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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Feb. 27, 2024

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Coho salmon fishing season on Columbia River should be a good one

Forecast is for 600,000 adult coho to make trek from ocean

By , Columbian freelance outdoors writer
3 Photos
A fall Chinook that fell for a spoon at the mouth of a Columbia River tributary. Anglers in the Vancouver area are getting fall salmon in the local hog lines.
A fall Chinook that fell for a spoon at the mouth of a Columbia River tributary. Anglers in the Vancouver area are getting fall salmon in the local hog lines. (Terry Otto for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Even with the Chinook fishery reopening on Friday at Buoy 10, anglers can still look forward to coho.

Coho fishing should be very good if the catches in the ocean off the mouth of the Columbia River are an indication. Salt water trips are getting quick limits of coho salmon.

Chinook retention ended on Sept. 4 from Buoy 10 to Tongue Point, but an in-season evaluation and stock composition allowed for additional Chinook retention opportunity through Dec. 31 to the ongoing coho fishery.

This year’s adult fall Chinook forecast is for 554,000. A run of almost 600,000 adult coho is also forecast.

For anglers still bent on Chinook, the lower Columbia has been doing producing well. Hog lines out of Chinook Landing and the Gleason boat launch have been getting some very nice fish.

Ryan Lothrop, the Columbia River fishery manager for the WDFW, reported that the Chinook portion of the Buoy 10 fishery was a little slow, but the river did not have to be shut down this year.

“It’s been quite a few years since we have had Chinook open through Labor Day,” Lothrop said.

He feels that the seasons set this year, which included a couple short closures, worked very well, even if the bite as inconsistent at times.

“We are seeing effort on track to be the same as last year,” he said, “but catch rates sort of bounced around. It started better than expected, but then it slowed down. Then the first day after the closure was super hot. Then it kind of fell back down again.”

He was not surprised that the catch rates were a little below last year’s.

“Last year, we had that record Bonneville pool tule run,” he said.

He explains that expecting two record runs back-to-back is unrealistic. He also points out that the lower catch rate helped the department keep the season open for Chinook.

Lothrop also said that when the Buoy 10 fishery was closed, most anglers and guides stayed down near Astoria. There were options above Tongue Point, as well as good action out in the salt, so the fishers did not need to leave the area.

Reports of excellent coho fishing out in the ocean has guides and anglers looking forward to when they will begin to move upriver in droves.

Oregon fishing guide Bob Rees has been targeting the salt water, and he is really impressed with how many coho are biting out there, and they are running at a real nice size.

“They haven’t flooded the river yet but that’s just a matter of days,” Rees said. “We have been out at the mouth because the weather had been nice and the fishing has been very good.”

He said a boat limit can come as quick as in one hour of fishing when the bite is this hot.

“In two days, on two different days, we landed five coho at once,” he said. “That’s not just hooked, that’s landed.”

Rees said he has never accomplished that before.

He said he has found good success by trolling a spinner chunk bait, which is a 3.5 spinner blade fished with a pink bucktail jig, with a chunk of anchovy for added attraction. He has trolled these behind a 360 flasher.

“That’s the one thing that has held up day after day,” he adds.

He has also found some success by trolling a Spinfish, which is a bait-filled plug, also behind a 360 flasher, but the chunk bait spinner has been fishing so well he rarely alters his offering.

While the coho haven’t flooded in yet, there are already some places where the tributaries are getting good for coho. The Lewis River has seen some decent catches already, and Lothrop reports that the mouth of the Lewis has been good for Chinook and coho.

He said the chunk bait spinner will work for coho even once they move up into the river.

For Chinook anglers, the Vancouver area has been very good lately, with most fish falling to anglers anchoring in the hog lines. Chinook are moving over the dam in good numbers, too, and the fishing has also picked up in Drano Lake, at the mouth of the White Salmon River, and at the mouth of the Hood River.

As of Sept. 7, more than 250,000 fall Chinook have crossed over Bonneville Dam. Almost 41,000 coho have also crossed over the dam.

Coho are beginning to gather near the mouths of the tributaries, with the Cowlitz, and the Lewis on the Washington side seeing action, and anglers are also finding them gathered near the mouth of the Sandy River.

Anglers are reminded that there are different regulations for each section of the Columbia River. For a full list of the fall salmon regulations by zone, check the WDFW website.

For all fall-season salmonid fisheries, each legal angler aboard a vessel may continue to deploy angling gear until the daily adult salmonid bag limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved. Anglers must use barbless hooks for all salmon fishing on the Columbia.

Columbian freelance outdoors writer