Nov 192019

Kayaks can take you to a lot of places where boats would have a great deal of difficulty due to the shallow water, underwater obstacles inches below the surface and sandbars that can stretch across the entire river. Not to mention that the road to get the launch on the river would probably destroy your boat trailer. Driving along the rivers looking for places to launch the kayak reminds me of the days in Baja, headed south and turning west at any dirt road we thought might lead to that perfect surf spot. A bit different here and now, but the desert is still hot and dusty.

Razer ATVs in the southwest Arizona desert

In this part of the desert, water is life, so there are a lot of large canals that transport Colorado River water to the smaller irrigation canals of the agricultural fields that supply a good deal of winter vegetables to the rest of the United States. In the middle of it all is the Colorado River, which gets smaller and smaller as it nears the Mexican border. Each stretch of the Colorado is bit different with a lot of potential for bass fishing.

Lower Colorado River at sunrise

We were up before sunrise looking for hot bass fishing action, but the Colorado River largemouth bass did not read the script. The reeds that grow next to the river are very tall so it looks like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but the river here is surrounded by large farming operations. As the sun came up over the tall bushes, the largemouth bass got a little more lively.

Kayak fishing on the lower Colorado River

The river looks pretty calm in the photo, but, depending on the depth, there is a steady current. Stop paddling and you go downstream. The water is generally shallow with very shallow sandbars. The river water is super clear. You usually have to cast from out in the river up against the bank with a swift current; keeps you busy.

The lower Colorado River is shallow with numerous sandbars

Off of the main river channel there are backwaters and overgrown irrigation canals. These canals can be less than a foot deep with deeper pools along the banks where the reeds shade the water. There are a bunch of fish in here, but the clear, shallow water and narrow passage make it easy to spook them before you can cast.

Overgrown irrigation canal off of the Colorado River

Probably due to the fast moving current, where potential food goes past pretty quickly, the largemouth bass here are very aggressive, which is just what you want as a fisherman. Even the smaller fish hit hard and put up a great fight.

Kayak fishing for largemouth bass on the Colorado River with

We ran into Randy, a local fisherman using a Hobie Pro Angler which looked to be just about perfect to handle the steady current. Holding steady against the current with your hands free is a big plus here.

Local kayak fisherman Randy on his Hobie Pro Angler on the Colorado River

Minutes after I took this photo of Randy, he peddled a short distance, hooked up and landed a 7 1/2 lb. largemouth bass. It was only fifteen yards from where I was standing on shore so I got to see the whole battle. A great way to end a great day of fishing.

Wish I could say I caught a seven pounder, but I didn’t come close. The biggest fish I caught were about a pound, pound and a half. Not complaining though because I caught a lot of fish, had a lot of strikes and an unbelievable amount of bass able to spit out the 4″ grub.

Colorado River largemouth bass caught by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

This was a great place to fish, a unique part of the desert southwest river system. It is also one of the rare places you can paddle up to your campsite. Just like where we live on the Columbia River, you can camp for free, all you have to do is pack out your litter. This seems to be too much to ask. This great fishing/kayaking/swimming/camping spot looks like the city dump. Not just here, where we live as well. It is sad to see America’s great rivers like the Columbia and Colorado littered with trash.

Kayak fishing launch on the Colorado River

After a day of fishing and paddling against the current, I was pretty well worn out. Thankfully, there were no mosquitoes, so getting the fishing gear ready to go for the following morning was a breeze and I didn’t have far to go to the master bedroom. Beyond my Hobie Quest kayak is Randy’s Chevy Trail Boss pickup truck with a bed extender for his Pro Angler.

It was a great weekend of fishing at a spot I’d never been too, caught a lot of fish, met some nice people. I talked with a local fisherman who was thinking of trying kayak fishing. This area has great kayak fishing, hard to go wrong. Fished with Randy, who caught the fish of the weekend for sure. He’s a cool guy and can lift a Hobie Pro angler in the back of his pickup, no problemo. After a full weekend of desert kayak fishing, he drove across the desert to catch a cross-country air flight. That’s a hardcore kayak fisherman, so he gets one more photo.

Kayak fisherman Randy looking for one more Colorado River largemouth bass at sunset

There are a few unsettled weather days ahead, but we are always encouraged by the results of our exploration, and we are going to be looking for more kayak fishing action. Check back soon.

Nov 142019

The kayak fishing on the Colorado River remains challenging for the past few days. To get skunked in such a good fishing spot is unusual, but it does happen. Usually you can catch a small bass, bluegill, crappie or something to keep you from skunkville, but sometimes, especially if the river water is cold, you can be rewarded for your hard fishing efforts with nothing. Fishing for largemouth bass should be considered big game fishing, sometimes it all or nothing. Tuna, salmon; big game fish, the same deal. When a good fisherman gets skunked, he knows there’s only one way to go from there.

That’s pretty much what’s happening. The fishing is getting a little better and we are starting to see a few bigger fish. The conditions for kayak fishing have been very good with one exception; the mosquitoes. This part of the Colorado River runs through the desert, it’s the only water around. Water is life in the desert and is the only lifeline for mosquitoes. There is a lot of swamp, marsh, wetlands, whatever you call it adjacent to the river; perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Conditions are perfect, beautiful day, you can’t see the thousands of mosquitoes.

Sunrise over Mittry Lake AZ

We paddled and fished everywhere on the lower Colorado River we have had success before and tried to cover every nook and cranny of the river. When the fishing is not that good, you kind of accept that and spend a bit more time looking around. I haven’t had much luck fishing in this Colorado River backwater, but I did see a wildcat here, so it’s always worth having a look.

Kayak fishing for largemouth bass on the backwaters of the Colorado River

Since we are visitors here with a limited amount of time, fishing is what we came here for and that’s what we are going to do. Even if the conditions are marginal or the fishing is not that great. The more time you spend fishing, the more fish you are going to catch. At least that’s what we’re working with. Fish gotta eat. Sooner or later, you’ll get one.

Kayak fishing for largemouth bass on the Colorado River with

After a long, hot day of desert kayak fishing, it’s always a treat to pack up the boat and all the gear. We are extremely fortunate to have places like this where you can experience the best of this country and not have to pay(much). Launch before sunrise, paddle the calm water through cattail islands among thousands of birds with the stars shining brightly in the dark desert sky. This is some of the very last wild country here in the United States. We recommend you get out there and experience it while it is still here.

Launching fishing kayaks on the lower Colorado River

We spent a little bit more gas money and motored away from the river a bit to get away from the mosquitoes. Around the water, it’s like an Alfred Hitchcock movie just after sunset with swarms of hungry mosquitoes. Away from the river, there are flies during the day, but no mosquitoes. The weather in the desert at night is usually extremely comfortable. To be able to enjoy it without being eaten alive is great. Have a couple cold beers after a long, hot day of fishing and rest up for another fishing day tomorrow.

Kayak fish camp in the Arizona desert with

The thing about largemouth bass fishing, and other big game fishing, is that you don’t catch anything until you do. The day before, I got skunked. Other local fishermen confirmed the fishing was bad, but still… This day, my luck did a 180 and I caught six or eight bass. Most of them pretty small, but I caught a nice one before the sun came up, a big boost after a day of nada, and after making a perfect cast with the crankbait on the casting rig on the way back to the launch, I got this nice bass, which could be the best of the season for me so far.

Nice Colorado River largemouth bass caught by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

That’s about it from the desert southwest. We are on the water every chance we get and we still have video footage from last season we are still working on. There’s always a lot going on here, please check back and see what’s next. We sure don’t know.

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

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 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

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 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. 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 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 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

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 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

This blog entry contains the personal opinions of owner Ron Barbish. content is normally restricted outdoor activities, politics purposely left off of website. If you don’t want to hear what Ron Barbish has to say, go to any other blog entry and check out the fishing, cycling and other outdoor adventures.

Some of you have noticed that the blogging has been a bit slow lately, some of that has to do with some pretty poor fishing, which cuts down on the kayak fishing photos and videos, but a lot of the blogging gap has to do with some personal issues. I’m relating what has happened to me here because I’m sure it happens to people every single day, and it’s just not right under any circumstances.

As you might know, a little over a year ago, I was rear-ended while stopped for an Oregon Dept. of Transportation construction zone flagman. You can see the whole story HERE. One year later, my insurance company and the insurance company of the truck driver that hit have refused to pay for any damages or medical expenses for the accident.

Rear ended by Penske semi truck while stopped for ODOT construction zone flagman. Insurance companies refused to pay for damages or medical expenses

For two months following the accident, I was injured and could barely move. Insurance companies refused to pay for medical expenses, even though I had no fault PIP coverage. Buying a new vehicle on short notice, replacing everything destroyed, medical bills and the cost of a devastating accident like this soon depleted all of my savings. Nearly a year after the accident, I have not received a penny from either insurance company, my life has been devastated, I’ve lost nearly everything. Why am I in this position? Because I obeyed the law. I obeyed the law and suffered 100% of the consequences of this incident, the person who did not obey the law, injured people and destroyed property, suffered nothing.

Insurance is nothing but a protection racket run by criminals just like it was in the 1930’s when corrupt politicians became part of the “system” and the insurance industry was born. The insurance industry has no product or service except those that corrupt politicians mandate that citizens must purchase. While having insurance is mandated by state law, insurance companies are under no legal requirement to honor insurance contracts. In my case, the insurance companies worked together to ensure neither one would have to pay for any expenses from the accident. Against the largest criminal organization in the history of Western civilization, I had no chance. The only way I could get any money for expenses from the accident was to sue in Small Claims Court because no lawyer would take the case(not enough money).

County Courthouse. If you're looking for justice, you've come to the wrong place.

I was surprised to see the company of the driver that hit me had hired a lawyer to represent them in Small Claims court. I was not allowed to have an attorney. The judge threw out the case against the owner of the truck; Penske Truck Leasing. Penske trucks kill and injure thousands of innocent people every year, just like me, with Penske having no responsibility for the devastation their business practices cause. Every lap a Penske race car takes around a NASCAR race track is paid for by the suffering of innocent people. Penske gives the government and US military sweetheart deals and the state fees paid by Penske trucks, mean, like the insurance companies, Penske is above the law, which makes business very profitable. A case against the insurance brokers, who had taken my wrecked truck using falsified documents, was also dismissed. In a courtroom with two lawyers, I was chastised for not knowing the nuances of the law and told the law is “not about personal responsibility, (I) need to follow the system.” The judge was sympathetic to the Defendant’s attorney, speculating how much they had to pay to hire her, while not showing a shred of concern that my life was destroyed because I obeyed the law. A month later, I had to go to court again. This time, I was awarded $5000, the maximum allowed by law, but only a fraction of what the accident cost. They still haven’t paid the $5000 the court awarded, why would they? They are above the law, the system had forced an innocent accident victim to accept responsibility for the person who had caused the injuries and property damage.

Once again, the important thing is that all of this happened to me because I obeyed the law. If I had not obeyed the law, I would not be in this position today.

Gift from WDFW

A few days after this court fiasco, I was out salmon fishing in a pack of boats when a WDFG(WA Dept. of Fish & Game) boat motored through the crowd and came right over to me. The only kayak fisherman, I was used to getting the treatment from Fish & Game of many states, but this time was different. I got the full safety check, license and ID check, the entire shakedown package. With the wet, rainy, weather, I had left my salmon catch card in my truck. Not my fishing license, a form that you record the salmon you catch. That’s the $150 they were looking for. I asked them if I could paddle over to my truck and get the form, no dice. They told me without the card, I could be a poacher. That immediately sent the rage meter to eleven and here’s why;

A couple years ago, I saw guys poaching salmon. They would catch the daily limit, motor across the river, unload the fish and come back across the river for another limit. They did this every day. On a good day, when the fish were biting, they would catch five to ten times the daily limit. I called the WDFG “Poacher Hotline”, where I was told “they weren’t interested.”
So WDFG is not actually interested in stopping poachers(or illegal gill nets, night fishing and trot lines, either) and protecting natural resources, only generating revenue from poor suckers who don’t have proper paperwork. The salmon are on the fast track to extinction and they got my $150, so the “system” is working. Those same guys who were poaching salmon were watching me get worked over by WDFG, they must have had a real laugh.

As a result of what has happened following the semi truck accident and incidents like the salmon card bullshit ticket, my outlook on things, especially the way things are going in the United States, has changed somewhat. The law does not protect innocent people, American citizens should not be legally required to suffer in order to protect criminals, and that includes the corrupt politicians who have sold America’s future. You are punished if you obey the law and punished if you do not. What are you supposed to do? America is a fragmented and failing society, greed has destroyed everything good this nation was founded on. Corrupt politics and corporate policies have turned Americans against each other for nothing other than a point of view. I have seen countries in the midst of civil unrest, America now looks as bad, or worse, than any of them. I believe the United States is on the ragged edge. Greed and politics are destroying the place I live, I don’t see that stopping anytime soon.

In light of all this, it has been difficult to make videos and take photos of fishing and riding bikes. Being creative is tough enough, but when you get overwhelmed by bad things, the power of creativity has to be re-channeled to your survival mode to keep from going berserk. Although what has happened to me has changed me for the rest of my life, I don’t want the government to steal everything, so the creative juices are starting to flow again. Enough of corruption and greed, all Americans will be paying the price for that soon enough, but for now, I am going fishing and riding my bike.

Oct 222019

Welcome to the 2019 PacNW kayak fishing wrap up commentary here at 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 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 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

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

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

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. 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 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 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

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 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?