Big fall chinook run predicted on Columbia River

  • By Wayne Kruse Herald Columnist
  • Wednesday, July 30, 2014 5:28pm
  • Sports

The buoy 10 salmon fishery on the bottom end of the Columbia River opens August 1, and the event usually elicits a yawn from experienced anglers. That’s because the fishery often doesn’t really get rolling until the middle of the month.

This year could be very different, however, because of the size of the returning run of fall chinook.

Washington/Oregon salmon managers have predicted a return of 1.5 million fall kings to the Columbia this year. which, if it proves out, would be a record. The current mark was set last year at 1.3 million fish, according to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, and with that many chinook coming back to the big river, the leading edge of the horde could well show up earlier than usual.

Launch at Ilwaco, Chinook or Fort Canby, or the newly improved Deep River site near Oneida, between Chinook and Naselle. You’ll need to learn the channels in and out of the latter, Hymer said.

Choose the flood tide over the ebb, starting perhaps at the buoy number 10 firing line and trolling slowly upriver with the incoming tidal flow. You can catch fish on the ebb, Hymer said, but the flood is the go-to choice of most anglers. At the top, pick up and run back down, trying to follow the fish upriver, working 20 to 30 feet of water.

Keep your gear close to bottom, using up to a pound of lead followed by an attractor such as the Fish Flash, then a spinner or herring.

If you want to fish the ebb tide, Hymer said, the best area is from the church hole (about a mile west of the Astoria bridge) upstream, slow trolling with the current and your bait a crank or two above bottom.

A little later in the month, the river from Vancouver down will be holding fish. Hymer said with the Columbia’s surface water at 70 degrees, fall chinook will be looking for cooler water and you’ll need to dredge the deeper holes at 40 to 60 feet.

The limit is two fish/one chinook hatchery or wild, through Aug. 29. At that point, it gets a little more complicated, so be sure to read the regulations. New this year is a rule allowing a boat limit, regardless of who does the catching, and a new Oregon closure of Young’s bay, a popular spot on their side of the river. No fishing south of the green can line, Hymer said.

Eastside rivers open to kings

The Chelan River and part of the Wenatchee open Aug. 1 for chinook, a month earlier than the season currently listed in the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. The open section of the Wenatchee will run from Peshastin Creek (just above Dryden Dam) to the Icicle River Road bridge on the west end of Leavenworth.

The Chelan River will open from the mouth upriver to the safety barrier below the Chelan PUD powerhouse.

The daily limit on the Wenatchee is four hatchery chinook (just two adults), selective gear rules: no bait, no scent, one single-point barbless hook, no boats with motors allowed, and no two-rod fishing here.


All is not well in paradise. The number of sockeye showing at the Baker River trap dropped substantially last week. As of Sunday, the total number trapped was 12,019 and the total transferred to Baker Lake was 6,035. The pre-season forecast for this year’s run was 35,000 fish.

Those numbers don’t equate very well at this point in the season.

“We’re not seeing as many fish as I would have liked, and I’m not sure now that we’ll get the (forecast) 35,000,” said state biologist Brett Barkdull in La Conner. “The peak of the run is normally about July 18, but since the first fish to show at the trap were 10 days late, we thought it might hold true with the bulk of the run. That may not be the case.”

Regardless, Barkdull said there have been some very good days in the fishery, but on the whole a little spotty. On the positive side, he said the fish have been in top shape, and he has heard very few negative comments from anglers.

East of the Cascades it’s a different story. The Lake Wenatchee fishery is building as planned and may, in fact, exceed the number of adult sockeye predicted to return to the lake.

The last count at Tumwater Dam on the Wenatchee River, according to state biologist Travis Maitland, was in excess of 50,000 sockeye, a little more than halfway through the run.

“We may well be looking at 60,000 or 65,000 fish,” he said on Tuesday, “and maybe a season all the way through August.”

As of early this week, Highway 2 was still open to Coles Corner and the turnoff to Lake Wenatchee. Maitland said the smoke from wildfires seemed to be blowing away from the lake, and that the air quality wasn’t too bad.

“The fishing hasn’t been too bad,” he said. “Up and down, like it usually is, but some (six-fish) limits coming in, and a few fish for most folks.”

The quality of the fishery, the generous limits and the prospect of continued access has brought crowds to the lake recently. Maitland said there are often backups at the state park ramp, on the south end of the lake.

The sockeye fishery in the Brewster pool, below the mouth of the Okanogan in the Columbia, had been rolling along and also attracting crowds, Maitland said. Unfortunately, high water temperatures in the Okanogan River — the “thermal barrier” keeping fish on hold in the cooler Columbia — broke down and a lot of the sockeye immediately shot up the Okanogan.

Maitland said he thought perhaps the barrier would build again in a week or so.

Local trout

The last two lakes in this area to receive summer trout plants were Lake Goodwin, 4,400 half-pound rainbow on June 17, and Lake Campbell in Skagit County, 250 three-quarter pounders on June 12. Fish bait, deep. And don’t flip off the jet skiers.

Good stuff up north

One last shot at big spot shrimp underway in the San Juan Islands, Marine Area 7-South, opened July 29 and will run through Aug 3. The area is west of a line running due south from Point Colville and includes the very productive Iceberg Point and Salmon Bank shrimp grounds.

Marine Area 7-South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) opened to crabbing July 17 and will remain open through Sept. 29, Thursdays through Mondays only.

Limited entry deer permits

Eighteen lucky hunters will have an opportunity to hunt for deer this fall on the 6,000-acre Charles and Mary Eder unit of the Scotch Creek Wldlife Area near Oroville in northeastern Okanogan County. Winners will be chosen by random drawing, and the deadline to apply is midnight, Aug. 13. Submit an application for the hunt online at, or by calling 360-902-2515.

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