Columbia River Fishing Report and Forecast

Buoy 10 to Fire Up, Much of the River Remains Restricted to Steelhead

Columbia River Fishing Report – With much of the river still restricted to salmon and steelhead fishing, this won’t be a long report.

Creel checkers for the ODF&W reported over the weekend sampling 66 boats (161 anglers) from Puget to Warrior with 6 Chinook kept and 1 Chinook and 1 steelhead released. No one expected it to be a barn-burner, but with escapement of biters pretty high through the closed Buoy 10 season, I expected a bit more.

Anglers reported seeing a lot of fish on their fish finders and grass seemed to have been an impediment to success but one fish for every 11 boats tells the story, it wasn’t a great start to the season.

Steelhead fishing is closed upriver to The Dalles Dam. Nuf’ said there.

Catch and release sturgeon fishing remains good in the lower Columbia, but anglers fishing downstream of Tongue Point are coming across crab and trash fish so plan your bait needs accordingly. Fishing for large fish upstream of Tongue Point is good, but interest will wane when salmon fishing opens on Friday.

Bottomfishing has been fair along the south and sunken jetty and although it should provide some good sport this weekend, anglers primary focus will be on Chinook. If you do bottomfish during open salmon season, you’d better check the regulations as I’m pretty sure you can’t have salmon on board in waters closed to salmon fishing. This could cause heartache.

The Guide’s Forecast – It’s the perfect storm. Virgin waters for the first 13 days of August, a soft tide series, and the last run forecast (summer Chinook) appeared to be grossly under-predicted, a welcome change from recent history.

Anticipation is running high for the Friday opener, and action should be great for those there to witness it. All we can do however, is predict how the fishing will be, hopefully, you’ve picked up your copy of the newly revised Successfully Fishing Buoy 10 for Chinook and Coho Salmon.

Although ideally, we would have the opportunity to hit the last part of outgoing tide in the morning, the first part of incoming, especially given the mediocrity of the incoming push, should be quite good.

As we detailed i our Buoy 10 Technical Report, the soft incoming push is conducive to a deep water upriver troll from the Chinook Wing jetties (on the Washington side) to the bridge. I will most likely start my day around Wing Jetty 5, except on the Desdemona Sands side of Blind Channel. The incoming tide may put fish on the Desdemona Tongue Troll, but the better bet will likely be the deep water.

Chinook are often strewn throughout the water column on the flood tide, but I will have at least 2 of my rods dredging on the bottom of the river on this upstream troll. Assuming the anchovies are of decent size (and they are), I will likely go ALL fresh anchovies for day 1. The four bow rods will be suspended with the back 2 rods “On the deck.”

Given the fact we’re only dealing with a 6.5 foot push, I will likely keep my focus on the reach of river downstream of the bridge. Although there certainly will be fish above the bridge at high tide, on these weaker tides, I don’t tend to spend much time pursuing the Chinook bite above the bridge. We’re half way into the season, meaning there should be ample numbers of Chinook above the bridge.

After the high tide peaks at 11:05 a.m., start your downstream troll on the Desdemona Sands side of Blind Channel. Although fish will likely remain suspended on the weak outgoing, I do concentrate more on fishing closer to the bottom on outgoing tide. The Washington side is commonly the more popular choice, but the green line on the Oregon side is likely to produce fair to good catches as well.

Again, with the ideal tide being a weak outgoing, trollers should find themselves fishing ideal trolling speeds for most of the outgoing tide. Try to stay slower than 4 mph for your best success.

Fish should bite throughout the day, making for a banner start to what will likely be a productive 14 days. Be mindful of the new regulations change, only 1 salmonid per day/person, whether it be a Chinook or coho salmon. It’s a bit early for coho, especially given the smaller run size, but ocean coho have been running exceptionally large, so be sure to know your species ID before bringing the hammer down. Any Chinook is allowed, only hatchery coho are legal. No steelhead are allowed in the lower Columbia River right now.

Although spinners are also an option, if you do go with hardware, I recommend that all rods on your boat go with hardware. Bait tends to out fish hardware when fished from the same boat, but if all rods are fishing hardware, you can certainly complete with the bait fleet. A mix of the smaller 3.5 spinners and larger size 6’s and 7’s should provide anglers with plenty of opportunity.

Dropping crab pots is not out of the realm of possibility, but I don’t recommend dropping gear in the trolling lanes or you’ll have a mess of angry anglers after you. Especially given the new regulations requiring names on all your buoys.

Catch and release sturgeon fishing is also an option, but you won’t have much competition with the consumptive salmon season underway. The lower river is inundated with crab and trash fish so fish above Tongue Point if you wish to maintain some sanity.

The weak tides are also conducive to ocean bottomfishing. Note the new NO RETENTION of cabezon for boat anglers. The new norm for limits of bottomfish is 7 fish limits with China, quillback amd copper rockfish off of the table.

Ocean crabbing should be good as well, and even though the shells are hardening, they are still not that full of meat.