We hit the jackpot and got three calm days to do a little kayak fishing for steelhead on the Columbia River. Of all the fish in the Columbia River Gorge, I have found the steelhead to be the most challenging to catch. I’ve caught a couple nice steelhead, but not that many at all compared to other trophy fish like Coho and Chinook salmon. The call steelhead “the fish of a thousand casts” and I reckon that’s right on target for me. The fall Chinook and Coho aren’t here yet, haven’t had any success with walleye fishing and even the usually reliable smallmouth bass are hiding out for the dog days of summer so might as well try for the elusive steelhead.
As I mentioned, the conditions have been just about perfect for kayak fishing on the Columbia River. The calm weather is a double edged sword because the lack of currents slows the fish down, but they are there and they have nowhere else to go but upstream.
It’s no secret that the steelhead are here, so expect plenty of company where the fish are biting.
The places to launch a kayak from without a long paddle to the fishing spot are few and far between. This launch spot has been a local’s secret for years; it is very tough to get to, forget the kayak carts. If you can’t carry your kayak and all your gear down a steep, rocky cliff with loose rocks, in the dark, try somewhere else.
Neil Young sang a song called “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, but that’s not entirely true. I’ve found that steelhead fishing can do a pretty good job of it as well. I hadn’t been fishing for steelhead on the Columbia River for a few years so my first day out was pretty much wasted trying to get my gear squared away. It didn’t help that I was using leftover bait from last season, the steelhead were not going for the old stuff. The second day I got going with some fresh bait and had a couple hits, but nothing solid. Judging by the fishermen around me, it was a slow day all around. Today, I was ready to roll and hit the river before sunrise. After only about a half hour of fishing, I had a huge strike on a bottom fishing rig. I knew right away that this was a big fish. After about ten minutes of a tremendous fight, I got the fish close enough to the kayak to see it was a big steelhead, easily twenty pounds or better. I was having visions of glory when all of a sudden the fish became unhooked and I watched my trophy steelhead swim off into the dark Columbia River. Heart-f’ckingbreak. After all the excitement I came away with nothing. No GoPro footage because it was still dark and no twenty pound steelhead on the stringer. All I got out of the deal was a great ten minute fishing experience and this straightened out Owner hook.
How big was this fish that straightened out a size 1 Owner hook? How bummed can a fisherman be? We all know it’s part of fishing, but still…