Salmon Fishing on the Columbia River Oregon call Matt Meyers with Double M Outdoors @ (541) 403-FISH (3474)
Salmon Fishing Trips on The Columbia River in Oregon
The Columbia River is influenced by the tides of the Pacific Ocean, and as such, there are two main times to fish for salmon: on the high tide, when salmon are bouncing upstream on the incoming water, and on the low tide, when they hunker near the bottom of the river. Fish are forced to make choices when the tides change, and this is when the “slack” tide is most productive.
View Salmon Fishing Report from the state of Oregon
Salmon fishing on the Columbia River
One of the most spectacular aspects of salmon fishing on the Columbia River Oregon is the abundance of Chinook and Coho. These salmon migrate upstream every year and are the largest in the world. They can weigh up to 70 pounds and create a churning effect on the waters as they return upstream. The salmon were an integral part of native peoples’ diets and economies for centuries. But in the 1860s, American entrepreneurs built canneries on the Columbia River, which brought a taste of salmon to people from England to Australia. Since then, commercial fishing has changed the ecology of the area and its culture.
While the mainstem Columbia River is open for salmon fishing year-round, barbless hooks are still required. This section of the river is upstream from the Bonneville Dam and can provide excellent fishing, particularly when the fish are running. Anglers can cast from either side of the river and target salmon, steelhead, or sturgeon. Stacking points along the river make the Columbia a great place to try your luck with angling.
In addition to providing electricity, the Columbia River is also home to some of the world’s most prized salmon. Once thick and able to walk across the water, they were abundant in the Columbia River. Today, these fish are not easily caught. The competition is fierce, and dams and other impediments in the river keep them captive. To catch one of these giants, you’ll need to be patient and have some knowledge about the area.
To fish the mainstem of the Columbia River, anglers must have a valid license from Oregon state. You can read a guide to acquiring a license and obtaining a permit in the state of Oregon. Salmon and steelhead are seasonal and may not be caught on a day-to-day basis. You can also choose a spot upstream of the dam, where you can target steelhead and small salmon.
Salmon runs in the Columbia River Basin
In the Columbia River Basin, the threat of non-native aquatic species has reduced the abundance of native salmonids. The impacts of both intentional and accidental species introductions were evaluated. The dams also permanently displaced people and destroyed tribal fishing grounds and sacred sites. As a result, overfishing and habitat alteration have significantly reduced the number of salmon runs in the Columbia River Basin. Further, climate change and invasive warm-water species threaten salmon populations and their habitats.
The National Marine Fisheries Service concluded in 1996 that most populations of pink salmon in northwest Washington are odd-year fish. However, some of these salmon may have wandered southwards. This makes it difficult to determine how many salmon are actually returning to the Columbia River Basin each year. While there are a few reports of autumn spawners in the Columbia River Basin, the numbers remain low and it’s difficult to predict the exact number.
The Columbia River has two distinct salmon runs. During fall, Chinook salmon, also known as silver salmon, spawn in the mainstem of the Columbia. Their appearance during this time is muddy red with black spots on their sides and upper tail. These salmon can grow to be as large as eight pounds. Historically, 10 to 16 million adult salmon returned to the Columbia River system. Today, only about 2 percent of these salmon return to the river.
Once, chinook salmon occupied more than 13,000 miles of the Columbia River Basin, with annual returns of 10 to 16 million fish. During the spring, summer, and fall runs, the salmon had access to the mainstem of the Columbia River, as well as stretches of the Pend d’Oreille River, above Metaline Falls, and up to 80 kilometers of the Kootenay River below Bonnington Falls. Even Kettle River was used by salmon, though their habitat was likely limited by natural falls.
Hatchery retention of Chinook salmon on the Columbia River
The majority of salmonid production on the Columbia River comes from hatcheries. These fish are used to compensate for changes in salmon habitat caused by hydropower dams and other development. The use of genetic pedigree methods enables reliable detection of hatchery-origin fish. Chinook salmon collected from Columbia River hatcheries come from the mid and upper-basin subbasins and are typically of interior stream type.
The open area for chinook retention on the lower Columbia River is now 12 a.m. Friday. The hatchery-run spring Chinook salmon are a different genetic lineage than the summer-run salmon in this region, and therefore were excluded from PBT sampling in comparable years. Those who are able to catch a mature Chinook or a hatchery-raised coho can continue to fish for them.
The data on PBT were available for eight Columbia River hatcheries located in the subbasins of the Columbia. The Klickitat Hatchery provided data from 2008 to 2018 for the entire Columbia River. The number of offspring produced by males returning to the Columbia River hatcheries ranged from one to twenty-two. The Umatilla program produced up to thirty offspring, while the Round Butte Hatchery produced up to 22. The Cle Elum Hatchery and Umatilla hatcheries had separate segregated and integrated programs. The Methow Hatchery had the lowest average number of offspring per male.
The spring-run Chinook salmon population in the Columbia River is heavily impacted by dams, which obliterated the river’s salmon populations. The Parkdale Hatchery supplements the spring-run Chinook salmon population by incubating them at the Parkdale Hatchery in Oregon. The other half of the fish are raised at Round Butte Hatchery in Washington State.
Ways to fish for salmon on the Columbia River
In August, the final run of Chinook salmon begins their return to the Columbia River from the Pacific Ocean. These tasty salmon are usually 25 to 50 pounds in size, and a lot of fun to catch! The most common method of fishing for these fish is trolling the river, but some local anglers prefer bouncing roe clusters off the riverbed. No matter which method you use, you’re sure to land a tasty catch!
Native American tribes also use a variety of techniques to catch these fish. Some of these techniques are developed specifically for big rivers like the Columbia, and others are tailored to smaller streams. In the larger rivers of the Columbia Basin, platform fishing is popular. In this technique, wooden platforms are built during low-water periods to provide access to fishing locations. Tribal fishermen often fish from the same sites as their ancestors.
If you want to catch salmon from the river, you can try to cast a wobbler lure to the water. These lures are common among both boat and bank anglers and attract salmon. Make sure that the distance between your wobbler lures is about two feet. Lower your line slowly and watch your catch! Floaters are also effective, especially in slow-moving currents.
While the salmon run on the Columbia River is one of the largest in the United States, you should remember that these magnificent fish are not easy to catch! They can be very difficult to catch and require a lot of patience. You may need to use different techniques to catch the fish. You can hire a fishing guide to teach you the tricks of the trade. If you want to target larger fish, you may need to go fishing in a different stream.
Gear to use for salmon fishing
When you’re going salmon fishing in the Columbia River, you’re going to want to use the right kind of gear. Typically, this will include a drift rod and bait casting or spinning reel. For line, you’ll need at least 20 to 25 pounds. If you’re fishing for smaller fish, use around 10-15 pounds. Adding weights and lures is an option as well. Standard salmon fishing gear includes a swivel on the main line, a 12 to 48-inch leader, and a single hook with an egg loop. Then, cast your line out until the sinker hits the bottom of the river.
The most important thing to remember is that salmon migrate to the Pacific Ocean by way of the Columbia River Estuary. Depending on where you’re fishing, you may have to wait until late fall to find the best fish. For example, if you’re targeting Chinook, you should fish in September and October. However, be aware that you’ll need a fishing license. You’ll want to purchase a special license if you’re planning on fishing in this area.
The Pacific Ocean affects the Columbia River, as does the tide. As a result, tides affect the river up to Bonneville Dam. The change in current agitates salmon. The fish move upstream in a slow stream. When the tide falls, they hunker down near the bottom. This is a great time to fish for salmon if you’re looking for a tasty meal. For most anglers, trolling the river is the best way to catch a Chinook, but some prefer bouncing roe clusters off the riverbed.
The Columbia River has many locations for salmon fishing. The main species are the Chinook and Coho, but there’s also a small run of Sockeye Salmon, particularly in the Upper Columbia River. These salmon grow to 25 inches, and their flavor is unparalleled. While these fish are not as aggressive as their spring cousins, they’re still a treat to eat. You’ll want to get the right gear for this unique fishery.