In This Issue
Steelheader Meetings

Keep up to date at

Quarterly Board Meeting
6:30 p.m., Saturday, May 20, Association Office, 6641 SE Lake Road, Milwaukie.
For More Info:
President Bill Kremers

Columbia River Chapter
General Meeting
6:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 10, Pied Piper Pizza, 12300 NE Fourth Plain Road in Vancouver.
Guest Speaker: 
Ladies Night featuring the Ladies from NW Girls Gone Fishing. For More Info:
President Don Hyde
Emerald Empire Chapter General Meeting
6:00 p.m., Tuesday, May 2, Eugene Elks Lodge, 2470 W. 11th. Eugene
Guest Speaker: Dave Hanson Fountain from Tillamook Anglers Fishing Pro Shop and Gun Room will be discussing techniques for Spring Chinook.
Newcomers Fishing Clinic for successful techniques begins at 5:00pm. Frank Armendariz will be discussing succesful trout fishing.
For More Info:

McLoughlin Chapter
General Meeting
7:00 p.m., Tuesday, May 9, Denny's, 15815 SE 82nd Drive, Clackamas. 
Guest Speaker: Todd Alsbury ODFW biologist for the Clackamas River discussing habitat improvements and salmon hatchery returns.
For More Info:
President Carol Clark

Mid-Valley Chapter General Meeting
7:00 p.m., Wednesday, May 3, Albany Senior Citizens' Center, 489 Water Avenue NW, Albany.
Guest Speaker: 
Lee White and Jerry Pritchard from the Coast Guard Auxiliary will discuss boating safety. For More Info:
President George Larson

7:00 p.m., Tuesday, May 9, Chehalem Senior Center, 101 Foothills Drive, Newberg.
Guest Speaker: Woody Elrhart from Woodrow's Fishing Adventures
For More Info:
President Ty Campsey 503-705-8296
North Coast Chapter General Meeting
A May meeting is being planned--call President Bill Hedlund for date and details.
For More Info:
President Bill Hedlund
(503) 815-2737

Salem Chapter General Meeting
7:00 p.m., Tuesday, May 16, City of Keizer Community Center (City Hall), 930 Chemawa Road NE, Keizer.
For More Info:
President Brian Winn
(623) 363-7387

Sandy River Chapter
General Meeting
5:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 3, Glenn Otto Park, 1208 Historic Col. River Hwy, Troutdale.
Annual Auction and Potluck:  Doors open early! Silent and live auctions, dinner and great desserts!
For More Info:
President Steve Rothenbucher

Tom McCall Chapter General Meeting
11:30 a.m., Wednesday, May 17 at The Old Spaghetti Factory, 0715 SW Bancroft Street, Portland.
For more info:
Tim Wilson
Tualatin Valley Chapter General Meeting
7:00 p.m ., Thursday, May 11,  Meriwether National Golf Course,
5200 SW Rood Bridge Road, Hillsboro.
Guest Speaker:
Pro Escobedo of VIP Outdoors
Get there early at  6:00 p.m.  for Tech Table to learn new fishing techniques!
For More Info:
President   Tim Lenihan

We've Reached A Tipping Point

It happens on nearly a daily basis now. Phone calls asking the question, "What are we going to do about the sea lion problem?" Ask a fisherman that question, and they'll have all the solutions in the world to fix the problem. Ask a general citizen in Oregon or Arkansas and you're likely to hear, "What problem?"

That there, is exactly the problem. I just came home from Washington D.C. on the 26 th of April. I was on Capitol Hill, talking to the Oregon delegation about the conversion of highly productive fish and wildlife lands and riparian areas to agricultural lands and the subsequent water necessary to grow biofuels that will surely further tax our already over-allocated surface and ground water supplies. The enormous fish kill of 2015 is still fresh in my mind, water quality and quantity had everything to do with that fish kill.

My point is this; there were several groups actively lobbying Congress, ALL of Congress to make changes to whatever they were most passionate about. I know many won't be surprised that we've never been organized, or well-funded, to do our million angler march on Capitol Hill to raise awareness on this crisis to invoke change. Now, we've reached a tipping point.

California sea lions are well up into the Clackamas and Sandy Rivers, gobbling spawning wild steelhead as they are laying their eggs. Steller sea lions have changed the lifecycle of sturgeon, where they are trying to spawn in the Willamette and even Sandy Rivers to avoid predation by the aggressive pinnipeds. Well, with a fraction of the habitat, a fraction of the water quality, and a fraction of the flow, they are largely unsuccessful, and that's why I'm no longer a full time fishing guide. There is an overwhelming shortage of juvenile sturgeon recruiting into the fishery, because their parents aren't spawning successfully any longer since being chased out of the productive spawning habitat of the Bonneville reach.

Just as 6,000 anglers signed our petition on implementing the Columbia River Reforms, we'll need just as many or more, ready to act on problem predation legislation that helps ensures our salmon, steelhead and sturgeon stocks don't receive further listings under the Endangered Species Act. In the coming year, you're going to see us ramp up our efforts on this critical issue and we can't do it without you. Most importantly, we can't have the complainers, or especially non-members, sitting on the sidelines any longer.

Changing the management scheme for problematic seals and sea lions is going to be a heavy lift. Just like the Columbia River Reform Policy however, we have the economics and conservation message working in our favor. And, just like gillnets, we have a long and arduous education campaign to deliver to not just Oregonians & Washingtonians, but Americans in general, as to why this change is needed.

The Steelheaders are committing to working towards a solution to this crisis in the coming year. You'll be hearing more about this in the coming months and hope you'll join in investing the necessary resources to move the needle on what most consider the next big crisis on the horizon. Thanks for those that have already done work in this forum, help us lead the masses to get the job done! Most importantly, pass this email onto one of those "armchair politicians" we're all friends with, and get them to join the Steelheaders for the sake of our future anglers in the region.

Bob Rees
Executive Director
Association of Northwest Steelheaders

2017 Willamette Falls Winter-run Steelhead Counts at Alarmingly Low Levels

For many anglers, this winter and spring provided lackluster fishing for both hatchery and wild winter steelhead. While abnormally high water conditions certainly contributed to the overall lack of angler success, lower than average run sizes may also have been a substantial factor. As we all know, steelhead (and salmon) runs go up and down in response to cycles of high and low freshwater and marine productivity. Most of the time, from a conservation perspective, these natural cycles are nothing to get overly concerned about in contrast to the long-term loss and degradation of habitat.

This year, however, returns of winter steelhead above Willamette Falls are at alarmingly low levels. According to the Fish Passage Center, as of April 24, only 558 steelhead had been counted passing the Willamette Falls fish ladder since the first of the year. This is less than 10% of both the year-to-date number passing last year (6096) and the ten-year average (6167).

According the ODFW biologists, the low numbers at Willamette Falls are corroborated by extremely low returns to upstream counting sites on the North and South Santiam Rivers.
Upper Willamette late winter steelhead populations are native to the Willamette system and were uniquely adapted - like native spring Chinook - to ascend Willamette Falls (prior to installation of a fish ladder) when flows permitted in late winter and early spring. The native populations spawn and rear primarily in the North and South Santiam, Molalla and Calapooia Rivers.

These populations are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and have been significantly impacted by habitat degradation and the loss of habitat due to dam construction. Indeed, approximately 70% of their historical spawning habitat is no longer available either because of direct blockage or habitat degradation.

But habitat loss and degradation do not explain this year's abysmal returns. Numerous factors may play a part, but the most likely culprit is unfavorable out-migration and marine conditions in 2015 (when the bulk of this year's return would have migrated to the ocean) and continuing poor marine productivity 2016. Unfavorable ocean conditions, which have negatively impacted salmon and steelhead populations up and down the coast, resulted from El Nino, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and the infamous "Blob" of unusually warm water in the central NE Pacific.

And then there are the sea lions. Sea lion numbers have increased dramatically in the Columbia and Willamette in the last few years, and this year they have been reported targeting winter steelhead not only below Willamette Falls, but following the run up the Clackamas River as well. It's speculative at this point to attribute the awful steelhead counts at Willamette Falls primarily to hungry sea lions, but sea lion predation is a contributing factor that must be given careful evaluation and consideration.

(On a related point, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that research in the Columbia suggests 10-45% of returning salmon are unaccounted for during their migration between the Columbia estuary and Bonneville Dam at a time when California sea lions are present in large numbers. NOAA also reports that sea lions consumed 8-14% of spring Chinook and winter steelhead attempting to pass Willamette Falls during 2014 and 2015, and that current federal and state management efforts are not sufficient to mitigate the impact sea lions are having on ESA-listed steelhead and salmon populations.)

So, what can we anglers do? Unfortunately, for this year's run, not much.

ODFW was considering either closing the winter steelhead fishery in the upper Willamette and tributaries or issuing a press release encouraging extra care for the safe release of fish landed. While to date ODFW hasn't taken any action, my recommendation (take it for what it's worth) is simple - don't fish for winter steelhead in the upper Willamette or tributaries. Given the dismal returns, fishing for winter steelhead probably isn't very productive and even catch and release angling may have unacceptable impacts on run sizes so low. At this time of year, most anglers in the upper Willamette region will likely be targeting trout or spring Chinook rather than steelhead anyway (or hopefully will be as soon as spring Chinook start crossing Willamette Falls in decent numbers). And in a few weeks, summer-run steelhead should start showing in better numbers (I have my fingers crossed). 
Looking at the longer-term picture, while natural cycles of high and low productivity in our rivers and the ocean will continue, we must continue working to improve and restore productive cold water habitat both above and below the dams, along with fish passage above the dams. And we need to keep pressure on managers and elected officials (both state and federal) to effectively address and manage expanding sea lion populations and their escalating impacts on our steelhead and salmon runs. (For more on sea lions, see Executive Director Bob Rees's article in this issue.)

Brian McLachlan
VP of Conservation 
Association of NW Steelheaders
Newport Halibut

One of the things that makes Steelheaders great is that everyone enjoys fishing along with protecting and making our fisheries better. Often forgotton is the great diversity in talent and skills that many of our volunteers bring to this amazing organization.Are you ready? The Oregon Coast all depth halibut season opens on May 11th. The fishing opportunity will continue into June on most Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and will close when the quota of 211,194 pounds is reached. This opener includes the ports of Garibaldi, Depoe Bay, Newport, Florence, Winchester and Coos Bay. Newport is the most popular of these ports as it offers a large array of locations for the halibut angler and great facilities. If you have plans to launch here on the first opener, be prepared for an one hour wait to launch and another thirty minutes to find a parking spot and get back to your boat.

Where to Fish
Two of the better-known halibut areas out of Newport are the "Chicken Ranch" and "Rockpile". The Chicken Ranch is 40 miles west, south west of Newport and has the reputation for the most consistent halibut fishing in Oregon. Limits here are the norm, in fact you usually spend more time traveling than you do fishing. The average depth here is between 500 and 550 feet, and as the name implies a majority of the halibut caught here are chicken size. There are occasional fifty to sixty inch halibut prowling the depth, but the average fish is in the twenty-five pound range.

The Rockpile area is about half the distance from Newport, as the north end of the pile is only a sixteen-mile run, whereas the more popular south east and south side of the pile is an eighteen to twenty-five mile run. The average depth on most of these locations is only two hundred and twenty feet. This makes it one easiest halibut fishing spots on the Oregon coast. You cannot fish on the actual Rockpile itself, so be sure and download the GPS numbers posted in the Fishing Regulations booklet on to your GPS system. The primary drawback is that you usually have to put time here to land your halibut as this is a vast area and the halibut are scattered.

Personally I prefer fishing on the Rockpile as you have to use half the weight that you need on at the Chicken Ranch and reeling up 220 feet to check your bait is a whole lot easier that than 550 feet at the Chicken Ranch. I have caught halibut in all size ranges at the Rockpile, with the average fish running between forty and fifty inches. If you are fishing the Rockpile for the first time and you are trying to figure out where to fish, my suggestion is to head to the southeast corner and branch out from there. Believe me, you will see a fleet of boats out there. Watch which ones are catching fish.

Bait Choices
Halibut eat a variety of fish, squid and octopus and every halibut angler has a personal preference when it comes to bait. You can use a chunk of shad, squid, octopus (if you can find some), salmon belly, tuna belly, greenling or herring or a combo. Then just like with your salmon herring brine, there are a variety of brines and marinades you can use to cure your bait. I have been fortunate to have made several halibut trips with Phil Pirone from Pro Cure. If you look at the Pro Cure web site under halibut you will see a picture of myself and a friend holding up a couple of big halibut by the Yaquina Bay bridge. On this particular trip, the three of us had started off fishing by the Rockpile and by noon we did not have a fish in the boat. We pulled up our gear and headed out to the Chicken Ranch. As expected there were a hundred or so boats in the area and the easy fish had already been caught. I reached into Phil's tackle box and pulled out some garlic scent and as soon as my herring hit the bottom I was into a forty-eight inch halibut. Then Phil put on some garlic, same result. Our friend at this point was getting really frustrated so we let him in on our secret and once again, bam, he was into a fifty-two inch halibut and his frustration turned him into a happy camper. My advice is to experiment and be willing to change things up.

Gear Choices
I try to keep my halibut gear as simple as possible: a spreader bar, weight and a circle hook. Some people do not like circle hooks. I have had more hookups with circle hooks than with J hooks. When a halibut hits, give him a few seconds to take the bait and start reeling, it is that simple. A couple of other things I have learned, is never hook your bait through the eye balls, halibut want to see those eyes. My other suggestion is that those blinking lights you see at Fisherman's Marine and on Amazon work. Every halibut we caught last year had a blinking light attached to the spreader bar.

My last comment is, be safe and watch the weather forecast as a twenty to forty mile run on a nasty ocean is no fun, and can be dangerous. There are several halibut days this year, and waiting for a calmer ocean is something your family and fishing buddies will appreciate.

Bill Kremers
President - Association of Northwest Steelheaders
Volunteers Needed!

One of the things that makes Steelheaders great is that everyone enjoys fishing along with protecting and making our fisheries better. Often forgotton is the great diversity in talent and skills that many of our volunteers bring to this amazing organization.

We love all the time and energy that all our volunteers give to the many projects and programs that the Association and all the Chapters run. However, there are some particular skills that are likely amongst our members that we would like to tap into for some ambitious outreach and organizing goals the outreach team is looking to tackle.

Do you have any skills and time you could volunteer, perhaps even professional services that you would like to donate in:
  • Graphic, Web or Print Design
  • Non-profit Member and Donor Database management
  • Fundraising
  • Event Planning
It's true also that many hands make the load light. Can you reach out and can help ANWS?

To help ANWS with these, contact Aaron Bento -
2017 Willamette Salmon Quest

We are sorry and disappointed that our highly anticipated QUEST tournament did not occur on it's original April 1st date, but the good news is that is has been switched to June 17th! We want to provide the best possible experience for Quest, and we couldn't justify that with for the Columbia River above flood stage this weekend.

However! We are planning something great for the new date!
Be sure to get your seat! Ticket sales have been extended!

Join the Steelheaders for the 2017 Salmon Quest Fishing Tournament June 17th. Begin your day with a full day of spring fishing with the best guides and anglers in the area. Fin clipped salmon and steelhead can put you on the winners' platform. The day concludes with a dinner, awards, and silent auction at the Airport Holiday Inn in NE Portland. Angler registration fee includes guided fishing, dinner, and award ceremony. Proceeds from the tournament are dedicated to improve sport fisheries through on-the-ground restoration and fisheries projects in the Willamette and Sandy river basins.

More details at the Salmon Quest Event Page

Upcoming Events 
Sandy River Chapter Potluck Dinner and Auction
Wednesday, May 3, Sam Cox Building in Glenn Otto Park, Troutdale
Social hour and silent auction begin at 5:30 with dinner at 6:00. There's no charge for dinner (although donations are encouraged), but please contact Leslie Hinea by April 24 if you plan to come:  503-255-0600 or email at

Vernonia Pond ODFW Family Fishing Day
Saturday on May 6th, 9am - 2pm, Vernonia Pond
The pond will be stocked with trout, ODFW will have their trailer full of fishing supplies and TV Chapter members will be there to help people learn to fish.  Contact ODFW  Ron Rehn, 503-842-2741 ext 244 or Tim Lenihan 503-310-9824

McLoughlin Chapter Depoe Bay Fish Along
Chapter Fish   Along  in Depoe Bay  May 20  with Dockside Charters.
Last year Dale Edwards arranged a  fishing  trip with this company, and we had a great time with a lot of  fish  caught. This will also be the first day of Halibut season.  This trip will be a 5-hour outing for $80 and if you wish to crab another $ 20 .  All arrangements should be made through Dockside Charters at  541-765-2545 . Tell them you will be  fishing  with Dale Edwards and the Northwest Steelheaders. You may want to consider a motel to avoid a very early morning 2.5-hour drive.  All chapters are welcome to participate in this Fish Along.  Check in time will be  6:30 a.m.   May 20 , at 270 Coast Guard Drive, Depoe Bay 97341. Ph.:  541 765-2545

Salmon Quest
Benefitting Willamette and Sandy Basin Sport Fisheries
June 17th, Portland Airport Holiday Inn.

Watch this space for future events!
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