Tualatin River report, 10/14-10/29

Thought I’d post a report on my explorations of the mid-lower Tualatin River (in/near Hillsboro) from the past couple weeks. Some of this is a repeat of things I’ve briefly mentioned in other posts, and this is long and rambling, sorry..

Access

Mostly private property with a few parks and bridge areas where you can get down. This stretch of the river is mostly deeply channeled and overgrown, so tough and even dangerous to get to any out of the way spots. (Note: this stretch might be boated safely at moderate water heights but man, looks like a pain in the butt during low water and even dangerous, especially during high water…). I mostly stuck to one privately owned spot I have access to, Rood Bridge and Cook Park. Both parks have multiple decent spots, and the opportunity to do a little bushwhacking and find your own spot.

River height

The river was extremely low this entire period of time, though it did spike on Monday night a bit this week. This meant that access was easier in places (beware of mud…!) and also that fish were concentrated in deeper areas (duh). For those of you reading this in the future (fishing closes on the T 10/31), I highly recommend checking it out this time of year before the big rains come, for these reasons.

Should the river be fished?

*The Tualatin is just full of poops and mangy old pikeminnows that eat poops right? Plus you can’t eat the fish and I haven’t had much luck tossing huge spinnerbaits there for bass, so what gives???*

–I feel like I’ve heard this and other trashtalk on the Tualatin a bunch of times, and well maybe there’s some truth to it. But, I saw very little trash along the river and really nothing but cool clear-looking water and TONS of healthy fish. Granted, though I think pollution issues are better now than the 80s/90s, I would hesitate to eat any of the resident fish. Especially because most of them could easily be travelling in and out of the Willamette, ew. As far as people who have been there once or twice with not much luck, I suggest putting in the work to find better spots and tossing out something more finessed like dark wacky rigged senko, for example. It took some work to figure out each species (except for suckers, those things are just dumb), but I did fairly quickly. Oh, and there are definitely pikeminnows, but see below, they’re cool fish! Or fish off the bottom with worms, as others have mentioned. Though sometimes even this action lets up in the afternoon, it’s usually lights out.

Then, there’s the question of should one fish for coho in the Tualatin. I admit, it’s not black and white. But for me the decision was made by the fact that coho are NOT NATIVE to the Tualatin, the ones in there are old hatchery stock, and, the river is 2 minutes from my house…so…but I can understand the hesitancy by some to put the hurt on what is clearly not the biggest population of fish. On the flip side to this, it’s also not the smallest population either (def saw tons of coho! see below) and they are NOT EASY to catch out of there, so it’s not like some greedy person is going to be taking their 20 out of there every Fall.

Coho

I went 2/3 on coho in about 5 trips where I was at least partially focusing on them. I didn’t really try for them until about the 22nd for some reason, and since then it appears the "run" has tailed off. So, for the future, I’d guess the preceding couple weeks were probably better, but not sure. Both coho I caught on spoons with simple slow retrieve. One just under 7 lbs and one about 10. Both cut well. The one I lost was BIG and brighter than the two I landed, and fought like a beast (no really I swear). It snapped the line. I hooked all 3 in the same large, deep hole where they were holding up in the low river. Don’t ask me where it was because that’s the private access spot and unfortunately I can’t tell. But, there are other big deep holes in the T! These fish are spooky I believe in the Tualatin, and I know my presentation mostly got laughed at. I can’t say for sure with such a small sample size, but I would suggest going small and slow. Spoon colors that got action were pink/silver and green/silver. Especially earlier in this time period, saw lots of bright fish jumping/rolling. The boots might be in there and just look like carp, I dunno..

Bass

Though the action for bass wasn’t amazing, I did hook a few of both species, including one BIG largemouth that I lost off a wacky rigged senko. I suspect that the action would be way better from a boat. Unlike some who have posted here, I did not get anything topwater, though I tried everything in my tacklebox, including flies. I got bass on small jigged spoons and plastic worms (various kinds/riggings). Standard bass tactics apply.

Crappie

These were actually more fun than the bass this time around. Caught them around structure with small jigged spoons and small dark jigs under a bobber. Even caught one that I swear was a white crappie, but don’t have a picture…

Yellow perch

Mostly just annoying when fishing with bait, but some of them got to about 8 inches. Only got them on bait (worms and dough balls). I bet the bass and pikeminnows are chowing down on these guys, as they were plentiful.

Carp

Holy CRAP, probably the most exciting part of these two weeks, even though I only landed a few. These fish are CONCENTRATED like you’d never believe in the big holes, and there are some huuuuge ones in there. You wouldn’t even believe my weight estimates. But, I am a noob to carp fishing and only landed a couple on dough balls and one on a worm, and no bigger than about 5 lbs. In this one hole though from first light to about 8AM, there are the biggest freshwater fish I’ve ever seen in my life, jumping everywhere…I would’ve been happy getting skunked just to see this. I had no luck on corn or french fries (saw this on youtube and thought it would be a good surface tactic). Wish I could figure out how to fish the surface for them. By the way, all fish species seemed really spooked of any type of bobber in the Tualatin, can’t say why for sure.

Sucker

Worms off the bottom, caught tons of them. They fight slightly better than pikeminnows, but that’s not saying much. Harvested one for a friend to boil down and use the bones for her comparative collection of local native fish…thought that was cool.

Pikeminnow

These were actually fun to fish, and despite my preconceptions and experiences elsewhere, they did NOT "hit anything" as is sometimes claimed. And trust me, name a lure, and I tried it in the T the last two weeks. I caught most of my pikeminnow off of plastic worms and spoons jigged or reeled in slow across the bottom. They did not go for any of the bait I fished, that I know of. They hit hard, fight for two seconds, then stop, so that’s lame, but otherwise I think they’re fun to fish for, as it was actually not easy to do. Like bass, they seem to spit the hook readily. The best was a series of 3 I caught in Rood Bridge park off of wacky rigged senkos, which weighed between 2 and over 6lbs! And I put them back obviously, it makes absolutely no sense to kill a pikeminnow in the Tualatin, unless you’re crazy and want to eat it.

Trout

These past two weeks had me shaking my head and wandering if I know nothing about trout identification. Maybe there is some hybridization going on? A few were obviously straight resident cutthroats, though one reallly had the markings of a sea-run, that didn’t make much sense to me. One had all the markings of a rainbow but then had the red throat slashes. And one 10" mystery salmonid had neither rainbow nor cutthroat markings, and I assume it was a steelhead or coho smolt (?).

I caught these on a range of things: woolly buggers, worms, spoons, and spinners. They were fun. There are TONS of them but they’re mostly eating bugs or something else on the surface that I could not figure out for the life of me.

Catfish

One of my main goals was to catch one, but I didn’t. Haven’t yet from the T…what am I doing wrong? The suckers ate them all, that’s what happened.


That’s it folks, hope this is helpful to someone for the last two days of the season or for future years. Or at least entertaining. Bottom line: it was fun! -Bubs

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