Fishing isn’t easy for millions in U.S.
If you drive along the ocean and stop at the mouth of any one of a dozen rivers between Astoria and Brookings, you will see a well-built fishing dock with a wheelchair accessible ramp that goes all the way to the water’s edge.
We stopped at the mouth of a river on the Southern Oregon coast. Our timing was wrong for salmon, and there was no one on the dock except for a fellow in a wheelchair. When I asked him about the fishing, he produced his catch, a half-dozen assorted saltwater fish. All that was missing was a deep fryer and a cup of tartar sauce.
From his perch high above the water, he could cast across the river channel, but there was good water at his feet. If the salmon weren’t biting, there was always another species that would.
We take it for granted, all the good fishing we can drive to, hike to, walk to and boat to in our state, but for 56 million Americans, it isn’t so easy. During the past 20 years, sportsman’s groups, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies have improved fishing access on many waters.
In some cases, it is as simple as paving a sidewalk or providing a gravel parking area on the shoreline. Many times a dock or a platform is the answer, with a ramp and handrail.
These docks and decks are often built within casting range of the best fishing holes. Drive to Trillium Lake on Mount Hood and look for the fishing platform. It is situated on one of the best spots, a deeper hole where the trout stack like cordwood.
There’s a similar dock at Krumbo Reservoir, and again, it sits right on the best trout-holding water on the lake. At Bend Pine Nursery, a paved path encircles the pond with access almost all the way around.
At Timothy Lake, the fishing dock is in deep water near the dam. Almost any day of the summer, there will be a family or two or three out on the structure, their baits suspended in the deep green.
Another good spot is Detroit Lake, up at the inlet of the North Santiam. Again this dock is near some of the best fishing. If there is water in the reservoir (and there is this year), the fish — rainbows and kokanee — are within easy casting range.
At Haystack Reservoir, the angling platform is built out from a cliff overlooking deep water. The payoff at Haystack could be a bass, a crappie, a kokanee, a brown trout or a 10-pound brood stock rainbow.
Even waters that don’t have a fishing platform can offer easy access. On the city limits of The Dalles, there is a Columbia River backwater called Taylor Lake. There, an angler can set up a rod against a forked stick and sit in their own vehicle waiting for a bite. The same thing can be accomplished at nearby Bikini Pond in the Mayer State Park.
Outside Heppner, Willow Creek Reservoir also has a spot where the locals enjoy drive-up, fish-from-the-car angling.
I still haven’t been able to find a document that lists all the accessible fishing locations, but the research can be part of the fun. Start with the ODFW’s Easy Angling web page (search Fishing Resources at www.dfw.state.or.us/), then click on Access Oregon, which lists some of the outdoor recreation areas throughout the state. Additional information can be found on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management websites.
On the subject of accessibility, there are a number of adaptive items that can make fishing with a disability a lot easier. The Adaptive Fishing Ty-All makes tying knots easier. The limited mobility fishing mount allows a user to set the hook and has resistance in the forward motion to keep tension on the line. I found a good resource for adaptive equipment at www.adaptiveoutdoorsman.com.
Open to everyone, accessible fishing sites attract anglers of all ages and abilities. But there is something different about anglers who congregate on docks.
They are usually in a good mood, especially if they have a fish or two on the stringer. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If the fishing is good, most of the dock anglers I’ve met are happy to share their secrets or lend a hand netting a fish.
Gary Lewis is the host of “Frontier Unlimited TV” and author of “John Nosler — Going Ballistic,” “Fishing Mount Hood Country,” “Hunting Oregon” and other titles. Contact Gary at www.GaryLewisOutdoors.com.