Deschutes is in fishable shape

Deschutes is in fishable shape

Hello angling friends! I hope you all had a nice holiday season and that you are looking forward to the new year – which certainly has to be better than the dumpster fire that was 2021. We survived the steelhead closures of both the Deschutes and the John Day Rivers – our main source of income for our guide business. Never have we seen Maupin so quiet in the fall. The last-minute decision to shut down guides and outfitters (with just a few days notice), was a severe blow not only to the those who work on the river, but also to all the businesses in this small town that visiting anglers support. Shuttle drivers watched their income evaporate, hotels and motels faced the same onslaught of cancellations that we did, the restaurants and bars felt the absence of the fishermen, as did the campgrounds and our city park. It would be difficult to find a business in Maupin that wasn’t harmed by the steelhead closure.

Angling for and retention of steelhead remains CLOSED for all sections of the Deschutes and John Day rivers through May of 2022. This is really important for anglers to understand since the regulations booklet for 2022 says that the river is open year-round for steelhead. I had to dig deep in the website in order to find this update for 2022:

Regulation updates as of Dec. 22, 2021

Please see e-regulations for permanent regulations.

Deschutes River (Central Zone)

Mouth to Moody Rapids - Includes the Deschutes River mouth at the westbound Interstate 84 Bridge upstream to the marker at the lower end of Moody Rapids.

  • All angling is closed through December 31.

Mouth at westbound I-84 bridge upstream to the Pelton Dam regulating reservoir:

  • Closed to all angling for and retention of steelhead from Jan. 1 to May 31, 2022.
  • All other permanent rules for the Central Zone, as stated in the 2022 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations, remain in effect.

Under fishing/recreation reports for the central zone you will find this:

DESCHUTES RIVER, mouth to Pelton Dam: redband trout, whitefish        

Emergency steelhead angling and retention closures on the Deschutes River have been extended into 2022:

Steelhead fishing and retention is closed from the mouth at the westbound I-84 bridge upstream to the Pelton Regulating Reservoir through May 31, 2022. Trout fishing and retention is open under permanent rule.

Angling for all species is closed from the Northern Boundary of the Warm Springs Reservation upstream to the Pelton Regulating Reservoir from Jan. 1– April 21 under permanent rule. Last updated 1/5/22.

Under fishing/recreation report for the Northeast zone you will find info for the John Day River:

Regulation updates as of Dec. 22, 2021

These are in-season regulation changes adopted on a temporary or emergency basis. Please see e-regulations for permanent regulations. 

Steelhead Regulations

John Day Basin

In the John Day Basin, including all tributaries:

  • Effective Jan. 1 through May 31 are closed to angling for steelhead.
  • Effective April 1 through May 21 from the Mainline Railroad Bridge upstream to the North Fork John Day is open to angling for bass only.

In the Mainstem John Day River (downstream of Tumwater Falls):

  • September 1 – December 31: closed to steelhead retention
  • September 1 – December 31: In the John Day River and tributaries (upstream of Tumwater Falls) angling for and retention of steelhead is closed.

The good news is that the trout fishing is open year-round here in the Maupin area and the river typically stays in fishable shape throughout the winter, even when rivers around the state are flooded.

Speaking of high water and floods – we got a lot of snow and rain over the past three days. The temps warmed up today and the melt off is significant. The river is not in flood stage by any means and it is still quite fishable, but the runoff from tributaries all along the Deschutes (many of which are bone dry 364 days of the year) is causing the Deschutes to be off-color but it is not high yet. The White River is actually cleaner than the Deschutes, so the color is coming out of a bunch of those creeks that come into the Deschutes from both the east and west sides of the river south of Maupin.

Fishing conditions are going to range from marginal to poor over the weekend – due to the high water and murky conditions. If you are out here anyway and you want to fish, find a fly in your fly box that is bright red or orange in order to give the trout a better chance of seeing it. We sell a bunch of Euro nymphs with heavy orange tungsten beads, which tend to produce all winter. SJW’s (San Juan Worms) are also a go-to when the water is dirty and high. Squirmy worms, as popular as the pattern may be, are considered bait in Oregon and are, therefore, illegal to fish on the Deschutes and other rivers that prohibit bait fishing. Don’t believe me? Look up the definition of bait in the regulations.

Bait: Any item used to attract fish that is not an artificial fly, lure, or attractor. Molded soft plastic or rubber imitations of worms, eggs, insects, bait fish, crayfish, etc. are considered baits. Scent is not considered bait.

So, you just need to escape the madness of the city and you want something to do for the weekend? The Deschutes is lovely this time of year.  Everywhere you look there are little streams flowing into the Deschutes from the hillsides. You know those places along the river where a dark stain indicates that a seasonal waterfall occurs there? Those are happening right now. It would be a great time to take a drive along the river for no other reason than to see water flowing where it rarely flows. Bring a camera, bring binoculars to spot wildlife or to birdwatch, and enjoy having the river to yourself. Bald eagles have been hanging around, as have a lot of waterfowl who use the Deschutes in the winter.

It will be important to do most of your activities along the river on some sort of heavily used graveled or paved area. Walking around off-road, chukar hunting, hiking, mountain biking etc. are going to be next to impossible until the ground firms up. For those of you who do not live out in the desert, and or those who have not experienced what happens to the earth when it is completely saturated, please head these words of advice: DO NOT attempt to drive your vehicle off road. The desert may be firm and wonderful for 4 x 4 action in the summer and fall, but in the wet winter and spring the clay soils around here are like GUMBO. Not only can you easily sink to your doors by driving off-road, but you will certainly have a heck of a time trying to drive on non-graveled roads. Your tires will sink a little bit into the earth and will start to collect layer after layer of clay, essentially creating slick tires with zero tread and zero traction. It is very messy.

Our shop will continue to be closed on Sundays through the winter. Traffic is light to non-existent through the week, but our loyal customers keep us busy with web orders. All those flies, all that fly tying material, and everything else we have in the shop is on our new website, which we launched about 9 months ago. Despite some gaps in our inventory due to nationwide shortages and supply chain interruptions, we still have a lot of goodies available for all you fly anglers out there. If we don’t have an item, we are happy to suggest reasonable substitutions or we can do some research to let you know when your specific item is going to come back into stock.

Let’s hope that 2022 is better than 2021. We would all like things to get back to normal. I miss travel!!

1 comment

  • Looks like ODFW is as lousy at writing regulation books as California Fish and Game.

    james g vogel

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