Nov 082019
 

The kayak fishing for largemouth bass was really on fire until a few days ago when the fish stopped biting like someone threw a switch. That’s how it goes. Largemouth bass fishing is big game fishing; you probably won’t catch twenty of them in one day, so a half dozen fish, or even a couple big ones can constitute a successful fishing day. We did really well for a few days, then not so good for a couple, so I reckon it averages out.

The kayak fishing conditions have been perfect. Calm wind, not too cold in the early morning and not to hot in the afternoon. A near perfect setup for kayak fishing in the desert.

Sunrise on Mittry Lake kayak fishing with watermanatwork.com

We’ve been on somewhat of a roll lately, catching a number of nice bass on a lake that can produce great fishing, or just as likely make you spend a day fishing without a nibble. On this morning, we got out fishing for a couple hours before the wind came up to 20 mph shortly after we caught this nice largemouth bass.

Mittry Lake largemouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

When the wind subsided, we were in for nearly a week of perfect kayak fishing conditions, primarily, light winds. Unfortunately, the fishing had turned ice cold and we had a tough time getting any kind of fishing action at all. What would cause the fishing to turn around so quickly? That’s the question every fisherman would like to hear the answer to. Being a river controlled by dams, the lower Colorado River and it’s wetlands get water from the bottom of the nearby upstream reservoir. Dam water comes out through gates, not normally over the top; the water at the bottom of the reservoir is cold, even in the middle of the desert. This sudden introduction of cold water has a chilling effect on cold blooded fish and often slows or stops the fish from feeding. In addition to the water temperature, there appears to be a widespread algae bloom that has filled the water with free floating algae. If the fish have to suck this algae through their gills, that may irritate them and cause the fish to be inactive.

River wide algae bloom on the Colorado River

Whatever the problem is, we are giving it a day or two to sort itself out and we will be back on the Colorado River looking for those big largemouth bass. Stay tuned.

Oct 292019
 

After a disappointing end to a meager fishing season in the Pacific Northwest, we were hoping a change of scenery would change our luck. We needed a big change of luck, so we went for a big change of scenery; from the rainy and cold Columbia River Gorge to the hot and dry Arizona desert.

We started off at a spot off the beaten path where we have had some success before. Nothing huge, but there are some big bass in this relatively small part of the river. This spot does not get a large amount of fishermen because it is on a long, dusty and rough dirt road sprinkled with rocks. It seems like washboard from beginning to end.

Rough desert road to the fishing spot

Kayaks are a great way to fish here, some guys use float tubes. Along with the washboard road, the boat launch itself is pretty rough as well. Not friendly to boat trailers at all.

A rough boat launch to river backwaters in southern Arizona

Even in October, it is still pretty hot in the Arizona desert, with daytime temperatures near 90°F. As long as the mosquitoes aren’t too bad, the early mornings and evenings are the best time to fish. By noon or so, it’s usually pretty hot. The fishing seems to slow down during the heat of the day. You can still catch fish, it just seems a bit slower than mornings or evenings.

Kayak fishing in the hot Arizona sun

This area is not very large and fairly shallow. Like almost every other waterway we’ve been to lately, there is a lot of aquatic vegetation, especially in shallow water less than 10-15 feet deep. If a lure or hook touches anything, it’s got seaweed on it so that eliminates the lead head plastics we use a lot of the time. We switched over to shallow diving crankbaits and floating surface lures and started to catch fish.

Kayak fishing for largemouth bass with watermanatwork.com

Most of the bass were smaller, a couple nice ones and this one which I think is the biggest bass I’ve ever caught here so I’m encouraged to go back soon and try for something bigger.

Nice fall largemouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

The first kayak fishing trip here in the southwest was a success. We were anxious to get back out there, but once again, the wind came up and kept us off the water for a few days. Although the forecast was for continued wind, we had a hunch there might be a break, so we rolled the dice and headed out into the desert.

Sunrise over kayak fishing camp in south Arizona

At sunrise, the wind was mostly calm, but by 10AM, it was already blowing 10mph or better, so it was a pretty short fishing day with only one small bass caught. We made camp hoping the wind would either die down in the evening or the next day.

watermanatwork.com kayak fishing camp in the desert southwest

The wind died during the cloudless desert night and it was calm and warm the following morning. We rigged up and headed out into the dark pre-dawn waters. We started fishing with the grubs we’ve had so much success here before but got nothing but snagged on seaweed. The only lures we could use without getting snagged in seaweed were shallow diving crankbaits that float and dive a couple feet when you crank them. I had not had much success with crankbaits here, but I tied on on and had the first bass of the day in the kayak before sunrise.

Pre-dawn largemouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

Just a short time later, using the same crankbait, I had another largemouth bass in the boat, this one was a little bigger.

Largemouth bass caught at sunrise by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

Some fish were hitting the crankbait as it floated on the surface and I would give it a couple twitches before reeling. Some bass hit it as I was reeling in the lure. This 3/8 oz. crankbait caught all the bass on this day. I’d never had much luck with it before, but it’s in regular rotation now. I thought this lure might be too big, but everything from six ouncers to six pounders will hit it. I even caught a couple bluegill who attacked this crankbait!

3/8 ounce crankbait that was catching all the fish

With this size lure, I can use my bait casting rig. I use spinning setups most of the time because we are throwing 1/8 ounce lures. I prefer to use a casting setup whenever possible, even if it is harder to cast from the sitting position of a kayak. This shallow diving lure, with the short front blade, would dive to 2-3′, which was above the lake bottom which was covered with thick seaweed.

Thick aquatic vegetation covering the lake bottom

Casting the crankbait close to the reeds, pause for a few seconds, then jiggle the floating crankbait a few times, then reel it in at a speed that keeps the crankbait above the seaweed. Ideal conditions for casting this kind of crankbait or floating lure. An exciting way of fishing for largemouth bass.

Ideal conditions for kayak fishing for largemouth bass using crankbaits or floating lures

The magic crankbait was on fire because I caught a few largemouth bass in pretty exciting fashion.

Kayak fishing for largemouth bass with watermanatwork.com

Highlight of the day was this nice largemouth bass. It’s one of the bigger ones that I’ve caught here. This fish has a giant head. In a few months, it’s body may catch up and turn into a really big largemouth bass.

Mittry Lake largemouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

The wind came up in the afternoon, but we were so tired from paddling, casting and hauling in the bass, it was hard getting the gear the short distance to the camp. The wind has come up again, take care of business and be ready to go again. Two great kayak fishing trips, we are anxious to get out there as soon as possible. Keep checking back.

Oct 222019
 

Welcome to the 2019 PacNW kayak fishing wrap up commentary here at watermanatwork.com. It has been a rather disappointing fishing season all the way around with a fitting rainy and disappointing salmon fishing season to end the year. The poor fishing and some serious personal issues have made for slow blogging recently; the kayak fishing action will continue as we move the watermanatwork.com fishing unit to the southwest for some largemouth bass fishing.

The 2019 smallmouth bass fishing on the Columbia River was not so much that the fish weren’t biting, there was so much wind most of the time, it was hard to find a window to get out fishing. The days we did get to hit some of our favorite smallmouth bass spots, we caught a lot of fish, but they were mostly “one pounders” or less. It’s been a couple seasons since I’ve caught a “trophy” smallmouth bass, which is a fish 20″ or larger. Due to the windy conditions, we spend less time on the water and less of a chance for a big fish.

After the past few years, there was a good deal of apprehension as to what the fall salmon fishing season would be like. As it turns out, there was a good deal to worry about. While marginally more fish returned to the Columbia River this year than last year, the numbers of returning fish were far below the historical average. Through our own fishing and talking to other salmon fishermen in the area, there appeared to be a large number of “tule” Chinook salmon, a species of salmon in the lower Columbia that is sexually mature, or “dark”, because the fish is dark, the meat is white instead of pink and the fish is just about dead. Also a large number of “jacks”, or small salmon. The daily limit of one fish means, if you get lucky, your fishing day is over. Releasing a fish caught early means you are taking a chance; most salmon fishing days this year I never even got a bite. The salmon fishing season was closed in mid October, just like everyone thought would happen, and that was the end of the 2019 salmon fishing season. I caught four salmon; one native Coho, which was released, and three hatchery Chinook keepers.

One of the few Chinook salmon caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish during the short 2019 salmon fishing season

I got a $150 ticket from WDFG for not having my salmon card on my person. I usually keep it in the glove box of my truck because the kayak is too wet to be filling out paperwork. I always have it and I always fill it out and send it in. They told me I had to have the salmon card on my person to “show I was not a poacher”, which is total bullshit. That’s all I will say about it here in the Kayak Fishing section, you can read about it here in the Journal section. The salmon fishing was very slow. Lots of boats filled with fishermen desperate for one salmon. I saw guide boats with six people get out on shore and everyone take a photo with the single salmon they caught. There were days that I did not get a bite in six hours and did not see anyone else catch anything either. On top of that, a series of winter storms arrived making the fishing conditions wet, windy and miserable.

Winter storms make for difficult kayak fishing conditions

After a few days of rain, wind and no fish, we pulled the plug on the 2019 salmon fishing season. It just wasn’t worth it. It’s got to be pretty bad for us to stop salmon fishing, and it was. We left the rain and packs of salmon fishing boats behind for the empty river and sun in eastern Washington, hoping to find some smallmouth bass fishing action.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass in sunny eastern Washington

It was getting cooler as winter approaches, but the mornings on the Columbia River were still pretty nice. A big change from being in the middle of fifty boats at sunrise battling for salmon.

A calm October morning kayak fishing on the Columbia River with watermanatwork.com

As is the case this time of year, the Columbia River bottom is covered with vegetation, seaweed and slimy green algae that covers nearly everything. I don’t know if this has anything to do with it, but the smallmouth bass fishing was really slow. The fish were bigger than earlier in the season, but very few fish. When you can’t catch smallmouth bass on the Columbia River, the fishing is bad. We caught a few fish, but the writing was on the wall; we had caught our last fish on the Columbia River for 2019.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with watermanatwork.com

With the 2019 Columbia River fishing season behind us, by the time you read this, we will be kayak fishing for largemouth bass on the Colorado River. We are ready for the bass fishing action! We also have a backlog of work that will be coming out shortly, so stay tuned. More kayak fishing action coming up.

Sep 242019
 

We had another go at salmon fishing at the local river mouth, but once again, the fishing was terrible. I did not get a single bite and only saw the bank fishermen catch a few fish, I did not see any fishermen in boats catch anything, and there were quite a few boats. Also, with a daily catch limit of one, once everyone in a boat has a fish, you have to go in and not that many boats were going in. The river water level is very low, not sure during the peak of the salmon run they would do that, but it seems to have affected the fishing. Many of the river mouth sandbars the salmon would swim over to head upstream are dry land.

With a significant storm coming in off the Pacific Ocean from the southwest, we headed east, away from the wind and rain of the approaching storm. The next morning, it was mild with a calm wind and scattered clouds. This was a big difference from the pack of salmon boats. Salmon fishing can be exciting, but it is not exactly relaxing.

Sunrise on the Columbia River 9-15-19

The calm morning conditions allowed us to paddle across one of the wider parts of the Columbia River and have a look at some new fishing spots.

Calm wind morning kayak fishing conditions on the Columbia River 9-15-19

Like the salmon fishing, the smallmouth bass fishing seemed on the slow side as well. The Columbia River at this time of year is choked with weeds and the increasing common green algae that seems to thrive in every freshwater location in the western United States. That may have something to do with the fish behavior. We did manage to catch a few smallmouth bass.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with watermanatwork.com

We would have fished longer, but we knew there was foul weather approaching so we were keeping a watchful eye to the west. We were across a wide part of the river from the launch, when we felt the first hint of cool west wind, we started paddling back across the river. By the time we landed and loaded up the truck, the rain was beginning to fall and the wind was picking up.

A major Pacific Ocean storm moves up the Columbia River Gorge

We headed back west and the following morning, we were out fishing for salmon. There was a break in the storm cells so it was calm with light rain. Once again, I did not get a single bite and only saw a few fish caught, mostly by bank fishermen. Even though I have a bright white light on my kayak and was only a ten yards offshore, a few yahoos in a boat came blasting into the fleet of anchored boats and almost hit me. After a few hours of what has become the norm for salmon fishing here, with the rain steadily increasing, I called it a day. We hung out down by the river, hoping the conditions would improve, but by sunset, it was raining steadily and would continue through the next morning.

A Pacific Ocean storm system dampens the tough salmon fishing conditions in the Pacific Northwest

The next morning at 5AM, it was still raining. Most of our gear was somewhat dried out overnight, but everything was pretty damp. Thankfully it was not too cold. We carefully hauled our gear and kayaks down the muddy slope dotted with wet rocks. Despite the miserable weather and poor fishing, there were plenty of fishermen on the river. For the third attempt in a row, I did not get a single bite. I’m not claiming to be the world’s greatest salmon fisherman and there have been plenty of bad fishing days, but I think this is the worst salmon fishing, perhaps, ever in recent history. After a few hours of soaking with no action, we headed in. I stowed my gear and sat in the back of my truck looking out at the rain and pack of fishing boats and wondered if I may have caught my last salmon here.

watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish on a rainy PacNW salmon fishing trip

With nice PacNW fishing days coming to an end, we want to get as many days of fishing in as we can, no matter what we are fishing for. Even though we were discouraged and wet from days of fruitless salmon fishing, we’ll keep trying until the fishing rod guides ice up, just like in the olden days of yore. We headed east again, and though the wind following the storm front was blowing too hard to go fishing, we were able to dry all of our stuff.

Drying out the kayak fishing gear after a couple days of rainy salmon fishing on the Columbia River.

To add to the list of diminishing returns of the PacNW fisherman, and every other person who enjoys the outdoors here, is the increasing number of vehicle break-ins at boat launches and trail heads. The evidence of this kind of activity is nearly everywhere, especially at the more remote locations where you are on your own. When you see broken auto glass like this in an empty parking lot, you might think about continuing on your way.

Broken window glass, sign of a vehicle break in at a remote boat launch on the Columbia River

Literally down to the last few weeks of decent fishing, we are on it every chance we get. It’s been a somewhat disappointing fishing season this year, we’re hoping it will end with a bang.

Sep 142019
 

Kayak fishing on the Columbia River during the 2019 fall salmon run is proving to be a tough one. The peak of the salmon run has passed this area of the Columbia River and the fishing is tough. The daily salmon limit is one. If you get lucky and get a fish early in the morning, when most of the action seems to be happening, your salmon fishing day is over by eight or nine o’ clock. Or, fish all day and get nothing, which is what I got my last time out.

There are more fishing boats than ever and way less fish. That is a poor combo if you’re looking for good fishing.

Salmon fishing boats as far as the eye can see with hardly any fish caught.

You know it’s bad when six people get off a big guide service boat and take turns taking pictures with the one fish they caught.

It’s a weekend and all the salmon fishing spots are packed to the max. The name brand spots are out of boat parking spaces by 9AM. With a one fish limit, there is a lot of boat launch maneuvering with all the boats coming and going. We are going to spend some predicted showery weather and try to have some fun bass fishing, then give the salmon another shot in a day or two.

Sep 102019
 

It has been a wild couple of days kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River, to put it mildly. It’s been windy the past four or five days and it was Labor Day weekend; even though the season will almost certainly be closed sooner rather than later, we had to pass on the Salmon fishing. The next morning was forecast for light winds; 2mph from the east. Perfect for kayak fishing with minimal paddling.

I humped the kayak down the cliff at O dark thirty and noticed the wind was a bit more than the forecast 2mph. In fact, it was blowing pretty hard. As is often the case in this part of Washington, the wind was blowing from two directions at the same time; about 6-8mph from the west and 4-6mph from the north. The wind was forecast to die to nearly calm by noon, so I was hoping this was as bad as it would get. I launched the kayak and nosed cautiously on to the main channel of the Columbia River. Keep in mind, the wind is howling from two different directions and it is pitch black. The waves were easily 3-4 feet, which on a SOT kayak is just about overhead. The wind was howling down the Columbia River Gorge from the west, making short interval wind swells. My 13’6″ kayak was dipping down the backside of the wave, into the trough and not being able to make it up the next wave, so the waves were breaking over the bow and I started to take on water.

I had only paddled five hundred feet and it was already knarly. I kept the bow into the waves, but the short intervals of the waves kept them breaking over the bow. Because I have not kayak fished in super knarly conditions like paddling through breaking waves on the ocean for some time so my kayak was rigged for calm water fishing. There are four scupper holes, which are basically “self bailers”. You will get water in the kayak, but not enough to sink. Because I don’t like fishing with a wet butt, two of the scuppers are plugged with silicone seal. The other two are functional, just in case of a situation like this. The kayak was almost full of water, cameras and tackle boxes floating around by the light of my headlamp, so I yanked the two scupper plugs out and hoped they would not float away in the wind and waves. During a brief lull in the wind swells, I quickly turned the kayak around, taking another wave broadside as I turned, and headed back to the launch.

The kayak was full of water. I had foolishly neglected to deploy the rough water setup for the front hatch, so water had come through and flooded inside the hull. About a half gallon of water below, not too bad considering the conditions. Everything on the boat was wet, including me from the neck down, except for the dry bag below with my wallet, cell phone and keys in it. When things are going bad, you try to look for the positive side. That would be that the water temperature is very warm. I was wet. If this happened a month from now, I would be wet and freezing. Big difference. I spent a half hour bailing out the kayak, stowing the camera gear and getting ready for another really wet attempt at the day of salmon fishing. The swells were dropping a bit but the wind continued to blow. I paddled back out into a lumpy, bumpy, windy river, but now, there were a bunch of boats bobbing around. I was soaking wet and the early morning battle against the Columbia River had definitely woke me up.

It was getting light and I was casting for salmon and bailing water out of the kayak as the wind kept blowing and the waves kept coming. The fishing was slow. Boats were bobbing heavily at anchor in shallow water and I did not see any fish being caught. Still, I had taken a pretty good pounding, courtesy of the Columbia River, I wanted a little something for the effort. I kept working my way between anchored boats and river swells, when I got a strike in a most unlikely spot and managed to land a Chinook salmon between the bank anglers and the anchored boats. With my daily limit of one salmon in hand, I paddled in. The Columbia had wet slapped me in the face, but I got my limit. A wild experience when you least expect it and only one photo to show for it. That’s fishing; it’s the experience, not necessarily the fish you catch.

Chinook salmon caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish on a rough weather day on the Columbia River

I spent the rest of the day drying everything out. The wind, which was forecast to be nearly calm, was ripping. Kiteboarders were enjoying a great wind day with the summer crowds gone, the NOAA/National Weather Service stated it was 2mph. Note my pants flying sideways from the camper hatch, drying in the sun and wind. Because so much water had come into the hull of the kayak, even with minimal closure of the hatch, I checked the hatch gasket and found it had come apart. I repaired this before, but it needs regular inspection and maintenance. Super Glued the rubber hatch gasket back together and ready to go fishing. Tomorrow is forecast to be calm before afternoon thunderstorms.

Drying everything out after a wet day of fishing for salmon on the Columbia River

It was nearly dead calm when I paddled out on to the Columbia River the following day. Maybe people are reading this blog or maybe they are just getting desperate, but at exactly one hour before sunrise, there were a half dozen boats and a plenty of early rising bank fishermen. Once again, I had no action and I did not see any other boats land fish. I did see the bank fishermen land a couple. The shore fishermen have been doing pretty well from what I’ve seen.

A WDFW boat showed up, which is rare, stopped at an anchored boat at the edge of a pack of thirty boats, then proceeded directly towards me.
The WDFW officer inspected my kayak, asked for my fishing license, which I provided and asked to show my PFD and signalling device, which I did. He asked to inspect the lure I was using, and I showed him. It was a barbless treble hook on a Mepps spinner. I had just switched lures and only cast it a few times. He informed me it was illegal, a violation of the anti snagging rules. I needed to use a single hook, not barbless with this lure in this particular spot, where I live, for this salmon fishing season. I only fish for salmon in two or three spots, all near where I live, they all have different regulations and they change regularly; it’s very confusing. I had the same spinner in my tackle box with a siwash(single) hook, unfortunately, I picked the wrong one. I was also informed that because I did not have my Salmon/Steelhead card on my kayak(it’s in the glove box of my truck, 100 yards away), it would be a $150 fine. The reason I keep my Salmon card in my glove box is because my fishing kayak is wet. Very wet. 45° air temp, 50° water temp, drizzle, everything wet, not a great place for paperwork. I’m not a poacher, I’m trying to do the right thing. I offered to paddle in, get my card and show the WDFW officers; thirty minutes, max. No deal. I fill out my card and send it in every year. I did what I though was right to provide information necessary to keep the salmon fishery alive and send the State of Washington a card they would be able to read. No dice, $150 fine.

Anyway, after the visit from the WDFW, I clipped on a lure that I hoped would conform to the current WDFW regulations and tried to get back to fishing. $150 lighter, I continued to fish while the WDFW boat patrolled the edge of the salmon pack. I was afraid they would come in and bust me again for the salmon card; that fucking sucks. I caught this Chinook salmon and headed home like a thug who had just robbed a bank.

Dodging government patrols, a hungry man in Washington catches a salmon to eat

So, I caught a salmon, which is what I wanted to do, but this day will be nothing but bad memories. Salmon fishing has always been competitive, especially as the salmon populations shrink, but it’s gotten to the point where, aside from catching the fish itself, salmon fishing in a pack of boats is not that great of an experience. I reckon it’s merely a reflection of the loss of respect Americans have for each other.

The conditions here were not great for kayak fishing, so we headed to another spot where the fishing was better. Limits of one fish were fairly easy to get, but the fishing days are short that way. We’ll try again in a day or two, but the photo and video opportunities for salmon fishing have been hard to come by.

Sep 032019
 

With much trepidation and apprehension, the 2019 fall salmon fishing season on this part of the Columbia River is under way. All year there had been dire predictions of low returning fish counts and that has proven to be the case so far. Steelhead fishing is history. The returning coho run is supposed to be better than last year, which was a salmon fishing disaster. Chinook salmon numbers are worse than last year. The daily fish limit is one; hatchery Chinook or Coho.

The peak of the salmon run here is about the first week in September. This peak is very predictable and varies little from year to year. Usually, we start salmon fishing on the Columbia River after Labor Day weekend. Summer is over and the fair weather visitors begin to head home. This year, knowing the salmon run would be poor and fishing season liable to be cancelled at any time, we hit the river a few days before the Labor Day weekend.

We fish at a spot that is mostly local fishermen. It’s not a “brand name” spot, which is fine with the locals. If you know what you are doing, it is a good spot for salmon and Steelhead fishing. The fishing techniques you need to use to be successful are a bit different than standard Columbia River salmon fishing, so fishermen not familiar with the spot may not do so well. Normally at this time of year, there are a fair amount of salmon fishing boats out fishing. This season, there have been hardly any. On a calm day on the Columbia River at any known salmon fishing spot, there will be boats, but not so far this season.

A relatively few salmon fishing boats on the Columbia River for the 2019 salmon fishing season

This fishing spot is not too popular with kayak fishermen because it is either a long, sometimes windy, paddle across the Columbia River, or a sketchy hike down a crumbling cliff with all your gear. In the dark. Hauling the kayak up the cliff after a long day of fishing is no picnic either. If you look at your fishing kayak as an “investment”, this is not the fishing spot for you.

A rocky kayak launch at the base of a steep cliff

If you are a regular reader of this kayak fishing blog, you know we like to be on the water well before the crack of dawn. This is especially true for salmon fishing, except that fishing for salmon may not start until one hour before sunrise. This time of year, it’s about 5:20AM, still dark. By 6:30AM, it’s already starting to get light. One hour before sunrise, the lines go in the river.

I fished three consecutive days. The first day, I hooked a nice fish, but it jumped a few times and ran under the kayak. In the dark. I got it next to the kayak and the hooks pulled out before I could get the landing net deployed and I lost it. I fished for another six hours and did not get another bite. The second day, just after I put my line in the water, I got a strike and landed this small coho salmon. It was a native fish, easily unhooked from the barbless hooks and released unharmed.

Small native coho salmon caught and released unharmed by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

At least I caught one; the 2019 Salmon Fishing season would not be a skunk! That’s the way salmon fishing, and a lot of other big game fishing is like; you don’t catch anything until you do. Sometimes you get them and sometimes you do not.

Back to fishing in the pre-dawn darkness when I had another solid strike and hookup. I could tell this fish was bigger than the coho salmon I had just caught and released. When there is no light, the Columbia River is like a black hole. I was fighting the fish mostly by feel. The only time I could see anything was if the fish jumped or splashed on the surface. After a nice battle in the dark, the fish was next to the kayak. Getting a landing net under a struggling salmon is tough enough, try doing it in pitch blackness!

Pre dawn salmon fishing on the Columbia River with watermanatwork.com

Got the fish in the net and had a look; it was a hatchery Chinook salmon, probably a male. The first keeper of the 2019 salmon fishing season. After nothing the day before, I had caught two salmon, one released, essentially limiting out before 6:00AM this morning. That’s salmon fishing for you.

First Chinook salmon of the 2019 fall salmon run caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

Encouraged by the previous day’s success, I was eager to go the final day of our salmon fishing mission. I fished from about 5:20AM until noon without a single bite. Not only did I not have any luck, with about twenty boats fishing for salmon, I did not see a single fish caught. Even when the fishing is bad, as it very well can be, it’s unusual to not see any fish caught.

That is not the direction salmon fishermen are hoping for. Perhaps it has just been a bad few days or a slow start to the salmon run, but after the last few years of rapidly declining returning salmon numbers, it’s difficult to be optimistic about the Columbia River salmon fishery. It seems almost a sure thing that the salmon fishing season on the Columbia River will be closed sooner rather than later. We will try to fish every day, weather permitting, because who knows how much longer there is going to be any salmon fishing at all?

Aug 102019
 

A couple of calm wind days appeared with a blistering heat wave that sent temperatures into the high 90’s, but we take any calm days we can get, so off we go to eastern Washington kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River.

This is a spot of historical significance. It is a lot different than it was back then because of all the dams, but we are paddling our kayaks on the same river as Lewis & Clark.

Paddling the same Columbia River as Lewis & Clark with watermanatwork.com

With the normal west wind off the Pacific Ocean switched around to an easterly afternoon breeze, we were able to fish in a few different spots that are harder to get to with a west wind. Paddling a few miles into a stiff west wind is not something you want to do after a full day of kayak fishing. With the hot weather and possibility of afternoon wind, we were on the river and fishing in the cool, calm early morning well before sunrise. When the sky is red in the morning this time of year, it means it is going to be very hot.

Kayak fishing on the Columbia River on a hot summer moorning with watermanatwork.com

By the time the sun peeked over the dry eastern Washington hills, we had paddled a couple miles and caught a few fish. The calm and light east wind allowed us to paddle further upriver.

Kayak fishing on the Columbia River at sunrise with watermanatwork.com

The kayak fishing conditions on the Columbia River in the early morning were just about perfect and the smallmouth bass were biting. About as good as it gets. The fish could be bigger, but we always say that.

Columbia River smallmouth bass caught at sunrise by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

There was a lot of kayak fishing action. A few bigger fish, a bunch of one pounders and lots of small bass looking to get bigger by eating anything that moves.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with watermanatwork.com

The smallmouth bass were very active. They could be caught close to shore or in deeper water where they usually head in summer when the river water gets warm. There were spots you could get a strike on every cast. The bass were coughing up crayfish. If you had a lure that looked like one you were in business.

Smallmouth bass over the rocks in the Columbia River

For two days the smallmouth bass fishing was great. Caught lots of fish and did a lot of paddling with the calm conditions. The river is starting to get slimed with green algae making it tough to fish, this may be as good as it gets this summer.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with watermanatwork.com

We wanted to fish another day or two, but there were a bunch of sketchy looking characters, most likely tweakers, in the parking lot. Vehicle break ins and theft, once rare at these remote boat launches and trailheads, is now a regular occurance, especially on weekends. This place is a long way from anywhere and there is sketchy phone coverage. Nobody is going to help you, you’re on your own and you must make smart decisions. The conditions were excellent and the fish were biting, but the red lights were flashing so we packed up and headed home. That’s the way things are in a rapidly changing area of the Pacific Northwest. Good news is there are plenty of other fishing spots and we are out looking for them.

The beginning of fall salmon fishing season is almost here. Usually, there is a lot of excitement and anticipation this time of year, but this time around, it’s more like anxiety and apprehension. We’ll see soon enough.

Jul 272019
 

After the increasing wind put an end to a successful kayak fishing trip on the Columbia River, we headed north to do a little kayak fishing at Goose Lake in the Cascade Mountains. It’s been a few years since we’ve gone fishing at Goose Lake. This time of year is usually not the best time for fishermen but we decided to have a look.

As expected, with the warm weather we’ve been having, the mountain snow pack is down to the glaciers so the seasonal snow melt fed streams are running dry. There is not much water coming into Goose Lake so the water level is very low. Goose Lake is not a large lake to begin with, not much left this time of year.

Low summer water level at Goose Lake in the Cascade Mountains of central Washington

Just like a lot of the other “natural beauty” around this part of the country, Goose Lake can look like the middle of nowhere, but much of it is man made. The lake has no native fish but is stocked by Fish & Game several times a year. If you go fishing a day or two after being stocked, you can catch fish on every cast from the boat launch. For a small lake, there is good deal of fishing pressure and the stocked fish get caught up pretty quickly. The fishing for the two days we were there was pretty good. Maybe I just had the lucky lure. One small cutthroat trout and the rest were stocker clone rainbows.

Kayak fishing at Goose Lake Washington with watermanatwork.com

Like other spots in this area, Goose Lake is one of those places that has become a popular weekend camping/fishing destination. On nice summer weekends and many weekdays, the place is packed with weekend warriors from the rapidly expanding Portland/Vancouver metro area. It seems more like a Portland city pond than a Cascade Mountain lake. It’s not a big area and it seems overrun. There were some pretty sketchy people there that did not look like recreational campers. Even though it’s taking a beating, Goose Lake still has it’s moments.

A cloudy morning kayak fishing at Goose Lake Washington

That wraps up what is likely our last trip to Goose Lake for this year. We probably should have come here a bit earlier in the season. Have to follow the trout stocking truck next year and beat the crowd!

Jul 272019
 

The Columbia River area wind has not been kind to kayak fishermen this smallmouth bass fishing season. There have only been a very few calm days where we have been able to get out on the Columbia River to go fishing. Whenever we’ve been able to go fishing, the fishing has been pretty good. Still looking for that big 20″ trophy smallmouth, but it’s been a while since I caught a really big fish.

Some of the best smallmouth bass fishing spots on the mid Columbia River are also the most windy so whenever the wind is predicted to be moderately calm, it’s a call to make a seventy five mile drive to go fishing. We lucked out and were able to get two and a half days of fishing with good conditions between wind events. It was really hot here in eastern Washington in the afternoon and the smallmouth bass will bite day or night, so we got an early start to the fishing day by the light of the moon when the wind was most calm.

Kayak fishing before sunrise on the Columbia River in eastern Washington

It was a little more than a half moon, and with the rising sun in the east, it was light enough to see by 5 AM. We knew our fishing time would be limited by the afternoon wind, so we were on the water well before sunrise. By the light of the moon there was plenty of fishing action. We caught the biggest smallmouth bass of the fishing trip just before sunrise each day so it was worth getting up early and getting out there. It was also nice and cool on what would be a swelteringly hot summer day.

Pre dawn Columbia River smallmouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

As the sun came up the fishing remained hot and we caught a lot of smallmouth bass. Most of them were “one pounders”, but we did catch a number of bigger fish. Smallmouth bass are great fighters and it always seems like there should be a bigger fish at the end of the line. Even the small bass put up a great fight.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with watermanatwork.com

The water temperature of the Columbia River, especially the side bays and shallow sections is warm and getting warmer. That means the smallmouth bass are moving to deeper water and the river vegetation is taking over. There is the usual seaweed, but the real problem is slimy green algae that is covering just about everything under the water. If your lure touches anything, it’s coated with algae and the fish won’t bite.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with watermanatwork.com

As the sun rose on another still very long PacNW summer day, it got really hot, into the low 90’s. The fishing was still good until late in the afternoon when the wind usually picked up and made the fishing more difficult.

Columbia River smallmouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

Even during the windy afternoon, the fishing was still pretty good. When you’ve already had a long day of kayak fishing, you don’t want a mile long paddle against a 10-15 mph wind back to the launch. Good fishermen always want to try “one more cast”, but it’s time to get back to camp, get hydrated and something to eat so we can do it again early tomorrow morning.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River with watermanatwork.com

As the weekend river goers packed up their fishing rods and pool toys, we packed up and left the hot, windy Columbia River and headed towards the Cascade Mountains and Goose Lake.