Aug 272014

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.

Kayak fishing for steelhead on the Columbia River

It’s no secret that the steelhead are here, so expect plenty of company where the fish are biting.

Steelhead fishing on the Columbia River

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.

Kayak launch somewhere in Southwest Washington

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.

Straightened out hook courtesy of a Columbia River steelhead

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…

Aug 132014

It has been really hot around here for a couple weeks making bike riding uncomfortable, at best, so cooler temperatures today and light rain were welcome and greatly appreciated. Of course we are going to take advantage of the conditions and hit the trails. We didn’t get much rain, just enough to put a damper on the trail dust. It was about twenty degrees cooler than the past week or so, that’s a big change in temperature. Anyway, the weather was perfect, the trails were in great condition, making for some great summer mountain biking and it’s always nice to be out riding the local trails.

Great singletrack mountain bike riding

Perfect conditions for mountain biking

Empty trails, perfect conditions

Let’s see what happens tomorrow…

Aug 122014

We finally had enough of the endless Columbia Gorge wind so we decided to pack up the truck and do a little kayak fishing in eastern Oregon. Eastern Oregon is much different than the western half of the state. The Oregon coast and Cascade Mountains have thick forests and snowcapped mountains, the eastern part of the state has forests and mountains as well, but much of that part of the state is grassland and chaparral, pretty much a desert in the summer. Winter rain and snow turns the east part of the state green again, but for much of the warmer part of the year it is brown, dry and hot.

We headed out during an extended heat wave, a little unusual for this part of the country. It was in the high eighties here in the Columbia River Gorge and it would be close to 100° to the east. It only took about an hour of driving to arrive in the eastern Oregon heat. As we approached Boardman, Oregon at sunrise, the temperature was already in the mid eighties.

Sunrise over the Columbia River near Boardman, OR

We stopped at the Boardman Marina and RV Park to launch into the Columbia River to try for some walleye and smallmouth bass. The Boardman Marina is a great place to launch a kayak; there is a large grassy area next to the boat ramps so you can rig up and launch into the marina without taking up space on the boat ramps. There’s water and bathrooms nearby as well as a nice picnic area and playground if you bring the family along. There is also a campground with all the amenities, including WiFi, if you want to stay a day or two. We’ve heard the fishing around Boardman is pretty good but we fished for a few hours and didn’t have much luck so we decided to get back on the road and head further east.

Boardman, OR Marina launch site

We wound up pretty far off the beaten path around Irrigon, Oregon, where we found a really cool little camping spot right on the Columbia River. The camping was free, the only “amenities” here was a pit toilet, but it was well stocked with TP and even more importantly, there were even a few trees that provided a bit of shade from the blazing hot sun. After a day on the kayak being baked like a peanut, it was a welcome relief to take a swim in the river and kick back in the shade with a cold beer.

Camping on the Columbia River near Irrigon, OR

The fishing at this spot was pretty good. We caught a bunch of smallmouth bass, including a few bigger ones that put up a great fight. The salmon fishing was starting to warm up, we saw a guy fishing on the bank catch a nice salmon using salmon eggs, we wished we had brought a little bit of salmon gear to try our luck. We also saw a boat fisherman who was fishing cut herring for salmon hook up a giant sturgeon, had to be at least seventy pounds, it jumped out of the water right in front of my kayak and broke off the guy’s twenty pound test line. Salmon, sturgeon and smallmouth bass all ready to bite, this is a great fishing spot, ideal for kayak fishing.

Smallmouth bass caught on the Columbia River near Irrigon, OR

We had a few beers and a quick dinner then it was early to bed after a long, hot day of kayak fishing. The next morning was clear skies and light wind with another blazing hot day in store. We launched before sunrise to try and beat the heat.

Sunrise on the Columbia River near Irrigon, OR

We caught a few more smallmouth bass before a bit of wind came up. The wind wasn’t that bad but it kept blowing us into patches of seaweed that grow all over the Columbia River during the warm summer months and it was starting to get really hot, so we decided to pack it in and have a look at another fishing spot well off the grid that a local Oregon State trooper told us about, so we hit the road to have a look.

Sure enough, after a bumpy ride down a washboard dirt road that was giving us Baja flashbacks, we wound up at the spot. It was ideal for kayak fishing; easy access to the Columbia with a natural island that had a protected bay so you could paddle and do a little fishing and swimming even if it was windy. Free riverfront camping, which we really like, a couple unimproved boat ramps and standard issue State of Oregon pit toilets.

Kayak fishing off the grid in eastern Oregon

We didn’t get a chance to do any fishing because the wind had come up and we were pretty much toasted from two long, hot days on the river, so we filed this spot away for the next adventure. We know there is good fishing around here so we will be returning soon to give the salmon fishing a try when the weather cools off a little.

We are working on the latest smallmouth bass fishing video which will have footage from this eastern Oregon trip so stay tuned.

Aug 052014

The weather here in the Columbia River Gorge has been sunny and hot, really hot. Nineties during the day and barely getting below seventy at night. If you want to go bike riding, it has to be early in the morning or late in the evening. Many of the lower elevation trails are closed because of fire danger and the trails that are ridable are dry and dusty.

Klickitat County singletrack

You are thankful for the shaded sections of the trails where you can get some relief from the blazing sun.

Shady singletrack on a hot summer day

Not much water under the bridges this time of year.

Trail bridge

Even the local wildlife are looking for shelter from the summer sun.

A deer seeking some shelter from the hot summer sun

Time to do a little maintenance on the mountain bike and we’ll be back out on the trails soon. Hopefully, the weather will be a bit cooler.

Aug 052014

We’ve had some pretty tough fishing conditions this summer here in the Columbia River Gorge. It’s been windy, which is not unusual or unexpected here in the Gorge, but there’s barely been a couple days of calm to get out on the Columbia River with the kayak. Even a moderate wind combined with the river currents make for difficult fishing conditions. The water level of the river has been fluctuating as well, which usually puts a damper on the fishing. Even the smallmouth bass fishing, which is usually pretty dependable, has been very slow.

The real story behind the tough conditions is the temperature. We have had a sustained period of very hot weather; it’s been in the nineties during the day and barely gets down to seventy at night. This hot weather has slowed the trout fishing in the higher elevation lakes and caused algae blooms in the lakes closer to sea level. Because the weather has been so hot, the glaciers on the local mountains have been melting. Glaciers are more than snow and ice, they are full of dust, dirt, ash and small rocks. When they melt, the local rivers are filled with this silt.

The Klicktiat River in mid summer

Normally at this time of year the water in these rivers is mostly clear with the visibility being at least a few feet. As shown in the photo below, the visibility of the water is barely a few inches.

Turbid water from glacier melting

With the conditions on the Columbia River not very good for kayak fishing, we were hoping to hit the Klickitat River and try for a summer steelhead, but with the visibility of the water being so poor, the chances of hooking into a steelhead are pretty slim.

We are hoping the weather cools just a little so the water will clear up. Can’t really complain too much about the hot summer weather because in a couple months we will be complaining about the nonstop rain. One thing for sure, the weather is always changing around here. We might get a couple calm days coming up so we will get out there when we can.

Jul 292014

Sorry for the lack of blog posts lately. It’s summertime here in the Columbia River Gorge and when the weather is nice we get outside every chance we can. We’ve been doing stuff, mostly riding bikes, but we’ve covered most of the roads and trails we ride here on the blog or in the bike section of the website. The weather here has been very hot and dry, because of that, many of the local mountain bike trails have been closed due to fire danger so we will be riding a little higher up in the mountains for the remainder of the summer.

Speaking of the weather, it has been very windy, not unusual for an area famous for wind and it has been keeping the kayak fishing from happening. It’s tough watching beautiful summer days go by and we can’t go fishing on the Columbia River because it’s too windy. After a few weeks of non-stop wind, we also had some nasty thunderstorms blow through the area starting a number of wildfires.

Lightning over Hood River, Oregon

Finally, the wind died down for a couple days and we managed to get out on the Columbia River for a little kayak fishing. We headed up to the rivermouth of the Deschutes River looking for walleye and smallmouth bass. We trolled for walleye for awhile and didn’t have much luck. We didn’t see any of the other boats fishing for walleye catch anything either so we bailed on the walleye and started hunting for smallmouth bass. The water temperature in the Columbia is about 70°F, as warm as it gets, so the smallmouth bass are in the deeper water. We drifted downstream, bouncing a worm in 15-20 feet of water and managed to catch a few decent smallies.

Columbia River smallmouth bass

The Deschutes River is a popular spot in the summer. Heritage Landing, the Oregon State Park at the Deschutes rivermouth, is crowded with rafters on commercial rafting trips, fishermen launching boats to fish up the Deschutes River or out into the Columbia as well as bank fishermen and people swimming in the river. If you park in the parking lots near the boat ramp and landing beach, you will need a permit.

Heritage Landing launch area

The wind stayed calm so we headed back to the Deshutes the next day. It was even hotter than the day before. This time of year, protection from the sun is very important. Without protective clothing and sunscreen, you would be sunburned within an hour. Pretty much the same routine as the previous day; an unsuccessful attempt at the walleye, then off to find the smallmouth bass. Using the bottom bouncing worm technique, we managed a few more smallmouth bass. We also lost a few hooks from snags on the bottom.

Columbia River smallmouth bass

We have some video from these two fishing days so we’ll be editing that and getting it on the website as well as the WatermanAtWork YouTube channel shortly. Looks like a couple windy days coming up but we are hoping to get out for more kayak fishing. Summer doesn’t last forever around here.

Jul 172014

We’ve finished converting another kayak fishing video to a higher quality .MP4 format, this time it’s kayak fishing on San Diego Bay launching from the Shelter Island beach by the boat moorings. You can find the video on the Kayak Fishing on San Diego Bay – Shelter Island page on the website.

The weather wasn’t all that good; cloudy and cool with a little wind, but the fishing was pretty good. We caught a number of spotted bay bass and sand bass as well as a few bonito and barracuda.

Click HERE for Kayak Fishing on San Diego Bay at Shelter Island video

This video was shot in September 2006 using a remote “lipstick” camera and DV recording deck. It was just before GoPro cameras became popular. The resolution is 4:3 standard defintion, there is voiceover but no ambient sound or background music. As with all the new videos, there is closed captioning in English.

While you’re checking out the San Diego Bay fishing videos, be sure and check out the new Tidelands bay fishing video.

Jul 062014

Some friends came out to visit here in the Columbia River Gorge so we spent some time out and about to show them what summertime in the Gorge is all about. Fortunately, the weather was really nice so we were able to get out and do something every day. There is a lot to do around here, but we tried to do the stuff that was most fun!

If you know anything about the Columbia River Gorge or follow this blog, you know that it is windy much of the time. We got lucky and had a couple calm, sunny days so we packed up the SUP and kayak and headed down to the Columbia River. The weather was fantastic; sunny and hot, perfect for splashing around on the Columbia. Even on calm days, the currents in the Columbia River can be treacherous, so we headed to The Hook in Hood River, Oregon. The Hook is just west of the main event site in the Hood River waterfront area that is popular with beginner sailboarders and SUPers. There is a protected inlet that empties into the Columbia River, allowing people to ease their way into the big water. It is also a good place to launch a kayak. We started off the day launching the fishing kayak and trying for smallmouth bass along the waterfront rocks. Unfortunately, the fish were not biting. The calm winds made it an easy paddle upstream to the Hood River Bridge.

Kayaking up the Columbia River towards the Hood River Bridge

With the kayak in the water, we got the Vinaka inflatable SUP pumped up and on the water. It wasn’t long before the crew was paddling around The Hook and out into the Columbia River.

SUPing in the Columbia River Gorge

With perfect paddling conditions, getting out to Wells Island from The Hook was no problem.

SUP paddling out to Wells Island in the Columbia River

Even if it was the first time on an SUP, the conditions were perfect for learning how to get the hang of standup paddleboards.

Getting the hang of standup paddling on the Columbia River

After a long day on the water you get pretty hungry. Nothing a few burgers on the back porch won’t fix up.

Tasty burgers after a long day on the river

We had fun on the river, but we were hoping to catch a few fish so we headed east, over The Dalles Bridge into Washington and over to Horsethief Lake State Park. Usually, the fishing here is pretty good, not a lot of big fish but it’s usually good for smallmouth bass, perch and walleye in the summer, but today the fish just didn’t want to bite.

Fishing on Horsethief Lake in southwest Washington

Even though the fishing wasn’t very good, we spent another hot, sunny day playing around with the kayak and SUP.

SUP and kayaking on Horsethief Lake

After a couple days on the water, we headed out into the mountains to do a little exploring. As is usually the case, there are always a few surprises along the way!

A little problem on the Cascade Mountain backroads

We got up to one of our favorite Mt. Hood viewpoints, but as luck would have it, the mountain was mostly covered with clouds. Nina got a pretty good photo anyway.

Cloudy Mt. Hood

We got pretty far up Mt. Hood and found some “middle of the summer” snow still on the ground.

Summer snow on Mt. Hood

All the water around here comes from the melting snow up on Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. Even in the summer, there are still a few waterfalls around.

A waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge

We finally found those trophy fish we were looking for. These giant rainbow trout would make any fisherman’s day.

Trophy rainbow trout

Unfortunately for the fishermen in the group, these trout were in the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. This is a large fish hatchery that raises chinook salmon, but they have pools with large rainbow trout and really big white sturgeon where you can get a real close look at these large fish.

Bonneville Fish Hatchery

The Bonneville Hatchery is a great place to visit while you are in the Columbia River Gorge. There is lots to see and the admission and parking are free. It was a great place to wind up our little vacation in the Gorge and are looking forward to the next visit.

Jun 232014

Finally, a short break in the windy conditions here in the Columbia River Gorge allowed us to get out for a couple days of kayak fishing on the Columbia River. It wasn’t dead calm, but compared to the daily 20mph winds we’ve been having, it was calm enough to safely get out on the big Columbia River.

We launched both days from Deschutes State Recreation Area, where the Deschutes River empties into the Columbia. It’s an easy place to launch a kayak from and a short paddle to the Columbia. The Deschutes River is a popular rafting, boating and fishing spot, it can be crowded at the launch area, especially on nice summer weekends. The Deschutes rivermouth is a also a very popular salmon fishing area, during salmon season expect full parking lots, busy boat launch areas and people camping on the side of the road around the area. During salmon fishing season, you can expect to see more than a hundred boats on the Columbia River at the Deschutes rivermouth.

Wanting to get the most out of the fishing days, we launched into the Deschutes River by sunrise.

Kayak launch beach at Deschutes River Recreation Area

On the first day of fishing, we headed out to Miller Island looking for smallmouth bass. Miller Island is a big island, headed east is paddling upstream and there are a lot of strong currents and eddies around the island, you have to pay attention to what you are doing at all times. There was a constant 5mph wind blowing with stronger gusts, making the paddling more difficult. The channel between Miller Island and the Washington shoreline has a lot of current and the water goes from more than one hundred feet deep in spots to only a couple feet in others, it’s a challenge to paddle. This north channel is where most of the smallmouth bass are, mostly along the rocky sections of the Washington shoreline. There are some places on Miller Island that hold bass, mostly near the west end of the island.

East end of Miller Island in the Columbia River

On the second fishing day, we stuck mostly to the shoreline along the Oregon side of the river. We tried drift fishing for walleye, but the current was pretty strong and combined with a constant 5mph wind and stronger gusts, it made that kind of fishing pretty tough and didn’t hook into any walleye. Other boats were trolling for walleye and they weren’t having any luck either, so you could say the walleye were just not biting. We did manage to catch a few smallmouth bass, all of them were pretty good size.

Smallmouth bass caught on the Columbia River

I also managed to hook into a small sturgeon that put up quite a fight on the light tackle I was using. Sturgeon is all catch and release these days so it was released unharmed back into the river.

White sturgeon caught on the Columbia River

The days are long this time of year and we spent two straight days paddling and fishing on the Columbia River; ten hours the first day and about eight hours on the second day, so today I am pretty tired and baked from the sun. It was a good couple days of fishing, who knows how long it will be until the conditions are right to hit it again. We have some video of the trip, we will be posting it on the website and the WatemanAtWork You Tube page shortly.

Jun 092014

The Columbia River Gorge is famous for it’s wind and it has been living up to that reputation lately. Great for kiteboarders and sailboarders, but bad news for kayak fishing. The Columbia River is also running petty high and the currents are strong in spots. High winds and strong currents mean very dangerous kayaking conditions, which is too bad because this is one of the best times of the year for smallmouth bass fishing.

With no signs of relief from the Gorge wind, we headed east to the John Day River. The wind forecast was right on the border of being too windy, but we decided to take a chance and make the fifty mile drive to the John Day. As we left Hood River, OR, the wind was blowing at least 10 mph with stronger gusts and small whitecaps on the Columbia River. As we crossed the Deschutes River, the wind had subsided considerably, giving us hope that the wind further to the east would turn out to be less than predicted. When we arrived at the John Day River, we were surprised and relieved to find the wind nearly dead calm; the wind turbines on the hilltops above the Columbia River were not moving and the river was calm and glassy.

We launched at LePage Park and paddled out into the calm John Day River and headed for the Columbia River, planning to fish where the John Day empties into the Columbia until the wind picked up, then head up the John Day where it is a little more sheltered from the usual west to northwest wind.

The mouth of the John Day River where it empties into the Columbia River

Fishing off the riprap between the I-84 and railroad bridges at the John Day rivermouth, we started to catch one smallmouth bass after another; nearly a fish on every cast. Most of the bass were on the smaller side, but even short smallmouth bass put up a pretty good fight. After an hour or so of nonstop hookups, we headed across to the east side of the river looking for the bigger fish. Pretty much the same story there; a lot of smaller fish with one pounders hitting the lures every so often.

It was a hot, sunny day, near 80° with hardly a cloud in the sky. As we paddled upriver, the landscape is hot and dry. Grazing cattle congregate down at the river’s edge where it is cooler and there is plenty of water to drink. Wild animals come down to the river to feed on the only green plants available in the dusty and dry John Day River valley. We saw a number of deer, this one let me paddle within six feet or so before running up the river bank.

Mule deer on the bank of the John Day River

With the wind remaining calm, we paddled back downstream to the John Day rivermouth to finish up our fishing day where we had caught the most fish. I switched from a leadhead grub to a spinnerbait which seemed to be more attractive to the larger bass. I was able to land a number of fish between one and two pounds. While reeling in some of the fish, you could see larger bass approach the hooked fish, perhaps attracted by the activity.

Smallmouth bass fishing on the John Day River

The John Day River is known as one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in the United States. It’s not unusual to catch hundreds of bass in a single day, that was the case today. I easily caught over a hundred bass, I’m not sure exactly how many because I lost count after the first hour or so. Most of them were smaller fish but I did catch maybe twenty or so bigger bass. With all the small bass showing up and the lack of much bigger fish may mean that the smallmouth bass may be spawning, usually those fish won’t bite unless you drag a lure across their spawning nest, or the water temperature has warmed up to the point where the larger bass have already headed for the deeper parts of the river to spend the summer.

Hopefully, we can get back on the Columbia River soon to see what is going with the smallmouth bass there. The Columbia is a different environment than the John Day; deeper and colder, so the fishing may be a little different. We may try for some spring Chinook salmon, they are harder to catch than the fall Chinooks, but if it’s too windy for smallmouth bass fishing on the main river, we may try some of the smaller rivers that are more wind sheltered for a chance at a spring Chinook.