WILLAMETTE RIVER: This time in January we would normally see a gradual improvement for the winter steelhead fishery in the lower Willamette, however the bitter cold and snow has left the river with water tempertures in the mid-30s, hardly ideal for producing a good bite. Now this week anglers will be facing extremely high flows, along with very turbid water and plenty of debris flowing downstream.
If the river forecasts are accurate we can expect places like Meldrum Bar and Clackamette Park to be partially or completely underwater, resulting in closures. Since the Willamette River is always very slow to drop and clear, these conditions could carry through the coming weekend. The first place to try when the rivers do begin to settle would be the seam where the cleaner water from the Clackamas River meets the dirtier Willamette water.
The summer steelhead counts came to a close on Oct. 31 at Willamette Falls with the cumulative passage for the season showing 21,732 while adult coho passage counts ended on Dec. 31 with a final number sitting at 2,559 adults passing for 2016. Early winter steelhead passage stands at 154 fish through Jan. 12, a fairly low number greatly affected by the very cold water conditions. The extremely high and turbid water coming this week will also have considerable impact on fish passage as the steelhead hunker down awaiting improved opportunity to move upstream.
USGS hydrological data for the Willamette River on Jan. 17 has flows at 33,300 cfs, the water temperature up a bit near 37°F, and visibility holding at around 3.5 ft.
The Middle Fork Willamette River is open to bait below Dexter Dam only. This river reach is open to retention of adipose fin-clipped salmon and steelhead and non-adipose fin-clipped steelhead greater than 24 inches in length. A Columbia River Basin Endorsement is required for anglers targeting salmon and steelhead in the Middle Fork Willamette below Dexter Dam.
The Middle Fork Willamette above Lookout Point and Hills Creek reservoirs is open to fishing using lures and artificial flies. All wild trout must be released upstream of Lookout Point Reservoir. The Middle Fork Willamette River is not stocked with hatchery trout.