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Tuesday,  May 21 , 2024

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News / Sports / Outdoors

Spring Chinook head down to Drano

Wind River also good spot as run peaks in May

By Terry Otto, Columbian freelance outdoors writer
Published: May 4, 2024, 5:55am
3 Photos
Another limit of Drano Lake springers via Cody Luft. Drano Lake should fish well into June, but the lake closes to sport fishing every Wednesday.
Another limit of Drano Lake springers via Cody Luft. Drano Lake should fish well into June, but the lake closes to sport fishing every Wednesday. (Courtesy of Chrome Dome Adventures) Photo Gallery

Spring Chinook passage over Bonneville Dam has increased during the last week, and the fishing at Drano Lake and the Wind River has picked up.

Both fisheries are doing well, but Drano Lake has been the better option. However, the good fishing has been attracting a lot of attention, especially on the weekends.

As of May 1, over 23,000 spring Chinook adults have crossed over Bonneville, with over 10,000 of those fish still within the Bonneville Pool. Daily counts have approached 2,500 a day at times.

According to Washington guide Cody Luft of Chrome Dome Adventures, catches at the two fisheries should peak sometime soon.

“It usually peaks sometime in the first week of May,” said Luft, “but the last couple years the patterns have kind of changed. The fish are showing later and later.”

Luft has been successful at getting his clients their limits on most days, and the expectation is that the good bite will continue.

Both Drano Lake and the Wind River have a one fin-clipped hatchery Chinook daily limit this year. State fisheries managers took the step to drop the limit from two Chinook in order to ensure that the White Salmon Hatchery received enough fish to fill their egg take needs.

Most of the action has come in the “Toilet Bowl,” a popular spot where anglers troll in a tight circle near the entrance of the lake. It is here that anglers target the schools of fish as they first enter the lake from the Columbia River.

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The spot is small, and the numbers of angler’s fishing the area can be surprising. Anglers that fish the troll need to be adept at handling a boat, and they need to keep their lines and offerings under their boat as much as possible to avoid tangling with the boats behind them.

“On the weekends you will sometimes see as many as 80 boats out there,” said Luft.

What anglers are using

Iconic angler Buzz Ramsey from Klickitat has been fishing Drano Lake at times in Luft’s boat, and he described the most common rig that anglers are fishing.

“Most people are using a Pro-Troll flasher, the one with a fin on it,” said Ramsey. “With that flasher you can troll down to a slow speed. Everyone is jammed up and its going slow, and with the water still cold, the fish will respond better to a slower troll.”

Most anglers are fishing with a spinner and prawn for bait. They run a 24-inch 30 pound-test leader from the weight to a 360 flasher. They run a 30- or 32-inch leader from the flasher back to a two-hook tandem rig with a 3.5 spinner and either an 0/1 or 0/2 single hook followed by a treble hook. They affix a small coon shrimp to the hooks and troll the rig tightly under the boat.

“Some guys run herring or a Super Bait instead of the prawn spinners,” said Luft, “but when the water’s cold the prawn spinners really outshine everything else.”

He said that will change when the water warms up later in the month, and then the alternate baits will become effective. Luft may try the Kokanee Cut Plugs and the 2.5 or 3.0 Spinfish, plugs, which are baits that can be filled with attractants, such as tuna. The smaller sizes work best when its crowded, and everyone is trolling slowly.

Also, the smaller size baits spin better with a slow troll.

Most of the action takes place within the toilet bowl, but at times the main lake can be good. Drano Lake is closed on Wednesdays so the tribes can fish, but Luft said that closed day allows the fish to spread into the main lake. Luft said that trolling the main lake on Thursday mornings can be very good.

In years past the hatchery would close its gates when their brood needs were met, and the returning fish would build up in the main lake. That made for good fishing without getting in line at the Toilet Bowl. In recent years the gates have been kept open so the hatchery can collect brood adults for other local hatcheries that may not meet their egg take, such as the Klickitat River.

The hatcheries produce a strain of upriver spring Chinook, called Black Faces, which are considered the best tasting strain of springers in the Columbia River.

At times, Luft will fish the mouth of the Wind River, which has been fishing well, but it can be tough to do when the legendary Columbia River Gorge winds pick up. The Drano fishery offers some protection from the winds.

He will continue to fish Drano Lake and the Wind River until the end of May, and sometimes into June.

Anglers are reminded that the Columbia River outside the mouth of Drano Lake is closed as of April 30. There is a boat fishing boundary in the lake to allow for some bank angling near the mouth of the lake. Luft reports that the bank anglers have been getting some fish by casting magnum Wiggle Warts or spinners, such as the Blue Fox Vibrax.

Anglers fishing the Wind River must be careful to stay within the fishing boundary of the Wind River itself, and not stray into Columbia River waters.

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GUIDED TRIPS

Cody Luft, of Chrome Dome Adventures, also fishes the main stem Columbia River, including the Brewster area, for Chinook and sockeye. He also fishes the Klickitat River for Chinook and steelhead.

Chrome Dome Adventures, 509-853-5338: https://www.facebook.com/people/Chrome-Dome-Adventures/100057334305125/

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Columbian freelance outdoors writer