OREGON’S FISHING AMBASSADOR
Oregon seems a dreamscape of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams that are perfectly suited to fishing adventures.
But sometimes, figuring out just where to go or how to catch the fish can be a challenge. That is, unless you have Oregon’s new “Fish Ambassador” on your side.
It’s true – Oregon has one!
Grant McOmie joins Oregon’s Fish Ambassador for a day on the water to learn more about tracking down Oregon’s best fishing spots.
The task of finding a place to try your angling luck has become a bit easier thanks to Travel Oregon’s new ‘Ask Oregon.”
Come on along as we meet an Oregon fishing guide whose piscatorial pursuits can teach you much about tracking down Oregon’s best fishing spots.
When it comes to building bridges along many of Oregon’s rivers, fishing guide David Johnson is one of the best.
He doesn’t use steel, iron or concrete to build bridges. Instead, Johnson relies on rods, reels and bait.
You see, David Johnson uses a lifetime of angling skill and knowledge to connect Oregon fishermen with the fish.
You could call Johnson, a fishing ambassador of sorts – Travel Oregon certainly does!
David Johnson is the new “Ask Oregon” fishing expert who can tell you where and what is red-hot-happening on Oregon rivers, streams and lakes.
Whether it’s Klamath River rainbows on a fly, Deschutes River summer steelhead on a lure or perhaps, a stringer of fat trout from a nearby lake or feisty coho salmon hooked on herring in the ocean, Johnson helps folks learn more about Oregon’s varied fishing opportunities.
He recently admitted that he learned some of his lessons the hard way: “When I started fishing, we chased fishing reports everywhere. ‘Oh, they caught ‘em at Sellwood, so off we chase the bite at Sellwood only to learn it was really at Oregon City. After a couple seasons of that, I learned that it’s far better to stick to one place, learn it well and let the knowledge pay off handsomely for you.”
On a recent gray-shaded drizzly day, two guests joined me aboard Johnson’s comfortable fishing boat on the Willamette River – John Canzano and Ryan Wolfe – and we cast baits and lures for spring salmon and steelhead on the river that runs through the heart of Oregon.
Local sports columnist, John Canzano is well known to thousands from his writing and his weekly appearances on KGW’s weekly program, “Sports Sunday.” Canzano is also the host of the daily “Bald Faced Truth” where he “stirs the sport’s pot” each afternoon on 750-AM The Game.
John offers stories; reports and observations that make you think and make you care – not just about sports – but about our community too.
You see, John and his wife, Anna Song-Canzano, developed and now manage the non-profit “Bald Faced Truth Foundation”. They raise money to support arts, education and athletics in our schools.
“It is near and dear to both of us…adults can look back to our school days and say, ‘extra-curricular activities were important, teachers were important, mentors were important.’ We all had people and activities that influenced our lives and so we create opportunities that foster that sort of thing. It’s especially important at a time when schools are struggling so we consider our Foundation a big win!”
Canzano’s partner was Portland business entrepreneur, Ryan Wolfe, and he couldn’t agree more. He actually won the fishing trip with Johnson by submitting the highest bid at a fund-raising auction. His generous donation supports the BFT Foundation.
It turned out the Ryan’s no stranger to fishing either. He’s been casting baits since a boy from Canada to Alaska. He started salmon fishing with his Dad and he remembers those times well:
“Oh yes, Dad and Grand-dad both took me wherever they traveled to fish. I definitely have fond memories of good lessons and excellent adventures with them. I keep those memories alive every time I cast into the water.”
David motored to a number of locations in the Oregon City stretch of the Willamette River where we “back-trolled” lures and baits of sand shrimp and salmon egg clusters.
Johnson said that heavy winter snow and spring rainstorms have delayed this season’s salmon run.
“The spring chinook swim through the Portland area beginning in March and peaks in early May, but the fish won’t spawn until September. So, they’re in no hurry get upstream. That means if the water is colder than normal, as it is this year, they trickle through while the main run really takes its time. If the water warms a few degrees, watch out! The salmon move faster.”
At a popular location – immediately under the Oregon City bridge – something moved really fast - after - it grabbed Canzano’s bait.
“There’s one,” shouted Johnson.
It was a ten-pound summer steelhead – and it’s silver sides glistened as it shot out of the river. It was fresh from the ocean and it looked more like a jet fighter – flying out of the water, cart wheeling end over end in mid air and then zig zagging across the strong river current.
“Now John, easy, easy – keep the tip up and hold on to the butt of the rod, coached the cool Johnson. “There you go! When the fish makes a run, let him go. Good job!”
After a ten-minute battle, Johnson smoothly and deftly slid the net under the silver-sided prize.
As the fish was lifted aboard there were two firsts for Canzano! He’d never caught a fish this big and he was speechless.
“Wow,” noted the astonished broadcaster. “So, that’s how you do it! I listened to my trusty guide and if he had said ‘jump in the river,’ I would have jumped in the river. I tried to be a good student and not mess it up and it sure paid off! That is the best fighting fish I’ve ever had on in my life.”
That was music to Johnson’s ears and exactly what Oregon’s Fish Ambassador hopes to hear from anglers who follow his advice.
“There are so many runs of salmon and steelhead in Oregon,” noted the longtime angler. “You could fish every single day and fish someplace different each time. We are rich in opportunities and there’s no other place
quite like it.”
CAMPING DELIGHTS AND DIZZYING HEIGHTS
Grant offers a wonderful backcountry byway along a river you may have missed for camping delights and hiking to dizzying heights.
On a clear day – even from a distance – Saddle Mountain steals the scene across the Oregon coast range: a distinct landmark that’s hard to deny!
It is even harder for hikers to resist on an Oregon State Park Trail that will steal your heart.
Shelley Parker, OPRD Ranger, said that Saddle Mountain is cherished for its wildflowers, hiking and spectacular views.
“It is something that must be experienced. It begins with a pretty steep climb but then it levels off as you experience a coastal rain forest with Sitka spruce and Doug fir trees. You see remarkable geological features with big rocky boulders and outcrops and you will see really amazing mosses and lichens that you won’t see anywhere else.”
Each step up Saddle Mountain’s two and a half mile long trail reveals a timeless place born of events that are 16 million years old.
The site dates to a time when a thick layer of Columbia River basalt flowed into the ocean from distant eastern Oregon.
Eventually, the ground rose and the mountain was born.
Today, the basalt breaks away in chunks – cracks, crevices and bands show off eons of geologic time.
The trail opens onto grassy meadows covered in a riot of wildflowers.
Although water is rare, cool springs seep and replenish a surprising number of plants with a distinct sound that also soothes the soul.
If time is on your side, you will be face to face with the namesake--the saddle and then the summit--bare double peaks that loom ahead
“The trail is a steep climb the last half mile,” noted Parker. It’s definitely not for anyone who’s afraid of heights! It’s quite rewarding when you get to the top because you made the climb but also you have a spectacular panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains.”
Each day’s view is different; in spring the ocean is often obscured.
As sixth highest point in the Oregon coast range, Saddle Mountain serves up drifting clouds so close you’ll feel as though you can reach out and touch them.”
That means it can be downright cool too! So dress warmly – in layers – and be sure you wear sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support for your climb and the descent back to the parking lot.
“It’s one of the gems of the Oregon coast for sure!” added Parker.
You may choose to make the park a longer stay at one of the ten primitive campsites. Each is perfect for a tent – no trailer space, although trailers are allowed in the parking area. But be aware that there are no hook ups for water or electricity.
Let Saddle Mountain State Park be but the start of your back road journey.
Next up - the nearby Lower Nehalem River Road is accessed at Elsie, Oregon.
A few short miles down the road you’ll meet Henry Rierson Spruce Run Park – a fine place to call it a day.
Assistant District Forester Ron Zilli said that the Oregon Dept of Forestry manages the campground: “Most times on the weekends you can still find a spot out here – you may not get a spot adjacent to the river, but there are 31 spots here and most times you can find a spot here.”
Spruce Run campsites (many are streamside) go for $10 a night and each is available on a first come-first serve basis; no reservations are accepted.
Four miles up the road you can get lost on purpose – with a rod and reel and a chance to catch fish at Lost lake
“Lost Lake is stocked by Oregon Fish and Wildlife and offers fishing for both bank anglers and canoe fishermen. It’s a shallow water lake but a good place close to highways and access and when you’re there, you feel miles away from anywhere.”
The Lower Nehalem River Road winds about as a dizzying affair with views of the Nehalem River and once back to straight-as an arrow State Highway 26.
Look for landmark “Camp 18,” popular rest spot known for it’s restaurant and these days - something new.
Mark Standley said that the Camp 18 Logger Memorial Museum is a place to remember those who gave their lives to Oregon logging.
A crowning museum centerpiece greets you at the entrance: a life-sized bronze of a hard working logger with actual logging equipment, even a full sized tree..
It’s a remarkably accurate work of art: the logger’s pants and sleeves cut short so not to hang up on limbs or brush – a firm grip on his working chainsaw with a falling axe within easy reach.
“It is just awesome,” noted Standley. “Most people walk in and find it so incredible as a way to keep those logging memories alive. It’s just a good thing.”
That’s what you’ll be saying about this backcountry byway – where the Nehalem River flows to the sea and the mountains soar to the sky – a stretch of Oregon that will keep you coming back for more.
TIP OF THE WEEK: MARYS PEAK
It’s the size of it all that steals the scene on a back road adventure that rises and winds for daylong getaway.
You’re on the trail to the mountain called Marys Peak; highest point on the Oregon Coast Range and it may just steal your heart along the way.
It is something special on a day when soggy skies clear and sun beams light up a scene that’s filled with so much vibrant color: from crimson paintbrush to brilliant blue larkspur or stunning yellow wallflowers.
Many wildflower species are at your side as you explore the lush meadows, dense Noble Fir forests and the many hiking trails that link all of it together.
In fact, more than twelve miles of trails criss-cross Marys Peak, nearly all of them connected to the spacious parking area where many folks begin their adventures.
The most popular trail is the mile-long Summit Trail that leads you up a moderate grade. Soon, you’re face to face with an amazing scene: a bird’s eye view of the grand Willamette Valley.
You easily spy the small town of Philomath – then the larger Corvallis, Oregon just beyond.
Even a hazy day cannot diminish the stunning size of the many Cascade Mountain peaks you can see: Rainer, St Helens, Adams, Hood, Jefferson and the Three Sisters are easily picked out against the eastern skyline.
While to the west, Newport’s beaches are often seen with the breaking surf line just 26 miles away.
It is a glorious view, no doubt about that – but all these high Cascade Mountain peaks may leave you wondering, what about the namesake: Marys Peak.
Well, who was Mary?
Some anecdotal stories suggest an Indian legend and linkage - for this place had been called a “house or home of spirits” by ancient peoples.
Other tales suggest a pioneer lineage a century old or longer when pioneers first settled the Oregon country. There is a nearby townsite of Marysville and a nearby Mary’s River, but the fact is no one really knows and so the history behind the naming of Marys Peak remains a mystery.
It’s no secret that the wildflower show draws a real crowd – not just of people, but swarms of butterflies seem to hove just above bloom top across the open meadows.
The fragile insects come in many sizes and colors, but keep an eye out for the larger Swallowtail Butterfly for it’s a favorite and hard to miss.
Nor is the summit of Marys Peak with its distinct array of metallic antennas for radio, cell phone and broadcast television transmissions.
Marys Peak stands tall at more than 4,100 feet and that makes the trees, the insects, flowers and grasses distinct – even rare for the Oregon Coast Range.
That alone makes the site worth a visit.
Perhaps you‘ll consider a longer stay. If you packed a tent, sleeping bag and food, nearby Marys Peak Campground’s secluded sites offer an affordable overnight stay.
At the least, do bring hiking boots and a camera on this getaway – they will provide you a comfortable and enjoyable way to savor Marys Peak: a unique mountain of dizzying heights and colorful delights.
SOARING OVER OREGON
Oregon by air is a marvel!
Our getaways have taken you to wonderful places that take the breath away: from a helicopter crossing the Cascades Mountains to a hot air balloon ride over wine country, or even a special delivery “trout drop” above a mountain pond.
Rather than imagine the many faces of Oregon from 4,000 feet up, why not try a unique airplane ride that offers peace, quiet and a thrilling experience.
It’s an aircraft minus a motor called a “sailplane” and they take off each week from the Willamette Valley Soaring Club to soar over Washington County.
Pilots agree that Oregon’s landscape provides spectacular and stunning points of view.
“It’s really peaceful and quiet up there,” said flight instructor Bruce Pearson.
Pearson is also the Flight Manager for the WVSC and added that the motor-less, highflying recreation is an addiction.
“It is a passion! Once you try it, you can’t live without it and it’s something anyone can do.”
The Willamette Valley Soaring Club has operated for more than fifty years near North Plains. It is the largest club in the country with over 200 members and a dozen planes in the club’s fleet.
WVSC offers anyone a chance to ride aboard a “perfectly good airplane that doesn’t have a motor:”
“Well, that just makes it safer,” chuckled Pearson. “Our planes don’t have engines so we’re always prepared to land at any given time. It’s the safest flying there is.”
Sailplanes were once made exclusively of wood, but aluminum and fiberglass and carbon fiber technology have made modern sailplanes incredibly light. When matched with the latest electronics, the planes can stay aloft for hours and cover hundreds of miles.
“It is all about flying efficiently and cutting through the air without disturbing it anymore than you have to,” said Pearson. “These days we fly higher, farther and stay up longer than ever before.”
15-year-old Holly Dotson got hooked on soaring after just one ride last July. Ever since then she has logged 36 flights and plans to become a licensed pilot this June.
“It’s a thrilling, once in a lifetime experience that I just had to do lots more,” said the young flier. “Some of my friends think I’m crazy, but others think it’s cool and ask, ‘When will you take me up?”
“Birds have been doing it for millions of years,” added Pearson with a laugh. “We do the same thing but with one handicap: we don’t flap our wings.”
Dotson is the student and Pearson is her instructor and the two meet two or three times each week to review her bookwork and prep for the next flight.
“Anyone can start learning to fly a sailplane,” said Pearson. “You can qualify to solo when 14 and it is rare that someone cannot learn how to do this.”
Holly’s parents, Sean and Shannon Dotson, agreed that once their daughter’s path was set after she took her first flight:
It’s a minimum of two hours a day of studying the books,” noted her Mom. ”So she’s given up a lot and really sacrificed time with her friends, soccer and things like that because she’s constantly studying – but she loves it.”
“She’s grown in confidence too,” added her Dad. “She needs to take command of a plane and needs that confidence and ability to be in control at all times.”
As the tow plane rises to 4,000 feet, Holly said that the best flying time is after the towline’s released and she’s on her own, soaring with nature’s wind and updrafts called “thermals.”
She added that the experience is “quiet and breath-taking,” but she remains alert at all times:
“You have to watch everything - other planes and birds – and you have to find the thermals just like a bird does. That’s where the hot air rises from the ground to give the plane more lift. Thermals allow you to stay up longer and travel further; sometimes hundreds of miles in a day. It’s so much fun and anyone can go – come on out and try!”
WVSC participates in the Soaring Society of America's Fly A Sailplane Today program.
Additional Oregon glider ride opportunities include Cascade Soaring and Northwest Sky Sports.
WHISKEY CREEK SALMON HATCHERY
If there’s a more exciting fishing moment than hooking and fighting a chrome bright chinook salmon fresh from the sea, I surely don’t know what it could be.
That’s especially true on Tillamook Bay where an early morning May flood tides brings a rush of spring chinook – fresh from the ocean – in a rush up the estuary where anglers wait – with baited lines.
The fish are special and what many call Oregon’s ‘premier’ salmon. The salmon are prized for their high oil content and rich, buttery taste.
In Tillamook County, a dedicated group of Oregonians recently rolled up their sleeves to join a labor of love at Netarts Bay.
On a recent Saturday morning, over 400 volunteers showed huge heart and commitment to help Oregon’s all volunteer fish hatchery called “Whiskey Creek.”
Located in southern Tillamook County and hugging the shoreline at Netarts Bay, the Whiskey Creek Salmon Hatchery raises more than a quarter million Spring and Fall Chinook salmon each year.
“We’re all volunteer and always have been and always will be,” noted Jerry Dove, a longtime hatchery supporter who has been at the helm of the operation since it began in 1987.
The Tillamook Anglers Association has owned and managed the hatchery since the late 1980’s. Memberships and donations keep the operation afloat while the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife supplies the fish.
“It’s a great partnership!” said ODFW Biologist Rick Klumph. “We provide the technical oversight and they do all the physical manpower of raising the fish. It’s a productive partnership with our agency.”
Each spring, Dove guides hundreds of people who roll up their sleeves, put on gloves and carefully grab a fistful of slippery, wiggly baby salmon.
They must carefully clip the adipose fin from each of 105,000 spring salmon.
The fin clip distinguishes the fish so anglers can tell the difference between hatchery and wild salmon.
“The fish are asleep! Each one of them rests in an anesthetic bath before we clip the adipose. The scissor clip is quick and easy,” added Dove.
The adipose fin is a small half moon shaped fin that’s just behind the dorsal fin and just in front of the tail fin. It’s a fin that the fish doesn’t need to survive.
“There’s a lot of mentoring and we try to hook up a newcomer with a veteran,” added Klumph. “It’s not difficult but there’s a definitely a technique to it.”
Volunteer Alvin Saul has been helping the Whiskey Creek Hatchery from the start and he said he likes the chance to catch up with longtime friends who feel like they’re making a difference for other anglers.
“They need the support and if I stayed home and nobody showed up, we’d end up with thousands of fish that wouldn’t get clipped. So, we make a difference.”
Whiskey Creek Hatchery is two miles from one of Oregon’s finest parklands: Cape Lookout State Park, where there is always something new to do.
You may enjoy a beachside stroll or an overnight campout in a yurt or take a hike to the end of Cape Lookout where – this time of year - the gray whale migration north to the Bering Sea is at its peak.
“We are a tourist attraction,” said Dove. “We’re so close to so many activities and we draw more that 125,000 visitors each year.”
“It gives folks a good feeling to lend a hand to the hatchery operation,” added Klumph. “Plus, in a couple of years they can go out and try to catch an adult salmon from Tillamook Bay, so it’s a great program all the way around.”
Whiskey Creek Hatchery is on Netarts Bay. Drive to Tillamook and follow the signs to Cape Lookout State Park. The hatchery is two miles north of the park. More information is available from Jerry Dove at 503-812-1572.