saturday! They were all very small, maybe 5ish inches, were yours about the same size?
 
Aervax
The majority of fish caught on the John Day run 5-10 inches. My experience has been 2/3 of fish caught are in that small size and 1/3 are 1-2 pounds. I occasionally catch one or two there that are 3-7 pounds. My tactic is to walk 1-3 miles from the parking area and fish deeper holes that are rock or gravel. You have to get away from parking areas to catch bigger fish. Mud bottomed stretches tend to hold only small fish. The deepest holes are usually the outside bend in a sharp turn in the river. I focus more of my time in those pockets to catch the biggest fish. Micro strategy is to throw the senkos around the edges of a deep hole to catch and release and disrupt bait takes by the smaller bass. They tend to swarm any bait in the JDR water this time of year and make it hard to get bait deep enough for big bass to see it and get to it. I also release these fish downstream of the hole if possible. When they are released directly into the targeted hole they go deep to hide and recover while releasing stress hormone into the water. Put enough of the hormone into the hole and it shuts off the bite. Next I switch to 7" senko to keep the small one's off of it. My largest JDR smallmouth was 7.5 pounds fishing this way. It works. Try it. I am heading out to the John Day at least one day next week. I am in Hood River and my current favorite spot is just over 2 hours from here. Anyone wanting to join me for the day can meet in Hood River to caravan, or to carpool. It will be on a weekday. Private message me if you can go.
 
Luis Dominguez
Aervax;n607031 said:
The majority of fish caught on the John Day run 5-10 inches. My experience has been 2/3 of fish caught are in that small size and 1/3 are 1-2 pounds. I occasionally catch one or two there that are 3-7 pounds. My tactic is to walk 1-3 miles from the parking area and fish deeper holes that are rock or gravel. You have to get away from parking areas to catch bigger fish. Mud bottomed stretches tend to hold only small fish. The deepest holes are usually the outside bend in a sharp turn in the river. I focus more of my time in those pockets to catch the biggest fish. Micro strategy is to throw the senkos around the edges of a deep hole to catch and release and disrupt bait takes by the smaller bass. They tend to swarm any bait in the JDR water this time of year and make it hard to get bait deep enough for big bass to see it and get to it. I also release these fish downstream of the hole if possible. When they are released directly into the targeted hole they go deep to hide and recover while releasing stress hormone into the water. Put enough of the hormone into the hole and it shuts off the bite. Next I switch to 7" senko to keep the small one's off of it. My largest JDR smallmouth was 7.5 pounds fishing this way. It works. Try it. I am heading out to the John Day at least one day next week. I am in Hood River and my current favorite spot is just over 2 hours from here. Anyone wanting to join me for the day can meet in Hood River to caravan, or to carpool. It will be on a weekday. Private message me if you can go.

Damn, wish i could go on a weekday:/ and that sounds like a very logical way to get to the big fish! I'm thinking of taking my kayak and launching it at Lepage Park on Saturday, do you think the water there is calm enough for my inflatable Intex kayak? Not going too far down just trying to stay within that area. I have a drift anchor for it incase of light winds but is there a lot of boat traffic from what you've seen?
 
Aervax
You will have to be the judge of that based on conditions when you get there. On a calm day blow up child's waterwings are good enough. A really rough day will sink a 22 foot boat. Definitely wear a life jacket when fishing from small watercraft no matter what.
 
newfydog
Hi Aevax, Thanks for the great post. I did some fly fishing out of Service Creek this August and loved it. The only monster I hooked (hooked, not landed) took one of the 5 inchers I was reeling in.

How late in year is the bass bite on? Does it run longer down in Cottonwood?
 
  • Like
Reactions: troutdude
Aervax
Just above Service Creek is where I caught my biggest smallie ever. It was in the middle of the day during the heat of the dog days of Summer - air temp was 107 F.

I have not done enough late season fishing on the John Day to really map out the late season bite. My experience has been September and early October the bite is red hot. Depending on water temp it can slow down in a hurry by November.

One might attribute that to the water temps cooling to more optimal levels for smallmouth in the fall. It could also be that they endure super low water levels in the summer and are concentrated in the deeper holes where they have to compete heavily for food - kind of like a bunch of piranha during low water in the Amazon.

General smallmouth experience has been that they are super active when water is 65 - 70 F. Above that they seem to slow down a bit, but bigger fish still bite well early and late in the day. At 55 - 65 F they are active feeders but mostly during the warmest part of the day. Below 55 F they slow down a lot, and one must fish the sweetest spots slowly during peak times and be super focused to get any bites at all.

This time of year a guy can catch hundreds of bass a day on the JDR fishing deep with wooly buggers or plastic worms. Top water is more fun and produces well, too; but you have to work a little bit more to catch them.
 
Aervax
Muddler Minnow pics for those who have not seen them before:
 
newfydog
Aervax;n607184 said:
Just above Service Creek is where I caught my biggest smallie ever. It was in the middle of the day during the heat of the dog days of Summer - air temp was 107 F.

.

Interesting. This hot summer was a factor in finally getting out and learning something about the local bass. A lot of water was too warm for trout, but I had a book---Williams, "Fly Fishing for Westerm Smallmouth" which stated that for our western rivers, the hotter the better, don't miss those 100 degree days. I found the John Day has a 100-100-100 rule: 100 cfs at Service Creek, and 100 degree days guarantees 100 fish!

Here's a write-up I did for another forum:

http://fiberglassflyrodders.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=60353&p=300867&hilit=john+day+bass#p300867
 
Aervax
I very much enjoyed your write up and the excellent pics. Some of the best epic adventures usually occur in solitude just like that one. Maybe we should talk about sponsoring a couple of OFF "bass on the fly" trips together?
 
  • Like
Reactions: newfydog

Similar Threads

Top Bottom