Watching salmon spawn is not necessarily voyeurism. Scientifically, it is an interesting process and if we understand it we are able to help the salmon be more successful with their reproduction and also to be more successful with our fishing techniques. Some of the salmon started spawning the last week of August and the first few days of September, but the fish did not stay in the spawning beds during the day. On September 4, the salmon were living on the beds and were visible all day. At first, we would see 50 per day actually spawning, and a few days later there would be several hundred and by September 12 there were close to a thousand spawning in the 16 miles between Packsaddle and Mehama. Many trout and steelhead were positioned just below the redds so they could feed on the overflow spawn. Turkey buzzards increased in number along the riverbanks.
Fall colors are just starting to come out. Daily, leaves are turning yellow, brown, pink, rose, and red. With the conifer trees keeping their green needles, the contrasts are dramatic. Some of the grass along the riverbanks has turned brown, but where there are springs and moisture, the grass is still green. This is truly a beautiful time of year to take pictures because of the variety of colors in the landscape.
Steelhead fishing is usually the best of the year in September, and this year the fishing has been spotty, partially because of the work project at Minto Dam, the fish trap just upstream from Packsaddle. There is a lot of debris in the river from the construction project, but river temperatures have been favorable. The fish continue to go downstream several miles most days in order to get in warmer water, and then they come back upstream in order to get in colder water, depending on the time of day and other variables.
There have been small schools of steelhead laying in specific drifts on most recent trips. Sometime they bite, and sometimes they do not. However, we know where they are. Timing is critically important, and lure selection and other unknown variables come into play. Most of the steelhead are two or three feet long, and the average size is about 9 pounds. They fight like crazy when we hook them.
Six or eight large truck tires were thrown in the river, and they were carried by high water into lifejacket eddy half a mile below the Gates Bridge. Bob Lusk, Adam Ball, and I picked the tires out of the river and put them on the river bank so they can be hauled off from the shore. Surprisingly, there were juvenile lamprey eels growing in the mud inside the tires in the quiet water on the bottom of the slough.
North Santiam River flow at Packsaddle is predicted to be about 1,600 cubic feet per second for the next week or two, or until we get some measurable rainfall. That flow makes the river depth at Mehama about 3 ½ feet. Very little water is coming down Mad Creek, Rock Creek, Little North Fork, and Stout Creek. All the low snow has melted but the occasional rains we had have added a little run-off.
- Steelheaders Salem Chapter will have a clean-up project at Minto Park in September or October. The August function had to be rescheduled. New club officers for the Steelheaders need to reorganize many affairs. New President Jim Zelenka will be busy with the new activities and several board positions need to have new officers. Please consider helping with club activities. The next meeting is at 7:00 p.m. at Keizer Community Center on Tuesday, September 18.
- North Santiam River Guides Association will meet on September 26 at 6:00 p.m. at Neufeldt’s Diner in Aumsville. The program has not been announced yet, but there are many current river and fishing activities to talk about. Bob Lusk can provide more information at 503 859 2880.
Scenic raft trips are especially enjoyable on the warm and dry days this time of year. We know the rainy season is approaching, and we can appreciate the best scenery and fishing of the year. Late September and October have many dry and delightful days, but we also get some rain. Planning is very important and needs to be somewhat flexible.