Fall chinook fishing tips

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



LONGVIEW — Guide Rick Graser admits he fishes “old school” when trying to catch fall chinook salmon in the lower Columbia River.

A Vancouver native, Graser still uses spreader bars to separate his leader and dropper, while most of the angling armada anchored at places like the mouth of the Cowlitz River use a slider.

Sliders are popular because if the weight gets tangled in the net the fish can still take out line and is not necessarily lost.

Graser doesn’t care.

“If I get the fish that close to the boat, I’ve got a fillet knife, I cut reach out and cut the lead line,” he said. “Just cut if off. I can re-tie it.”

But one time he made an oops.

“I cut the wrong line,” Graser said. “I had the line with a 35-pounder wrapped around my hand. I lifted it up and flipped it in the net. A guy looked at me, a cigarette in his hand, and said, ‘Well, you got lucky.”’

Graser offered a variety of tips for fall chinook fishing at a recent seminar. Among them:

RIGGING: He uses braided line, either TUF-Line or PowerPro, 50-pound minimum, or 65-pound-test. He uses a Luhr Jensen spreader bar, 10-pound-test line for his dropper and 40-pound-test Ande line for his leader.

Leaders are 6 feet and droppers are 5 feet.

Why spreaders instead of sliders?

“If you’re not real good about letting it out, real slow, they tangle a lot,” he said. “When you’re walking it back, if the current slows down, you’ll get some slack and your wobbler is laying on the sand.”

Since his oops of cutting the main line, Graser has changed to using a different color line on the dropper.

He also believes in heavy rods and heavy weights.

“Don’t walk it 200 feet below the boat. You can lose scope on your lead line. Walk it back just a little bit.”

WOBBLERS: On a weaker tidal exchange, when the lower Columbia is not flowing as hard, use a light wobbler, such as a Brad’s Mini-Extreme, Graser said.

His guideline is a light wobbler early in the ebb tide, a regular wobbler when the water is running hard and a light wobbler again at the end of the outgoing tide.

“When the tide is not running hard yet, and the wobbler is straight, it does not work much,” he said. “You’re going to waste 45 minutes of fishing unless you put a little bend in it. That’s what gives it that little sway.”

It does not take much flow to get fall chinook moving at the beginning of an ebb tide, he said.

Don’t tune wobblers freehand, he added.

Find a flat surface on the boat and put the crease in the wobbler on that spot. Make a nice even bend on that crease.

“Use the palm of your hand right on that crease. You barely push down….Put it in the water. If you don’t have that good back and forth, bend it a little bit more. I like mine to kind of swim, instead of a big back and forth.”

Some wobblers need a bit of a bend added for the early and late portions of the ebb tide, but should be straight during the peak of the cycle.

“You want it straight in the faster water,” he said.

Graser never puts scent on the shiny part of a wobbler.

“I always put in on the painted part because I want to keep the flash.” he said. “If you put scent on it, it dulls the flash. I put scent on the painted part or the hook.”

Chinook favor silver, green and chartreuse, he said. Copper or copper and red work on an overcast or rainy day.

WATER DEPTHS: “I look for 40 to 50 feet of water, my favorite is 48 feet with a dropoff,” he said. “I’ll drive around and drive around until I find one. It doesn’t have to be a big one. I look for at least 8 feet of drop, and I try to get on the upstream side of that.”

Graser said it is not necessary to hop around in the hog line.

“The first part of the tide, don’t pull up and anchor because they are hammering them on the outside,” he said. “As long as you are in that 40- to 50-foot of water, and you’ve got a dropoff behind you, stay there.”