Coho season is right around the corner, and this year’s season is expected to be unusually abundant. That’s good news for anglers seeking to make the most of the Columbia’s Buoy 10 fishery.
Today we’ll talk about the Coho salmon, also known as silver salmon, and learn how to make the most of the Buoy 10 fishery experience.
Meet the Coho Salmon
We’ve talked about Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), also known as silver salmon, before. The smaller cousins of the Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) or king salmon, these fish are worthy gamefish in their own right.
Like the Chinook and like other salmon, Coho salmon begin life in freshwater, in small streams that feed into rivers like the Columbia. Their smolts typically reside in freshwater until the spring of their second year, after which they swim downriver and spend 16-20 months maturing in the Pacific Ocean.
After reaching maturity, Silver salmon make their spawning run, the period in which they swim upriver, from late June through October.
In the ocean, Coho salmon have metallic blue backs and silver sides, thus giving them the name silver salmon. These colors give way to muddy red as they undertake their migration upriver to spawn, typically as three-year-old adults.
However, a small percentage of every cohort of males reaches sexual maturity early, returning to breed in the fall of their second year, the same year in which they left it. These so-called “jack” salmon are a proven means of predicting adult abundance the following year – and all indicators point to this year being a bountiful one.
The 2019 Silver Salmon Run
Over 1 million Silver salmon are expected to reach the Oregon coast and Columbia River, with about 905,600 projected to enter the river for the Buoy 10 fishing season.
These numbers can only be described as outstanding. For comparison, the 2018 forecast was 349,000 fish, with 286,200 entering the Columbia – but the actual numbers were 230,700 total and 147,300 entering the Columbia.
This year’s Coho season has been set by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to run from June 22 to August 25 – or until the quota of 90,000 hatchery Coho salmon is reached. These fish can be told apart from their wild cousins by the clipped adipose fins.
What this means is that at best, there will be about four weeks and three days of fishing time. If the quota is reached sooner, there will be less.
Given how busy the river is likely to be – more fish will almost certainly also mean more anglers – you’ll want to make the most of whatever time you are able to spend on the river.
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The Buoy 10 Fishery and the Columbia River
The Columbia River fishery is effectively defined by Buoy 10, at the mouth of the river in Astoria, Oregon. This is where the fish spend tide changes – and that means this is where the fish congregate.
We’re obviously fans of the river, but it’s not hard to see why. At 1,200 miles in length, it’s North America’s fourth largest river, and the visual spectacle of that much water on the move is impressive to say the least.
For many people, the scenic beauty of the river beyond Buoy 10 is also a huge draw: the whole area from the vicinity of Portland to Astoria is known for its snowcapped peaks, the green of its forests, and its rugged cliffsides. This is state and national park country every bit as much as it is salmon country.
Once you try it, you’re likely to find that the Columbia is one of those rivers you’ll find yourself needing to come back to again and again. It combines incredible natural beauty with some of the best opportunities to catch fish.
Fishing for Silver Salmon
The experience of fishing for Coho can be summarized as follows: a lot of careful effort to coax the fish into striking, followed by a furious fight.
If you’ve ever fished for Coho salmon, you know that they’re known, somewhat paradoxically, both for being easy to spook and for being aggressive on the line. This is where a good salmon fishing guide can come in handy: they’ll help you overcome the natural caution of this particular quarry with skillful use of baitfish, spinners, or jig lures.
It’s common for fishing to begin as early as mid-June, subject to ODFW regulations, and the fish will usually continue to run through the end of September. Of course, as we’ve seen, the season is usually much shorter than that.
Fortunately for you, this is also the time when the river is likely to have the most pleasant weather. The Columbia, like Oregon and Washington in general, tends to be cloudy, wet, and rainy much of the year, but you’re likely to encounter some sunshine during the summer.
This is another reason to plan ahead and charter a guide: with so many fish and summer weather, there will be a great deal of demand for guides, and spots will fill up quickly.
Once you have a fish on the line, you’re in for a fight. Hatchery Coho are about 4-6 pounds, but they’re aggressive and they’re great fighters for their weight class.
Additionally, Coho salmon are known to be excellent eating. One of the more popular ways to cook them is to slice the fish into cutlets, dust with flour, and sauté in either olive oil or walnut oil.
Fishing Charters for Coho on the Columbia
The experience of fishing for Coho can be a deeply rewarding one, particularly with the right guide. The fish are expected to be abundant this year, but they will still be Coho: easy to spook, reluctant to take the line.
Additionally, the Columbia River is a large river, and it takes a fair bit of time and experience to build up a sense of familiarity with it. This is where booking a salmon fishing charter can come in handy: the right guide can help you make the most of your trip.
Like we mentioned above, Coho season is right around the corner, and guides will start filling up fast. Don’t miss your chance to make the most of this salmon season.
To find out more about how you can beat the rush and make the most of this summer Coho season, please drop us a line.