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July 14, 2003

North Santiam River Report

The river level will drop to a good summer level on Tuesday, July 15. At 8:00 a.m., flow at Big Cliff will drop to 1100 cubic feet per second, at noon it will drop to 1000 cfs, and at 4:00 p.m. it will drop to 900 cfs. That level should remain constant well into September. It will be easier to find the steelhead than at higher water levels. Boaters will need to refine their technique to learn the channels well enough to avoid the additional rocks that will be exposed. The level of 900 cfs is higher than the natural flow average, and Detroit Lake storage will be sacrificed to meet this level. It has been a year with low snow accumulation, and the mountains are visible through the former snowfields.

River temperature is an important issue for fish and other aquatic life. If the temperature is too high (above 65 degrees) bacteria and viruses can grow and cause mortality. Steelhead and salmon each have different temperature preferences for moving upstream (migrating) and for striking lures. If the temperature is too low, the fish won’t move and won’t bite. Anglers need to adjust their methods and location according to river temperature. The amount of oxygen in the water is related to temperature, and fish have requirements for that also. Generally, steelhead and salmon in the North Santiam move upstream when river temperature is 50 and above. There are different theories about the best temperature for the fish bite.

Last week, the temperature of the river flowing into Detroit Lake varied between 53.2 and 60.4. The flow below Detroit dams at Niagara varied between 46.4 and 47.5. The lake is filled with snowmelt, so the river below it is about 10 degrees colder than natural this time of year. By the time the river arrives at Mehama, it has warmed up because of exposure to the sun and receiving tributary runoff, and the average at Mehama varied from 49.1 to 59.2. The temperature readings for Jefferson and Salem (on the Willamette) are not listed, but the Willamette River at Newberg varied from 75.6 to 76.8. Fish in the Santiam are not exposed to problems with bacteria, but fish in the Willamette may be this time of year. The South Santiam at Foster varied from 51.3 to 54.5 degrees.

If temperature alone was considered for choosing a location to fish, Fishermen’s Bend would be a perfect location some of the day. In the early morning, the water would be colder than ideal, but the afternoon would have a perfect level. The South Santiam also has an excellent temperature above Lebanon, but is warm below there.

On the North Santiam, and angler could choose warmer water in the lower river in the morning, and go upstream later in the day to fish within a temperature zone. Obviously, there are other factors involved in the fish bite, so it makes sense to balance the factors in choosing where to fish.

Even in cold water, salmon bite best either at sunrise and sunset or at the time of the waning of the moon. That relates to gravitational pull and barometric pressure. The moon wanes at different times of day, and there are many sources of information about the timing of that. Al Saul correlates this by looking at the tide table, and other people use the Solunagraph or look at the cycle in the newspaper or on the internet weather report. It is possible to get involved in more details than necessary to enjoy a great day’s fishing on the river. If you do want to understand the fish bite and the cycles, the details are available.

A driftboat sank in Lower Indian Rapids last Saturday. It got pinned against the large rocks in the middle of the rapids, and was wedged there until Sunday, when Cal Wade and the riverbank neighbors winched it out. Although there was a good sized dent from hitting the rock, the boat was in good shape. The boaters were going to camp on
Guides Island, and were fully loaded with camping and fishing gear, which was carried down the river. If you find some of the gear, call me for contact information about returning the flotsam or jetsam.

Lower Indian Rapids is a medium difficulty boulder patch with fast moving water. The safe channel is on the right side of the river, and the left side is too shallow. There are huge rocks in the middle of the river. The left side looks like an easier route from above, so a boater might start over there. It would become obvious shortly that the left side shallows out, and a boater would try to cut across to the right side. The big rocks would interfere with that. In low water conditions, many of the rapids require prior knowledge of the safe channels. Boaters need to know what is ahead so they can get the boat set up in the right place before they get into trouble.

Starting about a mile below Fishermen’s Bend, there are 4 rapids in a row that are significant. Cherry Creek, Upper Indian, Lower Indian, and DeWitt are all excellent pieces of whitewater. They can be exhilarating, and they can be fishy. They can also cause boating problems. There are outstanding fishing holes between the rapids, and Indian Bend (the location of the old waterwheel) is one of the best.

Good river neighbors are very much appreciated by anglers and boaters. Thanks to Cal and the Sitkum Lane residents for solving this problem. River users should appreciate the residents and act responsibly on the river. Cooperation is a wonderful thing, especially when you need it.

Steelhead and salmon are all over the North Santiam. All sections of the river have lots of big fish. Temperatures make for better angling above Stayton, and the fish bite changes throughout the day.

Steelheaders will have a fishing clinic and potluck barbecue at Minto Park on Wednesday, July 16 at Minto Park at 6:00 p.m. Dennis Richey will demonstrate bobber and jig fishing as well as showing us the latest materials for making jigs and spinners. He also will talk about some of the fish legislation that is current. The meeting will focus on fishing, talking about fishing, and having a good potluck.

With the lower river levels, even smaller lures, flies, and baits will work better.
Bill Sanderson

[ 07-16-2003, 06:58 AM: Message edited by: [email protected] ]
 

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Thanks for the info Bill. Was nice to meet you at Sportsmans Warehouse Sunday. Will keep in touch. Thanks again
 

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Thank you very much Bill. :bowdown: I've learned bunches with your message here :cool:
Refreshments on me :cheers:

[ 07-16-2003, 12:58 PM: Message edited by: Jet Drifter ]
 
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