Have you ever thought about chartering a salmon fishing guide, but wondered where you would go? Where does one go to find salmon, anyway?
Much of the best salmon fishing in North America is in the Pacific Northwest, and the mighty Columbia River has some of the best salmon fishing in the region and in the world. The Columbia River is the perfect place for a salmon fishing trip, whether a trip for one or a trip for six.
So, why the Columbia River? What’s so special about the salmon fishing from Portland to Astoria? Let’s take a look at the river, the fishery, and the fish themselves.
The Columbia River
The Columbia River is an iconic waterway of the Pacific Northwest, and North America’s fourth largest river. It flows north from the Columbia Lake in the Rocky Mountain Trench of British Columbia for about 200 miles, but then takes a turn to the south, descends into Washington State, and finally turns to the west to enter the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, Oregon.
All in all, the Columbia River runs over 1,200 miles from Columbia Lake to the ocean. Its tributaries include the Snake River, the Kootenay, the Deschutes, and the Willamette. If you want to get a sense of how big the river really is, consider the fact that it drains an area about the size of France.
In addition to its impressive size, the Columbia River boasts impressive beauty, with the stretch of the river that forms the Oregon-Washington border particularly notable for its scenic aspect. One of the many reasons to book a salmon charter on the stretch of the Columbia River from the Portland area to Astoria is that it boasts snowcapped peaks, verdant forests, impressive cliffsides, national and state parks, and plenty of opportunities for boating, sailing, and camping.
The Columbia River is impressive, the perfect place for a salmon fishing trip for six. Now that we’ve been introduced to the river, let’s look at the fishery.
The Fishery: Fishing Salmon on the Columbia River
Salmon have always been important to people living on and near the banks of the Columbia River. Before the coming of the Europeans, indigenous peoples of the area told stories about how Coyote decided to create the river by fighting a beaver god, Wishpoosh, so that the tribes in the interior could have access to salmon. As Wishpoosh withdrew from the Cascades to the sea, fighting all the way and slapping his tail, he carved out the course of the Columbia River as Coyote had intended.
We’ve previously talked about the legendary “June hogs” of the Columbia River, Chinook or king salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) of prodigious size that once thronged the waters of the river. While the days of 60-pound king salmon are gone, booking a salmon fishing charter on the Columbia River in the area from Portland to Astoria is still an excellent way to encounter world-class salmon sport-fishing, especially for Chinook or king salmon but also for Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), their smaller but far more numerous cousins.
Salmon are running in the Columbia about 10 months of the year, from the first arrivals in January to the stragglers in mid-late October, although the fishing seasons are regulated to ensure the fishery remains sustainable.
The simple way to think about chartering a guide for the Columbia River salmon fishery is that there are three seasons to choose from: spring, summer, and fall. If you are interested in a Columbia River salmon charter, a guide for the Portland to Astoria part of the river, you can plan ahead and reserve a spot for a season.
Once you’re on the river, it can be tricky to find salmon, and that’s where a seasoned salmon guide who knows how to use a fish finder can come in handy. An experienced guide can help to make sure your salmon fishing charter for six on the Columbia River is a success.
As for bait, salmon in the Columbia River are known to respond to salmon roe, to baitfish such as herring, and to spinners and jig lures that mimic their prey.
Now that we have a sense of the Columbia River’s salmon fishery, let’s meet the fish themselves.
The Fish: What You’ll Be Catching on the Columbia River
The Columbia River has salmon, steelhead, shad, and sturgeon in the whole area from Astoria to Portland, but for our purposes here we will be focusing on the two main species of salmon: the Chinook or king salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and the Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch).
Each one of the three great fishing seasons of the Columbia River has its own unique wave or “run” of Chinook salmon, the largest and most impressive salmon in the Pacific Northwest.
As we’ve seen before, the spring run of Chinook salmon from Astoria up to Portland and beyond is composed of physically smaller fish, running about 8-12 pounds and sometimes 12-20 pounds, that enter the water early in the season because they have much farther to go to get to their spawning grounds upriver. These fish are generally composed of so-called “stream-type” Chinook, essentially a strain or sub-population of the species that spends a longer period of time in streams and rivers as juveniles before migrating to the sea.
If you decide to charter a salmon guide to go after spring Chinook on your Columbia River trip for six, be advised that the fish are particularly delicious. Daily bag limits are typically two adult salmonids of any kind, only one of which may be a hatchery Chinook—these can be differentiated from their wild brethren by their clipped adipose fins.
Summer Chinook are larger than their counterparts, and almost as good on the table. You may find some stream-type Chinook in the summer run, but more of the fish are likely to be so-called “ocean-type,” physically larger and known for spending a shorter time residing in freshwater as juveniles. In addition to larger fish, expect more flexible bag limits: usually two hatchery salmonids, both of which may be Chinook salmon.
Finally, there are the fall Chinook and the Coho salmon. Fall-run Chinook are the physically largest of the Chinook, and are often known as “upriver brights” because of their bright color when caught in the area around Buoy 10, near Astoria. During part of the season it is permissible to keep one Chinook, even a wild Chinook.
There are also the Coho salmon, small but often feisty cousins of the Chinook, known for being aggressive on the hook. Coho are much more numerous, occur at shallower depths, and at 4-6 pounds for hatchery Coho and 6-8 pounds for wild Coho, are still large enough to be wonderful quarry for your chartered salmon fishing trip for six on the Columbia River.
Whether you’re looking for a party of one or a party of six, and whatever season and salmon you may have in mind, we’d love to be a part of your salmon fishing experience on the Columbia River.
To find out more about how we can help you book the perfect party for six on the Columbia River,please drop us a line.