Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news regarding the salmon fishing on the Columbia River. The good news is that there are still salmon being caught, the bad news is that there’s a lot less salmon being caught and many of the fish that are caught are worn out and dark. The area we’ve been fishing at lately; the Columbia River near the White Salmon rivermouth, had been fishing very well for steelhead, then coho and finally chinook salmon. This is the closest place salmon and steelhead are to where we live so we don’t have to drive very far and get up any earlier in the morning than we already do to be on the river before sunrise. The past few days the salmon fishing has slowed considerably. Most of the fish being caught are very dark, an indication that the fish is nearing the end of it’s life. The mouth of the White Salmon River is already littered with spawned out chinook salmon carcasses.
A few days ago, I had a pretty good day of fishing, catching the biggest chinook salmon of the season, as well as a smaller king salmon. Both these fish were silvery and fresh. Yesterday, I wasn’t having much success casting wiggle warts, which has worked very well for steelhead and salmon this year, so I joined the boat parade and started trolling. After an hour or two I was ready to give up when I got a hookup and managed to get a medium sized chinook salmon in the kayak.
This fish turned out to be a male chinook salmon. This fish was the darkest fish I’d caught all season. Not inedible, but this fish was close to the end of the line.
The fishing was getting slow and rain was in the forecast, but I dragged myself out of bed to try one more time at the White Salmon rivermouth, figuring it might be the last trip of the season there and hoping for a last minute miracle. I tried trolling before sunrise and only got one halfhearted strike in an hour of trying. As it got light, I went back to casting the trusty wiggle warts without any success. The fishing was slow, it was raining and to top things off, there were a lot of fishermen. Trolling with the zig zagging flotilla of weekend warriors was out of the question and there were plenty of boats anchored with guys casting, not much room to fish unless you got right on top of somebody, which is popular here, but something I prefer not to do. I wasn’t having any luck and was ready to head in when I tried casting in a spot that few try because it is so close to shore. I got a strong hit, got the fish to the kayak and landed a nice silvery chinook salmon.
By the time I got the fish on the stringer and untangled the lure from my landing net, four boats had parked right on top of me. I decided to call it an early day and head in. As I was gutting the salmon, I realized that the fish I had caught the day before while trolling, as well as the majority of fish I had seen other fishermen catch while trolling, were dark fish. The fish I caught while casting plugs were all silvery and fresh. It seems the fish caught while casting were in better shape and more active, attacking a cast lure, while the fish caught on the troll might have hit the lure merely because it passed in front of their noses.
Anyway, we are probably going to head upriver to another spot and see if the salmon fishing there is a little better and the fish are in better shape. It means getting up earlier and driving more, but we are really getting down to the bone on the 2014 salmon season, there may only be a few days of kayak fishing for salmon left…