Preparing for Spring Chinook Fishing

A handful of early spring chinook (Springers) have been caught but we usually don’t see consistent catches until late March.  I’ve been out four times doing tune-up runs but haven’t seen any fish caught yet.  Every year I do tune-up runs and I feel it’s one of the best ways to make sure that I’m ready when the fish arrive.  Here are a few reasons I get started early:

– I make sure that my motors, electronics, rods, reels, lights, safety equipment and cameras are operating correctly.  

– I identify items that need to be re-stocked.  Do I have enough lead, duo clips, barrel swivels,  beads, bead chains, leader spools, hooks, bumpers, and flashers?

– Does my trusty back-up rod still work? Does my net snap together?  Is my knife sharp?  Is everything clean and free of mold?

– I run fishing patterns and try to memorize changes in depth and possible snaggy areas. 

– I use this time to learn new areas and observe other fisherman that frequent the area.  There’s a lot you can learn by observation.  How much lead?  Herring, prawns, spinners, superbait?  Trolling upriver or downriver?  Triangle flashers, 360s, or no flasher?  Are fishermen holding their rods and bouncing their lead or leaving their rod in the holder?

– Finally, I take time to talk to other fishermen on the river.  There are some really cool people out there and it’s nice to exchange ideas.

If you go out for an early springer here are some suggestions:

– The early fish are typically caught in the Willamette (including the Multnomah Channel).  That doesn’t mean you can’t catch them in the Columbia but the odds are much better in the Willamette until after March 15.

– Every year the early hots spots seem to be the same areas.  Sellwood typically sees the earliest fish of the year.  The Head of the Channel (St. Johns) and the Lower Channel usually get going shortly after Sellwood. This year there have been more early fish reported at Oregon City than in past years.

– In cold water temperatures you should troll as slow as you can go.  The current water temp in the Willamette is 43 degrees and salmon are not very active.  If you troll downstream too fast they will not turn and follow your bait.  Fishing upstream gives salmon more time to look at your bait so that should be a consideration.

– In off-color water you can stain your bait with UV color, add a little scent, shorten your leader length, and use bigger bait.

– In clear water you can use longer leaders, use smaller bait, and even eliminate using a flasher.

– Pay attention to water flow.  In low water years when the river isn’t flowing fast you may spend more time fishing suspended.  If the river is high and fast, get your gear to the bottom and test shallow spots closer to shore.  Springer will hug the bottom in fast moving water so you know exactly where they will be.  If the river is slow moving you’ll want to focus on suspending your gear between 15 and 25 feet deep.

Tight Lines….

2 thoughts on “Preparing for Spring Chinook Fishing

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