North Santiam River Report for September 12, 2012

North Santiam River Report

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.

Call or email Water­shed Coun­cil mem­ber, Bill Sander­son, for oppor­tu­ni­ties to get out on the river and enjoy the North San­tiam. Tele­phone: 503 897 3301 Email:

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