There is no better tasting salmon in the world better than the Oregon Columbia River Springer Salmon, probably why its 40 bucks a pound right now. The natural oil content of this fish is so perfect, and the meat so red that it just melts in your mouth when cooked properly. However, you first have to catch one and sometimes that can prove difficult. This year was supposed to be the best fishery of them all with a record amount of over 450k Springers. This was also the worse year I can remember, so when you hear these biology reports, turn your ear to them because they are usually wrong. It was also the worst March for rain in Oregon history. Conditions so bad even the seals did not show up.
I fished with clients five days in a row with little to show for it. The pro guides were producing very little as well and the feeling on the river was grim to say the least.
At one point, I was trying to pull in to get fuel and this rather large yacht was hogging the fuel line for 3 hours. 4400 gallons later at 5 bucks a gallon he was on his way to paradise.
We must have put in a hundred miles trolling, and 400 herrings to the cause. In the Columbia the fish hold at the bottom so you drag a 10 oz lead, with a flasher with brined cut plug herring. We used green and blue, and blue seemed to produce better.
When the Salmon do hit on the fishery, they are soft biters so the trick is to really let them eat it and run with it before you pick up your rod for the set and the fight.
When the water gets high the fish like to swim on the sides of the river with less current in depths less than 20′ feet and more than 12′ feet. I like 14′ feet in weather conditions like this. Using a KFish 15 wrapped in brined sardines with a light 6 oz ball weight back bounced about 30 feet. When they hit, they hit hard and aggressive.
One another note, when you see fifty boats back trolling in water, next to boats anchored, while some boats are for whatever reason trolling up river! Forget the chaos and what other people are trying to figure out. Slip outside and keep trolling down river. Then get a double right in front of them! I see a lot of guys changing their strategy and thinking too much. Stay with what works, when the fish are their and they are biting…you will catch a fish.
The second most important factor is pay attention to the depths, I run a Simrad electronics for echo, chart and radar. I pay a lot of attention to the little imperfections that may produce holes or divots in the river ground that may allow fish to hold and rest….and perhaps bite. Some boats run over these little honey holes at 3.5 mph, I come of the T-1 a bit to drop my lead. Some of my fish have been taken this way. If the water height is up, this means the fish are running up the sides and we found that a lot of them were suspended. When you have the best electronics out on the water (only two on the West Coast have this technology). We were able to come off the bottom and target them…which we did.
This is what makes a Columbia River Spring Chinook so good.
When the fishing ends, the cooking begins. The recipes will soon come, so keep posted. I am giddy about what is to come in the next 24 hours on my plate. One thing to remember with these coveted fish. Do not smoke them, and do not freeze them. They are better than that, get busy eating or get busy dyeing.