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September 1, 2003

North Santiam River Report

River levels are predicted to be very good for steelhead and trout fishing (at about 1500 cubic feet per second flow at Niagara) until September 18, and then it will still be fishable (at a good level around 1800 cfs) until the end of October. Halloween is an appropriate time to earnestly drain Detroit Lake for flood control, and flows will probably be between 2 and 3,000 cfs in November.

Salmon spawning has started, and there will be thousands of Chinooks laying their eggs in September and October. Comparatively few have already started, and the masses of salmon spawn in mid September.

Fall caddis bugs (orange, with a 2 or 3 inch wingspan) have started to hatch, and the color of choice for both steelhead and trout is orange. Pink, black, purple, blue, green, and copper all work, but more activity occurs with orange at this time of year.

Water temperatures are warming up to the low and mid 50’s in the mornings around Packsaddle and Minto Parks. Summer steelhead will bite in this condition. By the time the river gets to Fishermen’s Bend, Mehama, and Stayton, it has warmed up quite a bit more. Fishermen’s Bend has many hours (actually most of the day) of ideal temperature. Mehama is very good until late afternoon, when the water is warm enough to cause the fish to be somewhat dormant. Stayton Island has good temperatures in the mornings only, and the river is shallow enough there to cause the steelhead to move upstream in search of better conditions.

The Little North Fork is at a very low and warm level. Swimming is more popular than fishing in the lower sections, and that will continue until the rains start later this month. There is s special run of Fall steelhead that return to the Little North Fork in September, October, and November, and they are not able to negotiate the very shallow river. The run is not huge, but those fresh steelhead are traveling up the Willamette and lower Santiams about now, and they will live in the North Santiam below the confluence of the Little River until the rains start. Mehama and Stayton anglers receive pleasant surprises occasionally from these hyper active fish.

South Santiam conditions are also very good with plenty of summer steelhead and good water temperature some of the day. Bays and estuaries over at the coast are active with Fall Chinook. Some exciting fish stories are happening around Bouy 10, Nehalem Bay, Tillamook Bay, and other traditional fisheries. Obviously, Nestucca, Alsea, and Siletz Bays are getting some new fish. There is a lot of talk about “Up River Brights” in the Columbia, and they stay in the cooler water at the mouths of tributaries like the Cowlitz, Deschutes, and many others.

Fall is an especially good time of year for steelhead and salmon fishing. Some of it is here on the North Santiam.

Bill Sanderson
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