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Learn How to Use Online Resources to Catch More Fish

Photo of Marc Van Gorden by Author

Using your online resources can greatly improve your luck on the water this season.

I often see a lot of anglers asking questions about specifics on particular rivers in forums and Facebook groups that are met with more criticism than answers. Keeping those details on the down low from thousands of random strangers on the internet is a standard code of outdoor ethics. There’s a lot of research that goes into finding out what conditions are ideal for each fishery.

When someone puts all that time into studying the water, it’s a nuisance when people can’t keep their eyes on their own paper. Don’t be that guy. Do your homework, find a study buddy and trade reports. There is an infinite amount of scientific information available to help you develop your own formula to create a productive day of fishing. Here’s a few common “dumb” questions answered:

“Are there any fish showing up in Notellum Creek yet?”

Is the creek a tributary to a larger river? Is that river dammed? Is there a fish passage where they are counted individually? If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then the first place you should look is at the fish counts page of your state’s Fish and Wildlife Department website. These websites also often include additional information like regularly updated predictions, fishing reports and stocking schedules.

Many hatcheries will often have a hotline where you can call and hear a recording that explains how many fish showed up in their trap, how many of those were recycled downstream and on what specific date. These monthly records are available annually, and you can even compare trends of the return numbers to predict which seasons will be more productive. These resources are made available and maintained through the funding generated from fishing license sales. In a sense, you’re already paying for these resources, so you should be getting your money’s worth out of them.

FishCounts
Courtesy of ODFW

Oregon fish passage counts can be found here. Oregon recreation reports can be found here. Oregon stocking schedules can be found here. Washington fish passage, stocking reports, hatchery escapement, harvest reports, forecasts and creel reports can be found here.

“Is the water blown out in the upper Nunya?”

First, it’s important to realize that “blown out” is subjective. This is where science and opinion tend to clash with each other. The clarity and coloration of the water can vary by description and be left open to interpretation. However, there are resources available to read the water levels on particular rivers, the flow of cubic feet per second and predicted events in these systems based on a formula of existing data.

This recorded data and predictions in the form of a visual aid is known as a hydrograph. I like to think of these charts as a wave that fish surf in on, while I’ve heard it compared to a treadmill. The more incline, the slower the fish will move, staying out of the main channels and hanging closer to the bank. As the water drops, they will gradually move higher into the system, until the water is low again and then they will hold in deeper areas.

Generally, when looking at this data, a peak or “crest” in the graph is ideally what turns a corner for water clarity. Depending on the size of the event, once the crest shows in the recorded data, that’s when the river will continue to fall and flush out silt and debris. Each system is different, and the two graphs I typically go by are from NOAA and USGS. One chart shows a longer period of predictions, while the other shows a longer period of recorded data. The predictions are not at all completely accurate, but they are much better than guessing, cheaper and less time consuming than driving to the river and looking at the water.

unknown water level
Allow the river to drop significantly after it crests to begin clearing up. This graph courtesy of NOAA.

You can learn more about reading hydrographs here.  Find river levels on the NOAA website here. Find river levels on the USGS website here.

“Is anybody catching fish out of the Wishyanu?”

Your best bet at retrieving this kind of information is to simply get out there, get a line in the water and observe. If you’re near a hatchery, stop and talk to the workers. They are there day in and day out, sometimes doing creel checks and posting bulletins of fish caught in the trap. You can often get information from them faster than it’s posted online. If you want to make some new friends on the water, bring a net, or help other anglers tail their fish up on the bank.

You’ll be able to see right away what they were fishing with, what depth, what color, what pattern, so on and so fourth. Most of the time, they’ll just be happy to have harvested a fish, and they’ll volunteer plenty of information about what line they were drifting and how they caught it. If you hang around long enough to help them land their limit, you’ll likely be the first to swoop in on their honey hole before the day is over, or at least know what rock to fish behind when they aren’t out there.

Making contacts on the water to share information with pays off in the long run for both parties. Maybe you have different work schedules and fish on different days. Keep in touch by volunteering reports. Most folks are obliged to reciprocate. Who knows, maybe in time, the friends you make will be the ones landing your fish for you.

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NEXT: THIS SO-CALLED “FISHING BUDDY” IS THE WORST EVER

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Learn How to Use Online Resources to Catch More Fish