Regional Reports: WEST
Fish for Steelhead in Oregon, try California for hog hunting, time for turkeys in Idaho and Montana and hit Washington for walleyes.
North Umpqua Steelhead
You’ve got eight weeks to hit the peak of the steelhead run on the North Umpqua River, and your chances of tangling with 10- or 12-pound fish are very good. Last year’s run of nearly 10,000 steelies was one of the best in recent times. The fish enter the river in December with the peak in mid-February through early April. You’ll find good access, whether you drift- or bank-fish, along the 35 miles of river from Idleyld Park downstream to Winchester Dam. The river parallels Highway 138 from Idleyld Park to Glide. This section is a combination of riffles and runs, slack water and deep holes.
Launches can be found at Lone Rock above Glide, where there is some challenging white water, at Colliding Rivers Boat Ramp and at Whistler Bend Park below Glide. The most consistent fishing is from drift boats where anglers back-bounce roe clusters and sand shrimp or back-troll Hot Shot and Wee Wart lures. Use sufficient lead to keep your offering in the strike zone-one to two feet off the bottom.
The limit is one wild fish and one hatchery fish or two hatchery fish per day. A resident license is $19.75 and a season nonresident license is $48.50, and anglers also need a $16.50 harvest tag. A nonresident day license that includes a steelhead harvest tag is $8.
Contact: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (541-440-3353); Roe Outfitters (877-943-5700).
Golden State Hogs
In 1998, when the number of wild pigs harvested exceeded the number of deer taken, hogs became California’s number-one big-game animal. And no wonder-the season is all year long, there’s no limit and the pigs’ range is expanding. About 90 percent are killed on private land with the remainder taken on public land where success is often low. However, you can ferret out some public land hunts where you can increase your odds of knocking down a big pig.
The Tehama Wildlife Area is a mixture of oak woodlands, foothill pine and brush 23 miles east of Red Bluff. Hog hunting is permitted on 15,000 acres during April and May. Twenty-five permits per weekend are issued by lottery. The application deadline is mid-March. Send a postcard with your name, address, phone, hunting license number and weekend dates to Department of Fish and Game for the drawing. If a public hunt is too daunting or pressured, you can hunt private land on nearby Dye Creek Preserve for about $350 per day including accommodations and meals.
Contact: Tehama Wildlife Area (530-597-2201); Dye Creek Preserve (800-557-7087). – G.K.
In Idaho’s Clearwater River drainage, you should target turkeys in the timbered benches adjacent to agricultural fields and on the breaks of the canyons up to 4,000 feet in elevation. Ponderosa pine provides forage and roosting habitat. There’s a mess of public hunting grounds here including state lands, and Forest Service and timber-company lands (the Department of Fish and Game has a cooperative access agreement with timber companies). Past reintroductions have established here a population of Merriam’s sufficient enough to produce birds for stockings in other parts of the state. The turkeys will move up to 5 or 10 miles in a day and may not roost in the same trees. Along with calls, many hunters set up decoys. The spring season runs from April 15 to May 25. A second tag is available for May 10 to 25, with one gobbler allowed per tag. Nonresident hunting licenses cost $128.50 and a nonresident spring turkey tag costs $61.50.
Most of the public ground is to the north, south and east of town. There is also good hunting along the Salmon River and on Corps of Engineer ground surrounding Dworshak Reservoir.
Contact: Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Lewiston (208-799-5010). -Scott Staats
Montana Lewiston Gobblers
In the Lewis and Clark National Forest, just south of Lewiston, the south side of the mountains is drier and the turkeys will be found in the ponderosa pine forests. Wait for them there. On the north side, hunt the edges of the Douglas fir forest. Set up an ambush here in the shrubby draws of hawthorne and chokecherry.
In recent years, hunters have taken more turkeys from the Big Snowy and Little Snowy ranges-between Lewistown and the Musselshell River-than any other part of Montana. Most hunting is done on the Lewis and Clark National Forest, as well as on Bureau of Land Management holdings.
The season opens in the first part of April; as of this writing the date wasn’t set by the state game commission. A stable population of Eastern turkeys has been established in the area for several years.
Contact: Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Recreation in Billings (406-247-2940); Lewis and Clark National Forest (Musselshell Ranger District) in Harlowton (406-632-4391).
** Super Birds**
Douglas County, in southwestern Oregon, is the turkey production capital of the state. Hunter success is around 80 percent and the region has a fair amount of public land to accommodate spring turkey hunters. This is steep Bureau of Land Management timberlands, not the easiest hunt. Most birds will be found in the oak savanna at or below 2,000 feet in elevation. Hunt where the oak meets the pine and fir forest. The turkeys also inhabit the conifer forest up to 5,000 feet.
The largest population of Eastern turkeys lies within 10 miles of Interstate 5 on Bureau of Land Management areas and some Forest Service land. Spring season runs April 15 to the end of May. One male turkey or a turkey with a visible beard is allowed during the spring season. About 10 percent of the hens have a visible beard and are legal to take.
Contact: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Roseburg (541-440-3353). -S.S.
Columbia’s Tailrace Walleyes
Starting in February and lasting through the first week of March, fishing below McNary and John Day dams on the Columbia River might lead to a world-record walleye. At least there’s a very good chance you can put a 10- to 15-pound walleye in the boat, and a fish over 20 pounds is not out of the question. But could someone really surpass the world record, a 25-pound behemoth caught by Mabry Harper in 1960 at Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee? Supposedly there have been walleyes bigger than the world record caught in Indian nets.
Walleye fishing is at its peak when water temperature is between 40 and 44 degrees. That’s when a silver half-ounce blade bait or white leadhead jig with a chartreuse and silver-flake twin-tail grub tipped with a night crawler will agitate a fish into biting. Jigged vertically those lures are best fished in 20- to 30-foot depths. Look for breaks in current and drop-offs in bottom structure.
Big-fish haunts found below McNary include Glade Creek, Patterson Creek and the Marker 46 drift, all accessible from the Irrigon Marina. Below John Day Dam look for walleyes to hang between the deadline and Maryhill State Park on the Washington side. Contact: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (509-754-4624).