Guide Kelly Short of Warrenton, Ore., has lots of tips on how to catch chinook and coho at Buoy 10. He's got advice on brining herring, using scents, changing baits and trolling depths at the Columbia River mouth.
Try them, but consider them guidelines. not gospel, he said at a seminar in Longview on Saturday.
"It doesn't mean it's the correct way,'' Short said. "It's what's worked for me, and if my car isn't broke I don't fix it. If you're comfortable doing it another way, then do that and then you'll be confident when you fish.''
Here's a summary of Short's advice:
TIDES: A key when fishing at Buoy 10 is to look for a soft ebb (outgoing) tide. Check the tide tables and look for a high tide in the morning of around 7 feet ebbing to a low tide of about 3 feet.
Short calls these "holdover tides.''
"You really want to fish holdover tides,'' he said. "You don't want an 8.7 high tide going to a minus tide because you're going to have a little window to fish when they're really going to bite. When you're trolling, you're tearing your bait off because everything is going so fast.''
Years ago, fishing at Buoy 10 was all about getting coho coming in on a flood (incoming) tide. Boats would face the ocean near the boundary line at Buoy No. 10 and hold against the incoming tide.
That was back when the net pens in Youngs Bay at Astoria produced coho instead of chinook.
"We had a million silvers coming in and you could hold out on the (Buoy 10) line and it was a blood bath,'' Short said. "That doesn't happen any more and that's a rough place (water conditions) to be.''
Angling at Buoy 10 has evolved into a chinook fishery where anglers start upstream of the Astoria Bridge and troll downstream on the ebb tide, preferable a soft outgoing tide.
"Last year, it seemed like the chinook staged way up above the bridge on the Washington side,'' he said. "They weren't down by the church hole like they normally are.''
BAITS: Short prefers the green label size of herring.
"They (fish) grab it a lot harder. With the bigger baits, they start biting on it and pull on it and you have to feed it to them for a minute before they take it.''
Short does not cure his bait the night before, instead opting to brine his herring about an hour before leaving the dock.
He'll slit a vaccuum-packed package of herring, stick it in the river to fill with water and allow it to sit for 15 minutes or so to loosen the herring.
Then he fills a small to medium bait caddy half full of water, drains the water from the herring package and dumps the bait into the caddy. Next he dumps in about a cup of salt.
"My brines are very simple,'' he said. "I go to the local feed store and ask for kiln-dried salt, about $9 for a 50-pound sack. It's like a mineral salt or a cattle salt or something. It dissolves quick in your cooler. It tends to tighten up the scales a little bit more and cure my bait up a little bit better.''
His final ingredient is squirt of Mrs. Stewart's liquid bluing, bought from the laundry shelves of the supermarket.
"I never put anything else in there but that,'' Short said. "If you want to put scent, or anise, or anything else, go to the dollar store and buy a cheap little plastic dish... Once you put something in this plastic cooler, I don't care if you bleach it, scrub it, whatever, once you squirt anise or something, that scent is going to stay in here.''
Short fishes mostly plug-cut herring. He'll cut only a half dozen initially, using the coho side of a plug cutter.
"If I cut them all first, the salt tends to get inside the cavity and things start to shrink up and you're taking away all the scent and smell and blood.''
He also prefers a tight spin.
"We've been taught chinook like a really big roll,'' he said. "My personal choice is a tight roll.''
Another way to cut herring is what's called a "buck cut,'' he said.
The herring is plug cut at the dorsal fin, essentially throwing away the front half of the bait.
"It spins really fast,'' he said. "When they hit, they've got it. You usually don't miss them.''
A sharp knife making a clean cut is critical with plug-cut herring.
"Don't sit there and saw through them,'' Short said. "You start sawing them and it cuts edges on them.''
His herring get changed about every 20 to 30 minutes.
"If it's brined well you should be able to fish it 45 minutes if it's not pulling against hard current,'' he said.
If fishing a whole herring, Short said he normally will thread a short piece of spinner wire down the backbone, then put a little bend to the wire so the bait spins well when trolled.
ODDS AND ENDS: Short fishes with an eight-foot leader, split in the middle with a bead chain. Like everyone, he uses Delta Divers and flashers. His leader is 50-pound-test Big Game line. The leader is shortened to 5 or 6 feet when trolling a spinner.
• Chinook tend to hold in the portion of Buoy 10 between the Washington-side community of Chinook and a gray church a few miles to the east. They hold again upstream of the Astoria Bridge, he said.
What's not so well known, is the chinook also hold for a few days just upstream of Tongue Point on the Oregon side or Deep River on the Washington side, said Short.
• Once boaters complete their downstream troll, they start their big motors and power back upstream to begin another run.
Fishing would be better for everyone, Short said, if anglers would go out around the downstream trollers rather than among them.
"That just ruins the fishing for everybody,'' he said. "That's too much noise in 20 feet of water....You'll push them (the fish) to the side.''
• Try moving into the shallower water, or the deeper 40- to 45-foot depths after there has been a lot of boat traffic to target on those fish displaced by all the commotion.
• Watch the wind. It normally starts blowing around 1 p.m. and water conditions can get nasty.
• Consider fishing at Buoy 10 in September, after the area has closed for chinook retention.
"If you want to catch coho, stay in September, he said. "It's great. Everybody leaves. You'll catch kings, but you've got to let them go.''