Chinook salmon are beginning to enter the Columbia River, and the Buoy 10 fishery at the mouth of the Columbia River is beginning to gain steam.
Anglers continue to do well out in the ocean, but with good numbers of chinook entering the river more anglers may commit to fishing inside in the coming days.
Over 900,000 coho are expected to enter the Columbia this fall, an exceptional return. However, numbers of returning chinook are expected to be on the low side. For that reason, chinook retention will close after Aug. 20 below Tongue Point.
Most anglers are still heading over the bar to try for the more numerous coho in the ocean, but the question is, will the saltwater stay open much longer?
Wendy Beeghly, the Ocean Salmon Manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, reports that while angling in the saltwater has been good, catches dipped during the poor weather last week, and that will leave enough quota to keep the fishery going for a while.
“We are looking pretty good right now,” said Beeghly. “When we have all the numbers, I think we will be around 38 percent of the coho quota, (in Marine Area 1, Ilwaco).”
While that still leaves a sizable chunk of the catch available, Beeghly warns that anglers can burn through that very quickly over the next week or so.
“We see a big increase with ocean fishing when Buoy 10 opens,” said Beeghly. “A lot of those guys come out for Buoy 10, and if the ocean is nice, they will pop out into the ocean. If the Buoy 10 fishing is not hot, they will pop out into the ocean.”
Anglers are advised to check the WDFW website for closures, or call the WDFW before they head out to fish.
Beeghly also reported that anglers were getting some fish inside the river already. That report was backed up by Buzz Ramsey of Yakima Bait. He joined the father and son team of Bill Monroe Sr., the outdoor writer for the Oregonian newspaper, and Bill Monroe Jr., a fishing guide, for an outing last Saturday.
The ocean got rough about mid-afternoon, so they tried fishing the flood tide in the Columbia above the Astoria-Megler Bridge on the Washington side.
“We turned and trolled upstream with the flood above the bridge, and we caught three kings really fast,” said Ramsey.
The kings bit anchovies trolled behind Yakima Bait flashers. Ramsey reported they had other take-downs and lost one salmon to sea lions.
Steve Leonard of Steve’s Guided Adventures was still fishing the salt when recently contacted, but he thinks the fish may be moving into the river early, too.
“I was marking a lot of fish in the river,” said Leonard.
Even so, Leonard will probably stick with the ocean for a while.
“I will stick with the salt until it closes,” he said. “I like fishing the salt water down there.”
Leonard will fish with herring and anchovies behind in-line flashers or the 360 Pro-Trolls, and sometimes he will fish with spinners, too.
“I might start out with both baits until I figure out what they want,” he said. “If I start getting bit on one more than the other, I’ll switch over to that particular bait.”
He also said anglers will need to figure out what the hot bite will be on, and it changes every year. Sometimes it’s bait, other years its spinners.
Getting the right bait on the end of your line is just one of the figures in the equation.
“I think it’s more about getting the bait on the fish’s nose, finding that right depth that the bait needs to be at,” said Leonard.
Tides will also improve for fishing during the coming week, with softer, more manageable tides prevailing, which most anglers prefer.
“Anything with an eight-foot tide or over Is really tough,” said guide Bill Monroe Jr.
Monroe was planning on sticking with the ocean until it closes, too, but may work some of the in-river areas as well. His successful outing in the river last Saturday may be a sign that an in-river strategy could work already.
He will look to the dead-end channel above the bridge on the Washington side, the Hammond area, and the green line on the Oregon side above the bridge to start.
But it can be tough to give up that salt-water bite.
“With how good the oceans been it will be tough to go in,” said Monroe. “It’s been phenomenal.”
Anchovies have been working very well for Monroe.
“It’s been pretty much an anchovy show,” he reported. “We’re catching coho pretty good on those.”
He will probably move inside the river about the second or third week of August.
With some chinook already entering the river, and many being caught in the saltwater beyond the bar, the outlook for chinook is pretty good through the season closure.
Just as the chinook fishery closes, the coho fishery should pick up inside the river. The early coho run usually enters the river in good numbers around the last week of August. In late September the late coho run will start to arrive and will provide good fishing until late October.