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Trout opener a high-low affair.

Byline: Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

The road to the highest chances for success on opening day of trout season Saturday runs to waters at the lower elevations.

In the Cascade Mountains, lingering heavy snows - and, in some cases, ice-covered lakes - reduce the likelihood of success, or of even being able to fish, for that matter.

"There's only a 50 percent chance we're going to be open," Pat Schatz, owner of Crane Prairie Resort, said Monday. "And if we are open, parking's going to be limited. It's not a good deal."

Most other waterways along the Cascade Lakes Highway are also not expected to be open Saturday - with the exception of North and South Twin lakes and Wickiup Reservoir (via the Gull Point boat ramp).

Lava Lake will be closed and Cultus Lake "probably won't be open until May 15," Deschutes County roadmaster Roger Olson said Monday. "You can drive around and look at a lot of these lakes, but there's no open water or boat ramps."

As for getting into East and Paulina lakes in Newberry Crater, Olson said, "There's no way!"

Meanwhile, Diamond Lake east of Roseburg won't be stocked with trout until the ice comes off sometime in mid-May, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced last week.

Would-be ice fishermen should avoid Diamond Lake, district ranger John Ouimet said.

"Right now the ice is unstable and cracking, so it's very dangerous, and we advise the public to keep off," he said.

Resorts at the east and west ends of Odell Lake say their boat ramps will be open. With 70 inches of roadside snow reported at nearby Willamette Pass, however, it's unlikely Odell Lake's Forest Service campgrounds and boat ramps will be accessible.

Meanwhile, fishing should be good at lower-elevation lakes and rivers - especially if forecasts of milder weather this week prove accurate.

"If we get some nice weather the week before opening day, it'll be good fishing" on the popular McKenzie River, said district fish biologist Jeff Ziller of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"If we have a cold storm come in and the water temperature goes down, fishing might be pretty tough," he said.

For anglers without boats, streams such as Salmon Creek, Blue River, Fall Creek and the Middle Fork Willamette River at Oakridge provide good opportunities for bank angling and wading. All will be stocked this week.

One positive factor for anglers this season is that production of hatchery trout is expected to be at or above normal, following several years in which losses to disease forced much juggling of stocking schedules, and some reductions in the numbers of fish released.

"As far as we know at this point, we're on schedule for normal releases this year," Ziller said. "We are in much better shape than we have been the last few years."

The improvement, he said, results from switching some production of rainbow trout from Leaburg Hatchery, where an outbreak of the fish virus IHN in 2002 created ongoing problems, to Willamette Hatchery in Oakridge.

About 10,000 rainbow trout with clipped adipose fins will be released this week in the McKenzie River between Leaburg Dam and Blue River. Of those, 3,000 will go into Leaburg Lake, the impoundment behind the dam.

The river below the dam will not be stocked with trout until later this month, to give out-migrating steelhead smolts a chance to move downriver before angling pressure increases.

Only fin-clipped trout may be harvested from the main stem McKenzie. That regulation is intended to protect native rainbow, cutthroat and bull trout.

Ziller said state and federal biologists are concerned that "the number of bull trout spawning in the McKenzie system has decreased over the last three or four years, and we don't know why."

Illegal harvests are suspected to be the primary cause, he said, "so we're trying to develop ways of increasing awareness of bull trout. We'd like anglers to be aware that harvesting a single bull trout can have a huge effect on the spawning population. These fish are repeat spawners and by harvesting a single bull trout you may be taking 12,000 to 16,000 eggs out of a very small population."

Tips on how to identify bull trout are published on Page 54 of the 2006 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations.

While Saturday marks the start of what is generally referred to as the statewide trout season, most coastal rivers and streams remain closed to trout fishing until May 27.

The opening of those waters is delayed to protect juvenile salmon and steelhead that are in the process of migrating to the Pacific Ocean.

However, coastal anglers will have plenty of opportunities to fish for trout this week - Mercer, Munsel, Siltcoos, Erhart and Loon lakes are among those scheduled to be stocked.

FISHIN' HOLES: SOME LIKELY HOT, OTHERS PROBABLY NOT

Here's a rundown on where the fishing is likely to be hot, and where it's not, when the general trout season opens Saturday. The "catch-and-keep" season will run through Oct. 31. Remember, most Coast Range streams do not open to angling until late May, and in some rivers only fin-clipped trout may be harvested. For details, see the 2006 Oregon Sportfishing Regulations, available at sporting goods stores.

Probably hot: UPPER McKENZIE RIVER - The McKenzie between Blue River and the head of Leaburg Lake will be stocked with 7,000 fin-clipped rainbow trout (anglers must release all non-fin-clipped trout in the main stem McKenzie).

Probably not: LOWER McKENZIE RIVER - To protect summer steelhead smolts that migrate to the Pacific Ocean during April and early May, the McKenzie below Leaburg Dam will not be stocked with hatchery trout until the last week of April.

Hot: LEABURG LAKE - About 3,000 hatchery rainbow trout will be released in the lake formed by Leaburg Dam. The lake provides good fishing opportunities for bank anglers as well as those in small boats.

Not: DIAMOND LAKE - It is covered by ice and surrounded by snow, so the scheduled stocking of 20,000 rainbow trout for the spring trout opener at Diamond Lake likely will be delayed until the ice melts in mid-May, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced last week.

Hot: EASTERN LANE STREAMS - Salmon Creek above Oakridge will be stocked with 2,000 trout, as will Fall Creek near Lowell. Blue River above the reservoir and the Coast Fork Willamette River at Cottage Grove will each be stocked with 1,500 fish for opening day. Also, the canoe canal running through Alton Baker Park will be stocked with 2,400 trout for opening day.

Not: WESTERN LANE STREAMS - The Siuslaw River, Lake Creek and most other waterways flowing out of the Coast Range do not open to angling until May 27.

Hot: WILLAMETTE BASIN RESERVOIRS - Blue River, Cottage Grove and Dexter are open to year-round angling, but each will be stocked with several thousand rainbow trout before Saturday. Also scheduled to be stocked this week are Clear Lake (with 4,500 trout) and Junction City Pond (3,350 fish).

Not: HIGH CASCADE LAKES - Although the fishing is sometimes quite good right after ice-off, snow and ice will make fishing difficult, if not impossible, at most waters accessed via the Cascade Lakes Highway. The only lakes that will be open for sure are North and South Twin lakes and Wickiup Reservoir.

- Oregon Department Fish and Wildlife; Register-Guard research.

CAPTION(S):

Anthony Vasquez, 11, takes cover from the cold and rain in Alton Baker Park while angling for trout during a youth fishing event Saturday.
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Title Annotation:Recreation; Snow, ice will concentrate opening day angling activity at lower elevations
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 18, 2006
Words:1259
Previous Article:Peacefully pedaling the prairie.
Next Article:OUTDOORS BRIEFLY.


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