SANDY RIVER: The winter steelhead fishery on the Sandy River should be considered over for spring 2016 as virtually no effort has been seen up near Cedar Creek and the hatchery. There could be a very small number of fish left to be found but for the most part the excellent winter steelhead run is about done. A few nice summer steelhead have been landed however, so as the winter steelhead fishery comes to a close anglers now have the opportunity to get in on the start of a summer steelhead run.
The Sandy Hatchery at Cedar Creek had excellent winter return numbers and began recycling fish back down to the Lewis and Clark boat ramp several weeks ago. Theyve had over 3,800 steelhead return to the hatchery total for the season and earlier had recycled over 2,200 of these winters back downstream to give anglers another shot at hooking them. Interested anglers can identify a recycled steelhead by a simple hole punch found in the right side gill plate cover of the fish
A typical rule of thumb for the Sandy River is if snow levels are above 4,000 feet it could be a bit off but when below 4,000 feet angling conditions get good. With snow levels moving up some this week we should see conditions looking more typical of springtime.
USGS hydrological data for the Sandy River on April 25 shows flows up at 2,520 cfs, a gauge reading of 9.94 feet, and the water temperature falling down to 46°.
Returns of adult steelhead and Chinook are in full swing at Willamette Falls and some of them have started to show up in the Santiam basin. The first Chinook arrived last week at Upper Bennett dam in Stayton, along with a handful of summer steelhead. As of April 14, they have counted 625 summer steelhead and 1,214 spring Chinook at the Willamette Falls fish ladder. Flows are coming down making for improved fishing conditions.
When the bite is on, bobbers and jigs are the preferred angling method with spoons, spinners and egg clusters also being effective. Currently the entire river below Packsaddle Park (near the Minto Fish Facility) is open year-round to hatchery steelhead. Trout harvest season begins May 22. River levels best for fishing are below 3,000 cfs at the Mehama gauge (the Mehama gauge was at 2,450 cfs as of April 18).
South Fork - Flows have moderated lately and will continue to decrease throughout the week as nicer weather moves in. This will make for improved fishing conditions just in time, as more steelhead are moving into the basin. Current flows (as of April 18) are around 1,780 cfs as measured at Waterloo
Anglers can target winter and summer steelhead, which can be found in fair numbers in the upper sections. Best sections to fish are from Wiley Creek to Pleasant Valley boat ramps, around Waterloo County Park, and from Lebanon down to the confluence with the North Santiam.
The first few summer steelhead and spring Chinook of 2016 have been reported at Foster dam fish ladder.