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October 6, 2003

North Santiam River Report

The North Santiam River is typically beautiful in October, and this year is not much different from other years in that regard. The Fall colors are approaching their prime, the river is crystal clear, and there are many steelhead and other critters swimming around. The river level is a little higher than summer levels, and the temperature is warmer because of the Detroit Lake situation. The higher water gives the fish extra room to hide, but the warmer water makes them more aggressive. It’s a trade, and it is important to fish different water now than in the summer. Small, heavy lures work well because the fish can see a long way in the clear water. With the extra volume, some weight will get the lure down to the fish, which are in somewhat deeper water than summertime.

The level of 2,000 cubic feet per second measured at Niagara corresponds to 3.6 feet on the Mehama gauge. That level is forecast to continue until the first of November, but heavy rain would increase that flow.

Steelheaders Salem Chapter will have their next meeting on Oct. 15 at 7:00 p.m. at the Salem Library, and the Friends of Rivers (FOR) will explain the history and policies of their group. This collection of individuals was instrumental in preventing passage of legislative bills 293 aand 928, which would have restricted public use of rivers. Although the individual efforts are responsible for defeating the bills, the group does have occasional meetings to provide more information to the members. It is interesting to observe such broad support with such little direction from the group. They may continue with primarily individual effort, but the group is really just starting out with a major emphasis on education. Several of the individuals communicate through the Westfly website, and many of them are simply interested in continued public use of public waterways. In addition to the presentation by FOR, upcoming events will be discussed. It is a good time to plan for Fall and Winter fishing trips. There are also many projects available for improving river habitats. Fishing clinics will be coming up in the Winter, and we will be planning for those.

North Santiam Watershed Council has the first meeting of the Fall on October 9 at 7:00 p.m. at the Stayton Community Center, right behind the Stayton Library. Many water quality monitoring projects are on-going, and we will get an update on summer activities. Interested guests are very welcome. Plans are being developed for the Snake Creek project, and this will be another very productive project for the Council with benefits for fish and wildlife as well as some flood control. This is a perfect example of how the Council can work with multiple agencies and private property owners to make substantial improvements.

Minto Park is closed for the month of October because of dangerous tree removal. That leaves Packsaddle Park as the premium spot on the river to find summer steelhead. Kimmel Park in Mill City, Fishermen’s Bend, North Santiam State Park, and Mehama are also good places.

Steelhead fishing is also very good on the South Santiam river from Foster down to Pleasant Valley Bridge. The river level is still quite low and the fish are fairly easy to find. Coastal river and bay fishing has been spotty, and big numbers of steelhead and salmon will come into the bays and lower rivers when the October rains start. The Columbia has had days of up to 49,000 salmon and steelhead swimming upriver. Big water fishing is a sport all of its own.

Salmon are still spawning on the North Santiam, and big trout are still hanging around the spawning beds providing lots of catch and release action on orange colored flies and lures. There is still nothing quite like a jumping steelhead fought on light tackle to test an angler’s skill, knowledge, tackle, and persistence. The North Santiam is certainly one of the best places in the State to tackle them.

Bill Sanderson
 
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