Umpqua a hot spot for winter steelhead

The area’s hottest fishing is for winter steelhead on the Umpqua River.

The most productive stretches on the mainstem Umpqua are from around Sawyers Rapids upriver — and the hottest technique seems to be backtrolling with diving plugs like Hotshots and Wee warts.

Some of the best areas are in the lower ends of pools, where the water starts picking up speed (tailouts), although other areas where water flow is the right speed will also produce — but the steelhead are usually more concentrated in the tailout areas — especially those that have long stretches of pool-holding water on each side of them.

Crabs die of hypoxia north of Siuslaw River

People walking the beach just north of the Siuslaw River at low tide last week reported that they encountered hundreds of dead and dying crabs on the beach. The dead crabs were both male and female — and most were large enough to be legal if they were males. There were enough dead crabs that the seagulls and other scavengers were temporarily overwhelmed.

A similar occurrence was reported in June.

The die-offs are attributed to hypoxic or low oxygen conditions and were very rare prior to 2002, since the hypoxic conditions in 2002 also killed long-lived sea creatures like starfish.

While hypoxic ocean conditions were a factor in the poor success of sport crabbers this year, a more serious problem might be a reduced crab population in future years — since these hypoxic-related die-offs have been appearing with increasing frequency over the last dozen years.

New fishing fee for Columbia

If you like to fish for salmon, steelhead or sturgeon on the Columbia River or any streams that ultimately empty into it and you haven’t bought your 2014 license and tags, prepare to pay a new additional fee.

The Columbia River Basin Endorsement, which costs $9.75, is part of Senate Bill 830, passed by the 2013 Legislature with support from a number of groups, including the Northwest Steelheaders.

The purpose of the endorsement is to help fund the transition of nontribal commercial gillnets out of the mainstem Columbia, freeing up additional salmon and steelhead for sport fishing.

Sales started Dec. 1 and the endorsement took effect Jan. 1.

The endorsement includes the Willamette and Santiam rivers and their tributaries. It does not include coastal streams.

The endorsement fee is expected to raise an estimated $1 million annually.

— From wire reports