Columbia River Fishing Report and Forecast

Shad Are In Masse, Sturgeon Season Remains on Hold

With “spring” Chinook still pouring over Bonneville Dam (but closed), summer steelhead on their way, as well as a robust return of sockeye, and shad inundating the river, you have options.

It’s getting to be that time again, where the Columbia River is getting interesting again. The river remains closed to ALL salmon and steelhead above the I-5 Bridge, at least until mid-month. That is fast approaching however. There are some summer steelhead being caught along the beaches downstream of the I-5 Bridge, as well as numerous Chinook that must be released. Here is what ODF&W fisheries manager Jimmy Watts reported for Columbia River catch over the weekend:

“During May 25-31, steelhead anglers on the lower Columbia made 3,525 trips and caught 142 adult Chinook (released), 169 summer steelhead (161 kept and eight released), and 26 sockeye (kept).”

Almost as many springers as steelhead this week. That’s not a good sign for the summer steelhead return this year.

The sockeye return is projected to be good and they sure make for good tablefare when caught, but they are hard to target.

Catch and release sturgeon fishing has been productive in the estuary if you land on the right spot. The Miller Island area has been productive. Taylor Sands (In front of Astoria to Tongue Point in the middle of the river) hasn’t been consistent…yet. Fresh shrimp and certainly fresh anchovies are very hard to get, nearly impossible actually. Hopefully that changes if we get a consumptive opportunity.

That opportunity will be discussed early next week, with a possible 1 or 2 day opener. We’re getting so late into the season, catch rates should be good enough to caution managers to play a conservative opportunity. We’ll send out details when we get them.

Catch and release sturgeon fishing remains a good option from the mouth of the Willamette River to the Vancouver RRX just below I-5.

The Guide’s Forecast – We’re coming into a strong minus tide series, along with peak migration for early season (mostly Willamette bound) summer steelhead. Oregon beaches should continue to produce fair results for plunkers targeting summer steelhead, but also intercepting a fair number of spring Chinook too. Of course the springers have to be released, unless it’s a hatchery Chinook jack, and there aren’t many of those this year, unfortunately.

To target summer steelhead, fish the “hot” colors (reds, oranges and pinks) in smaller size spin-n-glos. It’s always a good idea to tip your spin-n-glos with coon shrimp or at least liberally apply scent, preferrably in shrimp flavor. Don’t over-cast your offerings along the beach, steelhead AND sockeye travel quite close to the beach, especially in a strong outgoing tide, like what we’re expecting this weekend. Six to 10 feet off of the shoreline is often adequate enough to find success for both of these species, and unfortunately, spring Chinook as well.

Hopefully sturgeon will be on the menu by next weekend. Estuary fishing should be good. Until then, catch and release opportunities for sturgeon anglers will be good, you can go and practice to scope out your spot come the opener. Bait will be hard to find, but if you can, sand shrimp will be king. Frozen anchovies may take some fish, but if you can get your hands on shrimp, do it. Miller Island has been productive lately, Taylor Sands and Tongue Point mediocre. The reach below the Astoria Bridge hasn’t taken off just yet.

Fishing the south jetty for bottomfish won’t be a good idea on the weekend tide swing. You just won’t have fun and won’t effectively be fishing.

Not a bad idea to go razor clam digging however. Get out there ASAP!