Springer Caught on 4/10/2020

Dirk’s first Springer 2020

We launched my boat at 6am this morning at Willamette Park near downtown Portland. The launch was busier than expected but we quickly got our gear setup and started trolling toward the Spaghetti Factory. I brought green and red label herring in addition to spinners and Brad’s superbait. We elected to use triangle flashers with 48 inch leaders rigged with whole red label herring. After making a couple of passes through the Spaghetti Factory stretch we didn’t see any fish caught. I decided to drop down to the Ross Island bridge to fish suspended in the deep water. Starting from the Southwest side of the river we trolled straight across to the East side where the takedown happened. Here’s how the fish was caught:

  • Depth: 28 feet of water – 24 feet of line on counter (fishing suspended)
  • Weight: 8 oz
  • Bait: Whole red label herring
  • Flasher: Sweet Abby
  • Leader: 4/0, 3/0 hooks, 48 inch
  • Trolling speed: 1.75 mph SOG
  • Salt & bottled water brine with “Bluing”
  • No scent used

We landed the fish after an extended battle (see the video below) which was unmarked so we quickly released it unharmed. The hooks had popped out while in the net. We saw one other fish caught about 50 feet away and a fish lost on the Southwest side of the river. After trolling in that area for an hour we didn’t see another fish caught. We journeyed through downtown Portland where I ran into some long time fishing friends, John and Diane. They had just caught a fish near the Steel bridge. I can’t tell you how happy I was for them. The bite near the Steel bridge wasn’t much better than what we observed at Ross Island. After making a few passes we trolled to Gunderson in the Swan Island Basin. We didn’t see a fish caught the rest of the day. I had friends fishing in all parts of the river today and they felt it was very slow. Let’s hope the bite is on tomorrow. Tight Lines.

Slow day so far – Released a nice springer

It’s Friday and my report is coming to you as I troll past the Freemont Bridge. Dirk is nodding off and the fish must be doing the same. We found a small bite this morning and landed a beautiful native near the Ross Island Bridge. I almost lifted the fish into the boat until I saw the tiny adipose fin as it rolled in the net. Darn, I was thinking about my dinner plans for only a brief moment only to be disappointed. There was one other caught and one lost before that bite was over.

We trolled past Hawthorne and continued to the Steel Bridge where we saw my good friends, John and Diane. They had just put a nice springer in the box. Again, only three fish caught in that bite.

My friends down river reported the same. A pretty slow day everywhere. Tomorrow is a new day so we will rinse and repeat. Tight lines.

Another Springer Caught

We caught a nice springer on Tuesday across the river from the Willamette park boat ramp.  The area is referred to as “Turkey Flats”.  On our second pass a phone call came in from Mike, a friend that was fishing down river.  He said, “we just killed one”.  I was holding my rod at the time and I felt the unmistakable vibration of a salmon chomping on my herring. This is where most of us instinctively jerk the rod and try to set the hook (yes, I’ve done it).  When springer fishing with bait the last thing you want to do is pull the bait out of their month.  I was patient and just held the rod steady until the fish turned and spooled some line out.  My effort paid off and this salmon had both hooks in his mouth without a chance of popping off.  After the fish made a series of runs, Dirk and I landed it with good teamwork.  Here’s the details on this catch:

  • Depth: 16 feet of water, bouncing lead on the bottom
  • Weight: 8 oz
  • Bait: Whole red label herring (see my “How-to” videos for instructions)
  • Flasher: Pole dancer
  • Leader: 4/0, 3/0 hooks, 42 inches
  • Trolling speed: 2.5 mph SOG
  • Salt & bottled water brine with “Bluing” added
  • No scent used

This stretch of river is a little complicated and requires a lot of attention.  The bottom is up and down.  One minute you’re in 30 feet and the next you’re in 10 feet.  It pays to keep your rod in hand and bounce your lead on the bottom.

We were one of three boats to hook up before the bite died.  We stayed for another hour or so before moving downriver.  It was reported that some fish were caught in the Spaghetti factory area but we only saw two in the time we trolled that zone.  All in all, it wasn’t a bad day but there were a lot of boats out.  The fish counter said that our fish was the third checked and he had counted 24 boats at about 12:30. That’s not a very good ratio.

The bite was good for a couple of days but the pattern in April is generally hit and miss.  You can have a good day and return to find that using the same gear and patterns you skunk out. That’s springer fishing.

I wish you the best of luck out there.  Send me your pictures so I can post them on my web page.  Feel free to swing by and say hello on the river.  I may even try to get a short video clip of you if you’ve caught a fish.

Tight lines.

Springers are in the system

Springer fishing generally picks up in the month of April. The fishing reports from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday indicate that we are off to a good start. On Friday the best reports came from the Lower Channel and Scappoose Bay area. Multiple people told me that the bite was good. I fished there on Saturday and it was very crowded. The bite wasn’t hot but one of our Youtube viewers released one in the morning and found a keeper later in the afternoon. I saw at least six caught before 12:30. On Sunday I fished the Sellwood area. Although I only saw a handful of fish caught, I talked to others fishing across from the Willamette Park ramp and they said fish were being caught at Turkey flats, the green can, and near the Sellwood bridge. I had a takedown near the Ross Island bridge but unfortunately it didn’t stick. One of our Youtube viewers picked up a fish at the Spaghetti Factory and another near the Ross Island Bridge. This coming week should bring good fishing as the water clears but it’s probably not going to happen every day. Springer fishing is challenging so put your time in and hopefully you’ll be rewarded.

Changing Conditions

Willamette River Temperature

Willamette River Discharge

Willamette River Turbidity
Willamette River Gage Height

Reports indicate that there’s been an uptick in Springer activity in the Willamette river and the Multnomah channel this week. The recent rains may have pushed a fresh batch of Spring Chinook into the system and it’s not surprising given that April is generally a good month for fishing. Much to my surprise, I’ve received reports that 360 flashers and spinners are catching fish. I generally wait for warmer temperatures before switching to hardware but I can’t argue with using something that’s working.

The river conditions are changing and that could help or hurt the bite this weekend. See the charts above. The temperature is dropping. With colder water consider using herring as your first choice but don’t completely give up on 360/spinners because it’s been somewhat productive over the past week or two. The river discharge is increasing so this will push fish to the bottom in the faster moving sections of the river and the channel. The turbidity jumped to nine today which is a wild card. Some people believe that the Willamette fishes a little better when it’s “dirty” but we’ll have to see how that plays out in the next few days. With higher turbidity it’s recommended that you use a “shorter” leader. Last but not least, the river level is slightly increasing. Generally, a rising river turns off the bite but this is such a small rise that it shouldn’t affect us in the next couple of days.

If you catch a fish, please send a picture and any related information (your choice). I want to keep my picture section free of comments/likes/dislikes and just allow viewers to appreciate your Spring Chinook catch. Kudos to Anthony and Tara for sharing pictures and the details of the gear they used this week. They indicated that they hope to pass on information so that others can catch fish too.

Happy fishing!!!

The Columbia is Closed

This week in fishing

It’s been a slow week of Salmon fishing in Oregon with a few bright spots in the Columbia gorge area. I fished the Multnomah Channel below the Sauvies Island bridge yesterday and the Columbia River today. I didn’t mark many fish and failed to see a net go up on either outing. The fish counter at Cathedral reported one fish for 28 boats at 4pm today. The fish counter also said that he checked nine fish for four boats yesterday in the gorge. Earlier in the week Pro Guide Shane Magnuson posted pictures on his Facebook page that he had limited with four fish. In one of his photos it looks like he was in the gorge. There have been a few fish caught at Sellwood, the channel, and Swan Island basin but the average fish caught per pole is still very low.

As you probably know, the Columbia River is closed to fishing until further notice. Governor Jay Inslee closed all fishing in the State of Washington from March 25th to April 8th due to the Coronavirus. Unfortunately, the closure includes the Columbia River which is jointly managed by both Washington and Oregon. In light of this decision, Oregon closed the Columbia for fishing at midnight on March 26th. This is a huge disappointment for our fishing community because the Columbia offers both boat and bank fishing for some of the best Chinook salmon in our region. Today, March 26th, while fishing near Caterpillar Island, a Washington law enforcement boat approached me and asked where I had launched and if I had caught any fish. He proceeded to tell me that Oregon anglers should fish on the Oregon side of the river since Washington closed fishing on the 25th (yesterday). Wow, it never occurred to me that I would have to fish on one side of the Columbia river. Personally, I don’t think there were any biters on the Oregon or Washington side so it didn’t really matter anyway. Stay tuned and hopefully the states will re-open the Columbia earlier than expected.

The Willamette river and Multnomah Channel are the only Salmon options for the weekend. The turbidity is low, water level isn’t on the rise, and the temperature is close to 50 degrees as of today. These conditions are favorable and I’m hoping that the temperature rise gets these stubborn springers biting. Good luck with your weekend fishing! If you catch a springer, send me a picture so I can post it on my website. FishingWithDavidPyle@gmail.com.

Identifying fish on your finder

After spending thousands of hours staring at my GPS/Fishfinder I have a pretty good idea of what fish I’m looking at. I snapped a few photos today and I’d like you to figure out what’s on my fish finder screen. Take a look at the three photos below without reading the text and see if you can figure out what you’re looking at. When you’re done, take a look at the text below each photo. Do our observations correspond? Now, if we could only get them to bite!

Image 1 – These are not Salmon or Sturgeon in my opinion.

Image 2 – The long slender fish in this snapshot appears to be a sturgeon.

Image 3 – This is what salmon look like on my GPS/fishfinder.

Springer In the Box

We caught an early springer on Saturday in the Multnomah Channel. The head of the channel starts from the Willamette river in Northwest Portland and flows into the Columbia river near St. Helens. Fresh spring chinook from the Columbia river make their way up the Channel every year in the early spring. I want to provide extra information to those of you that subscribe to my websites so here’s the detail of how we caught our fish:

  • Area: 300 yards below Coon Island
  • Depth: 12 feet of water, 14 feet of line on counter
  • Weight: 8 ounces, 8 inch dropper
  • Bait: Cut-plug green label herring, green stain
  • Brine: Bottled water, 1/2 cup non-iodized salt, 3 drops Anise
  • Flasher: Red/chrome triangle (see video)
  • Leader: 4/0, 3/0 hooks, 48 inch leader
  • Trolling speed: 2.5 mph SOG
  • Bouncing the bottom

I wanted to note that we were trolling in 16 feet before the takedown which happened in 12 feet of water. Our gear was right on the bottom. Since I was holding the rod in my hands during the takedown, I just tried to pretend that I was a rod holder. It’s very important that you let salmon “chew” on bait until they turn and run with it. It takes discipline to wait but your hookup will always be better. Our netting coordination wasn’t perfect but we recovered and landed the fish. Dirk did a great job of bringing this fish home. If you have any questions please ask in the comment section or email me at FishingWithDavidPyle.com.

In a follow up to my post from Friday I wanted to display a picture which adds to my discussion about spring chinook and spawning. In the picture titled “Springer Eggs” above you’ll notice that the eggs are tiny. They are in fact immature because, as I said in my last post, springers don’t spawn until the fall. If you missed this post select “Blog” in the menu section of my website.

Please share my website with your fishing friends and do your best to help beginning fishermen. Thank you for being part of our fishing community.

Spring Chinook Fishing 3/20/2020

Sellwood Bridge 3/19/2020

It’s still early in the Spring Chinook season and there have been a few fish caught this week in the Willamette, the Multnomah Channel, and the Columbia river. The catch has been hit-and-miss in most areas but the effort is increasing and the bite should be more consistent as we move into April. The turbidity is low, the river level is low, and the Willamette water temp is in the mid 40s. These are good conditions for this time of year. If you happen to be in the right place at the right time, you’ve got a chance of catching one of the most prized fish in our region. Many of you already know that “Springers” arrive in the Willamette and Columbia in the late winter/early spring. Unlike the Summer and Fall Chinook which move up the river quickly to spawn, “Springers” have a high fat content to sustain them for months before spawning in the fall. Last year we observed fresh Spring Chinook for sale at a local grocery store for almost $70 per pound. If you’ve ever tasted a fresh Springer you probably understand why so many fishermen are out trying to catch one. You shouldn’t be discouraged if you’re not catching right now because statistically it takes about 80 hours, on average to catch a Springer. In my last video, the gentleman named “Toby” got it right when he said, “You’ve got to put your time in”.

My fishing topic for this week is about preparing for peak season. The successful fishermen have tested their boats and tuned up their skills long before the peak season gets into full swing. The best thing you can do is take your boat out in late winter and run some laps in known fishing areas even though you don’t expect to catch salmon. In addition to figuring out what gear your boat might be missing or what repairs you need to do, you can actually get into a fishing rhythm. My typical winter includes several trips where I run laps through common fishing zones and create “Paths” on my GPS. I pay attention to changes in depths and discover snags along the way. This gives me a blueprint for how I want to fish when the season peaks. I also try to spend some time in unfamiliar areas and study how it’s being fished, the bait/lure being used, how much weight, and trolling speed. If fishing gets hot in the new area I’m ready to fish correctly.

After taking a few practice trips you may notice that you’re developing a good Fishing Rhythm. Your rigging will be quicker, trolling more efficient, you’ll spend more time in the strike zone, and feel relaxed and confident. A professional athlete wouldn’t start the first game of the season without getting into shape and scrimmaging. Fishing is no different. If you haven’t made some practice runs, there’s still time. Go out after work and fish for a few hours and who knows, you could very well catch a salmon because there are so few boats out there in the evening. Best of luck this weekend and for the rest of the season. Stay tuned for my next weekly blog.

Springers are in the system

A viewer caught this Springer on March 12, 2020

Welcome back to Fishing with David Pyle. On Sunday we skunked with three lines in the water. Smolt were aggressively biting our cut-plug herring but we weren’t able to find an adult Spring Chinook. If you watched my video, you know that we only saw one caught but heard of two others. This week, in some areas, the bite turned on and a few boats managed to land multiple fish. For this time of year, that’s a great day of fishing. The coming weekend looks like it’s going to be wet, windy, and cold. Sunday looks like the better day but fishing in windy/cold conditions is not fun. The river conditions are similar to last week in turbidity and height but the temperature is dropping slightly.

For today’s blog I’d like to talk about how salmon find your bait or lures. Like most predators, salmon have an instinct to kill easy prey. When we rig with whole or cut plug herring it rolls and looks like an injured fish; that’s exactly what’s needed to trigger their hunting instincts. Salmon generally feel the vibration of a rolling herring through their lateral line before they see or smell the bait. The vibration they sense should bring them within four or five feet of the herring which is the visual range of our river system with low turbidity. From this distance a salmon starts to use their incredible sense of smell. At this point hope whatever scent is on your bait doesn’t cause the fish to turn away.

Additional factors to consider are trolling depth, direction, and speed. Make it easier for salmon to find the bait by presenting it at the correct depth. If you’re fishing in slow moving deep water you’ll probably drop your bait between 15-25 feet. In shallower fast moving water you’ll target the fish right on the bottom. We call this “bouncing the bottom” because your lead is literally hitting the bottom every 10 to 15 seconds. Water temperature can help you determine which direction to troll. In cold water you might want to troll up river to give the salmon more time to observe your bait. As the water warms, between 50 and 60 degrees, you’ll focus on fishing with the current at the slowest possible speed while still making your herring roll. Once the temperature rises above 60 you can troll faster use hardware such as spinners and super bait.

One last thing to think about before you go fishing. When peak season is in full force there will be hundreds of lines in the water each day. Most lines will be trolling herring. If you are a fish and you see hundreds of herring in your face you might lose interest until you see something just a little different. I know of two fish, in the past couple of weeks, that were caught using hardware; even though my philosophy is to wait for higher water temperatures. I really like to see fishermen think outside of the box and get creative. The fish might like that too.

Weekend Fishing 3/7 -3/8

March 1st – Fish lost at the boat

When I’m planning a fishing trip there are a lot of factors that I consider. Here’s a quick preview of my thinking (this example is based on the Willamette river 3/6/20):

1. Wind conditions help me to decide which days I want to fish more than anything. If the conditions are 0 to 5 knots, fishing will be comfortable, from 6 to 10 knots it’s going to be a little bit of work, and above 11 knots it starts to be too much work for me. See the first two images above where I selected “Wind” to show the hourly wind conditions. Both days look good but Sunday looks to be the better day.

2. Water Temperature plays a big part in how active the fish are. In colder water the fish tend to expend less energy. In the early spring it’s sometimes wise to fish against the current to give Salmon a longer look at your bait. As the water warms, fishing with the current is my suggestion. I trust that an active salmon will turn and follow my bait in warmer water. Water temperature is important in deciding whether to use bait or hardware and how fast your trolling speed should be. For now, in early spring, troll slow and use bait as your first option. The third image shows that the water temperature is currently pretty cold but going up and that’s good news.

3. The river level is an important indicator for how salmon choose to move or hold. If the river is on the rise, the bite will likely drop off as the fish have an instinct to move up river. When the river is dropping, the fish tend to hold. Your chances of hooking a salmon should be better when the river is on the drop. In the forth image above you will notice that the river is overall flat if you disregard the tide variations. It’s currently sitting between three and five feet which is really low for this time of year. I feel that the low water level is good for fishing in our area.

4. Turbidity is a measure of water clarity. If the water is “dirty” from a blown-out river it’s more difficult for salmon to find your gear. The current conditions as pictured in the fifth image above shows the turbidity level near 3. That means the river is very clear. A higher number indicates that the water has less clarity. In clear water you would probably choose to use longer leaders from your flasher to your bait. If the water is murky (higher turbidity), you would probably choose to shorten up your leader. When the turbidity is above 10, it’s my opinion that fishing is going to be more difficult. I like the current turbidity level and feels it’s really good for fishing.

5. There are several other things to consider but I’ll save that for another post. Talk to your fishing network and try to find out where fish are being caught. Drive by different sections of the river and watch the fishing boats for thirty minutes or so. Use all of your social media tools to determine when/where/how fish are being caught in your area. My videos will give you lots of information about bait, depth, weight, color, and location. Even my older videos can give you information about where to fish during different parts of the season.

Best of luck to all of you fishermen. If you are lucky enough to catch a springer, send me a photo with your name & date caught. I’ll try to post pictures on this site. Don’t forget to use my youtube channel https:\\www.youtube.com\davidpyle.