g. loomis, powerpro, shimano fishing

Temperature changes Oregon City Springer tactics

I think we were all yearning for the nice weather we’ve had for the last ten days or so.  The brutal weather months of March and April had even the most hardened Northwesterners craving something more than the pill form of vitamin D.  No doubt, fishermen everywhere were asking for a little more heat as water temperatures were still hovering around the 49 degree mark on the 7th of May.

So I guess this is where the “be careful what you pray for” line comes out.

Salmon tend to bite best and provide anglers the greatest range of presentation options between 50 and 56 degrees.  The egg bite fires up, herring and prawns are working and even hardware can become interesting.  It’s a narrow range, but many rivers and fisheries regularly have these conditions.  Last year, temperatures ran in this range for about a month or more in the Oregon City area.  In the end, it gave fishermen below the falls one of the most drawn out Spring Chinook seasons in memory.

The 2012 season is going to be hard pressed, at this point, to offer anything of the sort this year as water temperatures have touched the 60 degree mark in Oregon City.  The warming water sent egg fishermen throughout the area scrambling for solutions to their cures and looking for answers to catch some of the thousands of Springers still to come.  A degree or two can change the game dramatically and we saw it first had this week.

In the graph below, 15.5 celcius is about 60 degrees farenheit.  Since the onset of decent weather, you can see that it doesn’t take long to really change fishing conditions.

willamette river water temperature

Hope exists for temperatures to fall back into range next week as air temperatures are forecast to drop and rain is slated to show up as well.  But what can fishermen do to capitalize on the conditions as they are?

As of mid week, it was obvious that the guys fishing hardware and prawns were doing the bulk of the damage.  Prawns tend to hold up a little better to the trash fish bite as our little sculpin friends become a lot more active.  The anchor boats, although not red hot by any means, were putting a few fish in the boat on prawn spinners, but it was pretty clear to me that the hardware was quickly becoming more of a first choice.

It will be interesting to see what happens over the course of the next week as cooler temperatures show up.  Temperatures could go back and forth for the next couple weeks offering an opportunity for an egg bite one day and a hardware show the next.  My wishful thinking would love to see temps drop 5 degrees next week, but if it doesn’t, I’ll be ready with a hardware assortment to enable my boat to continue to catch fish.


Lance Fisher is a Willamette River Fishing Guide and host of The NW Outdoor Show in Portland, Oregon.