Sep 282016
 

This morning we were out kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River hoping for a little better luck than we’ve had for the past few fishing days. Salmon fishing is great, but it isn’t around for long and the fishing is definitely slowing down early this season. The fish counts kicked up a bit in the past couple days, but the salmon fishing season is still on life support. Even though the chances of catching fish get slimmer every day, there’s still a chance. And when the salmon fishing season is over, it’s winter.

I was hopeful that the streak of no fish would come to an end as the first casts were made just before sunrise. A few boats pulled up pretty close and for about a half hour, there was no fishing action of any kind, except for the casting part. It was not the start I was hoping for until I cast away from the mini pack of boats and started to reel back in when I got a solid strike. The fish mostly dove for the bottom, but when it got near the kayak, it started jumping around. It was still hard to see in the early morning light, but I was able to tell was a nice clipped Chinook salmon. It took a couple tries to get it into the net, but finally got it. The dry streak was over, pretty stoked.

I got the fish on the stringer and as I was stowing the landing net, I noticed a couple more boats and a couple of the original flotilla were moving closer. I cast between a couple boats and could not believe I had another hookup! Two fish on with two casts, unbelievable! After another great battle and more landing net acrobatics, another really nice Chinook salmon was in the boat. I could not believe my luck. Pulled the anchor and headed for shore at 7:00 AM.

Chinook salmon caught kayak fishing on the Columbia River

That’s the second two fish limit of the season. Usually, I would hope for a few more fish by this time, but in a sub par season, you take what you can get. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t. All you can do is get out there whenever you can to increase your odds.

Looks like a decent stretch of wind coming up, tomorrow might be 50-50, but when the fishing is not that good, being anchored on a windy Columbia River in a pack of boats is less attractive. Have to do an early morning wind check and see how it looks. Still a morning only possibility. The only thing left to do is grill some fresh Chinook salmon.

Grilled Chinook salmon from the Columbia River

Got our fingers crossed for the rest of the salmon fishing season, at least I feel better about it today!

Sep 262016
 

Sorry, there are no photos or video today because the salmon fishing on the Columbia River is really poor. Out of 20-25 boats, which is about half of what it was this time last week, I saw three fish caught. I had a couple weak bumps, nothing even close to a hookup, in about six hours. The fishing has been slowing down in the past few days, not sure what the deal is. I’ve talked with a few guys who said there is virtually nothing happening on the Columbia River tributaries that would normally be kicking out a lot of fish. On the main river, some spots are better than others, but the fishing seems to have dropped off to almost a dead stop yesterday afternoon. It looks like the salmon are just passing through.

Windy tomorrow and rain the day after. When the weather is too nice, the salmon don’t bite. Maybe a little rain will wake the fish up.

Sep 222016
 

We had a couple nice days for some Columbia River salmon fishing. Days are getting shorter and it’s getting colder at night, the beautiful long summer days of the Pacific Northwest are pretty much over. Over two days of fishing, I caught two fish, which is about average for a decent fisherman. You always hope to do better, but some days the fishing is not as good. If I knew why, I would be a millionaire, but I don’t know why so I’m not a millionaire. One of the fish was a wild Coho salmon, maybe about twelve pounds, that was released, so another day of catching fish but not keeping fish. The other fish more than made up for it because it was a large hatchery Coho salmon. This is the biggest fish of the year so far, easily twenty five pounds. It’s right up there on the all-time big Coho salmon list as well.

Big Coho salmon caught kayak fishing on the Columbia River 9-20-16

It’s hard to tell if the fishing is slow or if the fishing is just slow for you, but the fishing sure seems slow. You can always see salmon surfacing and jumping, but that doesn’t mean you are going to catch them. In a day’s fishing, you may get “bumps”, where a fish bumps into your lure or makes a half-hearted strike. Sometimes, these “bumps” may result in a foul hooked fish. Then, you might get a couple hookups, but lose the fish somewhere along the line. Netting a big fish on a kayak is not an easy task, you may lose a fish or two like that. You can also be like me and lose fish by fooling around with cameras. Anyway, when there are fish jumping around and nothing else, that’s a slow and somewhat tortuous day of fishing.

A check of the annual fish counts shows there is reason for the slow salmon fishing. The fall salmon run, both for Chinook and Coho, numbers are very low and falling off quickly; not a positive sign if you plan on doing any salmon fishing. The Chinook salmon run may wind up under the ten year average. The number of fish coming over the Bonneville Dam is dropping more quickly than the historical norm as well. The Coho numbers are down from the ten year average, but similar to last season except for this year’s extra quick drop off. I’m glad we got out there as soon as possible because it’s looking like a challenging salmon fishing season ahead.

We will get back out there as soon as possible because it may be a short season. Looking like this weekend could be the last nice, summer-like weekend of the year, so it will be insanely crowded. Have to wait until next week but we will be out there first thing.

Sep 172016
 

When you can go kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River for a few days in a row, that’s a pretty good run. The wind here in the Columbia River Gorge is rarely calm for consecutive days, so we considered ourselves extremely lucky to get an entire week of calm wind and nice weather that happened to coincide with the peak of the fall salmon run. We were fortunate that we were able to go kayak fishing for salmon in the Columbia River for five days in a row with conditions that could not have been much better. Pretty close to a once in a lifetime experience for any fisherman.

I caught a big Chinook salmon late last week, so I was really looking forward to more kayak fishing. The first day out, I caught three salmon, all native fish, that were released. The streak of wild salmon continues. For sure, the reason I go fishing is because I like to fish, but having a few fish to put in the freezer is kind of nice. Still can’t beat the action as far as fresh water fishing goes.

Kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River

The second day had some big time salmon fishing action. The fishing was really good. I caught five more wild salmon; three Coho and two Chinook. I can’t ever recall catching so many native fish. I also had two more salmon came unhooked just as I was getting ready to use the landing net. They both looked like hatchery Coho salmon and one of them looked like a twenty pounder. Really starting to wonder what the heck is going on.

Kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River

On the third day, I caught three Coho salmon. Today things went my way and the two largest fish were keepers. I was limited out, off the water by 8:00 AM. The photo is pretty bad because the sun had not come up over the Cascade Mountain foothills, so it was still dark in the shadows.

Kayak fishing for Coho salmon on the Columbia River

The fourth day was a long day of fishing resulting in zero fish. One fish, if you count a foul hooked smallmouth bass. A great day of fishing followed by a skunk. That’s how salmon fishing goes. Some days you get them, some days you don’t.

This salmon fishing is more than putting a line in the water. We have to get up at 3:00 AM to be out on the water at sunrise. Almost all the fish so far this year have been caught before noon, so that’s what you have to do. As the days get shorter, we won’t need to get up as early, but there is less fishing time. We have to hump the kayaks and gear down a steep, rocky cliff/hill, in the dark. After fishing, we have to haul the kayaks and gear up the hill. When we get home, all the gear is hung out to dry. If we’ve been lucky, fish are cleaned and eggs processed. Pack up all the gear for tomorrow, have something to eat and hit the sack early.

Long fishing days and big fish are tough on fishing tackle. One of my spinning reels needs to be repaired and hooks on lures may need to be changed daily. This is what is left of a size 4 Eagle Claw treble hook after a twenty pound salmon got done chewing on it.

Treble hook destroyed by big salmon

Last day; what are we going to get? After a couple hours fishing, it was pretty clear that the salmon were not going to be jumping into the kayak. Another tough day as far as catching fish goes. The fish are there, you can see them jumping around, but some days they just don’t bite. After a long week of fishing, I almost packed it in, but as the first weekend fishermen started to filter onto the river, I had the first and last hookup of the day; a silvery Coho salmon. The “one last cast” philosophy pays off again, guess that’s why I always stick with it.

Colombia River Coho salmon

After five straight days of salmon fishing adventure, I’m pretty tired. Caught a lot of salmon and kept a few. We did not get a lot of video and photos because most of the best fishing was early in the morning when the lighting is bad. We also like to catch a few fish before we start losing fish by fooling around with the cameras. Now that the empty freezer is starting to get filled up, we will be more inclined to try getting some footage and photos.

Salmon in the freezer

After a perfect week, today is rainy and windy. Man, we were so lucky. Salmon fishing is fully under way and we will be out there every day we can. Stay tuned, or get out there yourself.

Sep 102016
 

The kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River continues every chance we get. Last time out I caught three nice Columbia River salmon and farmed another that was probably the biggest of the day. As is pretty much always the case, these salmon put up an amazing fight from start to finish.

Kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River

The three salmon I got to the kayak were all native fish so it was catch and release. Releasing a big fish like a salmon without using a landing net can be as much of a battle as getting the fish in arm’s reach. With one fish, the fishing line was wrapped around the salmon’s toothy lower jaw so I had to hold the lure and cut a bunch of line so it wouldn’t harm the fish and I could get my lure back. That’s six native fish and one hatchery fish for me so far. The keeper was a big one, so I can’t complain too much.

Catch and release native salmon

A quick check this weekend morning saw a huge crowd at the local salmon fishing spot. The crowds are only somewhat limited by the parking spots at the local launch ramps. The big name fishing spots are really crazy on weekends, which makes salmon fishing more like naval warfare with all the boats. We’ll be back on it next week.

Sep 062016
 

The thing about salmon fishing is “sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t.” You have to get out there every chance you get and hope it’s your day. Sure, there is skill involved, but to be a good fisherman, you also have to be lucky. I think today I got a little bit lucky.

Got up at 4AM to check the wind and it did not look good. Rain storms in the area as well. The weather conditions here are so variable and they can change quickly, it can be tough to call. Rain and wind; back to bed. Woke later to rain, but not as much wind. Checked the computer a few times and decided to sit in the wind and rain in the kayak instead of sitting in front of the computer. It was borderline weather conditions for kayak fishing on the Columbia River, but the weather and water are warm so it’s not as serious as it will be a month from now. I was hoping to get an hour or two of fishing in before it blew out. It was a little windy, but nothing to keep me from trying for that big salmon.

Wind and rain showers on the Columbia River

I caught a few native salmon on the last trip that were released, I was hoping for the first keeper of the season. At first, there wasn’t much action until I got a solid hit. I could tell right away that it was a good fish. The fish towed the kayak towards the main channel, the drag on the fishing reel getting a good workout. After about fifteen minutes and covering at least a quarter mile of the river, into the wind, I managed to get a big Chinook salmon into the landing net.

It was a nice Chinook salmon, about twenty five pounds. The last salmon in the freezer got used over the past Labor Day holiday weekend, so fresh salmon in the house is always a happy day.

Kayak fishing Big Chinook salmon

I’m glad I decided to take a chance and get out there. Sometimes it will go your way, sometimes it won’t. Like we say in the fishing business, if you don’t have a line in the water, there is a 100% chance you will not catch a fish.

Aug 302016
 

After a few days of not a lot of salmon fishing action, the tables turned and I managed to catch the first three salmon of the year. Unfortunately, they were all native fish so they were all released unharmed. This really hurt because one huge Chinook salmon was easily over twenty pounds. It was quite a battle and an even bigger struggle getting it unhooked. More than 80% of the salmon in the Columbia River are hatchery fish, so to catch three wild fish on one day, while disappointing as far as salmon for dinner goes, is pretty unusual. Someday, there will be no wild salmon in the river, so I guess at least I was able to catch a few. For some reason, the area we fish has a lot of native salmon. This is good to see but is probably one of the reasons the spot is not as popular as others.

No video or photos this time around. Besides being early in the morning and probably too dark for video, I usually wait until I catch a fish or two before getting the camera gear out. Wish I could have had video of that big Chinook though. At least if you have to release the fish, you have something look at later. I definitely lose a few fish by messing around with the cameras so I want to catch a couple before I start losing them by playing with the cameras.

Now that the fishing is getting good, of course the wind has picked up and there won’t be any kayak fishing for a day or two. Funny how nature kind of takes care of itself. We are sure looking forward to getting back on the water. Salmon season is off and running!

Aug 262016
 

It’s that time of year again. Time to get out there and go after the big fish. Salmon fishing season has begun. The weather for the past few days has been great, maybe a bit on the hot side, but hot, sunny days are not something we complain a lot about here in the Pacific Northwest. The water in the Columbia River is very warm, I think a shot of rain will get the fish more active.

Kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River

There are salmon here, but not that many. In a few days of fishing, I only got a few weak hits using a spinner. I did a little bobber fishing and fishing off the bottom with a dropper loop using cured prawns, but not for very long. Didn’t have any luck. Anchoring a kayak in a pack of boats is something I really don’t like to do. I saw a couple fish caught by bank fishermen and there were salmon jumping around, but not many fish being caught. The numbers of Chinook salmon coming over the dam is really increasing, so the fishing should start to pick up.

As usual, the weather will be the biggest factor as far as getting out the river. It always seems the wind picks up when the fishing is best. It looks like the wind will be touch and go for the next week, maybe wind up fishing only a few hours in the morning. When the salmon are in the Columbia River tributaries, you can spend windy days fishing those from shore, but the bulk of the salmon are not here yet. The steelhead seem a little thin so far. Last season the Coho fishing was real slow. You never know what’s going to happen.

Aug 202016
 

It’s that time of year again; the chinook salmon are coming over the Bonneville Dam and it’s time to start salmon fishing. We’ve been taking the salmon gear out on the last couple fishing trips to make sure everything is working so we don’t lose any big fish because of equipment problems. We’ll be out on the river before sunrise among the power boats so we’ll be using the kayak light to try and not get run over.

Gearing up for salmon fishing season

The gear we use is pretty simple. We’ve learned from experience that time tested, simple setups continue to catch the most fish. Different spots and conditions determine what kind of fishing and which setup should be used. Kayak fishing for salmon is a little different than fishing from a power boat or casting from the bank so you must pay attention to the situation and use the setup that will work best for those conditions. We have a rig for casting plugs and spinners, a basic trolling rig and a couple bait rigs. The trolling rig has 20 lb. test braided line, the others are 20 lb. test monofilament. We use mostly plugs and spinners that local fishermen have been using for decades to catch fish.

From now until the fishing rod guides start icing up, we will be fishing for salmon every day the weather cooperates.