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Spring Chinook on the Lower Columbia

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Hal C
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Joined: 09 Jun 2006
Posts: 68

PostPosted: Mon May 24, 2010 2:19 pm    Post subject: Spring Chinook on the Lower Columbia Reply with quote

- Posted here with permission by Tony and NMTA - The Northwest Marine Trade Association, the oldest and largest regional boating trade organization in the nation.

Fishing for Spring Chinook on the Lower Columbia

Good bye March and hello April. Way back when, I do not remember days, weeks and months flying by like they do today. Regardless, that’s the way it works, I guess, and for this writer, I do my best to get the most out of every day, week and month, regardless of the weather.
I decided years ago, when I tip over permanently, and friends and family gather to say good-bye, my objective is that no one will whisper, “You know, Tony should have fished more.” I am pleased to report, that I am dead center on course.

March provided a couple of notable fishing memories for this cat. As I have written in this space before, I have learned from observation and experience, that the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca can produce quality late winter blackmouth fishing on the banks. Of course, a bank, unlike Bank of America, is simply a marine term applicable to an underwater shoal, composed of gravel, small rocks, sand and mud. Banks are wonderful habitat to baitfish, largely sandlance (candlefish) that forage for phytoplankton and zooplankton. And where you find baitfish, you’ll find winter blackmouth on the hunt, like wolf on caribou.

For a number of years now, I have selected the third weekend of March, to fish for blackmouth, ranging from 7 to 20 pounds on my favorite bank, Coyote Bank. If you have never been to the Coyote, you will not find its name on a NOAA chart. It is located on the U.S.-Canada line, between Dungeness Spit near Sequim, to Victoria.

It rises to 100 feet, running east and west, and drops off to oblivion in all directions. The beauty of the bank, is that it is elongated, running east and west, providing long drifts, regardless of the direction of the tide. I prefer an ebb tide, fishing downhill.

I fished the Coyote this year with Dwight Jones from Seattle, and Bill Schourup from Silverdale. It was the weekend of the kickoff to March Madness, March 18-21. Hooking and landing big blackmouth to 16-pounds each day, gorgeous weather into the mid-60’s and NCAA basketball tournament games in the late afternoon and evening. My definition of life is good.

During the last weekend of March, I went back for more, fishing in the two-day Anacortes Salmon Derby with Congressman Norm Dicks. While we only boated two blackmouth in the tournament, Norm finished in 11th place out of 130 hatchery fin-clipped fish entered in the Derby, with a 17-pound, 10-ounce chinook, the largest blackmouth he has ever caught. We had a great time, creating more memories of fishing and catching.
And now it’s April and time to look ahead. I like what I see in the days and weeks ahead this month as here comes a modern day record of spring chinook bound for the Columbia River.

I’m sure you remember 1938, the year when Bonneville Dam was built on the lower Columbia River. That was the year when the actual counting of spring Chinook began in the lower river. Well, this year’s run is the largest forecasted since 1938 with a whopping 470,000 spring chinook entering the river at this writing. Excuse me, I think I have to go fishing.
Salmon run forecasts are very controversial for those who follow the predictions. In 2008, for example, the actual run was 33% lower than the forecast. Last year, in 2009, the actual run was 43% lower than the forecast, baffling biologists on both sides of the river. I have worked with many of these biologists and believe me, they are not on drugs. Forecasts are based on many pieces of criteria, however, the “jack” count is the most reliable ingredient in forecasting a run, up until the last few years. By the way, a jack is a male salmon which for unexplained reasons, returns to the river or salmon hatchery of its destination as a two-year old, sexually mature when they should be returning as three, four or even five year old fish. Biologists have made adjustments in factoring the reliability of the number of jacks that returned last year, applicable to forecasting this year’s run. Make sense? Therefore, the huge 2010 forecasted run should be a conservative number, in theory.

Regardless, here they come and the spring chinook fishery is underway now from Cathlamet to lower Bonneville. That’s a lot of real estate and investing in the when and where can be a gamble. Spring chinook have a reputation as being modest “biters.” Fishing for spring chinook takes time and patience to be successful, and certainly in the right time at the right place. Techniques are relatively simple as most anglers troll a plug cut herring a foot off the bottom, with some kind of fish flash or Kone Zone. Anchoring is also a common technique in a known catching area where anglers believe spring chinook will be migrating past their flat fish lures, usually with a strip of anchovy attached to the underside of the plug with small rubber bands.

Many consider spring chinook as the best of all table fare, when it comes to consuming salmon. After all, they are our version of Copper River spring chinook. And, it is important to understand that consuming a spring chinook from the Copper River, or the lower Columbia River is the same fish. These fish, loaded with Omega-3 oils, and in the prime condition of their life, will live off their body fat until they spawn next September, hundred of miles up the Columbia River.

So, let’s go spring chinook fishing in the month of April down on the lower Columbia River. It’s the biggest run since 1938, only a lifetime ago. See you on the water.
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Captain Walker
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Joined: 07 Nov 2006
Posts: 105

PostPosted: Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:43 am    Post subject: Fishing for Spring Chinook on the Lower Columbia Reply with quote

If you missed the season for these Salmon join Tony Floor in:

Planning for Salmon Season in the Northwest
Captain David Walker

Moderator, Boaters Line Moderator
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