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August 18, 2003

North Santiam River Report

River levels are fairly low and stable in the entire Santiam systems, and will remain so well into September. That’s good for being able to find the fish. There happen to be about 60 summer steelhead per mile between Stayton and Minto, so there are lots of good reasons to fish here. Water temperature has been varying between 48 and 50 degrees at Niagara, and that cold water is coming out of the bottom of the lake. For that reason, there is not much variance. At Mehama, the river has had a chance to absorb some sunshine and warmth, and the river temperature there has been between 50 and 60 degrees. Summer steelhead seem to bite best in the mid 50 degree range, and our best chance for success can vary according to the time of day and location.

Fishermen’s Bend is right in the middle of the temperature zone, and this is an excellent place to focus on fishing. Different times of day, however, will be better fishing upstream or downstream.

Many of the steelhead have already gone clear up to Minto and Packsaddle Parks. Those locations can be fished very well in the early evenings, when the water is the warmest and the fish are the most active. Early in the day, in the cold water, it takes a lot of wiggle or smell to activate the fish. Small lures will work best if they smell and wiggle.

Mehama to Stayton has little traffic now because of the low water and shallow passages. There are several places where large numbers of steelhead are laying in riffles (they are cooler and have more oxygen), just waiting for the seldom seen angler. Below the diversion dams at Stayton Island, there are several places where it is necessary to drag the boat through shallow gravel bars. A little hard work is needed in order to enjoy this drift.

Fishermen’s Bend to Mehama is excellent right now if the fish will bite. All of it can be run without dragging the boat, and there are steelhead in many of the classic drifts.

Packsaddle to Fishermen’s Bend has the most fish right now, but the water is still cold. There are a couple of difficult rapids and riffles with fast water and lots of rocks. It is a difficult boating run with cold water but lots of fish. The thrill of the whitewater is present for much of this run.

An interesting situation occurred last week in the Power Canal at Stayton. Significant work is being done there to improve fish passage in the main river channels, and lots of juvenile salmon were found in the Power Canal and workers transported them back to the main river. This situation will be corrected with the upcoming work, and it is good to know that many of the juveniles are rearing in this area. The number of Coho smolt was surprising, and they probably came from Stout Creek. Many of the side channels between Stayton and the Willamette are excellent habitat for juvenile steelhead and salmon.

The moon is waning, with the dark of the moon scheduled for August 27. Fishing could be very good here at that time, and the yearly cycle tells us that September will also be very good. Most anglers are over at the coast fishing for Fall Chinooks, and the solitude is especially enjoyable here.

The Oregon State Fair will have an excellent fishing exhibit, “Fish ‘n Fun”. Be sure to include this in your Fair plans. Many fishing clubs are participating, and special attention will be given to young prospective fishing enthusiasts.

Fishermen’s Bend has day use facilities, and they also have 3 cabins for rent in addition to the 40 camp spots. The park will be remodeling in October, but September will be a great time for fishing there.

Bill Sanderson
 

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Well, I read your report, and decided to hit Packsaddle Park this morning. The water was beautiful. I didn't get any steelhead, but like I do every year, I landed a nice springer right after it closed to salmon. It was about 20 pounds, almost chrome. :rolleyes: Oh, well. Patted it on the head and sent it on its way. It amazes me how softly something so big can take the lure. If I hadn't seen the take, I wouldn't have hooked it, as I didn't feel anything on the line.

happybrew
 
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