Columbia River Gorge Fishing Opportunities

November 28, 2021

One of our favorite places to take our clients on guided fishing trips is a very popular area of the Columbia River known as the Columbia River Gorge.

The Gorge is a 90-mile canyon in the Cascade Mountain range and the main stem of the Columbia River runs right through the middle of it. Among our most preferred sections to fish in the Gorge are from the Bonneville Dam all the way up to the John Day Dam. These areas are prime fishing waters and known for world record class Walleye and Sturgeon as well as excellent Salmon and Steelhead fishing.

Among the most notable species that can be can be caught here are chinook, coho, and sockeye as well as summer and winter steelhead. There are also some lesser notable species that can be had such as both largemouth and smallmouth bass, shad, catfish, and panfish.  When fishing the Gorge there are several key sections to focus on that offer some of the best fishing in the region. Also known as the Dalles pool this area on the Columbia literally attracts sports fishing enthusiasts from around the country.

Fishing  Bonneville Dam

The Bonneville Dam known as the gateway to the Gorge is one of the more popular fishing destinations in the region. When the action slows down in the lower sections of the Columbia we work our way up to  Bonneville area. This is where we target spring and fall salmon, Oversize sturgeon, and trophy class walleye.

Bank anglers can be found below the Dam on the Washington side fishing at Hamilton Island and the Oregon side at the mouth of Tanner Creek. Several boats anchor here as well in hopes of hooking into salmon headed up River. It’s not uncommon to see anglers landing sturgeon here are well and when the shad are running it’s hard to catch anything else. The Bonneville area is a favorite fishing spot on the Columbia and is well worth the trip.

Fishing Cascade Locks

Working our way up the river just up from the Bonneville Dam is a section of the Columbia known as  Cascade Locks. When the fish are running the locks can provide some excellent fishing. You can troll either side of the river and target salmon, steelhead and sturgeon with great success. This area often produces good results in both the spring and the fall as it is one of the stacking points as fish move upriver on their journey to the spawning grounds.

Fishing the mouth of the Wind River

On the Washington side of the Columbia, the mouth of Wind River is a great place to target salmon and steelhead. Fishing here can prove a worthwhile endeavor as the Wind is home to several species of salmon and provides opportunities to intercept steelhead in the Columbia year-round. Trolling the mouth while these fish stage before moving upriver is the way to go and on occasion can result in catching limits within minutes.

Drano Lake Chinook

Another excellent place to target salmon in Washington is Drano Lake. Chinook salmon like to hold around the area where the Drano dumps into the Columbia. There are some nice fish and is a very popular place to drop a line for some springer fishing. As the fish push up the river so do we as we head towards two other popular sections at the mouth of the Hood and further up at the Klickitat River.

Hood River Salmon and Steelhead

The Hood River is game on for targeting Spring Chinook or both summer and winter steelhead. Springer fishing in hot around May, June, and steelhead are in the area pretty much year round. Some folks in Oregon will tell you that you’ll find the best salmon fishing in the state in this section of the Columbia.  This is largely due to the fact that you have the Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery and the mouth of the White Salmon River on Washington and the confluence of Hood River on the Oregon side. As a result, you’ll find angler’s looking to intercept these fish trolling their way up from Ruthton point up past Wells Island all the way up to the Koberg State Recreation site.

Klickitat River Chinook Fishing

The mouth of the Klickitat is also another great place to target springer chinook in April and May.  Coho in the fall. This section is on the Washington side and the Columbia and is one of our favorite places to target these fish. Summer steelhead on their way to the Klickitat can also be caught at the mouth of the Klickitat providing some great fishing fun and quality meat for the freezer.

Fishing the Dalles Dam

The Dalles Dam is another great Columbia River sturgeon fishery, plus you’ll find anglers targeting Salmon, Walleye, and Steelhead. Other species of note are smallmouth bass and shad. This part of the Columbia is also known as Lake Celilo and is where the mouth of the Deschutes River drains out. Here you can find several boat launches that will get you on the water and decent bank access as well.

Fishing The Dalles Pool

The Dalles pool is probably the most famous for the Walleye fishing in the Gorge. This is the section of the river where the Washington State Record was caught which has resulted in a significant draw for Walleye fisherman. Further upriver the Oregon state record was caught at the McNeary Pool, but the Dalles is still a more attractive option for many anglers.

Browns Island

Around Browns Island is a great place to target some smallmouth bass as well as other warm water species. Browns Island is also well known for some good salmon fishing, especially in fall from September through August. Anglers also target Walleye at Browns Island making it a notable place to fish in the gorge.

Miller Island

From Rufus to Miller the troll is easy and very productive. Walleye can be found all over, and the fishing is good throughout the year. Walleye can be caught pretty much year-round and several other species like salmon and steelhead are caught as well.

John Day Dam

Just below the John Day Dam is a virtual fisherman’s paradise offering up Walleye, sturgeon, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and more. This is by far one of our favorite places to fish on the Columbia simply because of the healthy numbers of fish alone. It’s not unusual to find yourself filling the boat with limits in this section of the Dalles pool making it a definite go to. Over the years we have been fortunate enough that we regularly catch limits for ourselves and our clients.

Walleye fishing is at its best in March and runs through May, June, and July. The fall offers some good Walleye fishing as well from August through September. Salmon action at the John Day is hot during the fall as well firing up in late August, peaking in September and dropping off in October.

Bank fishing for sturgeon generally takes place at Gilles French Park just below the John Day Dam but sturgeon season can be limited depending on quotes and in season regulation changes. Shad fishing is hot in June and July and due to the huge numbers that arrive during this time the shad scene, it is quite an attraction.

If you looking to target bass, you can find them throughout the main stem Dalles pool around rocky structures and in ponds along the river. As you can see, it’s obvious that the Columbia River Gorge is without a doubt one of the top fishing destinations in the region. The Gorge provides a wealth of fishing opportunities for all those looking to take advantage of some good fishing.  Think you might like to see these fishing spots for yourself? Want to experience some Columbia River Gorge fishing? Give us a call at 503 490 3099 or shoot us an email.

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