If A River Runs Thru It By Gary Lewis

If A River Runs Thru It By Gary Lewis

If the days spent fishing do not count against our allotted time on this earth, as we have been told, then we should fish more often. Because we spend a lot of our time in towns, we should be fishing in towns. It's more efficient.

When the family wanted to go to Disneyworld, I fished. When we went to Hawaii, I dabbled a line in a king's bathing pool. I have fished off hotel balconies and out the windows of cars all over the country. 

There are a lot of great fishing towns in Oregon; Shady Cove, Maupin, and Grass Pants, to name a few. If a river runs through it, it's a fishing town. 

Portland is, of course, the ultimate fishing town, with the Willamette running right through it and salmon, sturgeon, shad, and smallmouth on tap. One of the best smallmouth of my life came from under the Sellwood Bridge.  

What I like is going to a town and catching fish right out from under the noses of the local anglers. Here are some great fishing opportunities coming up in May and June. 




One of the best fisheries in May and June is for shad - on the Umpqua, the Columbia, and the Willamette. American shad were introduced to the American west in 1871 when fish were released in major rivers up and down the Pacific coast. Today, millions of shad return to spawn in the spring. Plankton eaters, our American shad is the biggest of the herring species and averages three to five pounds. They bite and fight with abandon. 

One great place to catch them is below the falls on the Willamette at Oregon City. 

They take small spoons like Dick Nites and Mack's Lure Sonic Baitfish, and red, yellow, or chartreuse jigs. Fly-rodders can get them on small shad flies and darts. They are a blast to catch. 

The action starts in May, right about the time the pink dogwood blooms. A fisherman can have 50-plus fish days in June, and contrary to popular opinion, shad are good to eat. Hint: learn how to debone them. Shad roe is good to eat too. Fast fishing continues through mid-July. 


Smallmouth bass will probably spawn a bit later this year, as the waters are running cold with snow melt, but June is always great for smallies. When the water is running fast, they are likely to be in the eddies along the rip-rapped banks of the Columbia, from Mosier up to Boardman and beyond. 

There is a lot of bank access in this section of the river. Some of it requires parking off the highway. Backwater fisheries are an overlooked resource with bass and panfish. 



When towing a boat to the Columbia for the first time, keep in mind this is big, tricky water with heavy currents. That said, the river is accessible and the best fishing is along the banks next to the riprap and around jetties in softer water.

If the wind is blowing, there are always backwaters, side channels, and turns in the river where an angler can get out of the wind. 

Another option is trout fishing. Taylor Lake, right on the edge of city limits of The Dalles, has been stocked three times already this spring. 


A few miles north of Eugene on old Highway 99, the angler has to start slowing down at the edge of city limits at Junction City. This town with a population of 6,700 people has its own eponymous body of water, the 8-acre Junction City Pond. Stocked and fishable year-round, this pond gets legals, trophies, brood stock, and sometimes surprise surplus steelhead that will rock your world. By the time this issue went to press, JC Pond, as the locals know it, had been blessed with a reported 13,450 legals. That's a lot of fish, folks. It's worth a stop along the highway to soak some bait or cast a fly or spinner this spring. 



I caught my first pikeminnow across from the Portland airport. We caught a lot of them in those days, toothy critters that averaged 11 inches and ran up to 17 inches or so. 

Northern pikeminnow thrive in the tailwaters below the dams and eat tons of baby salmon and steelhead. And for this, they have a bounty on their heads. 

For a true city fishing experience, register at the check-in station early in the morning at M. James Gleason Boat Ramp on Marine Drive, then prowl upriver and downriver for northern pikeminnow - nightcrawlers are a good bait - and take your fish to the check-out station at the end of the day. Click on http://www.pikeminnow.org/ for more information. A fisherman can make $6 a fish these days. 



Think about making this one a last stop on a spring fishing swing through western Oregon. It's not a bad way to cover some fuel expenses and do something for salmon and steelhead at the same time. 

The days spent fishing don't count against your life, but the miles on the truck do go against my wallet. 

For me, PDX is a 360-mile round trip. According to my calculations, I'll need to catch 11 pikeminnow to break even on the fuel. Once I catch fish number 12, I'm making a profit!  

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