The Buoy 10 salmon fishery at the mouth of the Columbia River has been a victim of its own success.
The states of Oregon and Washington closed the fishery to the retention of Chinook salmon on Wednesday after anglers caught too many fish.
Chinook retention was closed from Buoy 10 up to Puget Island.
The ocean fishing for Chinook had already been closed, once again, because anglers were catching too many.
The retention of coho will still be allowed, and that run is projected to be a big one.
Still, it is the Chinook fishing that was causing a lot of excitement.
“It’s been the best Chinook fishing I’ve ever seen,” said guide Cameron Black of Gone Catchin’ Guide Service out of Woodland. “I don’t know if the fish are holding well or it’s the tides or techniques but we are catching them better and faster than ever.”
With the Chinook closure many anglers and guides will move upriver where they can still chase the larger Chinook salmon.
“(The closure) is going to disappoint a lot of people that’s for sure,” said Bob Rees of Bob Rees’ Oregon Fishing Guide Service out of Tillamook, Ore.
Rees plans to stay at Astoria through mid-October and target coho, while Black is determined to move upriver and fish out of the Woodland area.
Both guides are certain that the state’s projections for Chinook returning to the Columbia were way too low.
About 450,000 adult fall Chinook were projected, but some anglers think that the final return might be in the 600,000 to 700,000 range.
“They grossly underestimated the Chinook run,” Rees said.
Fishing for Chinook from Puget Island up to Bonneville Dam remains open, with a single Chinook allowed as part of a two-fish daily salmon limit until Sept. 8. From West Puget Island up to Warrior Rock, all salmon angling will be prohibited from Sept. 8-30 to protect wild tule Chinook headed back to the Lewis River.
Salmon angling will still be allowed from Warrior Rock to Bonneville Dam.
Rees has been trolling with 360 flashers ahead of a chunk of herring or anchovy fished on a double hook mooching rig, or a treble hook with a 3.0 or 3.5 spinner blade.
Black has found success fishing the 360 flashers ahead of spinners. He also reports that some guides are finding success by fishing with triangle flashers and cut-plug bait, and that the Brad’s Super Baits, or Yakima Bait SpinFish have been very effective as well.
All salmon fishing in the Columbia River requires the use of barbless hooks.
“It doesn’t seem like anything is too crazy,” Black said. “More or less, if you are using good trolling techniques you will get bit.”
Rees does not plan on changing tactics to fish for coho at Buoy 10. He reports that he has been catching coho even when fishing deep for Chinook.
Tides play a big role in where anglers find the schools of salmon in the estuary.
“The bite is determined by the time of the tide,” Rees said. “For coho (the bite) starts about an hour after low slack. In high tide exchanges you definitely hold the line and wait for those fish to wash through.”
The days with smaller tide exchanges can be the best opportunity, even though the fish may still bite well on the big exchanges. Still, it can be challenging when the currents get too strong.
“On the big tides you’re not picking on fish that are holding,” Black noted. “When the tides are coming in, it is flushing the fish in and out. Sometimes the tides’ too fast and they just keep their mouth shut.”
The schools of Chinook are already moving into the upriver areas, with the bite improving even up to the Vancouver area. Anglers putting out of Chinook Landing have been finding more salmon this past week by fishing wobblers in the hog lines.
Hog lines will be forming from Warrior Rock to Bonneville Dam during the outgoing tides in the weeks to come, and some anglers will find the fish by trolling or back trolling during the slack or incoming tides.
The upriver Chinook action should hold up well through most of September.
The coho run is starting to improve. Rees said the peak of the early coho run should start any day now.
There is a short lull between the early and late coho runs, but the late run should provide good action in the estuary through mid-October.
Once the coho run materializes in the Portland area, anglers will start to find them at the mouths of the tributaries.
The Sandy River mouth is one good place to intercept coho, with anglers often tossing spinners to the schools.
Across the river in the Camas Slough anglers troll plugs for the fish.
Remember that the rules for salmon fishing change from river section to river section, so be sure to check the regulations before fishing. Also, emergency rules changes can happen at any time so be sure to check the emergency fishing regulations webpage.
For Buoy 10 reports, including bar conditions and tides, check the WDFW Buoy 10 reports.
Bob Rees’ Oregon Fishing Guide Service: 503- 812-9036; Bob Rees offers an Oregon and SW Washington fishing report as part of “The Guides Forecast.”
Cameron Black of Gone Catchin’ Guide Service: 360-921-5079