Pikeminnow on flies?


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I fish the oxbow lakes and sloughs down in the south part of the Willamette Valley (mostly after carp) and catch a lot of little pikeminnows. Just wondering if anyone else out there catches them on flies (or possibly even targets them on fly set ups) and if so what patterns and environments seem the most effective? Like I said, I catch a LOT of little ones but I'm looking to hook up with some bigger ones and have no idea where to start. For the most part I hook up to them using an 18-20 parachute adams with a pheasant tail under it with about a 6-9 foot leader and floating line (my go to rig for most occasions except when fishing deep) and am mostly wondering what environments and depths the big guys hang out in. Haven't been able to find much info about fishing for them with flies and even if I did manage to I definitely prefer local information. Thanks for your time and input,


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Joffurson, I had to register just so I could respond to your post. Since last summer I have been spin fishing and fly fishing for smallmouth bass in the Willamette. I caught a ton of pikeminnow and enjoyed it. Whereas others look down on this fish, I say who wouldn't want to catch 30 or more aggressive fish that weigh up to 3 lbs? What you need to understand about pikeminnow is that they are predators and primarily eat minnows and smolt. You can catch larger ones on the edges of the main Willamette current and adjacent backwaters. In stained waters, strip a black leach pattern with big jerks, settling for a second in between. With clearer water use minnow streamers like sculpin imitations or clousers. Soon shad smolt will be present and they are typically towards the surface. Use white, silver, & black smolt pattern with small amount of weight and strip it just under the surface- strip, die, strip, die- explosive takes!

I am always fishing for smallmouth, but in some areas pikeminnow are so dominant that I either had to fish a heavily weighted fly to quickly get below the pikeminnow and imitate a crawfish instead of a bait fish, or resign myself to catch a bunch of pikeminnow, or move. I wish they had a bounty program on the Willamette, because I sure had them dialed in last summer! Have fun!


I have had much the same experiences as Troutman69 on the Willamette. I float from Salem to the ferry on my pontoon in search of smallmouth, have thrown the whole box at them and have determined so far that I only need to pack one fly...a closer in olive over white. Largemouth (occasionally), but smallies and pikeminnow both crush it. Have landed PM's in the 22" class and there is no way in hell that thunderous strike doesn't put a fat smile on your face. That isn't an every day size but they are there. Edges, seams and ambush locations, just like your gut tells you. I throw a full sink so there are fewer false casts and I get in the zone quickly. The clouser hook-up style greatly reduces snags. Have had best luck avoiding the full moons too. Examples: same temps, flows and mid-afternoon time frame, floating about two weeks apart with just one fly (above) new moon produced nearly 50 and full moon was 19 (both mixed bag of SM, PM and maybe one or two LM).


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I want to echo what @SciFly and @Troutman69 said about PMs. They are a native species and I think they are a blast to catch. There are a ton of them in the Tualatin and the Willamette. I can't offer flyfishing input, but I would say that I catch them fishing for smallmouth. So, like the others have said, if you use smallmouth techniques you should be good to go.

@SciFly, that was a very interesting observation about productivity versus moon cycle. I used to track all those things but I never could find a good correlation with lunar cycles or solunar tables. For me, the only real factor that has ever seemed to impact fishing is the weather cycle. Even then it seems to have less impact in streams and rivers compared to lakes. On the East coast, pre-frontal bass fishing was on fire and post-frontal bass fishing was always a tough day.

Out here in Oregon, I tend to fish the WIllamette the most and the impact on frontal systems seems to be much less (unless it rains enough to cloud the water). I think that is largely because of how stable the weather is all summer long. On the East coast a front rolls through about every 4 or 5 days, while rain is a rarity out here during the summer.