Umatilla River

IMG_0805This time I put my trust in my brother in law to lead me to fish, as this was my first time fishing in Eastern Oregon and I didn’t really know what to expect. As of this post it’s August, so the water was low all around, and even the lower section of the river below 3 Mile Dam was barely over knee deep. We were probably a mile from the mouth, and who knows how many miles from the next accessible spot upstream.

From what I’d read about the Umatilla, it is supposed to have a nice run of Springers, Steelhead, and Coho in the Fall. However, I was out fishing in the one month between the different runs, go figure. Reports said trout fishing was supposed to be good in the upper river, but that is past Pendleton on the eastern side of the Umatilla Reservation, another hour and a half from home base.

The river itself is pretty neat. It’s bedrock with tufts of grass growing up all throughout, with different runs flowing in between. Where we entered the river was extremely shallow, with no real channel to speak of, and we just walked our way up the middle, looking for fish-holding water.

The first promising spot was the feature image above, and indeed it held fish. Unfortunately it was entirely populated with Pikeminnow. I’m sure they still refer to them as “Squawfish” in the area as we were fishing upstream from “Chinaman’s Hole”. Obviously, Chinaman’s Hole is not the preferred nomenclature, but “Asian-American’s Hole” never really caught on.


Not quite big enough for a reward

Regardless of their name, Pikeminnow really are pretty ugly fish, with their kissy-lipped mouths and the bigger ones’ disproportionately pot-bellied bodies from sucking up little trout and salmon. I already knew about the Pikeminnow bounty program, but didn’t know that the top angler made over $100,000 catching them last year! I won’t quit my job to fish exclusively for these guys yet, but it is tempting.

We saw more and deeper channels the further up we walked, but the river never narrowed. There was one change-up from the Pikeminnow; I managed one small bass in a tailout.

There are other parts of this river I’d like to see, mostly further upstream. The changing channels and mini waterfalls in the middle of the stream made it interesting to fish, unlike any other river I’ve been on before. The bright green of the grass and trees in contrast with the brown farmland and the unusual water makes me want to get out and discover more of Eastern Oregon’s rivers and streams.



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