Friday, March 31, 2023
March 31, 2023

Linkedin Pinterest

Salmon run rolls into rivers

Catch in Columbia tributaries starts to pick up

The Columbian
2 Photos
A happy angler shows off his catch. The bite will now switch from the main stem Columbia to the smaller tributaries like the Cowlitz.
A happy angler shows off his catch. The bite will now switch from the main stem Columbia to the smaller tributaries like the Cowlitz. Photo courtesy of CNH Guide Service Photo Gallery

The fall salmon season is peaking right now, and anglers are catching both Chinook and coho from Buoy 10 at the Columbia River’s mouth to the Deschutes River at the east end of the Columbia River Gorge.

The early-spawning Tule Chinook run is just about over, and that leaves the table-worthy late run of Upriver Bright Chinook and the early run of coho salmon for fishermen to target.

It’s a time of tight lines and happy anglers. While the runs are not huge this year, good river conditions have made for a good bite up and down the Columbia River and into the tributaries as well.

“It’s been a good fall. The fish are on the move, and now the fishing will shift from the Columbia to the tributary rivers,” said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the WDFW’s Region Five in Ridgefield.

Fishing in the mainstem Columbia River will continue to be good into late October, with coho salmon slowly replacing Chinook as the main catch. There are two runs of coho salmon that return to Southwest Washington Rivers. The early run peaks in late September, and the late run arrives in late October and early November.

Up until now the salmon have been kegged up at the mouths of rivers such as the Cowlitz and the Lewis. But recent rains will send them streaming up into the smaller rivers. Effort has been strong and anglers have taken good numbers of nice Chinook, according to Lance Fisher of Lance Fisher Fishing. However, he reports that the run is arriving late.

“The fish are coming in late. They are about 10 days behind normal,” says Fisher, “but we’ve got good water and a good bite. We’ll see over the course of the next two weeks if it holds up.”

He reports that fishing for Chinook off the mouth of the Deschutes River has been good, but the bite at the mouth of the Klickitat River has been a little off with more salmon being caught by fishermen that are trolling rather than the favorite method: hover-fishing with salmon eggs.

Here is what to expect this fall in the rivers near you.

Cowlitz River

The heavyweight of the local salmon streams is the Cowlitz River. Action for fall Chinook has been very good, but this is a selective fishery and most of the Chinook are wild and must be released. Cary Hofmann of CNH Guide Service reports that wild Chinook have been outnumbering the keep-able hatchery fish about four or five to one. Hatchery fish have a clipped adipose fin.

However, Hofmann reports that the lopsided ratio has not been much of a problem.

“When you are catching 12, 13 or 14 fish a day, it’s just a lot of fun,” says Hofmann. “This rain is going to bring in a lot of fish and it’s about to get really good. It should fish well for another month and a half.”

Hofmann has been side drifting to locate the schools, and then targeting them by hover fishing and back-bouncing clusters of salmon eggs.

In mid October the Chinook fishery will give way to the Cowlitz’s late coho run. Pre-season projections call for a return of 26,600 adult coho. Once the coho start to show Hofmann will switch tactics to twitching jigs and casting plugs.

Drano Lake

This lake at the mouth of the Little White Salmon River has been producing some very good fishing for Chinook, both inside the lake itself, and outside the mouth in the Columbia. Coho salmon are no longer stocked out at Drano, but the lake does see some strays.

Lewis River

The run of wild Chinook returning to this river has rebounded from a few low years, and some 13,000 wild Chinook are expected to return. Early run coho, which are peaking right now, are expected to return in the neighborhood of about 17,500. The late run forecast is better, calling for 20,600 adult coho.

Kalama River

The huge run of hatchery Tule Chinook is finishing up, but the river should get about 7,000 late coho.

Washougal River

About 3,200 late arriving coho are expected to return to this small river.

Many of these rivers have rules that are specific to them. Always check the regulations before you fish.

Guides List

Lance Fisher Fishing: 866-936-7041, http://lance

CNH Guide Service: 206-919-1266, http://www.cnh