Fall salmon fishing on the Columbia River is the angler super bowl of the pacific Northwest. Thousands of anglers decent on the Columbia for both fall chinook and coho during this part of the season and depending on the run sizes for the season it’s generally game on. One of the main draws to the Columbia during the fall salmon season is the chinook salmon runs. These tend to be the larger of the species an provide excellent numbers for anglers to target. However, the real deal during the fall is the Coho run. The Coho numbers can fluctuate from year to year, but overall, the Columbia river coho run tends to be pretty decent and the fishing action can get pretty hot when the numbers are there.
Best of all coho are just as good if not better eating than chinook which are pretty good as well.
The kickoff for fall salmon on the Columbia takes place at the mouth in Astoria at the river marker near the mouth referred to as Buoy 10. The Buoy 10 fishery is renowned for excellent catch rates during the slack tied but can be tricky and the water moves fast and can pose a bit of a challenge for those whom have not had allow of experience fishing this area of the river. Some of the hot spots near the mouth but we like to camp out in front of the mouth of the Cowlitz river and catch them before the head up the Cowlitz to spawn. Another great fall salmon fishing spot on the Columbia is at the mouth of the Willamette River.
We also fish the Willamette up to the dam. This is one of our favorite spots, not just because of the great fishing but because it’s close to home so there’s less drive time when fishing this section of the Columbia. As the fall salmon move upriver, so do we, granted we need to be mindful of the fishing regulations as sections of the Columbia close at the will of the Oregon and Washington department of fish and Wildlife. If regs permit, we will catch fish as long as we can however if the salmon fishing gets shut down the beauty of fishing the Columbia is that you can switch species and start targeting walleye, sturgeon or steelhead. However, the salmon fishing all on it’s own provides plenty of action to keep us busy for the year.
One of the best sections of the Columbia is at the Bonneville Dam. Thousands of anglers from around the world can be found camping out here working the waters for the staging salmon that are held up in this section in preparation of working their way up the fish ladder to the spawning grounds. Millions of salmon are counted as they pass by this dam every year and it never ceases amaze at the amount of the amazing fish are in the river. We catch allot of fish here and after we’ve caught our limits, we bring our clients for a photo shoot near Beacons Rock. This area provides one of the most amazing backdrops for our client’s photos and truly displays the beauty of the region for all to see. It’s undeniable, the Pacific Northwest is truly the land of milk and honey or in the case salmon.
Fall salmon season consists of two primary salmon species that are caught and retained on the Columbia. The first being the infamous chinook salmon which is the largest of salmon species and then there are coho which are among the best eating salmon there is. This is largely due to the fact that coho tend to hold up well as the enter the fresh water on their journey to the spawning grounds. Basically it takes longer for coho to decompose during the spawning process thus providing a much fresher and tastier fish for the dinner table. As crazy as it may seem some salmon start to decompose as soon as they get a whiff of fresh water. I’ve even caught them at the mouth of a river in the salt and they have already half rotted away.
One of the beauties of the Columbia is that the water is so cold pretty much all species of salmon that run the Columbia manage to stay salt water fresh even in the upper reaches of the river. I’ve been in the upper where it’s 90 degrees outside, but the water is so cold in the Columbia it’s unbearable to swim in. However, even though you might not want to swim it you sure as heck can fish it and best of all the fishing on the Columbia is usually pretty good. With that in mind the beginning of the fall salmon season on the Columbia is usually fairly warm, especially in the upper reaches. Another of our favorite hot spots as we move upriver is a section known as “The Gorge” This is one of the most beautiful areas of Columbia and is part of the Bonneville pool.
As we enter the Gorge we like to do a couple quick drifts by the mouth of the Wind River. If the action is slow we head for the section of the Columbia that is fondly referred to as the toilet bowl. Drano Lake “The Toilet Bowl” is a small manmade lake connected to the Columbia. When fishing here during the early part of the run the fishing gets so hot that boats are literally lined up within a few feet of each other. Trolling at slow speeds these anglers just keep doing circles in the toilet bowl going around and around in this small Lake. Hence the nickname “The Toilet Bowl”. Even in these tight quarters the fishing can be fantastic with multiple hooks ups occurring on all sides of the boat. It can get crazy though when someone hooks up and get tangled up with another fisherman from a neighboring boat. Generally most of the guys out there are pretty decent but at times it can get heated.
When the Drano Lake action starts to poop out, no pun intended, we head out to chase the salmon as they move upriver through the Gorge. The Columbia River Gorge is renowned not for just excellent salmon fishing but sturgeon, bass, and walleye as well. Lots of sunshine and good fishing in this section of the Columbia. Once we’ve moved past Drano were on our way to the mouth of White Salmon River or Hood River. Salmon spawn in both se we like to see if we can intercept them as they head to the promise land. A bit further up the Columbia river you have the section at the mouth of the Klickitat River. This is another great spot as the Klickitat is known for decent fall salmon returns and we defiantly can a few before they enter the river.
Next Stop is the Dalles Pool. This is the section of the Columbia above the Dalles dam and below the John Day. Some of our favorite spots for targeting salmon in this section of the Columbia is up near Horse Thief Lake and Further up at Browns Island. Then we work the flats and the sections around Miller Island. In this section we also work the mouth of the Deschutes River and then head up just below the John Day in the stretch from Rufus up to Preachers Eddy which can produce excellent catch rates as well. Also, just below the dam at Gilles French park or on the Washington side Cliffs Park can make your day if you hit it at the right time.
These stretches we refers to as the flats are not all that deep but if you troll spinners or swim baits and the fish are there it’s game on. Once we have fished all we can in the Dalles pool it’s time to start fishing the John Day Pool. On the way we work the areas at the mouth of the mouth of the John Day River and further up at the section n known as Lake Umatilla. Also, below the McNeary Dam at the mouth of the Umatilla River is another great hot spot that has been known to produce some record-breaking size fish for the State of Oregon. Once above the McNearly, you’re on your way to Hells Canyon. The McNeary pool is the section that meets up with the infamous Snake River. Salmon, Steelhead and Sturgeon are in abundance in this section and we catch them all.
We fish for fall salmon on the Columbia River all the way from Buoy 10 300 miles upriver to the mouth of the Snake. This stretch of the Columbia offers some of the best salmon fishing in the world and we would love to offer you the chance to catch these amazing fish and share the adventure with friends and family. For the memories of a lifetime book your fall salmon fishing trip with Columbia River Fishing Adventures today. Your premier Oregon Fishing Guides. Call Buddy Dupell at 503-499-3099 and book your Columbia River guided fishing trip today. We service anywhere from a couple anglers to full on corporate events and we’d lost to serve you.