Outdoors

Trolling the Columbia for Spring Chinook

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Trolling the Columbia for Spring Chinook

Year in and year out, trolling is by far the most popular method on the Columbia River.  Though it certainly isn’t the only technique by which to fill your freezer with arguably the world’s tastiest Salmon, there’s a reason so many anglers employ trolling.  This week, we’ll take a look at some of the conditions, and structure to pay attention to while chasing Springers on the Columbia.

2016 is shaping up to be vastly different than the previous year.  The Columbia basin has a far greater snow pack which will help keep the headwaters cool and reservoirs full throughout the summer.  This will translate to cooler water temps and higher flows than we had last year.  I don’t think however that the flows will be like the ones we saw in 2011, in which the Columbia surpassed flood stage for nearly two weeks.  This year looks to be more like an average, or slightly above average year in terms of runoff.  This should keep fish biting well throughout the season but not produce such heavy flows that we have no choice but to anchor in the bushes.

Looking back through my journal entries it seems that in years similar to this in snow pack, your efforts are best spent targeting shallow to medium depth flats such as the ones found near the airport, Davis Bar and Corbett.  In addition to the tides, I use the Vancouver gauge to help he choose what water to target.  Right now the river is hovering around 10’ which is a little higher than ideal for trolling the big river, but definitely not out of the question.  I’ve trolled up fish with the gauge as high as 12.75’.  Current breaks caused by wing dams, points, or other structure can help funnel fish.

Though the rigging may not change much, this technique looks a little different on the big river than it does on the Willamette.  Stronger currents put fish close to the bottom meaning that more often than not your lead should be dredging a trough in the sand as the boat maneuvers downstream.  Shorter lead dropper lines of 12-16” will get your gear down even closer to the deck.  Most guides will tell you than if the cut edge of your Herring isn’t sand-blasted after each pass, you weren’t fishing.  The one exception might come when the tide slows down during the incoming.  In this case I still like to keep my back rods banging the bottom, but might bring the bow rods a crank or two up as fish may suspend a little in softer flows.

 One feature that is unique to the lower Columbia is the rolling dunes found across its substrate.  When the current pushes hard, the low spots between these mounds can offer great shelter for weary upriver bound Salmon.  Many anglers will get lazy and just fish the tops of the dunes all the while passing their gear right over the top of aggressive Salmon.  Instead of passing up these fish, keep a close eye on your sonar and kick the motor into neutral about the time the boat passes the top of the dune. This will drop your baits into the low spot where fish hold.  Once you approach the incline, put the motor back into gear and repeat the process.  This may seem tedious at times, but it will pay off once you get the hang of it.

Because you’ll spend most of your time dragging bottom it is wise to change your Herring after a pass or two.  Bait will have a tendency to ‘mushroom out’ which after a while will cause it to stop spinning.  Another solution would be to use a Herring helmet such as the ‘Dick’s Sure-Spin’ to help keep your bait together.  These can also be used to add some color to the equation.

The vast majority of trollers will use some sort of rotating flasher such as the YBC Fish Flash, Short Bus, or other variety.  It’s best to let available light and water clarity determine flasher color.  For turbid water or low light conditions use contrasting fluorescent patterns while metallic colors reflect better under clearer water and sunnier weather.  Shades of green, Chartreuse, blue, and orange opposite chrome are hard to beat.

We have some nice holdover tides this week so if you have a chance to get out, now is the time to do it.  The Willamette looks like it will be blown out for at least 10 days so focusing your efforts above Kelly Point would be wise.  Good luck out there!

Pre-Register now for Outdoor GPS Day at the Park!

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NBCS NW

Pre-Register now for Outdoor GPS Day at the Park!

NBC Sports Northwest invites you to the 6th annual Outdoor GPS Day at the Park, with host Owin Hays and co-host Dave Calhoun on Saturday, July 21st at Blue Lake Park!

Pre-registration:
We encourage you to pre-register for the event to avoid long lines. One lucky pre-registrant will win a North River Rod from Fisherman’s Marine & Outdoor! Pre-registration form is at the bottom of this page. 

Information: 
This year's event features a LIVE Special Edition of Outdoor GPS show, an expo with all Outdoor GPS sponsors and multiple non-profits, food provided by Otto's Sausage Kitchen and Bardo's Grill, Coke product beverages and so many incredible special guests! NBC Sports Northwest will be streaming the event live on the Outdoor GPS Facebook page!

Post pictures, comments, and engagements with the hashtag #OutdoorGPSDay2018 to stay connected on social media!

'Huge Raffle Prize: A new studio makes for an OLD studio table that we’re raffling off! Enter this raffle at the NBC Sports Northwest tent on July 21st'

Non-Profit Organizations:
Fallen Outdoors
Home with Heroes
Raise 'em Outdoors
Rods n' Reels
Oregon Tuna Classic
Y.O.U. Outdoors

Charitable Opportunities: 
We will do canned-food drive with Oregon Tuna Classic! 
Last year we had 600 lbs of canned food goods. Let's outperform last year!
Rods And Reels For Kids is collecting fishing rods for children 
Raise 'Em Outdoors is collecting any camping gear for underprivileged families who can't afford it
Youth Outdoors Unlimited is looking for those to attend their charity dinner banquets

Schedule of Events:  (Download a PDF of the schedule here)

10AM: Event check-in opens

10:30-11:15AM: Jason Hambly, Pro-Cure Bait Scents, Topic: Egg Cures
*Seminar Stage is presented by Encompass Wealth Advisors

11:15-12:15PM: Meet and Greet with Owin and Dave

11:30-12:15PM: Chris Nordling, Chris Nordling's Guide Service, Topic: Buoy 10 Salmon Fishing: Angling Tactics and Boater Safety
*Seminar Stage is presented by Encompass Wealth Advisors

1PM: Special Edition of OUTDOOR GPS - live! and RAFFLE PRIZES at the Finale 

2PM: Event concludes

Note: 
- The event is free for EVERYONE
- Kid Friendly
- Parking is $5 (cash/card) and is covered with your Metro Parks 
Pass if you have one. 
- Dogs are not allowed at the Park.
Kona Ice of North Clackamas will be providing shaved ice for dessert! 

Engage with us on the Facebook Event Page 

Outdoor GPS Bottom Fishing Sweepstakes Winner

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NBCS NW

Outdoor GPS Bottom Fishing Sweepstakes Winner

Congrats to the Outdoor GPS Bottom Fishing Trip Sweepstakes winner Tom Berg of Damascus, OR.

 

Fisherman's Marine 43rd anniversary sale

Fisherman's Marine 43rd anniversary sale

The Fisherman's Marine 43rd anniversary sale continues through April 8th and, just like Owin Hayes, you’re going to want to take advantage of this huge sale.

Check outhttp://www.fishermans-marine.com/ for all of the best deals. 

Also, watch the video above to see Owin’s latest shopping spree at Fisherman’s Marine & Outdoor in Oregon City.

Tech Tips with guide David Johnson

Tech Tips with guide David Johnson

Are you curious as to how the best in the biz prepare and rig their eggs for spring salmon? Check out our interview with guide, David Johnson above.

Also, David's rigging tips for spring chinook are up now on our website in the "Must-see Outdoor GPS" videos under the "OUTDOORS" tab! Everything you need to know about rigging plugs, prawns, sand shrimp, and eggs - all in one spot. 

Or, did you forget how David rigged those prawns up last week? All his tips are on our home page when you need to get a refresher!

Catch Outdoor GPS Thursday, Saturday and Sunday

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NBCS Northwest

Catch Outdoor GPS Thursday, Saturday and Sunday

Watch Owin Hays on Outdoor GPS LIVE every Thursday night starting at 7:00pm and every Saturday and Sunday morning at 8:00am on NBC Sports Northwest for up-to-date hunting, fishing and outdoor information! 

Host Owin Hays and 'FishTime' co-host Dave Calhoun bring you the latest on river levels and the best tips and advice live from the studio and live from the river.

You can also find exclusive "tech-tips" right here on our website under the "Outdoors" tab.  

For even more Outdoor GPS information check out our Facebook page.

Outdoor GPS Sportsmen's Show Sweepstakes

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https://www.thesportshows.com/shows/pacific-northwest/

Outdoor GPS Sportsmen's Show Sweepstakes

Enter the Outdoor GPS Sportsmen’s Show Sweepstakes for a chance to win Fisherman’s Marine Giftcards and Outdoor GPS hats.

Prizes are (5) $50 Fisherman’s Marine & Outdoor Giftcards and 10 Outdoor GPS hats.

Contest runs Feb. 7th at 11AM to Sunday, Feb. 11th at 6PM. One entry per person.

Official Rules

Coming Soon: New Outdoor GPS Hats and Hoodies!

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Coming Soon: New Outdoor GPS Hats and Hoodies!

Coming soon: brand new Outdoor GPS gear including new hats and brand new hoodies courtsey of H&H Outfitters! Check out these samples and keep an eye on the Facebook.com/OutdoorGPS page for details on when they will be available.

In the meantime, be sure to catch Outdoor GPS on CSN on Thursday evenings and every Saturday and Sunday morning at 8am for the best live fishing and hunting show around. 

Super Baits for Fall Chinook 2.0

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Super Baits for Fall Chinook 2.0

Earlier this summer, I touched on some of the basics of trolling with Super Baits and Pro-Troll Flashers.  Since then, I’ve had a chance to learn more from those that are developing the technique as well as refine it for myself.  Let’s talk about a few of those items that we can hone our Super Bait game with.

Speed control is an important factor, but it’s not ‘speed over ground’ that matters.  In fact it’s not always about your speed against the current either.  Rather what‘s important is line angle, and the speed at which your flasher is turning.  What makes this technique effective is the action imparted to your lure of choice by the flasher.  Too slow, and the flasher won’t produce the solid thumping action that entices Salmon, too fast and it will spin out of control.  I like to keep that rod tip thumping at a rhythm of just over one beat per second but don’t hesitate to play around with your speed and see what the fish like that day.

Rod length should be 9’6” or greater, but a 10’6” rod with a strong backbone and soft tip and mid section really shines here.  A short ‘pool cue’ rod doesn’t have the give that is needed to allow the flasher to work properly.

In my last blog on this I mentioned that the length of the leader from the swivel to flasher should be around 24”.  This still definitely works, but some of the noted guides refining this tactic such as TJ Hester and Cameron Black have shown that these intermediate leaders can be as short as 16 or even 12 inches.  The reasoning is that the shorter bumper will produce a quicker ‘snap’ than a longer one will.  It seems that 20” makes for a good starting point and one can play with different lengths from there.

For packing your Super Baits its seems that Tuna is the undisputed champion.  But keep on hand some additives such as Sardine, Anise, Krill, or other scents that can set you apart from the fleet and trigger a bite.  Garlic is popular for the upper Columbia, but tends not to work as well in the lower river.

When it comes to locating fish, covering ground is the name of the game.  Since Salmon are on the move through the lower river any stretch of the Columbia can produce at a given time.  Find a water depth that you feel will have Salmon in it given the tide and time of day then fish it.  It also never hurts to have several buddies along with in order to stagger your lines and find the depth that is producing.   When in doubt, troll the channel. 

Having good electronics will pay big dividends when tracking down your quarry.   This will help you dial in not only how deep you should fishing but more importantly whether or not there are fish in the area.  As thick as the fish seem to be this time of year one often doesn’t have to travel far between schools of fish.  As a result it isn’t out of the question to simply choose a starting point and make one continuous pass for the duration of the day.  That said if you have a stretch where you’re getting bit consistently then it goes dead, it stands to reason that the smart move is to run back up and make another pass through the water that produced. 

I want to thank everyone that has read and shared my blog over the past two-plus years, along with Kevin and the team at CSNNW.  The time has come for me to move on to other pursuits.  It has been a lot of fun to share whatever knowledge I may have soaked up from people in the industry such as Jack and Brandon Glass, Rob Brown, and countless other outdoor writers and fisherman who I share this passion with.  Good luck, be safe, and tight lines everyone.

Mid-August Buoy 10 update: Go with whatever you have confidence in

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Paul Fisher hoists a 31 pound Upriver Bright Chinook caught at Hammond

Mid-August Buoy 10 update: Go with whatever you have confidence in

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!