What a ride it’s been the first two weeks of the Buoy 10 season. Depending on whom you ask, the bite has been either gangbusters, or the sky is falling and the Columbia fall Salmon run has totally collapsed. As with most things in life, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
The downside to last year’s spectacular opening weekend is that all of the sudden the masses seem to think they can expect that on an annual basis. Reality is, that may have been a once or twice in a lifetime occurrence, and even on a good year the bite will be inconsistent for the first half of August. Thus far, getting on a good bite has simply been a matter of being at the right place at the right time. Red hot but short-lived flurries of action have been the story this year.
One of the indicators I look at when tracking the Astoria fishery is to keep an eye on reports from Westport, WA. Those are Columbia River fish making their way down the coastline that get intercepted at the last major port in Washington before turning the corner at Ilwaco. Once the fishing gets good there, Buoy 10 is about a week away from good consistent fishing. At last glance, the creel survey at Westport was yielding close to 1 King per rod, which should translate to a solid bite at the red can in the coming week or so.
This week the tides are transitioning from a classic ‘holdover’ series to big tide sets by next weekend. Though these aren’t typically thought of as traditional Chinook tides, sometimes it helps to have a bunch of water pumping fish into the river to spark a bite. This could also trigger the first meaningful slug of Coho into the river which would help liven things up a bit.
The first few days of the week will feature a morning incoming tide. This is a good time to work the lower sections of the river, trying to intercept fresh arrivals from the ocean. I would start out either around Social Security Beach, or ‘A Jetty’ near Ilwaco then work my way up with the tide on the red line or at the checkerboard. The one trend I have noticed in a season that has lacked trends is above the bridge on the Oregon side near the ship anchorage has been productive around high tide, so keep that in mind.
There hasn’t been much consistency in regards to what is catching fish, either. Herring, Anchovies, Spinners, they’re all catching fish when the bite happens. Frankly, right now what works is whatever you have confidence in. The same goes whether you prefer divers or lead. Pay attention to those electronics and locate the fish. If you’re in a crowd not getting bit, you might as well leave the crowd and search for virgin waters. Sometimes these fish don’t swim where they are supposed to and you have to go find them in unusual areas.
The coming week will say a lot about what to make of this season. The 3rd week of August is a good indicator as to the overall size of the fall run so time will tell. This is also the time of the season when the masses show up, so if you don’t want to wait at the ramp for an hour, either get there ridiculously early (4:00 AM) or sleep in and go mid-morning. Otherwise, have patience with each other and keep in mind that we’re all here to have a good time. Good luck and be safe out there!