Monday, October 18, 2021
Oct. 18, 2021

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Fall Chinook in Columbia still a good catch

Numbers didn’t quite reach forecast, but lots of fish were caught

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The Columbia River has been closed and reopened for Chinook fishing frequently this year. When it has been open anglers are catching lots of fine Chinook like this one taken with Dave's Guide Service.
The Columbia River has been closed and reopened for Chinook fishing frequently this year. When it has been open anglers are catching lots of fine Chinook like this one taken with Dave's Guide Service. (Photo courtesy Dave's Guide Service) Photo Gallery

The salmon fishing season has been on-again, off-again this year, but when it has been open the catch has been good.

The Chinook run in the Columbia is showing signs of winding down, but the hog lines and trollers are still getting fish. The tributary fishing is now taking off, with coho catches getting better in all the local systems.

Dave Mallahan of Dave’s Guide Service has been fishing the Columbia every day, and he has been getting limits.

“It has been red hot,” he said. “I’ve been trolling the 360 flashers with spinners just above the deadline at Warrior Rock.”

As for the spinners, he has not found any that are out-fishing the others. The Chinook don’t seem to be picky this year.

“They all seem to be working,” he said. “I put different ones on every rod and they all catch fish.”

Mallahan, and most anglers, will be shifting away from the mainstem Columbia Chinook fishery after a couple weeks when it slows down.

Ryan Lothrop, the Columbia River Fishery Manager for the WDFW, reports that the runs are showing up well, and close to expectations.

“The fall Chinook run has been a mixed bag,” said Lothrop. “We did not quite reach the forecast, but it’s been good fishing.”

He reports that the early tule runs have come in above expectations, but the Upriver Bright Chinook and Bonneville Pool Bright Chinook have been a little under the forecast.

Catches of native wild tule Chinook have been too high, and managers were forced to shut the Chinook fishing down at times this month.

With most of the tules now moving into the tributaries, the states have been able to reopen Chinook angling in the river above Warrior Rock. They did leave the Camas Slough closed until Oct. 1 to protect wild tules headed up the Washougal River.

The coho run has come in a little below expectations, too.

“Maybe it won’t be what the forecast was, but it will still be a good coho run,” said Lothrop.

Tributary salmon best in years

With the Chinook run slowing on the Columbia, anglers are beginning to turn to the local tributaries, and most of them are not disappointing.

Lothrop said that there is no way to judge just how strong the tributary runs are until the season is over and the numbers have been crunched, but the creel surveys and fishing reports have all been very good, with the exception of the Cowlitz.

Mallahan reports that there are plenty of fish to be had in the lower Cowlitz, but most of them are Chinook and steelhead, which can’t be kept this year. He said that the few early coho in the river are headed to the Toutle River, and the main run of late returning coho will not begin in earnest until mid-October.

Reports from the other tributaries are stellar.

Here is a rundown of what is happening in the local rivers right now, and what’s expected in the weeks ahead:

Kalama River — The Kalama has been producing lots of coho, and it gets both an early and late run. That means the fishing should stay strong though November. There is a fish collection weir operated by the state located just below the Modrow Bridge, and it keeps the fish in the lower river until rains lift it. The river did rise following the most recent rains, and some of the schools have now moved into the reaches above the weir.

When the river is low the fishing is best below the weir, but the action will move upstream following the rains, and boat anglers would do well to float the reaches below the Red Barn Launch in high water.

Jigs, salmon eggs, spinners, and metallic pink Maglip plugs in size 3.5 will all take the coho.

Lewis River — The North Fork of the Lewis River has been one of the hottest fisheries the last few weeks, but the river is low. That concentrates the fish, and the fishermen, in the deep holes near the hatchery above Woodland. The fishing pressure has been very high, and most anglers have been arriving early to stake out their spot.

Boat anglers have found success by fishing with salmon eggs, and twitching jigs, mostly at the hatchery. Bank anglers have been doing the same, but they have also been getting fish by drifting baits and gear in fast water reaches.

There will be a short lull in the fishing between the early and late runs, but by Mid-October fishing will pick up again.

Washougal River — A few anglers have been getting fall Chinook to bite in the lower three miles of the Washougal by fishing bobber and salmon eggs. Most of the Chinook are early tules, and they will be dark, but there are bright fish to be had, too.

This river gets a late run of coho, and they will arrive starting in the middle of October. Look to the Washougal River Greenway for the best access. Bobber and eggs, jigs, and spinners will all catch coho.

Cowlitz River — You will find few salmon you can take home right now in the Cowlitz River. The best bite has been from the Toutle River downstream, but that will change in October. There should be a very good return of late run coho headed back to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery.

That would make the reach between the Barrier Dam at the Salmon Hatchery down to Blue Creek the place to be in late October. The fishing should remain strong through November. Boat anglers are Twitching jigs or fishing bobber and bait, and bank anglers are fishing bobber presentations, drift gear or bait, and twitching jigs for the coho.

Anglers are reminded to always check the regulations before they fish.

Terry Otto’s Southwest Washington fishing update and forecast can be found in “The Guides Forecast” at www.theguidesforecast.com

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