It’s actually happening folks. After weeks and weeks of waiting and most of us putting in countless rod hours on the river with nary a nibble to show for it, we are finally experiencing what could be considered decent Spring Chinook fishing. Now before you get all hot and bothered, let’s all take a deep breath and remember what ‘decent’ Springer fishing means for us mortals. For guys like me, it looks something like trolling all day long with three buddies and having one or two chances at best. So just because your favorite guide is blowing up your Facebook feed with quick limits, try to keep things in perspective. That said, given that there is no finer Salmon in the world than the Columbia River Springer, it only takes a fish or two to have an excellent day so its time to get out and enjoy this fishery.
Nearly 1,300 upriver origin Spring Chinook were kept last week (up from 432 the week prior) which brings the total to just over 2,200 fish. The total allowable impact before any run size adjustment is 7,130 upriver fish, which puts us at 31% of our quota. The best catch rate took place in the Gorge were anglers averaged .5 fish per boat while the Portland, Troutdale, Westport and the estuary all averaged around .2 per boat.
Fishery managers allowed a 9-hour commercial season on Tuesday the 29th. As of this writing, the results have not been posted yet but the season was modeled to allow about 71% of the total commercial harvest quota. Depending on the outcome there may be another commercial opener on April 5th, but said date will be closed to sport fishing regardless.
In other news, ODFW just announced that beginning April 1st the popular 2-rod endorsement will apply to Salmon, and Steelhead on the Willamette River and other tributaries. Kids under 12 do not need the endorsement in order to use a second rod. This could make for a great family outing at Oregon City in late spring for a Salmon/Shad combo trip! Check the ODFW Website for more details.
As we approach April and with warm daytime temps this week and the rivers continuing to drop, the Columbia should see a big spike in catch rate from the estuary all the way up to beacon rock this weekend. Look for the Gorge to continue to produce as well as the other usual suspects; Davis Bar, I5, the Airport, and Caterpillar Island will put slabs on the grill. Corbett and Rooster Rock are also great prospects for those looking to escape the ‘washing machine’ effect typically found closer to Portland.
While all the focus will be on the big river over the course of the next week and a half, its little brother the Willamette should stay on your radar too. The turbidity gauge is reading at about six right now which means its cloudy but fishable. In these conditions focus your efforts on shallow shelves or areas that fish will suspend such as the Portland harbor. Springers will often stay in the top 10’ to 15’ of the water column and be aggressive. Also, don’t be afraid to use a double flasher setup. This will help draw them in a bit. Good luck!