The Columbia should give up some fish

For the Columbia River Spring Chinook season I always start around March 25th. Prior to that the water temperature is too cold and the fish don’t have much energy. My fishing network has mostly reported spotty fishing so far but it’s picking up. In the picture above Cliff caught a Columbia river chrome springer on March 27th during one of my Guided Educational fishing trips. The best advice for this early spring fishing is to troll as slow as you can go. I prefer triangle flashers with whole or cut plug herring. Keep you gear tight to the bottom when the current is moving and you’ll give yourself a good chance to hook a springer. Tight Lines

Springer Fishing is off to a good start

March 13, 2022

Every year we have a big storm in late February or early March that brings a nice batch of Spring Chinook to the Portland Area. A pattern emerges where the Willamette and Columbia rivers rise several feet and the turbidity levels increase to the point where the Willamette river looks like chocolate. As most experienced fishermen know, a rising river prompts fish to move up river and this “turns off the bite”. Additionally, with so much sediment in the river systems, the lack of water clarity reduces the chances that a salmon can see your bait. The initial conditions after a big storm are not good for fishing but once the rivers drop and clear there are new fish in the system and they tend to hold. We refer to this process as the river “coming into shape”. This played out in the Willamette and Columbia this past week and we are seeing a fair number of salmon caught for the early spring season. In the picture above, Dirk Peterson caught a nice 18 lb. spring chinook on a cut plug herring in the Multnomah Channel on Thursday. Fish were caught throughout the Willamette and some fish were reported in the Columbia river as well. It’s still early in the spring chinook but it might be a good idea to chase salmon before the next big storm arrives. Tight lines.

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….

Salmon Fishing August 27, 2021

The Buoy 10 season has been more productive than expected. As a result, Chinook can no longer be kept from Buoy 10 to Tongue point. The Coho are flushing in nicely which should result in some really good salmon fishing below Tongue point. The ocean North of Cape Falcon is also closing for Salmon after Sunday, August 29th. That’s the bad news. The good news is that fish counts at Bonneville have crossed the ten thousand a day mark. Catches from Longview, St. Helens and Portland have been steadily improving so it’s time to get out and hook a fall Chinook. You’ll have good luck using Pro-Troll flashers with spinners or superbait this time of year. I hope to see you out there this weekend. Tight Lines.

Fall Fishing is in Full Swing

After a restful month and half I’m getting back into the swing of serious salmon fishing. I start my fall Chinook guide season in September (Portland to Bonneville) and will switch to catch and release sturgeon in November. I’ve made a couple of short trips on the Columbia near Portland this month and it paid off on August 22nd. You’ll find the video on my Youtube Channel or in the “Latest Videos” section of my website. This is an exciting time of the year. The fish are big and powerful and you don’t have to drive to Buoy 10 to find them. Stay tuned because the fall season is getting under way and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Tight Lines.

Springer fishing can be challenging

After an April dry spell the fish finally came back to my boat. We picked up fish on both Saturday and Sunday last weekend. Springer fishing is notoriously challenging but the lack of rain has made fishing above the Head of the Channel even more difficult. The low water conditions and lack of good bait (green label herring) accelerated the transition from bait to hardware. Fish have been caught with 360 flashers and spinners/superbait but it hasn’t been the kind of April we saw ten years ago. The catch rate is getting better and you can find fish on bait or hardware right now but you’ll have to be patient. Tight lines.

Weekend Wrap UP

Dirk Peterson – 3/20/2021

The wind forecast looked bad on Saturday so I rescheduled my Guided Educational fishing trip to Sunday. Dirk braved the Saturday wind with his friends Roger and Tony and it paid off. They landed a 17 lb. springer in the Multnomah Channel. Nice job guys. My Sunday guided trip was a success for my customer, Rich Wehring. He landed a 15 lb. wild springer near the Hawthorne bridge. We trolled four rods with a mixture of orange label and green label herring. The fish took the whole orange label bait and ran. It was a stunning takedown and I instinctively grabbed the rod thinking we were hung up. Once I felt the vibration of a fish I immediately handed the rod to Rich. He did a great job fighting the fish and we easily got it into the net. The fish counter reported two fish caught for 21 boats so it really was a slow day. Things should start to pick up this coming week so don’t get discouraged. Tight lines.

Another Early Springer

March 13, 2021

Saturday was a beautiful day on the Willamette River. The sun was shining, the wind was calm, and the river was clear. Unfortunately, the fish weren’t as excited as the fishermen. According to reports there weren’t many fish caught but somehow we managed to find a native spring chinook in Downtown Portland. Our fish stripped a whole green label herring from my side rod before it swallowed a whole orange label herring on my back rod. As one of my mentors says, “once a biter, always a biter”. We were pretty aggressive in keeping four rods on the bottom which can result in snagging up. I hung up on the three times before catching this fish. Sometimes you need to take risk to catch fish and if you’re careful you’ll get all of your gear back. It’s still very early for catching springers but things should pick up in the next couple of weeks. Don’t get discouraged. The video will be posted in my “Latest Videos” section on March 15th at 10am. Tight Lines.

An Early Springer in the Box

Dirk Peterson (February 27, 2021)

On Saturday, February 27, we decided to tune up for Spring Chinook Salmon fishing. After spending two hours trolling above the Sellwood bridge with no luck we ventured down river. A good friend and guide, Mikey’s Guided Adventures, had given me some advice the night before. Mike said, “make a few passes at Turkey Flats”. I stopped the boat at the top end of Turkey Flats and observed a fisherman later identified as “Cal” fighting a salmon solo about a hundred yards away. I was shocked that we actually found someone on the river landing an elusive springer in February. We started our troll in a lane that I normally fish. As we passed Cal we gave him a “thumbs up” for landing his springer. We trolled for about a half hour when my rod went down. I hit the GoPro start button and stood up. After my rod bounced 3 or 4 times it became still. As I was reeling my gear in for a bait check Dirk’s rod dipped hard and a few inches of line zipped. Fish on!!! We caught this fish on a Deja Vu flasher with 40 inches of leader and a whole green label herring. There was no scent or color added to the herring. On March 1st you can check out the video on my Youtube channel. Tight lines.

Hood River Sturgeon Fishing

After taking a break from my Website and Youtube channel I’ve returned with a short video on Keeper Sturgeon fishing. The season above Bonneville usually lasts a couple of months but the fishing was so productive that the quota has already been caught. The success on my boat was due in part to advice from fellow guides “Tony O”, “Mikey’s Guided Adventures”, and “2 Net Guide Service”. I’m grateful for their advice in an area where I haven’t fished before.

For years I’ve fished the Willamette and Lower Columbia with one of my mentors, John Manser. He’s one of the most successful Sturgeon fishermen that I know. I used the same basic technique and tactic in Hood River that I use in the Willamette. I cut a herring in half, run a 7/0 barbless hook through 1/2 fish, and use an “egg loop” to secure the herring to the hook. Most of the time I saturate the herring in Bloody Tuna but on Saturday one of the keepers took the herring without any scent. The second keeper hooked up on a whole squid without any scent. We picked up about five shakers in addition to the two keepers so it certainly wasn’t “lights out” fishing. Maybe it was just a lucky day!!!

Check out the video on my Youtube Channel or on this website in the Video section. Tight line!