Pete Heley - 6/8/2012
Over the last several years, the crappie fishing along the Oregon Coast has gone from fairly bad to really, really bad. There are undoubtedly a number of factors for this decline, but the major one is probably that when it comes to crappie fisheries near the Oregon Coast, yellow perch tend to outcomplete them in almost every case.
As warmwater fish go, crappies are relatively poor swimmers and easy prey for big largemouths, large trout, bullheads and catfish and even larger crappies. Warm-blooded predators such as cormorants and other diving fish-eating birds definitely take their toll, but crappies are not much impacted by such fish-eating birds as herons and ospreys because they are seldom shallow enough for the herons, or close enough to the surfact to be osprey food.
But the poor crappie catches along the Oregon Coast cannot be completely blamed on the fact that almost everything is eating them. Crappies, unless specifically targeted, are rather difficult to catch. They seldom hit full-sized bass lures and don’t seem to relish angle worms or nightcrawlers. They are also more active during periods of low light to the point where they are seldom active when people are actually fishing. By early morning, they have moved to deeper water and few anglers fish in the late evening or during nighttime when they are most active.
I am going to attempt to list most of the waters near the Oregon Coast that have crappie fisheries (more complete crappie information is available in either the Oregon Coast Bass and Panfish Guide or the Oregon Bass and Panfish Guide – both of which are available for purchase on this website under the book section). Along the north coast, Cullaby Lake has fair numbers of both black and white crappies, Sunset Lake has a very few crappies and Smith Lake produced a crappie weighing more than three pounds several years ago. Crappie have been planted in Cape Mears Lake near Tillamook, but no longer seem to enter the catch and Devils Lake, near Lincoln City, contains both species of crappie – but very few of them.
Lower Big Creed Reservoir seems to have fair numbers of crappies that seem to hang out in the roadside cove near the middle of the lake, but since the primary fishery, besides planted trout, is for yellow perch, the reservoir may not hold the same numbers of crappies that it did three and four years ago.
Near Florence, both Sutton and Mercer lakes have a very few black crappies in them that are almost completely untargeted. Although this writer has not heard of recent crappie catches from Woahink Lake, I once listed to an angler that was bragging about the 15 1/2-inch crappie he took out of the lake years ago. Cleawox Lake has fair numbers of crappies that become active near dusk, especially in the lengthy north arm of the lake. Although most of them are small, I have observed foot long dead crappies in the lake that seem to have died of old age.
Both Siltcoos and Tahkenitch lakes have cyclic populations of black crappies that are seldom targeted. In Tahkenitch, one of the more consistent spots is the narrow portion of the lake immediately above the Highway 101 bridge, while an angler targeting crappies at dusk near Ada Trestle on Siltcoos is likely to catch at least a few.
Lake Marie, several years ago, produced a few very nice-sized crappies to a member of Reedsport’s Lower Umpqua Fly Casters, but there have been no reports of crappie catches in several years.
The crappie fishery at Tenmile Lake has crashed, but anglers fishing with crappie jigs at dusk are still catching a few. Crappie fishing at Tenmile has never been the same since the crappie invaded the canal connecting North and South Tenmile by the tens of thousands and attracted up to 100 anglers per day for a two month period during the winter. A growing population of yellow perch make the chance of a crappie rebound in Tenmile Lakes very unlikely.
Eel Lake has fair numbers of black crappies that are seldom targeted and seem to stay relatively deep. Saunders Lake, although full of yellow perch, has some crappies with the best fishing usually being along the north edge of the weedline at the south end of of that sectioni of the lake near Highway 101. The author’s first crappie out of Saunders Lake weighed a full pound, but he has yet to duplicate it. The small pond on the east side of the railroad tracks just south of the south end of Saunders Lake has a few crappies in it to at least ten inches, but it is usually weed-choked by mid-May.
Butterfield Lake, now with increased access, contains black crappies, but not nearly in the numbers it did years ago. Still, anglers fishing crappie lures near dusk should catch some crappies. As for Beale Lake, crappies suffered the worst of the lake’s fish species during the lake’s series of droughts that ended several years ago – now the crappie population rivals that of the lake’s rarely taken warmouths or brown bullheads.Stump Lake, a four acre lake located on the west side of the railroad tracks just south of Beale Lake still has a few crappies in it, but crappies used to be the dominant fishery in the lake before bluegills and yellow perch somehow ended up in it.
Empire Lake has a few black crappie in it, but the population will continue to be depressed as long as it is a favorite spot for cormorants and the lake continues to receive tens of thousands of trout plants each year which tend to compete with the crappies for food.
There are a few spots, less then 20 miles from the Oregon Coast, that produce fair white crappie fishing. Loon Lake, gives up a few crappies to two pounds every year, but the population has shrunk since bluegills found their way into the lake. North Slough, nine miles east of Reedsport, has white crappie, but since the condominiums were built there are a lot less of them and they are much smaller. Numbers-wise, the crappie in Fat Elk Slough in Coquille, on both sides of the tidegate, are numerous, but seem to top out at about nine or ten inches above the tidegate, while below the tidegate a few crappies weighing between one and one and a half pounds enter the catch. The recent weed removal project on the slough should bode well for all of Fat Elk’s warmwater fish in the long run.
Good crappie fishing is available in many of the lakes near Interstate 5. The best fisheries are Cooper Creek Reservoir, Ben Irving Reservoir and Selmac Lake. In the photo below, John is holding up an 11-inch crappie from Ben Irving Reservoir.
Pete Heley lives in Reedsport, Oregon and works at the Stockade Market in Winchester Bay. He is also an outdoor writer and his favorite pasttimes are: fishing, playing pool, doing trivia quizes and crossword puzzles. His three most impressive catches of Oregon fish include a 22 pound coho salmon from Tenmile Lakes, a brown trout of more than 15 pounds from the Crooked River Ranch area of the Deschutes River and a nine and a half pound largemouth bass from Loon Lake.