We always look forward to a little kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the John Day River. It’s about an hour’s drive from the WatermanAtWork west coast production facility, so we try to hit it whenever we can. The John Day is one of the best places to fish for smallmouth bass in the entire country. If you are serious about smallmouth bass, the John Day is a place you should visit.
The weekend started out a little ragged. Coming home from a local fishing spot, there was a plume of black smoke coming from the Mosier, OR exit right next to the interstate and the Columbia River. Mosier is a small community of less than 500 people, this was not a normal event. It looked bad and it was.
Turns out a train pulling oil tanker cars had derailed and some of the tank cars caught on fire. Within hours, the I-84 interstate was closed and all of the local town and county roads were gridlocked with people trying to get around the fire and numerous road closures. As night fell, there was no guarantee that this mess would be taken care of to the point where we would be able to get out of town and out to John Day River the following morning.
We had to get an early start so we were relieved to find the interstate was reopened a couple hours earlier and the traffic had all been finally cleared out. As we passed Mosier on our way towards the John Day, we could see what a mess it was with oil leaking into the Columbia River a real possibility. It is going to take quite a while to get this mess cleaned up. As we left those problems in the rear view mirror, the sun was beginning to rise on what was going to be a sweltering hot weekend with temperatures predicted in the 100’s. We launched on a beautiful morning just before sunrise into the John Day River mouth near the Columbia River and didn’t take long to have the first John Day smallmouth bass in the kayak. As the temperature climbed to 101°, the wind stayed mostly calm and the bass fishing was non-stop action. The smallies were mostly in the usual half pound range with a few bigger bass in the 15-17″ range. The John Day smallmouth bass are great fighters, even the smaller ones. Probably caught at least fifty smallmouth bass, maybe more when I ran out of drinking water and had to come ashore to escape the blazing heat. Had a couple beers and a sandwich or two and was asleep shortly after the sun disappeared behind the hills to the west.
We were up early so we could get out on the river before it got too hot and paddled upstream on the John Day to a little spot that always seems to be holding lots of bass, turns out it was a good place to start the fishing.
We caught smallmouth bass non-stop for the next couple hours. There’s not too many places you have to replace your lures because the fish chewed them to the point where they aren’t usable, that’s the John Day River for you. After losing count of how many bass we caught, we headed back down towards the rivermouth. It was getting really hot, there are a couple bridges over the river you can get under and get some relief from the heat and still catch fish. We caught more bass at the rivermouth before the fishing seemed to slow down, probably due to the relentless heat. I wanted to take one more pass by a spot that has been lucky in the past and it was lucky today as well, catching one of the nicest fish of the weekend on the last cast.
Even if the fishing was good, it was too hot to remain out on the water. The temperature had reached 104°, too hot to be sitting on a kayak covered from head to toe, so we called it a weekend, loaded up the truck and headed home. The John Day River delivered again.