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Andy Schneider

Andy is a Freelance Outdoor Writer and a true Outdoor Enthusiast; pursuing Albacore to Trout and Big Game to Waterfowl.

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March 23, 2016

Spring Chinook Herring and Prawn Rigging

by Andy Schneider

Leaves are popping from buds, our days are getting noticeably longer and when the sun finally breaks free of the clouds there is a warm to it that tells us Spring has sprung and we are in store for warmer weather, our trademark green scenery and Spring Chinook in the rivers! As we emerge from the cooler and darker days of winter into brighter and longer days, our enthusiasm grows to spending as much time outside as possible. And what better way to spend time outside as our scenery goes through changes from dull browns to bright green, than to be pursing the tastiest Chinook species on earth! We are truly lucky to have such a quality specimen of Salmon swimming right through our backyards. No long drives are usually needed to partake in a short but sweet season of Spring Chinook on the Columbia. Getting out as much as possible, even in challenging weather, will insure that by season's end you will not have any regrets of the season passing you by.

Trolling for Spring Chinook is one of the most effective ways to purse these elusive query. While anchor fishing can be very productive, trolling will offer better odds, day in and day out. Here is one way (of many) to rig a plug cut Herring and Prawn when trolling for Spring Chinook on the Columbia, Willamette or Multnomah Channel.

Start with red, green or blue label Herring. You can brine them overnight, or fish them straight from the package fresh. No matter what way you prefer to fish your Herring treat it gently to insure as many scales as possible remain on the bait.

When fishing a plug cut Herring a fixed mooching rig works best. Two 4/0-barbless hooks rigged 3-inches apart on 48-inches of 25-pound fluorocarbon leader works best for plug cut green label Herring.

Start by venting your bait. Make a 1-inch slice up from the anal vent.

This step is optional, leave the Herring's guts in for added scent or take them out; the choice is yours.

Thread the trailing hook through the bait at it's lateral line.

Now thread the leading hook through the bait. Pierce the bait 5/8-of an inch deep on the long cut side. Thread the hook through the backbone, coming out of the top of the bait on the short cut side. Making a cross-backbone thread with your hook will angle your hook, leaving it slightly canted. This will insure that the bait will spin properly, but most importantly; the hook will rotate and quickly pierce a salmon's jaw when it bites.

Your bait should spin about two revolutions a second in a 3-inch diameter; with this rigging. While some may prefer a different spin, this one works pretty consistently.

Prawns are an often overlooked bait, which is unfortunate. They are much less expensive than Herring, last considerably longer in the water and have a higher hookup ratio to Herring as well. While Herring will always be most Spring Chinook Angler's first choice for bait, having at least one Prawn in the mix will offer finicky Spring Chinook an option other than the thousands of headless Herring they see on a daily basis.

Start with two 2/0-barbless hooks fix tied 1-inch apart on 48-inches of 25-pound fluorocarbon leader.

Cure your own Prawns, or buy dry or wet cured prawns from any sporting goods supplier. While some Prawn cures, may be slightly more effective than others, for the most part; cured Prawns are all pretty equal.

Start by threading your leading hook into the first 'knuckle' above the hood.

Thread the hook down the middle into the hood.

Pull out line from your "egg loop"

Cinch the egg loop around the body of the Prawn.

Use either a bait rubber band or a dental rubber band to secure the body of the Prawn to your hook. This will insure the bait stays intact and the hood doesn't lift when trolling.

There are countless more effective ways to rig baits, here are two simple and effective ways to try next time you are out enjoying some Spring weather!

December 27, 2015

Clackamas River Winter Steelhead

by Andy Schneider

Having a quality Winter Steelhead fishery close to home, is a luxury that many of us forget we have. If you live in Tillamook, you have many options: The Kilches, Wilson, Trask and Nestucca. If you live in Newport, you have: The Alsea and Siletz rivers. If you live in Longview, you have: The NF Lewis, EF Lewis, Kalama and the Cowlitz. If you live in Portland, you have: The Sandy, Willamette, Eagle Creek and the Clackamas. No matter where you are in the Metro area, you throw a rock in any direction and you'll hit a stream with some Winter Steelhead in it. Sometimes it's tempting to travel into someone else's backyard to catch Steelhead, but don't overlook the rivers flowing through our backyard first.

Watch Clackamas flows on where to go.
While the Clackamas is a very long river, over 80-miles, we only fish the lower 25-miles of river. Even with three quarters of the river not even in the equation for Winter Steelhead angler, it still can be daunting to try and figure out. But there simple rule to follow on the Clackamas, so you can plan your trip accordingly; the higher the flows, the lower you go. When the Clackamas is at 15-feet and above, it's not very fishable from any boat. Though plunking can be very effective in these higher flows. Concentrate your plunking either at Meldrum Bar Park or Riverside Park. Yes, Meldrum is technically the Willamette, but you targeting and catching Clackamas bound Steelhead that have already pulled into the Clackamas's River plume.

Barton to Carver Steelhead:

When the Clackamas does drop below 15-feet look to hit the lower river from Carver to Riverside. Not only does this section of river fish well during higher flows, this is where fresh Steelhead will be just after a freshet. Side drifting is going to be one of the best techniques for getting freshly arriving fish to bite. Eggs should be your top bait, followed closely with a Yarnie and a pink worm as an alternative. Larger and brighter baits don't seem to shy Clackamas Steelhead, especially in higher water flows. When the river's flows are higher, look to the opposite banks for Steelhead getting away from heavy flows. While just about every piece of water from Carver to Riverside has a defined "fish holding slot", sometimes the cobblestoned shore with a gradual slope, on the opposite bank of the deeper and faster water is more productive.

The Clackamas doesn't really drop into "Perfect Shape" until it's in the 13-foot range and when it does, don't expect it to be a secret. You can expect the majority of angling pressure from Barton to Carver when the river is in shape. Barton to Carver has to be one of the most productive stretches of water on the entire Clackamas, but for good reason; many fish get caught here. There is a lot of holding water in this stretch that is easy to read and fish a variety of techniques through. If you want to pull plugs all day, you can easily do that from the Barton boat ramp to the Carver boat ramp. If you wanted to side drift, you can make your first cast directly at the Barton ramp and make your last cast just before you pull into the Carver boat ramp. There is also plenty of water in between the two ramps for drift fishing, bobber and jig fishing and even spey fishing.

When the Clackamas starts to drop below 12-feet and get low and clear, drift boaters get a lot less competition from jet boaters. When the river starts getting low, a drift from Feldheimer's to Barton will be (almost certainly) jet boat free. Concentrate your effort, especially early in the season, from the mouth of Eagle Creek to Barton to intercept Eagle Creek bound Steelhead. When the Clackamas gets clear, bobber and jig is the most productive technique to deploy. A 1/4-ounce peach jig fished in this stretch, will get results. When moving down the river, have your front seater cast their jig and "Bobber Dog" down the river. "Bobber Dogging" is very similar to side drifting, but using a bobber and jig. Set your jig so it's within a foot of the bottom and keep the boat at the same speed, parallel to the bobber.

The Clackamas usually maintains a water temperature of 42- to 45-degrees all winter long. Though there is always a cold stretch that will plummet water temperatures into the thirties. When the river gets this cold, Steelhead can still be caught, you just need to change tactics a little. Slowly back trolling plugs will still yield results in the Clackamas, even in the coldest of winter days. The colder the water, the slower you will need to back troll your plugs. Concentrate your effort where water currents are a little slower, but still offers good depth. K11X KwikFish and 3.5 MagLips in metallic red, fluorescent red, blue pirate, green pirate and blue scale are the lures and colors to use to tie into a cold water Clackamas Winter Steelhead.

Brenda Skinner fighting a Native Steelhead caught on a plug:

One of the biggest advantages of fishing the Clackamas is that its close to home. A trip to the coast can be a big investment in time, gas and shuttle and parking fees, but a trip to the Clackamas can be as simple as a 25-minute drive from downtown to the river and burning less than 20-bucks in fuel (round trip) and no need for a shuttle, just have your buddy meet you at the ramp. While the Clackamas is "urban river" flowing next to a large population, it's anything but that when you step to it's banks or drift quietly down river. The Clackamas is a green water jewel flowing through our own backyard, offering anglers a refuge from their busy lives, all just minutes away.

Oliver awaiting crew at Carver:

November 06, 2015

New boat buying experience

by Andy Schneider

As anglers of the Northwest, we all day dream of doing things a little different, something to give us an advantage while out fishing. For some, it's better fishing equipment. Others, it may be a bigger boat. And for some, it may just be some basic knowledge to cure eggs properly. Growing up, I always had a desire to pursue fish from some sort of boat. My parents would buy me a new Sevylor raft every year for Spring Break and by the time school started again, that raft would have patches upon patches and needing air every 15-mintues. But I harvested countless trout from Rosyln Lake and navigated some pretty tough rapids on the Sandy to find some late Spring Chinook and Summer Steelhead. When I got to High School, I found I was quickly outgrowing those inflatable rafts and was dreaming of bigger, sturdier boats. While my classmates were thinking of how to buy their first car, I was trying to figure out how to buy my first boat. Lucky for me the Sentry Market that my mom worked at had a Hamms Beer display with the Hamms Bear sitting in a 11-foot Colman Crawdad boat. At the end of the summer season, the store owner was trying to figure out what to do with this semi-assembled boat sitting on top of the beverage cooler. After some negotiations between my Mom and her Boss, I was a proud owner of a fairly sturdy plastic boat!

Fast forward 25-years, and I'm still trying to figure out bigger and/or better boats to buy! Lucky for me, I came across a pretty reputable dealer and salesman early on in my boat buying career. Chris Burgi at Stevens Marine, sold me my serious "Jet Sled" and has since sold me 6-other fishing vessels that have served me well. My recent purchase was a 23-foot Alumaweld Columbia. After owning 3-other Super Vee's, I was ready to try something a little more 'multi-purpose'. And after hearing some pretty glowing reviews from other Columbia owners, I decided to take the jump. After some 'hem-hawing', some long discussions with my better half, pricing and comparing competitor boats, I finally put some money down to have the boat built in late March. That put delivery of the new boat to mid-October and left me plenty of time to sell my current Super Vee and plan on how I wanted the new boat laid out.

Having a boat built to your specifications is pretty addictive and hard to go back to 'dealer stock'. But having the freedom to build whatever you want, all comes at a price, so you need to prioritize exactly what you want and will utilize the most. Unless budget and spousal company isn't a priority, then why not add those rod lockers, heated seats, power steering, power windlass, autopilot and diamond plate; lots and lots of shiny diamond plate!

Another advantage to having a boat built, is that it isn't any more expense than anything the dealer has sitting on their lot. Often times, it actually may be less expensive, since you will be only adding items that you want. Hands down the worst thing about having a boat built, is the wait. There is no way around a couple month wait for any boat manufacture right now. It's definitely a boat sellers market and there are not many signs of it slowing down anytime soon, so be prepared for a couple month to a year wait, depending on the manufacture.

We have all seen those "Boat Build" threads on here, they are extremely entertaining watching a boat get put together from plates of aluminum and diamond plate. Make sure to inform your salesman that you want to be part of the build process and want as many pictures as they can send. Once your boat is built and painted, make sure to be involved with the rigging process. Switch panels, electronics, sacrificial anodes, motor rigging/plumbing and accessories all need the buyers input to be put in a location that works best for you. Daydreaming about your new boat at work, is the time to be visualizing where you want everything mounted, routed and zip-tied into place.

After having the new boat for exactly three weeks today; it has performed exactly as I'd hoped and the entire family thoroughly enjoys it. I can't say that it's going to be my last 'sled' boat, but it is definitely going to keep me happy for a long while....

Diamond plate bow guard and transom corner "nerf" guards keep rock chips and dock rash to a minimum.

I was a little worried that the 175 wouldn't be enough for the boat with the pump, but after talking with David Johnson and a couple other guides running this motor on similar sized boats, they assured me that it would be fine. Now after running it a half dozen times with different loads and in different conditions, the motor will do everything I need it to and then some.

Mercury updated the 9.9, with a throttle advance on the choke and a wider throttle range, making this trolling motor a lot easier to start than my last with a lot better throttle control, especially at lower RPM's.

Standard layout, after having lead trays along side the seat boxes on my last boat, I wouldn't think of not having them again. They offer a great place to keep for soda pop, snacks, tackle and of course lead, out of the way and from tipping over, or sliding and rolling around in the gunwale. I also added an additional rod gripper each to each side of the boat, for more rod storage.

Having a 3 storage areas is a great bonus. The middle compartment is just a dry storage that my Kill Bag fits perfect in, with enough room for my tackle bag and everyones rain gear. Anchor locker in the front compartment the standard split fish box in the rearward compartment.

Having a electronics locker is a great way to secure your expensive sonar/gps combos and a good place to keep small tackle items handy. Hot box plumbed in on the 3/4 transom box with storage underneath for battery, oil reservoir and trash can.

I went with diamond plate gunwale combing to keep the Pups from scratching the paint.

Most importantly the boat catches fish! My son, Ayden, caught the first fish in the new boat, after 15 whole minutes of fishing! Since then, it's caught fish on every trip!

New boats are a luxury that I've been allowed with a good job and family support; both that I'm thankful for every day! While having a shiny new boat is very nice, it's best trait is that it allows me the opportunity to take family and friends out to experience the bounty that the Northwest provides. This new Alumaweld definitely brings a smile to my face, but so did that Colman Crawdad!

PS. After reading this post, it sure reads like a giant advertisement (lol)! But the service, quality of the product and competitive pricing has brought me back time and time again to buy a new boat.....

August 30, 2015

Buoy 10 2015...WOW!

by Andy Schneider

This year I was lucky enough to be able to take two full weeks off to pursue some Buoy 10 salmon. While this sounded like something amazing to do back in January, when I was making reservations, halfway through my trip I was beginning to question my sanity!

Arriving in Warrenton mid-August I found myself right in the middle of prime King season at Buoy 10 and like most anglers found plenty of willing Chinook everyday, while Coho seemed to be a little more elusive. While Herring seemed to be most angers favorite bait, I found a pretty nifty Anchovy Hood (Bullet Roll) that was extremely effective for me. Combined with a Yakima Bait Big Al's fish flash, Anchovies out fished Cut Plug Herring for me 3 to 1. Trolling with the outgoing tide, dragging the bottom with 12- and 16-ounce cannonballs and holding against the incoming tide with divers was my MO for my 14-days of fishing. Locations changed on a gradual basis this year and one area never seemed to go completely dead while another was lightning hot. The Blind Slough, The Ship Wreck, Illwaco, Astoria, Tongue Point, Hammond, Trestle Bay, Buoy 14 to Buoy 22 all produced at different times and tides.

2015 had to have had some of the best weather that I've experienced at Buoy 10 since my first trip here in 1998. Sunscreen and sunglasses were a must by 8:30 most mornings and there was even a day or two where I honestly thought I might be suffering a little heat stroke! While the weather was the nicest that I've experienced the flies and the sealions where some of the worst I've experienced.

Everyday when I returned to Warrenton Marina I had someone waiting for me:

While I never saw anyone feed this ugly beast, he would loiter around boats and would creep closer and closer to you. My friend Pat Abel even reached down and gave it's head a pat one day....why? I don't know! Pat lucked out and the beast didn't even react, but the following day this thing must of reached a point of irritation and started becoming very aggressive. My son was walking down a finger dock (the one directly behind the beast in the photo) and this thing lunging out of the water barking at him, very aggressively; getting within a few feet of him. The commotion drew a crowd and a ODFW employee came down to identify the beast with a tag or number. Walking out on the same finger dock that my son was on, the ODFW got the same loud aggressive barking and charge that my son received. Unfortunately the ODFW employee, nor anyone else, could find an identifying number or tag. The following day while leaning out trying to rinse off a piece of seaweed from my trolling motor prop, I heard someone say, "Here he comes," and before I could react, the beast came from under my boat and snapping and barking at me, giving me way to close of an experience with it's halitosis! While the fish bat was always handy, the beast kept it's distance even when making it's charges.

When I wasn't worrying about getting ambushed in the harbor, we lost the occasional battle with sea-lions and Harbor Seals on the water.

My oldest golden retriever, Oliver, couldn't keep any secrets when we were fighting fish and time and time again detected a bite well before the crew.

My youngest retriever, Piper, had her own method of detecting bites.

But all that anticipation can wear a pup out and a siesta would be in order, making this skipper quite jealous.

When the forest fire smoke moved down to the coast, it made for some pretty amazing sunrises.

Even when the smoke cleared the "commute" was still pretty spectacular most days!

We saw some pretty interesting vessels coming in and out of the estuary.

And of course the fishing was nothing short of amazing and I was lucky enough to provide the tools to allow friends and friends of friends catch their first salmon.

Spending two whole weeks allowed a pretty open schedule for family and friends to make the journey to Warrenton. Some for the first time and many for a, 'tradition'.

Mike Fung with a Tongue Point Chinook

Jerry Gaidos, who is always welcome onboard

Brenda and Nancy, who know their way around a camera and a fishing boat!

Kris Spencer and Luis Zebede who provide lots of comic relief.

What would the experience of Buoy 10 be, without sharing it with family?

2015 was definitely one for the records books. Good returns of salmon, excellent catching, amazing weather and a perfect time to make memories with friends and family that will last a lifetime!

August 01, 2015

Buoy 10!

by Andy Schneider

What's it going to be like to have 1,677,200 fish moving through the Columbia Estuary this year? Amazing, awesome, phenomenal, superb, incredible, stunning, marvelous are words that are going to be describing 2015's Buoy 10 season. But there is another word that we will hear many times this season, "fast!" Not only will this season be here and gone before we know it, but there will be many ‘fast' days on the water. When we have millions of salmon feeding, staging and moving through the Columbia Estuary, every salmon angler on the water should have no problem finding fast limits this season!

The Columbia Estuary is a humbling piece of water, not only does the 80,000 acres of surface water give fish a huge area to spread out and be elusive to anglers, it presents challenging boating conditions daily. 2015 is going to be a year to remember, this will be the year of, "The Good Ol' Days," so come prepared with good tackle, quality bait, a capable boat and have some fun with a fishery that promises to be one for the record books.

Every year there is usually a little ‘relearning' that needs be done, to have a successful trip to the Buoy 10 fishery. Many things that were working so good for you last year, may not be the, hot item again this year. Being versatile in techniques and tackle will insure that you have a productive season from the start.

Starting with a rod and reel that can handle the heavy currents, rough boat rides and clumsy crew is a must. There are many quality rods on todays market, designed specifically for salmon fishing in the northwest. Long, moderate action rods work well for the Buoy 10 fishery. 10'6" and 12' rods have become the, ‘norm' when fishing herring for coho and chinook. The longer rods have some great advantages. The first being that you can spread your gear out, not only to avoid tangles, but to allow you to cover more water on your troll. Second; is a longer will stay loaded, no matter how frenzied the fish is fighting, you will be able to keep tension on that fish and not allow it to slip those barbless hooks. Combine your rods with line-counter reels will insure that you and your crew can deploy gear to the proper depth every time. A line counter reel is especially helpful when sharing productive depths with friends. Spool your reels up with 30-pound monofilament or 50- to 65-pound braided line.

Delta divers have lost a little bit of their popularity in the Buoy 10 fishery as anglers have been making the switch over to using standard lead cannon balls more and more. But there is no denying that divers preform exceedingly well in certain conditions, even better than lead. Divers preform best when holding against the current in deeper waters, while lead works best when trolling with the current in shallower waters. Holding against the current on an incoming tide from Buoy 10 to Hammond, divers are going to preform best. Divers will dig and dive straight down, while a lead cannonball will get caught in the current and ‘blow back' too far to be productive. When trolling with the current on an outgoing tide above the bridge, lead cannonballs are going to preform better. You can easily keep your lead cannonball in contact with the bottom, so you know exactly where your bait is. Where a diver will be difficult to determine it's exact depth when trolling with the current in shallower water.

When rigging your diver, start by tying your mainline to a large DuoLock snap to be clipped into the diver's swivel. Clip a flasher directly behind your diver, then run 60-inches of 30-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon line to two 4/0 hooks. If running a spinner, run 60-inches of 40-pound monofilament leader to a Duo-Lock snap or tied directly to your spinner.

When running lead, start with a plastic weight slider, two 8mm beads on your mainline tied to a 6 bead-chain swivel. From the chain swivel run 16-inches of 40-pound monofilament to your flasher. Behind your flasher run 60-inches of 30-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon line to two 4/0 hooks. A 12- to 14-inch lead dropper of 20-pound monofilament and a 12-ounce cannon ball sinker should keep you in touch with the bottom throughout the tide. Adding another chain swivel halfway down your leader is not overkill and a good way to prevent tangles.

No matter if you are running a diver or lead cannonballs, make sure to have a inline flasher tied above your bait. Yakima Bait's Big AL's Fish Flash, ShortBus Flashers, BYO Flashers and Hot Spot Agitator Flashers are just some of the productive flashers to grab the attention of a coho or chinook.

Herring is a essential for Buoy 10. You can get by with spinners or anchovies, but you need to have some form of herring in your spread to be consistent at Buoy 10. Personal preference will determine if you bring your own frozen herring or want to buy fresh herring on location. Many guides prefer frozen herring over fresh, for the quality of the bait. Frozen herring will have all it's scales in tack and usually be packaged after being starved to firm the bait. Frozen herring are usually a very consistent size, making for easy plug cutting and rigging. Fresh herring is usually processed early in the morning and delivered to boat ramp bait shops before the start of business. Fresh herring has the biggest advantage of being the freshest bait that you can buy, which sometimes makes all the difference. Fresh anchovies can be purchased at the same location that you buy your fresh herring and is good option to have if fish get finicky.

Joe Phillips with a URB that fell for a cut plug Herring last season

No matter your choice of fresh or frozen, make sure you have a cooler dedicated strictly for your bait. Keep fresh bait especially cold, since fresh bait isn't starved before processing, often times the digestive tracts of the bait are full and will quickly rupture and spoil your bait.

Herring can be fished in a variety of ways; either whole, plug cut or with a bait clip or helmet. Herring and anchovy helmets are popular for some anglers to allow them a fish catching spin on their bait if they struggle with plug cutting or rigging whole. Scotty, Pro Troll, Sure Spin and Krippled all make great products that consistently catch fish.


Buoy 10's ‘other' bait is not a bait at all. This ‘non-bait' is so productive at times that no self respecting Buoy 10 angler would be caught down here without it. The Spinner has been proven itself season after season now and is considered a Buoy 10 essential. Don't go thinking that there needs to be a ‘magic' temperature for using spinners in the Columbia Estuary. The Columbia's water temperature is close to 72-degrees, while the ocean temperature is around 58-degrees. As tides ebb and flow the water temperature in the estuary is anything but consistent.

#5,#6, #6.5 and #7 spinner blades are the most productive sizes. There are so many color combinations for Buoy 10 spinners now that it's best to bring your entire collection and experiment to find a consistent producer. Yakima Bait, GDF, BC Angling, and Fatal Flash all make great spinners designed especially around the Buoy 10 fishery. With the requirement for barbless hooks, crimping barbs on your spinner's treble hooks can lead to some disappointment. Many guides and anglers, simply cut the treble hooks off and went with a single 4/0 siwash or an (open eye) Big River Hook.

While Buoy 10 is mostly about fishing, make sure to include family and friends

Stay tuned for week by week break down of where and when to fish the Columbia Estuary....

July 10, 2015

Ocean Salmon!

by Andy Schneider

As the warm summer months are upon us, many anglers thoughts drift from Chinook and Coho towards shady trout streams, cool high alpine lakes or a combo of Summer Steelhead and Waterskiing in the warm waters of the Columbia. There is no need to abandon Salmon when the weather turns hot in the Valley, look west towards the coast and inshore waters where a record number of Salmon will be migrating north and south all summer long.

By now every Salmon angler on the West Coast has heard of our large Fall Chinook forecasts. Huge amounts of Chinook and Coho are predicted to return to California, Oregon and Washington this year. Combine that with the Chinook and that is a whole-lot-of fish out there for the taking! Taking a trip to the Coast is popular for many to escape high temperatures in the Metro areas, this time you may need to hitch the boat and head west and ambush some of these Salmon swimming just off the surf.

Pat Abel with a nice Ocean Coho caught off of Garibaldi

Ocean Salmon Tactics
Nothing says, "Ocean Salmon are feeding right here!" in bright neon, like a group of birds diving on bait on a rip line. A "rip" is a change in the current, temperature and color of the ocean. A rip can be identified by a line of unsettled water, boils and eddies often filled with floating seaweeds, grasses and other debris. When different ocean currents collide creating these rip lines, it concentrates bait fish and where there are bait fish there will be salmon. Muhrs and Puffins are quick to locate these rips and schools of bait fish below, since both these birds feed on the same fish that Salmon do.

When heading out of port, start looking for rip lines, birds and temperature breaks once you pas 30-fathoms. From 30- to 50-Fathoms are usually the most productive depths when fishing the Oregon and Washington coast. A temperate range from 52- to 54-degrees is also a productive temperature for Salmon.

Oliver on the look out for rip lines, birds and temperature breaks

Another way to locate productive areas to pursue Ocean Salmon is to start at home, utilizing sea surface temperature and chlorophyll satellite photos. Terrafin, Rip Charts and NOAA all offer (free and paid) satellite images of our coastal waters. Knowing the amount of chlorophyl in the water is important since plankton produce chlorophyl and where plankton are present, so are bait fish feeding on them. If there is a heavy concentration of chlorophyl showing up on a satellite image, aligning with 52-to 54-degree water, this would be a good place to start targeting Ocean Salmon.

The first few hours of daylight are usually the most productive for Ocean Salmon as they seem to run closer to the surface and in schools. As the day wears on, Salmon will drop into deeper depths while spreading out. Divers are sometimes the most productive way to get to the fish at first light, while down-riggers will be needed as the fish move deeper.

Brenda Skinner with a Ocean Coho caught off of Garibaldi

Yaquina and Depoe Bay are on upper end of the Central Oregon Coast. While they are half-a-state away from these massive Fall Salmon producing tributaries, they can be right in the middle of the action. Since early March Salmon have been hugging the Central Oregon Coast on their southern journey to the Klamath or Sacramento Rivers. Throughout the summer, more and more fish will be passing within casting distance of these coastal ports. When targeting Salmon out of Yaquina Bay, most run 12-miles due west to Stonewall Banks, a massive 13-mile long reef that parallels the Oregon Coast. Trolling on the east or west side of this reef is some of the most productive "structure" Oregon has to offer. When Stonewall banks isn't producing, commercial and recreational anglers head south to Seal Rock and Westport. While this stretch of the Pacific doesn't offer any large structure, Salmon tend to stall here on their migration south.

Depoe Bay has been one of the most consistent ports to ambush Columbia River bound Coho during the Ocean Coho season, especially when run sizes are over the 1/2-million fish mark. There is no major structure out of Depoe Bay to hold Salmon, but being one of the closest ports to the Continental Shelf, rip lines and temperature breaks are plentiful out of this small port. If you have to travel over 5-miles west to locate good temperatures, you probably have driven too far.

Tillamook and Nehalem Bay have their own healthy run of Fall Chinook, combine that with Columbia River fish moving North and this is a very popular destination for many Ocean Salmon anglers. There are two methods of thought when pursuing Salmon out of Tillamook Bay; fish 20-fathoms or shallower for Tillamook and Nehalem Bay Fish, or fish 30-fathoms or deeper for Columbia bound Chinook. Most anglers take a right at the North Jetty and aim towards Twin Rocks; either staying shallower in, "The Tillamook Bubble" or moving into deeper water.

I even found an Ocean Coho

The Columbia River is the largest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean from North America. It only makes sense that it's going to get one of the largest returns of Salmon too. Chinook and Coho arrive in June and start staging around the mouth of the Columbia feeding on the plentiful baitfish moving in and out of this massive estuary. From Seaside to Westport, Chinook and Coho can be found feeding heavily on the abundant groceries available. The waters in front of Longbeach are especially productive during the month of July. August is the month most of these fish have been waiting for and will be migrating into the river in large numbers on every tide. Finding salmon offshore during the month of August isn't too difficult, but finding them constantly is, as these large schools of salmon will be on the move.

Saltwater rigging

Typical riggings for Ocean Salmon

A Delta Diver is one of the easiest ways to get your bait down and in front of a feeding Ocean Salmon. Behind your diver, run 36-inches of 40-pound leader to a "0" Dodger. From your Dodger run 24- to 30-inches of 30-pound fluorocarbon leader to two 5/0 barbless hooks. Slide a Hoochie down your leader and run either a piece of "chunk" Herring or a plug cut Herring for bait. If you're not into running dodgers, you can rig up similar to what you would do for Buoy 10 Chinook: Diver, flasher and leader. Simply clip your flasher onto the back of your diver and run a 60-inch leader of 30-pound leader to your 5/0 hooks, running a whole or plug cut bait.

Down-riggers are an investment of money and patience when fishing for Salmon in the Pacific. Down-riggers will allow you to get your bait down to the Chinook, but they will also get you down into seaweed, jellyfish and buoy-less crab pot lines. Using a 12-pound down-rigger ball will just barely work when trolling against the strong southern drift of the Pacific. A 15- or 20-pound down-rigger ball would be more effective, but more difficult to retrieve, unless you have electric down-riggers. A heavy release is usually needed to keep Jellyfish and heavy currents from popping your line loose. Bury your line deep into the clip and watch your rod tip for a bite, once you see a bite you may need to assist in releasing the line from the clip.

Mooching is something of a lost art off the Oregon and Washington coast, but is extremely popular in Canada and Alaska. Once a school of Salmon can be found, mooching can be extraordinarily productive and exciting. Using a 8- to 12-ounce banana sinker, tie on a 5-foot leader with a whole or plug cut Herring. Once a school of fish is marked on the sonar, deploy your bait down to those depths. Either manually "mooch" your bait, or put them in the rod holders and engage and disengage the trolling motor from gear. Motor Mooching can be some of the most relaxing fishing you can do on the ocean, since your motor and swells will move your baits throughout the water column and hopefully feeding schools of fish.

Compared to a small estuary or tributary, where the salmon will be, for the most part, fairly concentrated in their migration to the spawning grounds. Catching a salmon in the vast waters of the Pacific presents a unique challenge and reward of not only finding the fish, but getting them to bite. Spending a day offshore viewing the rugged Oregon and Washington Coast from a vantage point many never get to experience, can be equal in reward as catching one of these elusive Ocean Salmon. With the abundance of Wales, sea birds and shear beauty the nearshore waters provide, keep your camera and attention at the ready to soak it all in.

June 26, 2015

Near Shore Halibut Opens July 1st

by Andy Schneider

July 1st anglers finally get a 7-day a week Halibut fishery inside the 40-fathom line. While nearshore Halibut was open during ‘All-Depth' days, we haven't had the greatest ocean conditions coordinating with out seasons. So when the Pacific finally lays down, anglers can take to the sea in search of some of the finest tasting, most expensive fish in it.

While heading over the horizon to popular Halibut locals is almost always more productive, many anglers are not equipped to handle a 1.5-hour run due west and fishing in 600- to 800-feet of water. Fishing in these conditions feels more like ‘harvesting' than it does ‘fishing' most of the time and Halibut fishing can loose a lot of it's appeal. Fishing for Halibut in waters less than 200-feet is not only more enjoyable, but can be very productive.

Nancy Zimmer got this 88-pounder in 110-feet of water. It wasn't very happy about being brought onboard, so we had to "Hog-tie" it to calm it down.

Don't expect to find nearshore Halibut stacked on top of each other, like The Chicken Ranch and Halibut Hill. Nearshore Halibut tend to be more scattered and constantly on the move. Since shallower water doesn't have the massive upwellings bringing constant food from beyond the Continental Shelf; nearshore Halibut will need to cover more water to sustain their diet. So that means you need to do the same; cover more water.

Brenda Skinner with an average near shore Halibut,

One of the biggest advantages of staying nearshore for Halibut is just that: staying ‘nearshore'. Most popular shallow water Halibut locations are within a 10-mile run of a popular harbor. The second advantage of nearshore Halibut is that it's much shallower water and no specialized equipment is necessary, standard Salmon gear will work just fine. A third advantage is you can finally harvest some bottom fish AND Halibut on the same day (except for all-depth days) making for some great combo trips. And a fourth advantage of staying shallow is that it's actually pretty fun to catch a Halibut on lighter tackle.

Some great scenery can be found nearshore. A pod of Orcas brought some excitement to the day!

For rigging, start with a heavy action salmon rod combined with a reel that holds 100-yards of 50- to 65-pound braided line. You can utilize much of the same rigging you have for Salmon when fishing Halibut too. Start with a plastic weight sliding on your mainline, to a 6-bead chain swivel or ball bearing swivel. For leader use 5-feet of 30- to 40-pound monofilament to two 5/0 to 7/0 hooks. Blue and purple label Herring can be rigged whole or plug cut when fishing for shallow Halibut. 8- to 12-ounces of lead is all that is usually needed when fishing shallower than 200-feet. A gentle cast behind the boat may be needed to keep your gear from tangling on it's decent.

While there usually is wind or current to move you along when drifting for Halibut, slowly trolling with the current will cover more ground and get your presentation in front of more fish. Just like Salmon fishing, when a Halibut starts biting, resist the urge to set the hook immediately. Instead wait until the rod is loaded up before setting the hooks home. Since you will be fishing close to shore, where Chinook and Coho are found too, it might be worth the risk to pinch the barbs on your hooks, so a Salmon hooked while fishing for Halibut, can be retained.

Where ever you start your drifts, work deeper or shallower in 50-foot increments until you can find fish. If you're still struggling to find any Halibut, look for any slight seamounts and position the boat above those. Even a slight rise of 10-feet on the seafloor can congregate Halibut. Also look for different bottom compositions; while most of the Pacific floor is sand, there are stretches of gravel, cobblestone and shale that can hold Halibut.

Most ports have popular locations for nearshore Halibut. Out of Nehalem and Tillamook, most anglers run north to Manzanita, drifting south to the mouth of the Nehalem. Out of Depoe, most head north to Siletz or south to Cape Foulweather. Out of Yaquina bay the ever popular water around Lighthouse at Yaquina Head produces consistent results.

Shallow water Halibut fishing isn't going to provide any, ‘lights out' fishing, but it's definitely a way for smaller boats to partake in some of the finest bounty found in the ocean. Without any specialized tackle requirements, any Salmon angler can take to the water and pursue these tasty flat fish. With a season starting so late in the year, the nearshore Halibut season should be around throughout our entire Ocean Salmon season, making for some great combo trips.

June 12, 2015

Columbia River Summer Chinook

by Andy Schneider

Conversations stopped in the boat for a moment while the fancy yellow fiberglass "Go-Fast" boat, throwing a 30-foot high rooster tail, skipped along the water at 70-mph. The boat didn't bring the crew to speechlessness, but with the exhaust so loud it drowned out any attempt at verbal communication. Soon enough, the rumbling exhaust quieted as the boat turned into the Willamette heading for Downtown Portland and the crew's attention returned to past fishing adventures and watching the dancing rod tips. One rod tip in particular had everyones attention as the action suddenly stopped and the tension on the rod relaxed a little. The rod tip didn't sit idle for long, before it violently surged towards the water and a Summer Chinook was peeling line from the reel sending the entire crew to their feet and everyone battling for the pole.

The Columbia River Summer Chinook peaks at the same time summer vacations, camping trips and beach trips are transitioning from theory to reality. Though anglers attentions are usually drawn to distant alpine lakes, mountain streams or busy coastal ports, fishing is just starting to pick up close to home. The Columbia Summer Chinook fishery is kind of a 'Sleeper Fishery'; not that big of a run, compared to spring and fall, water conditions can be unstable as smolt flushing slows down, usually only a 50-percent mark rate and the 'splash and giggle' crowds head to the rivers on any sunny day. Even with all these 'handicaps' Summer Chinook fishing has a great things going for it: the season usually opens the day after graduation, the weather is usually great, the crowds are minimal (especially on rainy days) and these fish are great biters. Summer Chinook used to be known as, "June Hogs", though fewer and fewer "Hogs" are being caught and your 'above average' Chinook are more than likely going to be an unclipped fish heading far upriver. But, don't let the thought of having to release a "Hog" of Chinook get you down, because if you have located where these Chinook are going to be moving through, it shouldn't be long before another one comes along.

Once Summer Chinook enter the Columbia, they're on a mission to cover as many miles in the lower river as possible in a day. It's not an uncommon sight to see sea lice clinging to a fish caught directly below Bonneville Dam. Find a travel lane of these Summer Chinook and expect to find lots of action all day long as these fish move through in force. Summer Chinook can be caught in shallower water like a Spring Chinook or deeper waters like a Upriver Bright, tending to flood upriver at all depths throughout the water column. While they may be found at all depths, they seem to also have a route already planned and will be moving together in these predetermined travel lanes. Once you have found one of these Summer Chinook 'Travel Lanes' you could be in for an epic day of catching. But don't get your confidence up too high, because the following day the river may drop 4-feet and you will need to seek out the updated route the fish are tracking now. To keep producing results all season for Summer Chinook you have to remain flexible and versatile, willing to pull anchor multiple times in a day to find the fish.

There are still some June Hogs out there

Since the Columbia's flows in mid-June are so unstable, anchor fishing tends to be the most popular way to produce results. While trolling Herring or Spinners may produce fish, anchor fishing tends to be more productive; so why waste the fuel? Just like any type of anchor fishing on the Columbia, if you can find a location that 'funnels' the fish towards your tackle you will have a more productive location. Look for wing-dams, pile-dikes, abrupt river edges, inside corners or island edges for places to ambush a upriver bound Summer Chinook.

Think shallow and close to shore for Summer Chinook

Tackle should match the water your fishing. If you are anchoring in water in 15- to 30-feet deep; KwikFish, MagLips or FlatFish are going to productive. If anchoring in water 30-feet or deeper with a heavy current; wobblers are going to catch more fish. When anchoring in fast and shallow water; spinners and Spin-n-Glo's with bait will produce results. Rigging for Summer Chinook isn't any different for the tackle you will be using. 60-inch leaders and 24-inch droppers for KwikFish and FlatFish. 60-inch leaders with 36-inch droppers for MagLips. 60-inch leaders and 60-inch droppers for wobblers. Upgrading to 40- or 50-pound leaders will help landing and releasing unclipped chinook without risk of loosing a favorite and productive lure.

Sardine wrapped K14's

Summer Chinook offer a nice opportunity for you to get family and friends out on the water during good weather conditions with a decent opportunity to catch multiple Salmon in a day. While the Summer Chinook run wont make any headlines, it sure can make some wonderful memories.

Don't forget to take in the scenery

May 04, 2015

Shrimping; a new Spring Tradition

by Andy Schneider

Last year I was invited to go Shrimping in the Hoods Canal on the last day of the season. While heading north to unexplored waters I realized that the drive north to The Sounds was just as long as my drive to the Central Oregon Coast. After a very enjoyable day of exploring Hoods Canal and getting an easy limit of tasty shrimp, I promised to come back the following year.

Throughout the winter months, I scoured the internet looking for used Shrimping setups. Even posting some 'WTB' ads. I was lucky enough to score 4-slightly used Shrimp pots and some good recipes for Shrimp bait. Buying the buoys, rope, lead for the pots and a pot puller, my total investment was just shy of $800 (sweat equity not included) to be completely set up for Shrimping. While I could have bargain shopped a little harder, I'm hoping my setup will last me for quite a few more years.

I had gathered a salty crew to join me on my first Shrimping adventure on my own vessel. Friends Mike Fung, Brenda Skinner, Dory Rowe and Nancy Zimmer joined my Wife, (Missy) and my Son to make for a really full, but fun boat.

The morning started with a 4:15 rendezvous in Clackamas, which seemed to be the same time all the Spring Chinook Anglers were meeting to fish the reopening of the Columbia. With an uneventful ride north we pulled into the boat ramp just before 7am and made a speedy launch.

After the wife found a place to park the truck and trailer, not an easy task with lots of other boaters competing to do the same, we motored over to the other side of Hoods Canal and found a place to hover and prepare to drop on the 9:00am opener.

Pots all ready to deploy

Calm conditions first thing in the morning

Once 9am rolled around we deployed all four of our pots and fired up the BBQ while we waited, hoping that the Shrimp liked our fragrant bait.

We took our time eating our Brauts and pulled the pots 45-minutes later to find almost 4-limits of good sized Shrimp.

We also found a hitch hiker hiding in our shrimp pot. We ended up releasing this cute critter, even though I've heard they are delish and make amazing Halibut bait.

Once we had shrimp on board the whole crew got involved, separating heads from tails, cleaning, counting and bagging each limit carefully.

Here Dory and Brenda are doing the dirty work:

Between taking pictures for us to all enjoy later and keeping Ayden entertained, Nancy acted like a short-stop keeping things running smoothly.

While I skippered the boats around buoys and other boaters, Mike hooked the buoys and kept the pots coming over the rail faster than what the crew could handle.

While this was only my second Shrimping expedition, we found that the pots sitting on a slope from waters that were 300-feet to 250-feet, had more Shrimp of a better grade. There was no shortage of anglers participating in this fishery, but it seemed everyone was getting along and the experience was quite enjoyable. I definitely think I'll be back one more time this year and plenty more times for years to come.

March 31, 2015

Kings for the Kids

by Andy Schneider

Kings for the Kids
April 25th 2015

The Tournament, now in its 13th year, is the main revenue for 4 different Camps last year and will take on another camp this year; the 5-Rock Ranch, a camp designed specially for fatherless children. The Camps, Kings for the Kids funds are week long Christian summer camps that benefit local, neglected and abused foster kids. "We have camps in Portland, Salem and have one now in Wilsonville. It's important to us to fund these local camps and not be sending money off to Corporate somewhere." Says Rick King, founder of the charity event.

To participate you can register to be a guided angler. For $175 you will get a full day of guided fishing. Or, you can register as a self guided team of 3 people for $75 per person. Spring Chinook must be caught within a 100-mile radius of Portland and be checked in by 4pm. Team score will be determined by total inches of Salmon landed by the team. The Tournament will be held Saturday April 25th.

After a fun day of fishing, a catered dinner will be waiting for the anglers, where folks can catch up with old friends and make some new ones. There will be a silent auction, a $1 raffle for lots of different prizes and a $5 raffle to win a trip to Alaska; a 5-Day trip to Togiak River Lodge out of Togiak Alaska. The Togiak trip is donated by the Lodge owners Larry and Kevin Lund and is a $5000 value.

Kings for the Kids was at the Sportsman show this year, selling raffle tickets and booking fishing trips. If you're looking to fish in the tournament or would like to help volunteer your time or services, contact Rick King at 503-709-6603.

Kings for the Kids
Beaverton, OR 97007

How Kings for the Kids started out for us last year:

We started our day at Drano lake, then moved down to the Wind River, where we caught 2 fish, which was good enough for second place.

Tom Vaderplaat with his Wind River Spring Chinook:

And me with my Wind River Spring Chinook:

And the spoils of Second Place:

I can't wait for this years event!

February 27, 2015

Columbia River Spring Chinook Rigging.

by Andy Schneider

It's that time of year again, Spring Chinook Fever is setting upon Northwest Anglers faster than the resurgence of the measles. While both illnesses have similar symptoms; fever, red and soar eyes, exhaustion. Spring Chinook Fever is much easier to treat and while the symptoms can stretch all season long, most anglers remain, "high functioning" throughout their illness.

Every year new anglers take to the water in search of the elusive, "Spring Chinook". While some come away from the waters successful and exhilarated, most leave frustrated and fish-less. But this doesn't have to be the case. To be consistently successful for Spring Chinook, you have to be persistent. Spring Chinook are not as aggressive as Fall Chinook, are very finicky and sensitive to water levels and temperatures, don't move upriver is a consistent push and wander throughout the entire river column. If the fickleness of the Spring Chinook doesn't make it difficult enough for you, Columbia and Willamette river levels are constantly fluctuating in height, color and temperature. Spring time storms usually makes fishing and navigating a boat a challenge and many times unpleasant. But for the last 14-years, since they reopened the Columbia, Spring Chinook Anglers have reached the quota, proving that persisance is what's needed to bring home some omega 3 laden fillets.

Herring Rigging
Trolling Herring remains one of the most successful ways to land a Spring Chinook. You are covering lots of water, presenting your bait to more fish. Herring is also a food source that these Chinook have been very familiar with their entire life cycle.

KwikFish Rigging
Plug fishing is a popular technique for Spring Chinook anglers. Find a travel lane for Spring Chinook, put your plug right in the middle of it and eventually a fish will attack it. As water levels fluctuate travel lanes will move, locating them again may require a lot of trial and error, but persistence will pay off.

With Barbless rule restriction in the Columbia/ Willamette and Multnomah Channel, rigging with single hooks can make a difference on landing more fish.

A popular way to quickly deploy a plug like a KwikFish or Mag Lip is to cast your sinker, from your boat or bank, clip on your plug and let it swim its way down into, "The Zone". Not only is this quicker than Back Bouncing your plug into position, it allows you to cast to one side or another and give your plugs a good spread.

Mag Lip Rigging
Mag Lips are a great plug when fishing in 10-feet of water or less. These plugs don't need a dropper and can be flatlined up to 100-feet behind the boat and fish effectively. Flatlining your plugs not only simplifies things, your hook-up and landing ratio should be high, since you don't have a lead dropper getting in the way, hanging up on the bottom or adding opposing forces to a barbless hook.

Plunking Rigging
Plunking from the beach is a relaxing and productive way of fishing. Since Spring Chinook tend to travel in shallower and softer waters, bank bound anglers will have the advantage. Most of the time long casts are not needed to get tackle into travel lanes.

These are just some of the ways to rig bait and lures that consistently produce results. To be successful, modifying and adjusting to where you are fishing is something you need to do almost every trip. Be flexible, observant and persistent and you will be successful!

January 30, 2015

February Spring Chinook

by Andy Schneider

Spring Chinook fever has struck early this year; internet forums, sporting good counters and general fishing conversations are already ablaze in talk of ‘The First Springer' and the season to come. Maybe due to the mild winter weather, Spring Chinook Anglers are chomping at the bit to get out and start trolling Herring or anchor up with some Kwik's. While many anglers wait for mid-March before de-winterizing the boat, March is just too far away for some hardy anglers. 2015 promises to be a decent run for Columbia Spring Chinook and with warmer Columbia river temps, February might not be too early to start catching Spring Chinook.

February is most definitely a winter month and it's not the most enjoyable time of year to hop into an open sled and run long distances, but if there is a chance at bagging an early Spring Chinook; numb fingers, a red face and runny nose seem worth it. Early season tactics don't differ any from peak season tactics so, it simply takes the desire to start rigging gear a little early and hit the water.

Meldrum Bar, Willamette River
Not often do Meldrum Bar anglers actually target Spring Chinook in February, more than likely, they are targeting Clackamas or Santiam bound Winter Steelhead. Since Spring Chinook are just as much suckers for Prawn tails and Spin-n-glo's as Steelhead, they can fall victim to a Meldrum Bar Plunker just as easy as a Winter Steelhead.

Start with a #4- Spin-N-Glo above two 5mm beads and a 2/0-hook, tied on 20-inches of 25-pound monofilament to a three way swivel. Run 24-inches of 15-pound monofilament of lead dropper to a 4- to 8-ounce pyramid weight. Thread a prawn tail or whole coon shrimp onto the hook securing it with the egg loop. No need to cast too far from shore when plunking Meldrum, if the Willamette is off colored, make sure to stay in the clean water of the Clackamas river plume as it will hug the shore.

Sellwood Bridge, Willamette River
There is a hearty bread of angler that moors their boat near the Sellwood Bridge and can be seen trolling the murky water of the Willamette every morning, before heading into work. While only being able to troll an hour or two doesn't sound like a lot of time on the water, when you do it everyday, it really adds up. Sellwood is known for having a shallow underwater ‘mount' that Spring Chinook seem to hold on top of. Boats start lining up below the bridge and slowly troll their way upriver over the underwater mount.

Sellwood anglers start with the standard Flasher and Herring set up that is used everywhere else. Instead of stowing their rods in holders, anglers lightly tap bottom with their leads as they troll over the mount. Having nerves of steel is required once a Spring Chinook picks up the Herring and starts chomping, since you have to wait till the rod loads up with the weight of the fish. This can take some time, since the troll speed is so slow.

Catching a February Spring Chinook at Sellwood doesn't raise too many eyebrows and only when an anglers boat hooks into two February Spring Chinook, does he get any recognition. Construction on the new Sellwood Bridge has hindered anglers from time to time, but fish will still be caught here, including more than one February Spring Chinook.

Coon Island, Multnomah Channel
If the Columbia River ever drops below 40-degrees this February, Spring Chinook will pull into the slightly warmer water of the Multnomah Channel on a shortcut to the Willamette River. While the Channel provides good fishing through it's entire length, the Coon Island to the Gilbert boat ramp seem to provide better results earlier in the season. This popular troll averages 15- to 20-feet, depending on the Columbia's river height.

Troll a Flasher and Herring combo on a 20-inch lead dropper while keeping your lead in contact with the bottom, is the most productive way to fish the Channel. Watch for snags on your fish finder, as the season progresses snags get cleared out, but can be troublesome early.

I-5 to Caterpillar Island, Columbia River
I-5 is the deadline for Columbia Spring Chinook, until March 1st. I-5 has a mixed history of producing early results and seems to be directly related to Columbia River flows. When we have low winter/ Spring flows on the Columbia, the I-5 area produces well, during higher flows; not so well. If February Columbia flows are low to average, making a pass or two can be productive.

Start trolling your Flasher and Herring close to the Washington shore, at the I-5 Bridge. Troll at a 45-degree angle, to the bridge, towards Hayden Island. Your boat should be ‘crabbing' till you approach Hayden Island, before turning downriver to finish the troll at the railroad bridge.

Davis Bar produced the first confirmed Spring Chinook of 2011 and has been a consistent producer for February trollers. The troll at Davis Bar starts at the Barges anchored along the Washington Shore. You can navigate inside or outside of the Barges and find fish in both locations. The troll stretches to Frenchman's Bar Park, where most anglers pull their rods and make another pass.

Not a lot of crowds at Davis Bar last February

Caterpillar Island produced the first and second confirmed Spring Chinook of 2012 and has a reputation from producing more early Spring Chinook than any other location. Caterpillar Island supports plunkers, anchor fisherman and trollers; all with minimal conflicts. Caterpillar Island has a nice plateau of rolling underwater sand dunes, make sure you still touching bottom in the ‘trench' of the sand dune and dragging heavily on the top of the sand dune. Often times a fish will pick up your Herring as it drops off the top of a dune into deeper water.

While the odds of catching a Spring Chinook are not as good as March or April, you can't put any less effort into trying to catch these elusive fish. Not only is it a accomplishment to land a February Spring Chinook, most early returning fish are older and much larger than your ‘cookie cutter hatchery brats' that make up the bulk of the April run. Since the Columbia or Willamette's water temperature will be cold, slow your troll slightly. A Spring Chinook will not expend too much energy chasing down a fast bait. Slow your troll down incrementally while watching your Herring, try and find a balance of a nice slow spin, with a good roll too. Once a February Spring Chinook starts chomping on your Herring, don't expect it to load up any time soon. When the water temperature is hovering around 40-degrees, it's going to take a while for these fish to commit to the bait, so don't jump too soon and wait..wait.....wait.......wait.........wait...........NOW!

My last February Spring Chinook, February 27th, 2011

December 31, 2014

2014 was one great year! 2015, promises to be even better!

by Andy Schneider

Every year that passes, I feel that I couldn't be any luckier. Spending time on the water with family, friends and retrievers, gives me the motivation to head into work everyday. 2014 provided lots memories, quite a few fish, good water and water conditions all in beautiful settings.

My year started out steelhead fishing the Clackamas river with my good buddy Brian Hawkins. It was one of those warm winter days, where the sun was out and you could just feel your batteries being recharged. The river had just dropped into shape and everyone was trying to get their first steelhead of the year, us included. Most anglers were side drifting, but I like pulling plugs when the river is on a fast drop and Brian landed this picture perfect Winter Steelhead, the lighting was amazing and the picture turned out to be one of my favorite for the entire year.

February and me didn't get along too well. Every day I had off, the rivers were not in shape and the days I could make it to the river, snow and sportsman's shows kept me away. But I did find a small window of opportunity to sneak out and do some winter Kokanee fishing. It rained, hailed, snowed and was sunny all within a 6-hour window. As fast as my numb fingers could put shoe peg corn on my mini-Simon's, Brenda Skinner was pulling in nice sized Lake Merwin Kokanee.

While Spring Chinook was on everyone's mind, mine included, I had actually started to have a early season burn out and decided to go catch some trout. So on Spring Break, Ayden and I hitched the driftboat up and headed over Mt. Hood and trolled some gear around Pine Hollow Reservoir and we had a great time catching hold over trout until, Ayden caught this monster:

Spring was definitely in the air this April with many trees budding leaves early in the month and the decent weather kept me heading to the river any chance I got. On my Dad's 66th Birthday, I took him to the Willamette for a relaxing day of fishing close to home. Fishing was slow for us, but on our last pass of the day, my Dad's rod buckled over and he was able to land the only fish of the day for us.

While most salty anglers are thinking of big flat fish far offshore, I was actually thinking of heading up to Hood's Canal for some small crustaceans. I had never shrimped before and read all I could about it. It turned out to be an absolute blast that I will repeat in 2015 for sure!

Summer Chinook is one of my most favorite fisheries; great weather, close to home, easy anchor fishing, lots of aggressive fish and did I mention how nice the weather usually is? This Father's Day, Missy and Ayden took me fishing and we landed a couple nice natives and this beauty of a Summer King:

Catching the biggest fish a couple years ago for the Kings for the Kids Tournament, I won a trip to Togiak Alaska at Kevin/ Larry Lund's camp. Since I had never been to Alaska before, I was a little nervous to go all on my own. Luckily I didn't have to worry about that too long, since my good friend Tom Vanderplaat won the same trip the following year. We decided that 2014 was going to be the year for Alaska. Tom was gracious enough to let me use his air miles and we did this trip on the cheap. Fishing was everything I could have hoped for. Kevin had me into a fish within minutes of landing at the lodge. The most memorable fish went to Tom hooking this, "Firetruck," that bit like an, "Alligator." (Alaska fishing terminology).

Wow, how do you describe 2-million plus fish returning to the mouth of the Columbia? Fishing Buoy 10 started amazing and finished amazing; meeting every high expectation that I had set. There were so many fish coming over the gunnel at times, that I worried the fishing would be cut short before I could start to enjoy the day. But spending the days with Family and Friends was very enjoyable and smores at night around the campfire was always a great way to unwind from a day on the water.

The fishing only got better at Buoy 10 throughout September. But the drives to the coast were putting a dent in the bank account and fishing closer to home started looking a little more appealing. After talking with MegaByte about his technique of trolling herring for URB's in the Metro area. I gave it a try and found that you can never stop learning new techniques. I can't believe I've been missing out on this technique for so long! Thanks Gary!! Mike Fung found this URB with a green label Herring as we trolled along Sauvie Island.

As my fishing transitioned from the Columbia to coastal estuaries, we couldn't let the good weather go to waste and made some last minute camping reservations at Nehalem Bay State Park. Fall Camping is something that I usually do at Deer or Elk Camp, but camping at the coast in the fall was very enjoyable. The weather was still great, the crowds had thinned dramatically and the fishing was fantastic.

We continued to camp right into November, this time staying at Barview Jetty Park. Amazing weather graced our trip in late November as rivers dropped into perfect shape. Having a bunch of friends on board, we back bounced up a mess of Fall Chinook, while having to put on sunblock in-between bites.

This December the Fall Chinook kept biting right up till a couple of days ago, but the most memorable fish was one of the most perfect looking steelhead that I've had the pleasure of slipping a net under in many-a-year. Having my son be the one to bring it in on a day we got invited to fish on Tom Vanderplaat's boat, made it a pretty special day. Thanks Tom!

What is 2015 going to bring? I'm guessing lots of smiles, good memories and probably a fish or two. Happy New Year!!

November 29, 2014

Is it too early to start thinking Winter Steelhead? NOPE! Get your gear ready now!

by Andy Schneider

As the driftboat floated through the shallow riffle, it looked as if the boat would strike bottom at any moment. The front passengers noticed this too and braced themselves for impact, glancing nervously back at the oarsman wondering why he wasn't more concerned and wasn't trying to row towards deeper water. But the rower knew that they were not going touch bottom, even through the clearances couldn't have been more than a half-an-inch at times. Soon the riffle deepened and he dipped the oars to slightly correct the crabbing of the boat and when the water was as deep as the oar blades, he pulled back hard on the sticks. The drift boat slowed, then magically held in place with only the most minor of corrections needed to keep the boat straight and holding at the top of the hole.

Instructions were given and plugs where deployed into the hazy, emerald green water. When the last plug reached its assigned distance from the boat, the rower lowered the oars into the water. Water loudly gurgled around the stationary oar blades and the boat slowly started moving downriver. The oarsman knew this hole well and kept his eyes glued to the port rod as it's tip bounced erratically along the rocky wall. A quick glance back from the front seaters reveled no emotion on the rowers face, even though his heart rate was slightly elevated and anxiety was growing with every foot the boat slid downriver. A little later than usual, the port rod bounced hard, just once, then folded over with a visible fury, and stayed over as a chrome bright steelhead rocketed out of the water just below the boat.

Winter Steelhead can bring elation and euphoria to the most experienced or novice of anglers. If this is your first year winter steelhead fishing or your 60th, it doesn't matter; there is something intoxicating about bringing such a tenacious fish to hand all in the middle of winter; where darkness, cold and ever changing river conditions are the norm. As Winter Steelhead anglers gain experience they usually graduate from one technique to the next. Not that one technique is better than another, just different and presents new challenges to trick the ever elusive Steelhead. Most techniques can be learned in one season and refined, each season, as the angler gains first hand knowledge. Instead of looking to "graduate" from one technique to the next; look to gain knowledge of different techniques, keep proficient in them and learn when to best utilize the techniques you have learned.

Kit #1: Drift Fishing

Rod: Casting, 9' 6~12
Reel: Low profile Bait Caster
Mainline: 10-pound monofilament
Leader: 10-pound Fluorocarbon
Bait: Small cluster of Salmon roe on a #1 hook with a #10 Pearl Corkie
Where: Mills Bridge, Wilson River

Drift fishing for Winter Steelhead is the ‘meat and potatoes', the ‘bread and butter', the ‘staff of life', the one most fished and productive technique to catch a Winter Steelhead in the Pacific Northwest. Drift fishing can be one of the most cost effective techniques when it comes to catching Steelhead. A off-the-rack fishing rod and reel combo, some basic fishing tackle and a short drive to a "Hatchery Hole" at your local river, will put chrome on the bank. For some anglers, this way of fishing is all that's needed to put a smile on the face and fish in the freezer. Some anglers may pursue drift fishing with $600 next gen HM graphite and high geared, silky smooth low profile bait-casters just to feel the texture of every pebble on the river bed and know the millisecond that a steelhead has picked up their bait. Then there are anglers that love to travel to rainforest rivers, where 20-pound Steelhead lurk and turn hard core fishers knees shaking and stomachs queasy when they break free after an extended fight. No matter the reason you pick up a drift fishing rod and head to the river; you feel confident that if there are Steelhead in the river, you are using one of the most effective techniques to catch them.

There are two lines of thought when it comes to Drift Fishing; 1st, stay in one place and let the fish come to you. 2nd, fish each spot only 20-minutes before moving on in search of fish. There are successful anglers in both of these genre and it sometimes depends on your fishing destination on how you would fish a hole or stretch of river. There is not much need to leave the hatchery hole at North Fork Lewis, since you know fish have to return there. But if you're fishing the Wilson River, you have have 20-plus miles of river you could explore.

If you are fishing a stretch of water you are unfamiliar with, start at either the head or the tail-out of the hole and work your way towards the other end. If you hook a fish in a specific spot, remember where you hooked that fish, so you can leap right to that spot again when returning to the river. Once you have a half-dozen ‘sweet spot's‘ stored in your memory of different fishing holes; your fishing success should grow exponentially.

Depending on what the riverbed is made of, will determine what you need to use for weight. If there is a lot of volcanic, large rock or has lots of woody debris, a slinky will be less likely to hang up. If the river bottom is mostly gravel and cobblestone; a stick weight or lead pencil weight will give you an advantage of feeling the bottom and setting the hook into a fish when you don't feel the bottom.

Leader length in the 30-inch range seems to be most effective for Northwest rivers and streams. Shorter leaders, makes casting easier when there is overhanging brush and allows you to detect a bite sooner. A 10-pound test leader will work for almost all conditions and will only need to be downsized to 8-pound test in extreme low/clear water conditions. While some anglers like to upsize their mainline compared to their leader, it may create more difficulties than just retying a new setup when you break off. When you have 12-pound or heavier mainline, it becomes very difficult to break snagged gear off with light steelhead rods and low profile reels. Very few anglers have the thumb strength to hold a spool from slipping when trying to break off. And once a hand gets placed on the mainline to assist; 75% of the time the line will break where the hand is placed.

One of the most popular baits for drift fishing is Salmon Roe, a 50-cent piece sized cluster of eggs is a tough bait for Steelhead to pass up. Yarn balls, bare Corkies, Corkies and yarn, rubber worms, artificial eggs and beads are all very effective baits and have their own followings amongst drift fishing anglers.

The Wilson River is one of the most ideal rivers for bank anglers, starting at Elk Creek Campground to Mills Bridge there are hundreds of places to pull off of Hwy 6 and fish in this 22-mile stretch. Almost every gravel or mud ‘pull off‘ along Hwy 6 will lead you to a promising stretch of the Wilson River. When the lower sections of the Wilson are high and out of shape, target the river above Jones Creek. Often the upper sections of the Wilson will stay in shape above the North Fork of the Wilson and Jones Creek, two of the largest tributaries of the Wilson.

Kit #2: Bobber and Jig

Rod: Spinning, 9' 8~12
Reel: Spool Capacity of 150-yards of 8-pound
Mainline: 30-pound, floating braided line
Leader: 8-pound fluorocarbon
Bait: Pearlescent Pink, Maxi Jig 1/8oz
Bobber: Thill 6" Gold Medal Turbo Master Float
Where: Klootchy Park, Necanicum River

Bobber and Jig fishing for Winter Steelhead is one of the easiest ways to cover lots of varying water conditions effectively. Bobber and jig is also the only way to fish some stretches of water that are just too plain snaggy for side drifting or drift fishing. Bobber and Jig fishing can appeals to novice and experienced anglers since it produces fish so consistently, usually with very little downtime from snags that result in broken tackle.

4- to 8-foot water seems to be ideal for bobber and jig fishing, but as rivers become low and clear; bobber and jigs can effectively fish all but the deepest holes on the river. Bobber and jigs truly excel at effectively fishing water seams; where fast water meets slower. You can try drift fishing or side drifting seams, but you never know if your bait is fishing exactly where you want it. But when you have a bobber as an indicator, you know for a fact where your bait is below it. And if your jig gets off-coarse, a simple mend will pull bait back into position. Make sure to cast far enough upriver to allow your jig to settle into place, before it reaches the promising holding water.

Start with a 30-pound floating braided line for your mainline tied to a #10 barrel swivel. From the swivel, tie 30-inches of 8-pound fluorocarbon leader that is tied directly to your jig. Using a fixed bobber with a long wire tail will help you see exactly what your jig is doing below the surface and if your line needs to be mended. Having your jig fishing within a foot of the bottom is ideal, but not necessary. Many times Steelhead will move off the bottom to attack your jig, just be ready when this happens as many times the fish will bite your jig and continue right to the surface and make a nice aerial display.

The Necanicum River has a very gentle gradient and tends to be a very snaggy river, loaded with woody debris. When fishing at, and above, Klootchy Park one of the only ways you can effectively fish is with a bobber and jig. Following the river from Klootchy upriver to Hwy 26, you can cover a lot of water with varied holding water that all can be fished with a bobber and jig.

Kit #3: Side Drifting

Rod: Spinning, 9'6" 4~10 lbs
Reel: Spool capacity for 100-yards of 12-pound
Mainline: 12-pound high-vis monofilament
Leader: 48-inches of 10-pound fluorocarbon
Bait: 25-cent sized, Pink/ Peach Yarnie tied on a #2 hook
Weight: 4-shot slinky (.25 shot)
Where: Carver Park, Clackamas River

Side drifting provides one of the most ‘natural' ways to present a bait, in which a Steelhead would see one ‘naturally'. Since you will be baits will be drifting downriver at same pace as any ‘natural' food source that a Steelhead would attack. Side drifting is usually done from a driftboat or sled, but can be done from shore if there is access for you to walk with your bait downriver.

Start by positioning your boat at the top of a run, at a comfortable casting distance from promising water. Cast slightly upstream at a 30- to 45-degree angle. Use your oars or motor to keep your baits floating even with the boat. Try keeping the boat parallel to the water your fishing with your rod and line perpendicular to the boat. Don't allow your baits to float below the boat, since it's extremely difficult to detect a bite, recast or increase the speed of the boat downriver.

Use just enough weight so that your lead is touching bottom every one to two feet. If your baits are hanging up excessively, your are using too much weight. On the flip side, if you can't feel the river bottom within a second or two of casting; your using too little of weight. Slinky weights are the most popular for side drifting, but so is precut lead (held with surgical tubing) and stick stick weights.

A 36- to 48-inch leader of 8- to 10-pound test, is standard when side drifting; using lighter and longer leaders the clearer the water is. When fishing areas with lots of woody debris, like the coast, use single #1 hooks. When fishing larger rivers, like the Clackamas and Cowlitz, use double #2's or #4's. Tie your double hooks 1.5-inches apart with a small Cheater or Corkie in between the hooks.

High visibility mainline helps the anglers and boat operator keep things organized; detecting snags, tangles and fish quickly. Longer 9- to 10-foot rods are popular amongst Northwest Side Drifters, while shorter 8-foot, or less, rods are popular in California and Southern Oregon.

Small clusters of Salmon eggs are the bait of choice for most side drifters, though yarn ball and a bubble gum pink worm are good alternatives as well. When you detect a bite, hold steady and continue to allow the boat to float downstream. This will allow the slack in your line to come tight and allow for a solid hook set, leading to more fish landed.

When the Clackamas is running above 13-feet concentrate on the water above Carver, when the river level drops below 13-feet, target the water from Riverside to Carver. The key to being successful side drifting the Clackamas is to cover a lot of water. The holding water on the Clackamas isn't tough to identify, but when there is a lot of traffic on the water, look for water that is being passed up in between all the well fished waters.

Brian Hawkins with a Clackamas Winter Steelhead

KIit #4: Plug Fishing

The Kit:
Rod: 1-piece 8' 6~10
Reel: Smallest Line-counter series
Mainline: 50-pound high-vis super braid
Leader: 15-pound monofilament
Bait: Green Pirate K11X
Where: Oxbow Park, Sandy River

Watching a rod fold over in the holder as your slowly back-trolling downriver, is one of the greatest joys of a plug angler. Plug fishing for Steelhead is a technique done for the love of the technique as much for catching fish. While other techniques cover more water and promise higher catch numbers; plug fishing still holds its own amongst novice and experienced anglers. Plug fishing can be done throughout varied water conditions; low water, there's a plug for that: HotShot #30. High water, there's a plug for that: MagLip 3.5. Cold water, there's a plug for that: KwikFish K11X. Perfect ‘Steelhead Green' water: there's a plug for that: Tadpollys. If there is a river condition imaginable, there's a plug for it. With having so many plugs on the market, this usually results in low checking account balances and overloaded tackle boxes. There is no easy answer on which plug to use where, almost all plugs can be used in a variety of conditions and produce well. It's usually just depends on angler preference to what plugs they like wiggling at the end of their lines more than the budget they have to spend on new colors and models that catch anglers, just as well as fish.

When drifting into a promising looking hole, make sure you have the plugs ready to deploy. As soon as the oarsman can start slowing the boat, send the plugs downriver. Fishing the very head of a hole is not easy for plug anglers, so it's water often passed up and is a good place to target when rivers are crowded. Another area that gets overlooked by plug anglers is tail-outs. Just because you can see your plug bouncing in the shallows, doesn't mean that there are no fish there. Often times plugs can push Steelhead into tail-outs and only then will they be faced with biting the plug before retreating farther downstream.

When letting your plugs out, keeping them the same distance can evoke a strike as you work the holding water. The old saying, "Wall of death", refers to a row of plugs making a Steelhead attack a plug. With the use of line-counter reels, creating the "Wall of death" is extremely easy.

Launching the drift boat at Oxbow Park you can expect to encounter a dozen promising stretches of water that you can deploy your plugs, before reaching the takeout at Dabney Park. Since the Sandy River lives up to it's namesake, for being sandy, fish your plugs in the less turbulent water where suspended sand will keep fish from holding. Many times gravel glides and softer water will hold more Steelhead than the traditional looking water, especially if there is suspended sand in the water.

October 27, 2014

Coastal Fall Chinook Techniques and Rigging

by Andy Schneider

When trees deep in coastal canyons see less and less of daylight, their leaves start falling in such numbers that is almost seems like a winter snow storm. As the trees shed their beautifully colored fall foliage, much of their plumage finds it's way into the rivers turning tributaries into a flowing "Snow Globes" of leaves racing towards coastal estuaries. It's obvious that Fall Chinook don't mind the company of the leaves and they start their journey upriver.

Though Fall Chinook may welcome the cover leaves provide them in the river, anglers curse, fumble and repeatedly have to clean their gear just to get a chance at catching a Fall King enroute to it's spawning grounds.

While fall rains usually start rising coastal rivers in late October, it isn't until mid to late November where back to back freshets have cleaned out the rivers enough to make them somewhat tolerable to fish. With the first big freshet, anglers should start getting motivated to hit the river. On the second big rise, they better be greasing hubs, tying tackle and watching river levels closely. And on the third rise of coastal tributaries, anglers should already be on the river!

There are 4-main techniques for pursuing Fall Chinook in coastal tributaries: Bobber Fishing, Back Bouncing, Plug Fishing and Diver and Bait. All 4 techniques can be used in the same day and even in the same water, but knowing when to deploy specific techniques in specific waters is critical for consistently putting fish in the boat.

Bobber Fishing

Bobber fishing is the most popular technique for bank anglers, since it allows someone that is fishing from shore to fish just as effectively as someone fishing out of a boat. Bobber fishing is most effective in deeper holding water that is moving a little slower than the main current. Though bobbers can be fished through fast water, they are not as effective as when fished on current seams, in back eddies and the bottom end of holes. Bobbers are the perfect "catch all" when it comes to water that is tough to read and not effectively fished with other techniques.

Make sure to have a good selection of bobbers when hitting the river. Bank anglers may need to use larger 2- to 3-ounce bobbers for better casting. While boat anglers may need 1- to 3-once bobbers for different water conditions in different sections of the river; using smaller bobbers in light flows and heavier bobbers in bigger flows.

Back Bouncing

Undoubtably some of most exciting salmon fishing you can experience is when your moving your bait downriver and a salmon grabs it and starts playing tug-of-war! Since there is no exercise available at the gym to get you in-shape for a full day of back bouncing, take some Ibuprofen and be prepared to have a soar forearm the following day.

Back bouncing is most effective in fast deep holes where salmon could be spread out from the top to the bottom. Instead of looking for current seams and slower water, target the main current and the deepest parts of the river. Salmon actively moving upriver will be found in these areas and respond to well presented eggs. As you move downriver, you will need to adjust your weight. 10-ounces could be needed at the top of a hole in heavy current and only 2-ounces at the bottom as the current softens. With each "Bounce", you want to be moving your bait downriver approximately 6-inches. If your bait is moving downriver too fast, add more weight. When you have moved your bait downriver as far as seams reasonable, reel it up, rebait if needed and start again.

Plug Fishing

There is just something crazy addictive about watching your rod bounce, hesitate, wiggle-wiggle, hesitate again, then fold over as a Chinook grabs a plug your slowly back trolling downriver. Either from a drift boat or a sled watching a plug rod can be mesmerizing and with each hesitation of the rod, your heart stalls for a second or two, hoping a fish has grabbed your baited plug.

It's strange that Plug fishing doesn't seam as popular as Bobber fishing or Back Bouncing, but right now there are more Salmon catching plugs on the market than ever before. 4.5 and 5.0 MagLips, HawgNose FlatFish, K15X's and K16X's require little or no tuning, don't need a diver and are extremely productive at catching Fall Chinook. But don't forget about old favorites that still catch fish, like; Magnum Wiggle Warts, M2 FlatFish, K15 and K16's. Fish any of these plugs with a "Plug Specific" rod, that are available from every popular manufacturer and you have a tasty recipe to catch some Salmon.

Make sure to pay attention to the action of the rod tip when running plugs, to make sure the plug is running properly and not fouled with leaves and debris.

Diver and Bait Fishing

If you have anglers on board that are not the most proficient at Back Bouncing, then running Diver and Bait is your best alternative. Sometimes slowly backing down a fresh Sandshrimp or cluster of eggs can be the most effective technique to pursue Fall Chinook that have had a parade of drift boats floating over them all day. When deploying your diver and bait, make sure to send it down slowly. Holding your thumb on the spool, make sure that your diver is down on the bottom before you slowly let it out to your desired distance. That way you don't miss any fish holding in the very top of your run.

September 01, 2014

Buoy 10 in transition, Coho bite goes from good to amazing!

by Andy Schneider

Starting Tuesday, September 2nd, Buoy 10 officially transitions from Chinook fishing to Coho fishing. Coho fishing has been gaining momentum in the Columbia Estuary over the last couple weeks, until this weekend where it when from good to phenomenal! With a Chinook prediction of 1.6-million fish entering the Columbia this Summer/ Fall, fishing should have been at an unprecedented level this year. Anyone that fished Buoy 10 this year knows that it wasn't easy fishing and Chinook limits took work. Chinook fishing was good, but it was far from 1.6-million good. While most believe that 1.6 Chinook prediction will fall short, the 964,000 Coho prediction seems to be right on the money.

A pair of Coho caught this morning, 1 of 3 doubles

Why this weekend the Coho decided to pull into the Estuary is anyones guess, but with a 3-fish Coho limit; fish boxes should fill especially quick. Not only are the Coho very plentiful at Buoy 10 right now, they are bulging to obscene levels as they binge on the ample groceries in the Columbia estuary. Big schools of anchovies are nothing new to the Columbia Estuary, but the biomass of these small baitfish seem especially plentiful this year. On normal years Coho put on a pound a week, just before making their sprint to the tributaries. But this year, most Coho seem to be putting on 1.5- to 2-pound of weight and are outweighing many of the Chinook swimming alongside them.

Luis Zebede (left) with a coho and Kris Spencer (right) with a Chinook of equal size

Buoy 10 Coho Tackle and Techiques
Keep is simple when Coho is the game plan. 12-ounce lead cannon balls dragging the bottom works great for catching Chinook in the Columbia Estuary, but can be a little challenging to use when targeting Coho. Using a Delta Diver (with or without a fish flash), a 5-foot mooching rig with 2- 4/0 Barbless hooks is about as simple of a rigging you can get when fishing salty waters. Since Coho tend to suspend in the top 35-feet of water, divers are very effective at targeting meandering Coho.

Using plug cut herring or anchovies are top choices, but tying on a spinner can be especially effective when the Coho are thick. Many times a Coho will steal your bait without you ever noticing, especially when trolling divers, so a spinner always insures that you are still fishing.

Once you locate a school of Coho, stay with them. This sounds pretty obvious, but is so much easier to just keep trolling than to pull gear and make another short pass. When you keep trolling you may troll into another school of biting fish, or you may not. To keep good number of Coho coming over the rail, you need to do the work and pull gear and make another pass as soon as your bites thin out. You would think with a 3-mph outgoing tide, that those Coho would wash right out of the estuary, but they will often hold in very tight schools, either heavily feeding on the baitfish washing past them or waiting for the current to slacken before moving again.

Bring a 'Release Net' when targeting Coho, not only are they gentle on the fish, they are so much easier to untangle a harvested fish in the washing-machine conditions of Buoy 10. Coho being Coho are going to test your tackle and patients with barbless hooks, utilizing longer rods helps keep tension on the fish during their thrashing and jumping antics.

Though Upriver and Midriver Brights are getting all the attention upriver, the Coho rodeo is just getting started at Buoy 10 and shouldn't slow down till mid-October. September offers some of the most pleasant weather of the entire year and with swarms of Coho invading the river with each tide, there may not be a better time to have a phenomenal day of fishing.

Missy Schneider with Buoy 10 Coho

Coho getting bigger by the day!

July 30, 2014

Swimbaits for Albacore

by Andy Schneider

Swimbaits for Albacore

There is nothing better than catching any fish with the lightest tackle possible and still being able to land the fish. This applies to Albacore fishing too; nothing beats almost getting beat by a hard fighting Tuna! If you have ventured over the 125-line before, you most likely know that using Swimbaits is must in August and through September.

Interview with an Albacore
Trying to figure out what size, color and shape of Swimbait to use can be tough. At times Albacore can be boat shy and will sound to depths when they sense a boat within a 100-yards and other times, the Albacore will charge across your prop wash and inhale your beat-up Swimbait that has caught 5 fish before this one. Why is there such a drastic difference at times? There are plenty of theories floating around on internet forums why these fish behave so different. To get the true answer, you simply need to ask an Albacore. Okay, so there is no way to interview an Albacore.....yet, though Ron Popeil is getting close. But we can take a look at the contents of an Albacore's stomach to get a lot of our answers.

A lot of times a Albacore will start to regurgitate it's stomach contents during a prolonged battle. This regurg' will show what it just got done eating before dining on your Swimbait. If the Albacore doesn't 'volunteer' it's stomach contents for you, you can easily open up the stomach and see what groceries they have been feeding on. More than likely you will find; squid and Candlefish, with Anchovies, Mackerel and Sardines rounding out their diet. With the current diet of Oregon Albacore confirmed, you can 'Match the Hatch' and increase your success ratio drastically.

Matching the Hatch
Anchovies are one of the most mimicked bait fish when it comes to Albacore fishing off the west coast. But if the Albacore are feeding on Candlefish instead of Anchovies, there is a big difference, about 1- to 2-inches in bait size. So you need to downsize your offering to properly match what the tuna are feeding on. You can do this by buying freshwater bass swimbaits. What? Largemouth or Smallmouth Bass lures for Albacore? Yep, next time your at your favorite tackle store, slink over to the Bass section and you will be amazed at how many and how lifelike this tackle section is. Swimbaits have not only taken the Saltwater market by storm, they have been going like gangbusters in the freshwater bass market, nation wide. The freshwater Bass market has a much larger consumer base than us West Coast Albacore fisherman; so they have much more to offer in the swimbait market, and Albacore definitely don't seem to mind that the bait was manufactured for freshwater instead of salt.

To get your smaller offering to the Albacore, takes a lighter line and lighter action rods. 20-pound fluorocarbon or fluorocarbon highbred are a must when casting to spooky fish and using a light action saltwater spinning rod works great for 40- to 50-yard casts.

Largemouth Bass Swimbaits, not just for 'bucketmouths'!

When Albacore get picky later in the season, it pays to have the most realistic lure to match what these fish are currently feeding on. Even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone and heading to the 'Freshwater section'!

June 29, 2014

Reading a Tide Book

by Andy Schneider

"Time and tide wait for no man," has been a saying I've only heard when one boater is describing another boater stranded by the tide. It's not that I don't attend Free Verse Poetry Meets and Idioms of Phrase Workshops and hear these sorts of clever quotes all the time. Well, okay, maybe I don't frequent establishments where Poe, Frost and Dickinson are regularly quoted. But a boater walking around his stranded boat brings out the poet in even the most hardy of angler.

One sure way to avoid running aground is to be aware of what the status of the tide is and how it will effect the area you plan on navigating through.

Not just little books anymore
When the first iPhone was released in 2007, a new trending word debuted as well; App. App is short for Application Program or Application Software. Many may think that an App is only as complicated as Angry Birds, Facebook, Twitter or SnapChat, but there is some incredibly useful App's available in todays market. While the iPhone may have kickstarted the whole ‘App' craze, any mobile phone (yes even flip phones) sold in the last couple years has the availability to download App's. There are countless App's on todays market that are designed to assist in showing and predicting tides, some of the more popular ones are: WillyWeather, Tides, Tide Graph, Magic Seaweed, Nanoos and TidesPlanner just to name a few. But if your phone has internet capabilities, you can just as easy ‘Bookmark' some popular tide websites like: ProTides, Westfly, Saltwatertides and NOAA.

Even fish finders and chart-plotters have tide predicting capabilities. Just about any piece of marine electronics sold in the last 5-years should have tide and current prediction software either built in or available in an SD Card upgrade. One advantage with a chart-plotter predicting your tides over your smartphone, is that you don't need cellular service to review tides.

Predictions vs. Reality
While tides can be predicted years in advance; winds, river run-off and even atmospheric pressure can effect the tides. On the Columbia River flows change drastically throughout the year, effecting the tides in the estuary. With Bonneville Power Administration having to do court ordered spills, releasing water do to excess power from wind turbines and strong spring runoffs this can all but eliminate the tidal influence in the Columbia River. Don't expect an strong incoming tide in the spring similar to what we get in the fall around Buoy 10 season, it just doesn't happen when there is so much flow coming down the Columbia.

Many times anglers and boaters complain that the tide isn't doing what "The Book" says it should be doing; outgoing current past low tide, incoming current past high tide and asking when high or low slack is.

First, is ‘The Book' accurate? The standard ‘Free' tide table book you get with a store's logo on it is only accurate for where the store told the printing company to make it ‘adjusted' for. If a stores location is in Tillamook, Oregon then, more than likely, the tide table book was adjusted for Tillamook County Beaches. If you want to find what the tides are going to be inside Tillamook Bay, you will have to add a ‘adjusted' amount of time to the high tide and a different ‘adjusted‘ amount of time to low tide. Usually a conversion chart is provided in the tide book somewhere. Just remember how much you ‘paid‘ for the free tide table book and that the store supplying the free books isn't relying on the accuracy of the tide like you may need to.

Second, a tide books prediction is for high and low tides, not current or lack of. A printed high or low tide prediction is for the state of the tide when at its highest (or lowest) level. Current can be a result of the changing tide, but current doesn't always follow the tide. When the tide reaches it's lowest point, you still may have an ebbing flow (or outgoing current) even when the level of the tide (and water) has started rising. The same may happen at high tide, but with a flooding flow (or incoming current) when the level of the tide (and water) has started dropping.

Third, there is no "slack" in the tide. Every angler uses the terms, "high slack" and "low slack". But technically there is no such thing as a high or low "slack" tide. Just when the tide reaches its highest level, it's immediately on the drop again, when the tide reaches its lowest level, it immediately starts rising again. A slack current may occur close to high and low tide, but not necessarily.

Tide Trivia
Why don't tides occur at the same time every day? While it takes the earth 24 hours to make a revolution, it takes the moon 24-hours and 50-minutes to make a revolution around the earth. Since tides are effected by the moon's gravitational pull, not the sun's, tides get 50-minutes later every day.

When do tides have the biggest exchange? Every new and full moon, will have the highest and the lowest of the tides (called spring tides). The first and last quarter of the moon, will result in the least difference between high and low tide (called neap tides).

Are there tides offshore? Yes, but usually with less than 1.6-feet of difference.

Where are the highest tides? In the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Canada, where tides have a range of 44.6-feet.

May 27, 2014

Salty Camping

by Andy Schneider

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional 'kick-off' of the Camping season for us here in the Pacific Northwest. While weather doesn't always cooperate, temperatures are usually pretty pleasant. While a 70-degree day on the coast doesn't sound like anything special, I believe that it's some of the beast weather any camper or angler could ask for. Mild temperatures, usually mean a cooperative ocean with light winds, making for some good fishing and an enjoyable night around a campfire.

On a spur-of-the-moment thought, we decided to see if we could find a camping spot at Barview Jetty Campground for the weekend. Surprisingly enough, there were spots still available and we booked them with the plan to fish Halibut Saturday, Bottom Fish Sunday and Salmon Fish Monday. But before we could head down to Barview camping, there was still one more Shrimping date in Hoods Canal. So, Wednesday I headed north to Shrimp on a friends boat. I didn't know what to expect, after seeing pictures of some chaotic ramp-lines, tangled buoys and crowded boating conditions. I was pleasantly surprised how smoothly everyone shrimped together. It wasn't much of a challenge to get the boat limit of shrimp and we had some good conversations with fellow boaters on the water while waiting for the season to start. I'll definitely be heading north again next year to partake in more shrimping.

Saturday's ocean prediction wasn't one that you get all excited about, there was no daydreaming of a wide-open-throttle run to the Halibut grounds and back. It was going to be a slow run out and a slightly faster run back. But, it's okay to have days like that, it definitely makes you appreciate the days when the Pacific does finally lay down and speeds above 20-knots are the rule, not the exception. We got to Halibut Hill in a little over an hour and were soon backing down on the drift, trying to keep our 2-pounds of lead in close contact with the bottom. Fishing was pretty slow till high tide, then fishing dramatically improved and soon we were consistently pulling Chickens from the depths. I invited a friend and his son along to venture offshore for Halibut. Neither of them had caught a Halibut before and both wanted to give it a try. Being Northwest transplants from the mid-West, they both commented that Halibut fishing resembled more work than sport. How true that is! Making multiple drops and retrieves in 800-feet of water doesn't feel much like a, "sport". By 11:30 we had landed our 5th keeper for the day to limit out the boat and I pointed to boat east and set a comfortable pace towards port.

Dave with his first Halibut

Cole with his first Halibut

I even got to take one home

Sunday we woke to a much nicer ocean and after some campsite baked cinnamon rolls, we turned left just past the sunken south jetty, aiming towards Three Arch Rocks.

We settled in 120-feet of water and had to make multiple passes to finally find the fish and what they were biting on. But once we found that they were passing on Diamond Jigs and looking for lifelike swimbaits, fishing was pretty consistent. I usually only like to keep 3-pound or larger Blue and Black Rockfish, releasing the smaller ones. But today, we didn't have to release any, as all fish coming up were above-average in size.
Brenda with a, "Above-average" Black Rockfish

The Lingcod bite was a little slower, but we did find some quality keepers:

Salmon fishing had slowed in the Bay, so we decided to take Monday off from fishing. We got to sleep in till a little after 6:30 (camp life starts early in Barview I guess), decided to pack up before the next rain shower and grabbed our coffee and breakfast burritos from Lindsey's Lattes on our way through Tillamook.

Compared to camping next to a high alpine lake, there is a lot more work involved when camping and fishing on the coast. But the coastal bounty that rewards hearty campers is worth the effort!

April 16, 2014

Kings for the Kids

by Andy Schneider

Kings for the Kids

3am comes early, especially after a hard day of fishing the previous day, but that didn't slow anyone down as I rolled into our rendezvous spot in Troutdale. Where lumbering semi-trucks idled noisily next to each other with their drivers somehow sleeping inside. But the crew didn't wake any grumpy truck drivers and everything was loaded in record time and I was pulling onto I-84 with a strong tailwind pushing us towards Drano Lake.

Mid-span on the Bridge of the Gods, confirmed that we had at least a 20-mph west wind that was going to put some white caps on top of the water at Drano. Now wind is usually a menace to fisherman and is often cursed and responsible for challenging boat maneuverability, tangled fishing lines and skunked fishing days. But when the West wind is blowing up the Columbia River Gorge when Dam counts are consistently over 5000-fish a day, it's going to be a great day at Drano Lake! For what ever reason a choppy lake and windy conditions, makes for some great Spring Chinook Fishing at Drano.

While we arrived at the boat ramp at 3:45, a solid 2-hours before legal fishing hours, we were not alone and still had to wait through a half dozen boats launching before our boat was lined up and backed into the dark and rough waters of Drano Lake. While the wind at Cascade Locks was only 20-mph is was blowing a solid 30-mph with higher gusts drowning out any shouted conversation the crew attempted. With the truck strategically parked (to ensure a quick and eventless exit to the weigh in), the crew loaded, I motored the boat a 1/2 mile east of the boat ramp and nosed the boat ashore amongst breaking waves on to the gravely shore of the Lake. With the boat rocking side to side, the wind whistling through the line on the rods, I started the task of wrapping egg-cured sardine wraps onto our MagLips.

While today I was solely using Pautzke Fire Cured sardine fillets, yesterday I was experimenting with 1/2 the lures in Amerman's Salmon Cure and 1/2 in Pautzke; yesterday the Springers preferred the Pautzke slightly over the Amerman's, though both cures caught fish. So I was betting that the Springers still had an appetite for Pautzke soaked fish fillets today. Soon I had 20-MagLips baited up and sitting on ice ready to be deployed and swapped out at needed.

Soon a glow started in the east and ever so slowly the Columbia Gorge started to materialize out of the darkness; legal fishing time was almost here and the start of the Kings for the Kids Tournament. The day before we had noticed that there was a flurry of action just after 1st light and slowly tapered at the same pace as the wind dissipated in the Gorge. So the Crew put together a 3 part plan:

1) I would get the 1st fish (since it counted for both Teams).

2) Clear all rods as quick as possible when we got a fish on, to insure we don't tangle and loose tournament winning fish.

3) Once a fish is in the net, get that fish to the bow of the boat and out of the way. Bleed it, stow it and tag it. All the while a new plug is clipped on and sent on it's way behind the boat again.

I wish I could say that I contributed something to this plan, but my Crew came up with it all on their own and put it into action like a well oiled machine.

Fishing 5 plugs 75-feet behind the boat,without tangling, can be a challenge on a calm day, but add 30- to 35-mph winds and white caps bouncing the boat side to side; it becomes....well, easy to knit a sweater with fishing line. But keeping all the rods in holders, as far aft as possible and deployed in specific order, we avoided tangles throughout the morning.

The 1st hour of the morning was a blur of buried rods, quick fights, mad dashes to the bow of the boat with a fish, then a mad dash to the back of the boat chasing a screaming drag. All said and done, we each got a fish, didn't loose any, no tangles, no injuries and an amped crew, myself included! The action on Drano, just didn't slow in the morning sun, it plain died and we did not see another fish caught after 8am.
Big fish of the Tournament (2011)

Brenda Skinner with her fish

Tom VanderPlaat with his Drano Springer

Drano Spring Chinook

As luck would have it, my boat was responsible for Big Fish (winning a trip to Alaska), 1st place and 2nd place Teams. It was neat to have such a successful day, but it was truly amazing to see how my Crew all worked together for a common goal; to have a great time and help out a great fund raiser for Foster Kids!

"May 3rd is the date this year for the Tournament," says Rick King, founder and main organizer of the event. "This will be the 13th year of the Tournament and with a big Spring Chinook run predicted, it should be a success for anglers and Foster Kids!"

Kings for the Kids funds Christian Based Summer Camps for abused and neglected, local foster kids ages 7 to 11. The camps are a week long and include fishing, swimming, archery, hiking, horse-back riding and crafts. "The camps also have a counselor for every 2 kids, to make sure that no kid goes unnoticed." Explains King.

"We also use some of the revenue the Tournament raises for giving Christmas presents to teenage foster kids." Says King. "There seems to always be a lot of donations for young children around Christmas time, but not necessarily for teenagers, so we make sure that teenage kids in foster care don't get forgotten during the holidays."

"Kings for the Kids is also looking at helping homeless teenagers getting off the street and back into school and hopefully into a college." Kings explains hopefully.

Revenue generated by the Tournament has to go a long way, but King definitely makes the money stretch. While there are much larger charity organizations out there, Kings for the Kids definitely fills in all the ‘voids' that are often forgotten, all the while helping local children in need.

To participate you can Register to be a guided angler. For $175 you will get a full day of guided fishing. Or, you can register as a self guided team of 3 people for $75 per person. Spring Chinook must be caught within a 100-mile radius of Portland and be checked in by 4pm. Team score will be determined by total inches of Salmon landed by the team. The biggest fish, actually the longest fish, will win a $500-cash prize.

After a fun day of fishing, a catered dinner will be waiting for the anglers at the Milwaukie Christian Church, where folks can catch up with old friends and make some new ones. There will be a silent auction and a raffle for lots of fishing and outdoor gear.

If your looking to fish in the tournament or would like to help volunteer your time or services, contact Rick King at 503-709-6603 or www.kingsforkids.org.

March 27, 2014

Spring Break; it's not just for kids!

by Andy Schneider

I remember looking so forward to Spring Break as a kid. My parents were great and we always planned something fun; the beach, fishing, arcade, sleep over with friends and even camping. Now as I see my son's excitement grow at the approach of Spring Break, I find myself looking forward to it all over again.

Spring Break 2014 didn't start until Sunday for us and we decided to hit the Multnomah Channel for some Spring Chinook with some great weather. We hit the water at the crack of 8-am and had a bite on our very first pass. Family friend, Brenda, landed her first Salmon of the year after a record 30-second fight:

After trolling another 100-yards, Missy was next to hook up, on her first day of fishing of the year, bringing some tasty Salmon home for us to enjoy:

While the weather only got better, we didn't have any more action, though we did see a fair number of fish caught.

Monday I invited a friend from work and his daughter to see if we could duplicate the results from Sunday. With the temperatures in the high 60's, the weather and scenery couldn't be topped, but the fishing had slowed considerably for us. Brenda took some great photos of the wildlife:

Tuesday, I hooked the driftboat up and chased the sun to eastern oregon to a special little reservoir where they had been stocking lots of 'Stockers' and 'Trophy' fish. We trolled the new mini Simon's lures behind some lake trolls and had a great time catching lots of fish and Ayden caught one monster 28-inch, 12-pound Trout, yes TROUT! The 4-pound fluorocarbon line was put to the test with this beast!

Wednesday, we decided to take it easy and anchor up on the Willamette in Oregon City and let the fish come to us. We were seeing lots of Steelhead caught around us and where just waiting for them to find our lures. As Ayden was standing on the back deck, with a mouth full of Doritos, a Steelhead slammed a K14 and takes airborne. While I'm inside the cabin staying dry, Ayden rushes in, spilling chips, incoherently yelling something and frantically pointing to the rod. Laughing, I told him that he better finish his Doritos and grab that rod. And after choking down a mouthful of dry, cheesy chips, Ayden brings a nice Native Steelhead to the side of the boat:

Thursday, I have to head back to work (to recuperate) but Grandma is taking him to the Arcade. Spring Break usually doesn't present us with overwhelming beautiful weather, but getting everyone out of the house and seeing life start anew is what makes this time of year so special. Now if only I had the energy to keep up with a 9-year old all week long…...

February 26, 2014

Native Steelhead time of year!

by Andy Schneider

What is a "Native Steelhead" to you? Is it simply a hinderance trying to catch your Hatchery limit? Is it a genetically polluted unclipped Hatchery fish? Or is it a species all to it's self, full of; life, fight and vigor in the frigid winter waters? Is a Native Steelhead part of a pursuit that draws you to shadowy canyons lined with towering conifers and moss covered leafless trees? A Native Steelhead is undoubtably the King of our Pacific Northwest waters this time of year. Sure a Hatchery Steelhead may come along that fights just a little harder than the last "cookie cutter" Hatchery fish, but once it's bonked, bleed and in the fish box, it's fight is quickly forgotten. On the other hand, a mildly blushed, mid-teen Native Steelhead caught on a Metallic Red TadPolly just above below mile marker-10, in the extreme tail-out of the hole and drug your drift boat bouncing down the shallows to the next hole, can still be remembered today even though it will be 4-years ago this February 17th.

Native Techniques
There is no "specific" technique to catch only Native Steelhead. Native Steelhead tend to bite everything that their Hatchery cousins do, so there is no need to go out and learn the new technique of, fishing a plug under a bobber. But, what you can do, is modify your tackle slightly to help reduce the risk of injury to a Native Steelhead.

Plugs-There is nothing quite like watching a plug rod take a violent plunge as a Steelhead grabs the plug and the bites only get more savage when a Native takes the bait. First, you need to bump up your pound test your using. 20-pound test is not too heavy, even in the clearest of waters. When plug fishing for Steelhead, heavy leaders just don't spook the fish and they are a huge benefit when retrieving snagged plugs or turning a fishes head as it races upriver, trying to get to the next hole. Second, switch out your trebles to siwash hooks. While there is no published report on the mortality rate of a treble hook over a siwash hook, anyone that has landed a big Steelhead after an extended fight can see how much damage a treble hook can deliver. A #1 sized siwash works well for smaller plugs, like HotShot 30's, while 1/0 siwash hooks work well for K11X's and MagLip's 3.5.

Sidedrifing- Your bait is softly bouncing along the emerald green water drift, when suddenly you don't feel bottom anymore. You pull back lightly on the rod and feel two surges back to back, then a flash of chrome breaks the surface of the water and splashes down next to the far bank. Sidedrifting is a balance of; long rods, long leader, light weight and small baits. If you change too much of your sidedrifting configuration, you loose it's effectiveness. But you can easily change up-size your hooks without altering your setup. Instead of two #4-hooks, switch to a single #1 hook. Having a little larger hook will help prevent a swallowed bait and allow you to put heavy pressure on the fish without bending the hook. Utilize the length of the long sidedrifing rods and keep them loaded up, this will help win battles sooner.

Diver and bait: Just say no! There is no excuse for using diver and bait in a river where you have a good chance of catching a Native Steelhead. There is a river in the Northwest that diver and bait is except able, the Cowlitz, but every other river in these parts should be free of anglers back-trolling bait in the month of February and March. Diver and bait is very successful at hooking fish deep in their throat and gills, more often than not, causing mortal damage. While diver and bait works, it doesn't work as well as a 3.5 MagLip in heavy flows or a #30 Hotshot in low, clear water. Why mess with the hassle of bait, when a plug is; easier, cheaper and more fun to use?

Native Steelhead are where?
A Native Steelhead has a genetic "drive" to explore the watershed, so it's anyones guess where Native Steelhead, are-not. The only river where a Native Steelhead is "unusual" is the Cowlitz, just about every other creek and river has a run of Native Steelhead in it. But there are a few rivers have little or no hatchery plants, like: the Trask, Kilches and the main stem Nehalem. Then there are rivers where it's a 50/50 ratio of Native Steelhead to hatchery: the Sandy, Kalama, Siletz and the Nestucca. But Native Steelhead can even be found in hatchery rich rivers, like: the Clackamas, Wilson, Necanicum and even Eagle Creek.

How to handle these fish
While there is no official, policy and procedure, for handling a Native Steelhead, there is definitely some standard operating procedures. With the following suggestions on handling a Native Steelhead, keep in mind that safety of an angler takes precedence over any fish and safety should be considered foremost when handling a feisty slime rocket.

-Waders, having waders on makes handling a Native so much easier, wether on a boat or bank. Having waders on while in a boat, you can hop out and handle the fish in the shallows near shore, instead of hanging over the gunnel of a boat. When wearing waders bank fishing, you can walk a fish up or down river to a more accessible spot to deal with the fish. Having waders also allows you to get right down into the water if you want to take a picture with a Native.

-Waterproof Camera's have come way down on price, you can buy a decent digital camera for less than $60. Having a camera you can dunk in the river and get a underwater shot of a fish, not only makes for some great and unique pictures, it doesn't stress out the fish. If you have a nice smart phone that takes great pictures, you can upgrade the case to completely waterproof cases, or buy inexpensive "ziplock" style phone bags. Or even keep a waterproof disposable camera onboard or in a vest pocket.

-Native Steelhead, being Native Steelhead can drag you up and down the river and sometimes will present you with no safe opportunity to land them in shallow water. Sometimes netting a Native is the safest for the anglers and the fish. But before you even hit the river, make sure you have the proper net. Keep away from green and blue net bags bought at "Save time, money and gas." one-stop-store and "Save Money. Live Better." massive retailers. Instead look to your fishing tackle retailer and look for rubber or rubber coated nets. Having wider, softer netting helps keep a Native from harm. When you net a Native, don't pull the entire fish out of the water, simply grab part of the net bag and lift the tail out of the water, leaving the head and gills submerged. Not having it's tail in the water will keep the Native from trying to swim in/into the netting.

-Pliers should be standard equipment for just about every angler, but having an extra pair or two and handy will help in getting a fish released quickly. Trying to describe where you store your pliers to your 8-year old, as you hang over the gunnel with a thrashing fish, isn't easy on you or the fish.

-Handle with kid gloves, is a good motto to have when dealing with a Native Steelhead. Though actually wearing gloves that allow you to grip a fish, without harming it are a big help in cold winter waters. "Release fishing gloves" are gaining popularity in the Pacific Northwest and worth the investment.

January 01, 2014

Happy New Year! Small Water Tactics for Winter Steelhead

by Andy Schneider

In recent years the smaller creeks and rivers in the Northwest corner of Oregon are the first to get a push of Winter Steelhead. Many of these smaller creeks and rivers are too small or have too many obstacles for any boat, which means hiking up and down the riverbank. This can be extremely rewarding fishing and very productive. Fishing miles of river or multiple rivers in the same day, means that you are covering a lot of water and when you cover that much water, you definitely have a higher chance of success.

Approaching the water and how to dress:
If at all possible wade from downstream. Start at the bottom of the hole and work your way up. Make sure you stand back from where you want to fish. Staying 10-20 feet back from the water's edge will keep you hidden from the fish. These fish can get spooky at anything approaching the water's edge. Camouflage clothing would not be overboard, especially when the rivers are clear.

You are going to be hiking through varied terrain, and that requires clothing that can breathe, but also insulate you as you settle into a spot and fish for a while. Micro Fleece and Polypropylene are great fabrics, but also look to your waders to "breath", and keep you dry. Breathable waders are a must when hiking long distances. While neoprene waders are great for short hikes and prolonged stays in cold water, they do not breath and are restrictive for hiking. The angler attempting a long hike in neoprene waders quickly finds himself or herself tired and damp from perspiration.

Downsizing gear or not?
A lot of anglers go with shorter rods, but longer rods work better for line control in small water. Having to put up with overhanging brush and climbing over obstacles with a long rod can be difficult, but it's a small price to pay for having the right equipment to catch fish. You may need to downsize your gear, but not necessarily downsize your line. 12-pound test leader and main line on small water is not too big, unless there is a lot of angler pressure on the water. Having heavier line in smaller water is a great advantage, since fish will be more prone to head to cover and structure once hooked, fraying and breaking smaller test lines on branches and rocks.

Float fishing beads, jigs or eggs, is an extremely popular method of fishing small rivers. But drift fishing eggs, sandshrimp tails, beads and corkies all work well when used with light lead. 1 or 2 beaded slinkies is all that needed most of the time and sometimes, no weight is needed at all.

Spinners and plugs also work surprisingly well in smaller rivers, since fish can get very territorial.

Going prepared
You definitely need to tell someone where you are planning on fishing. The good thing about a small stream is that they clear fast, but they also rise fast. Many anglers have been stuck in canyons or stranded on islands. You definitely need to watch the water conditions and what is happening in the headlands.

Put your cell phone into a Ziploc bag to insure that it will still work incase of an accidental submersion. Carrying the basics 1st Aid supplies while fishing is always a good idea, but having a well prepared 1st Aid kit, can save your fishing trip for the day and keep you and a friend fishing

While this New year left us with low and clear water, don't think that the rivers are too low to fish, many rivers that are usually navigable for boats are now too low. Fishing this larger rivers like the small streams that they resemble currently will produce results.

December 28, 2013

Winter Fishing

by Andy Schneider

The winter months in the Pacific Northwest can be a little dreary, gray, cold and almost always wet. Winter sports are a great way to fully enjoy our too short daylight hours; skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, muddy-trail hiking and fishing. To some an ‘adventure' outdoors this time of year is hitting after Christmas sales with a skinny-peppermint-not-too-hot-grande-mocha. But to the rest of us that need to feel the crisp winter air in our lungs or hear the sound of a heavy coastal mist dripping off our Gore-Tex; Winter Steelhead Fishing is what keeps Seasonal Depression at bay and keeps us checking river forecasts through the work week.
The start of the 2013/2014 Winter Steelhead season has presented us with low and clear coastal rivers and local rivers bouncing between too high and too low. But despite some challenging river conditions my crew and I have made it out on a couple successful trips. Last week with low and clear water conditions on the coast we targeted as low in the system as we could. While our target species of the day was a Winter Steelhead, we ended up finding only Chinook willing to bite our Steelhead sized plugs. Good friends; Tom VanderPlaat and Pat Abel joined my son and I for a low water float. We were not alone in our desire to get out on the water after the extended cold stretch and we found ourselves competing for valuable holding water. But we were persistent and slowly worked anything that looked like it could hold a fish or two; with over 6-feet of visibility in the water that didn't leave too many options.
Pat deployed his favorite Steelhead plug, a 3.5-MagLip lovingly called, Dr. Death and was rewarded with a hookup almost instantly. But after an extended battle the Chinook was lost. During the fight, we drifted down and were now positioned at the top of the next hole. After the plugs were deployed, I hadn't made but a couple of strokes of the oars when Tom's rod folds over, only to come back wiggling with the action of the plug. With all our attention on Tom's missed opportunity, we missed that Pat's rod was completely buried and line was screaming from the reel at an alarming rate. Since we were still positioned at the top of the hole, I pulled us higher into a small back eddy to fight the fish. But Pat protested any boat movement upstream, since he was still quickly loosing line. Thinking that Pat may have been ‘codling' the fish, I went ahead and dropped anchor only to see Pat's fish roll at the very bottom of the hole and seeing the backing peeking through the braided line. So I pulled anchor and we chased Pat's fish. It wasn't until the fish was in the net did Tom and I truly appreciate the size of the fish; which weighed in at 40.8-pounds, minus guts and gills at Pat's house.

After such a great battle with big fish on extremely light Steelhead tackle; we decided that a shore lunch was in order. Tom put on a gourmet lunch of Moose Brauts, grilled hoagie buns and fresh veggies.

While lunch was cooking, Ayden took time to perfect his line mending with a Bobber and Jig.

There was only one more bite for the day and it again came on Pat's, Dr. Death. But the fish quickly shook the hooks loose, before they could even be set.
While our target species eluded us, the fun of watching a Fishing Guide battle a monster of a Chinook that left him with the ‘Shakes'; definitely made the day.

Our next adventure took us to the same Coastal water, just a little higher in the system. I joined Tom, and our friend Kent, in his drift boat this time as we plugged and side drifted our way through almost 10-miles of low water.
The day was very heavy with coastal mist, saturating our raingear within the first hour of fishing. But even though the mist stayed consistently heavy, the beauty of a Coastal Rainforest still shone through.

In an especially deep hole, I was able to hook into my first Winter Steelhead of the season.

We continued our search downriver and Kent had success side drifting a Bobber and 12mm Bead, he was a little shy holding such a monster and let Tom hold it for him:

Kent was on fire and hooked another on Bobber and Bead, within 50-yards of the last fish; Kent handed the rod to Tom and Tom was able to land his first Winter of the season.

While the heavy mist continued all day, the fishing slowed to a standstill and we didn't see or hear of any other action the rest of the drift. But we were all happy to be on the 'books' with our first Winter Steelhead of the season, with hopes that there will be lots more to follow.

November 26, 2013

A new 'look' at Bottom Fishing!

by Andy Schneider

As the weekend approaches I'm continually 'scouting' online for where the best fishing is going to be. While online fishing reports are nice to look at, I don't pay them much attention other than for good read and fun entertainment. Too much has usually changed from the time that fish was caught, then posted and when I will be on the water; so I do my own scouting and research. I have a dozen or so 'Bookmarked' web pages I check as the weekend approaches, and when I clicked onto the Oceanside Web Cam and saw this:

I was thinking that a bottom fishing trip might just be in order; a quick check with NOAA and Swellwatch and I KNEW a bottom fishing trip was in order.

I teamed up with good friends, my son and faithful retriever and headed to the salt. Heading out of town the temperature dropped to 26 and hovered there all the way to coast where it started to warm up dramatically. It was easy finding a parking spot and soon we were heading over a flat bar and onto an even flatter ocean!

I pointed the boat south and our destination was only a short and comfortable ride away:

We started deep and worked our way shallower, finding lots of Blue and Black Rockfish, Cabazon, male Lingcod and a few Kelp Greenling. I sent down the GoPro just to see what the fish finder was showing and was simply amazed when I got home and inspected the video….there is a lot of fish down there!

Here you can just make out our Jig and Shrimp Fly:

As the day warmed, it soon became teeshirt weather! It was nice to feel a warm sun on the face again!

As we approached our boat limit, I was a feeling a little sad that we would have to leave this beautiful ocean and scenery:

But alas our fish box was full:

So we moseyed our way north at a leisurely pace and headed for the fish cleaning station. While at the docks a ODFW Creel Checker supplied me with a descending device that looks like it will work better than my homemade version.

While we labored on cleaning fish, my son made made a journey to the top of a sand dune for one last glance at the beautiful ocean:

Winter Bottom Fishing isn't for everyone, it means de-winterizing your boat only to re-winterize it when you get home. It also means taking it slow over a potentially icy coastal pass with a heavy boat where deicer will be present. But the rewards of fresh Lingcod and Black Bass seems to make up for all the work and preparations that a Winter Bottom Fishing trip may present. Oh, and I won't deny that it was nice to battle with a bunch of fish in day as the Fall Chinook season comes to a close and bites have been getting scarcer by the day.

October 29, 2013

Catching the beauty of the Northwest…and a few fish!

by Andy Schneider

Fall has to be one of the most beautiful times to be a resident of the Pacific Northwest. Not only are trees blazing with bright and beautiful colors, the sunsets and sunrises are spectacular through the crisp and clear air. The last two Mondays I have slipped the boat into cooling waters of two very different fisheries; the mouth of the Klickitat on the Columbia and the upper Tillamook Estuary. Both days have been slow when it comes to catching fish; but the scenery has been nothing short of amazing. With the sun rising at a much more gentlemanly hour, we have been witness to some of the best sunrises all season:

We even kept the company of the Moon when we started trolling our 3.5 MagLips through the unusually calm waters of the Columbia Gorge,

As the sun started warming the hillsides, the air was alive with Canadian Geese cackles, a few low hoarse calls of Mallards and plenty of squawking of local sea (river) gulls.

Just as the local wildlife was waking, so were a few Coho,

This fishery, at the mouth of the Klickitat, usually sees a surge of fresh coho around Halloween. The 10-year average fish passage at Bonneville Dam shows this peak of "B" run Coho usually has a peak of October 24th, supplying plenty of bright Coho to the Klickitat to extend this fishery well into November. But, to date, Bonneville Dam hasn't seen any secondary peak of Coho crossing the dam this month and only a slow and steady decline. Though most of those coho currently crossing the Dam are heading to the Klickitat this time of year and should provide steady, action for another couple weeks.

The following Monday, yesterday, the crew and I decided we would head west, instead of east. While fishing reports coming from Tillamook County remain somewhat slow, we decided to give it our best shot.

Rigging the boat the night before, I saw a glow coming from the backside of the house and was greeted by a amazing sunset! What the saying? "Red sky at night, sailor's delight." Well even this trailer sailor was definitely delighted by this beauty!

The next morning a chill in the air reminded us that Fall was here and it would be Winter soon. We decided to anchor up and run some KwikFish for the rest of the incoming tide, before exploring the tidewater of a Tillamook Tributary. The sunrise over the coastal mountain range was another reminder why I live in the Pacific Northwest,

Since no Chinook found our plugs too tasty to pass up, we went exploring;

The Tillamook Estuary is truly amazing, there are so many sloughs, ditches, river channels and winding waterways that you could spend a week exploring them all and still find more. We bobber fished, hover fished, back bounced and ran plugs. We saw schools of bright fish darting past the boat only to somehow disappear before the next hole. We found post spawned Chinook slowly cruising the surface and ones that couldn't "cruise" anymore. We did actually find some Chinook willing to bite and even managed to land a little guy….sorry no photos of him.

Just when we thought we had seen everything that Tillamook could offer up, we stubbled across this majestic eagle harassing the local waterfowl,

Sometimes the greatest "Catch" an angler can have is spending the day with close friends in the absolute beauty of the outdoors. I was lucky enough to share my adventures with friends, Brian and Brenda.

All photos where taken by Brenda Skinner while onboard, while I sometimes concentrate too hard on tackle, bait and navigating the boat, it's nice to have someone like Brenda onboard to capture all that is happening around us. As Brenda sends pictures to me at the end of the day, that don't always revolve around someone holding a fish, I feel like I'm living our fishing adventure all over again! Thanks Brenda!

September 25, 2013

Fall is definitely in the air!

by Andy Schneider

Usually Fall in the Pacific Northwest kind of creeps up on us, with days getting a little shorter, mornings a little chillier and the leaves on the trees gently transitioning into colorful displays of Fall. But this year, we just sort of got dumped right into Fall. Sunday, the first official day of Fall, hit the coast with a wet and windy storm. Sunday in the Metro area wasn't much better, fires were lit in fireplaces for the first time, furnaces kicked on and many Northwest Anglers decided to stay home, instead of facing the cold-truth that; Fall is here!

With miserable weather predicted all week, I was surprised to still able to round up a couple friends and hit the Columbia Gorge this week. West winds kept the rain into our faces as we watched rods wiggle, twitch and load up with Jumbo Divers and KwikFish. While the air temperatures hovered around the low 60's, the water temperature in the Columbia was in the high 60's still. But just a week prior the Columbia was running in the low 70's and the slight change in water temperature seemed to have a positive effect on getting the Fall Chinook to bite.

Just as the bow and stern lights were being stowed away for the day, by rod took a plunge and the clicker announced that I had a Chinook, attempting to shake loose the barbless hooks. But keeping constant pressure on the fish was all that was needed to land a nice Mid-River Bright.
A not-so-bright-mid-river-bright; but it cut red and tasted great!

After rinsing off the net and seeing the only other boat around us fighting a fish too, I had friends Brenda Skinner and Tony Bryant deploy their rods, hoping that a little flurry of activity would soon be upon us. Sure enough, halfway through tagging my fish, I hear a rod holder creak, turn and see Brenda's rod, laying limp and the line sagging. But that didn't last for long and everything came tight again in a hurry and her reel was loosing line quickly. Brenda landed her fish, I finished tagging mine and quickly swung Tony's rod over the side and deployed it as quickly as possible. As Tony and Brenda untangled her fish from the net, Tony's rod started sputtering and pulsing, before loading up with another Chinook.

With Brenda's fish still sliding around on the floor of the boat, Tony battled his Chinook with care as the slimy deck made for an interesting dance trying to stay upright. But Tony won the battle and was able to intercept one of the 20,000 fish crossing the Dam that day.
Tony Bryant and Brenda Skinner with their Chinook

Fishing slowed dramatically after the flurry, but we would be interrupted occasionally by a fish grabbing the plug, stripping 2- to 3-feet of line, before quickly dropping the KwikFish. No more fish were landed, but the scenery was picture perfect and a nice way to introduce us to Fall.

We pulled to the rocky shore near Tanner Creek to watch hundreds of Chinook staged just outside, with the occasional fish taking a run through the shallow waters towards the fish hatchery. Watching these fish swim through 3-inches of water is something else; it's truly amazing to watch them as they slide through the shallows, just hoping there is going to be deeper water ahead.
Those are hundreds of Dorsal fins sticking out of the water!

Those splashes are fish, not rocks!

As I arrived home and was putting gear away, I would just make out the faint sounds of migrating geese. Sure enough wing after wing of Canadian Geese were working their way south in their own migration.

While Fall might have snuck up and assaulted us this year with its cold, windy and darker days; it's hard not to enjoy all the scenery, fish and wildlife that Fall presents us with. Let's just hope that Fall treats us well and hands us gently over to Winter!

August 22, 2013

Upriver Bright Refresher

by Andy Schneider

Underneath all those water skiers, personal water crafts and pleasure boaters in the Columbia River there lurks a fish that has earned the respect of many fisherman, The URB, a Upriver Bright Columbia River Fall Chinook. These are some of the hardest fighting fish that swim in the Columbia. Need evidence? Just take a boat ride up the river from Longview to Troutdale. You will notice boats floating down river fighting these fish...a lot of boats. Because these URB's don't come right to the boat, it takes a while to subdue these fish that seem to average close to 30-pounds. And once an angler drops off of anchor to fight one of these URB's he may not be expected back to the hog line for upwards of 20 minutes.

LOCATION: From Longview to Troutdale you will find many hog lines that form every year in the exact same spots. There is a reason for this, these hog lines produce fish. But just because hog line fishing is so popular, doesn't mean you have to anchor in one to find fish. A great place to look for a place to fish is at home with a contour map of the Columbia River. Look for water that is 20-40 feet deep, out of the shipping channel, that is close to shore or an island. Continue to look for wing dams and pile dikes that have 20-40 feet of water at the end of them. Mark these "promising" areas on your map and go and fish them.

If you are fishing in an area that is heavily effected by the tide, start your day in a little shallow of water, 25-30 feet just after high tide. As the tide continues to run out and gets closer to low tide, move to deeper water 30-50 feet deep. Watch the hog lines, you will notice that the bite usually will start on the inside boats and work to the outside boats as the tide progresses.

SPECIFIC LOCATIONS: If you live somewhere between Rainier or Troutdale you are just minutes away from catching a Chinook, here are some specific locations to try:
Rainier/ Longview: Concentrate on fishing from Lord Island to Carroll Slough on the Washington side of the river. This is Wobbler fishing at it's finest, it seems that your location on the river doesn't matter as much as the quality of your presentation.

St. Helens: From Deer Island to the Lewis river you will find excellent places to anchor on the Washington side of the Columbia. Anchoring off of pile dikes along the shipping channel will produce the most fish.
Sauvie Island: All along the Washington shore directly across from Sauvie Island, from Frenchman's Bar Park to St. Helens; there are countless places to ambush a URB, the popularity of this stretch has grown in the last decade and requires finding a good anchor spot early and holding your boat with your trolling motor in reverse may be needed.

Government Island: Starting at the Hwy 205 Bridge to the very tip of Government Island you will find lots of 20-30 feet of water. Here is a place where the URB's spread out and finding some structure on the bottom may pay off. Try shallow water at the beginning of the tide and deeper water at the end of the tide. Plugs work excellent at the lower end of the island, while Wobblers are the top producers upriver. Towards the tip of Government Island there are some rocks and riprap that produce fish year after year.
Sandy River Mouth: This is where the Columbia starts to narrow for the first time and will concentrate these URB's. Fish from the power lines to Buoy 48 along the Oregon shore. Wobblers will account for most fish closer to the power lines, but spinners produce well upriver towards Buoy 48 where the current can be very strong. This area can support lots of boats, but don't be surprised by fisherman anchoring hours before light to guarantee their spot in the hog line. If Chinook fishing is a little slow, bring your Steelhead Spinning rod along and motor over to where the Sandy enters the Columbia and cast spinners in this 4-12 feet of water for Coho, which will stage in this area before heading up the Sandy.

TACKLE: The most popular lure for URB's is the wobbler. There are now well over a dozen brand name wobblers on the market, some of the most popular are: The Alvin, Brad's Wobbler, Brad's Mini-Extreme, Simon, Manistee, Clancy and The 10 Spot. Why so many? Because you will find yourself fishing at all different currents throughout the tide, so you must be prepared.

Fast current: Alvin, 10 spot and Clancy.
Medium Current: Alvin, Brad's Wobbler and Mini-Extreme Slow Current: Simon, Manistee and Brad's Mini-Extreme

It only makes sense to use the heavier gauge wobblers in faster currents and lighter gauge wobblers in slower currents. As tempting as it may be to bend or "Tune" your wobbler, don't do it. Instead switch it out to a wobbler that was designed for the current speed you're anchored in. Tuning a wobbler is only delaying the inevitable of having to switch your wobbler eventually because current speed is increasing or decreasing as the tide changes. Once you start "Tuning" a wobbler, you will be stuck having to "Tune" it every fishing trip till it fatigues and stops fishing effectivly.

July 07, 2013

Ocean Salmon; 2 months of great fun!

by Andy Schneider

July has to be one of the greatest months for Anglers in the Northwest, we have so many options available to us and all within a short drive. Columbia Summer Steelhead, Cowlitz River Summer Steelhead, Kokanee, Nehalem Bay Summer Chinook, Albacore, near-shore Halibut, Bottom Fish, Ocean Chinook and Ocean Coho....just to name a few! If one of these fisheries isn't producing, you can easily change it up and pursue another. July, I always find myself pulled in too many directions, usually leaving me with empty fuel tanks, not enough Food Saver bags or freezer space, but happy friends and family.

The first day of July I gathered up a crew of good friends, that have been nicknamed, "The Girls" due to the fact, that they are all girls....I know, I know, not very creative but it's fitting! I talked by son into going, knowing that he would be well entertained, well fed and completely doted upon by The Girls. The Girls also had a friend visiting from Minnesota, Gretchen, who had never caught a Salmon before (we can take care of that). The Ocean was predicted to be nice after a week straight of nice ocean conditions, so I planned on pursuing Salmon North out of the Columbia off of Long Beach. Chinook and Coho start staging the first part of July off the Columbia River mouth before entering in force the entire month of August, fueling the Buoy 10 fishery. A nice thing about this Long Beach fishery is that it's near shore (fishing in 40- to 60-feet of water), a short run from Illwako or Hammond and almost always provides lots of action.

A good place to start trolling for Salmon; the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

While the ocean forecast didn't turn out to be as decent as predicted, it was still fishable, even with a crew of "Girls". After a short run north, we dropped in straight off the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. The action started right away with feeder Chinook, missed bites and lost fish....but as The Girls quickly learned how to fight frenzied Salmon in turbulent conditions with barbless hooks, fish started coming over the rail on a regular basis.

As the tide turned, a extra strong Southern current picked up and we couldn't make any headway against it. So we reeled up, ran north to The Condos on Long Beach and trolled south with the current. Though the current had a speed of over 3mph, it didn't effect the fishing; in fact, it stirred up massive bait balls of Anchovies. The Anchovies would be so thick at times, that they would make the fish-finder completely useless. Common Murre's, Commerants and Pelicans were so distracted feeding on these schools of Anchovies, that the birds became a nuisance trolling through them, tangling gear and trying to dodge the plentyful droppings (some still gracing the roof of the boat when I got home).

Fishing was nothing short of amazing at times and impossible at others; since gear couldn't get back in the water fast enough after, bleeding the fish, rebaiting, retying leaders and tagging fish.

Dory fighting a nice Chinook that fought her all around the boat.

Finally got it!

Nancy with one of her two Chinook.

Ayden with one of his two Coho, a nice grade of fish for this time of year!

Gretchen with her 'First-Ever' Salmon, let's throw that one back for a bigger one....

That's more like it!

After each flurry of action, the fish would be moved from the fish-box into an insulated fish bag with lots of ice, to insure a high quality meal.

The wind picked up a little in the after noon and we called it a day with 9 fish on board, countless missed bites, a half-dozen released native Coho and Feeder Chinook. While we may not have limited the boat, The Girls were definitely not complaining of lack of action!

For the next 2-months, Chinook and Coho (when the season is open) will be available up and down our Oregon Coast, usually all within a couple miles of a Harbor entrance. We were using a combination of Anchovies, Plug Cut Herring and Coyote Spoons to entice our fish into biting. Pay attention to the near-shore Ocean forecast and take advantage of some of the fastest Salmon fishing in the Lower 48!

Brenda, Ayden, Dory, Gretchen and Nancy

June 18, 2013

High Altitude Kokanee!

by Andy Schneider

In the middle of heavy downpour in late January, I started looking at places I haven't yet camped and fished within a 4-hour drive of home. I came up with a short list and booked a couple different camprounds, one being Gull Point at Wickiup Reservior. With a promising weather forecast and decent fishing reports we all were looking forward to getting out of town. With the truck and boat loaded we headed out Friday after work and were making good time until we saw the "Sonic" sign in Madras. We were just in time for their "Happy Hour Shakes" , which are half off after 8-pm. Sonic's drive-through is large enough to accommodate our truck and boat, their shakes were entirely satisfying and very affordable; making it a great "half-way" stop.

The Gull Point campground was very nicely laid out, with pull throughs in just about every campsite, big enough for multiple rigs or trucks and boats. While there was no "Hook ups" for RV's I didn't hear anyone complaining. Since we reserved a campsite on the lake side, we could pull our boat onshore right below our campsite.

Our first morning at Wickiup was a little chilly at 4300-feet, but once the sun broke over the Cascades, it warmed quickly. The fishing was consistent, with a fish every 45-minutes from trolling. The morning bite was excellent, but tapered off too quickly. Even averaging a fish every 45-minutes-or-so, fishing would be easily defined as, "good", since the quality of fish was superb! We didn't catch one Kokanee that was smaller than 12-inches and even the smallest fish we got were over a pound; very plump fish!

Ayden showing off average Wickiup Kokanee

But the amazing part of fishing Wickiup was the shear beauty of the lake, with the glacier covered peaks surrounding the lake, it has to be some of the most scenic fishing that I have ever partaken in!

Father's Day, I awoke Ayden and we headed to the lake just after first light and were enjoying a great morning of catching fish and enjoying the scenery....you couldn't ask for a much better way to spend a Father's Day than with your son, who was truly enjoying himself too!

Downriggers loaded up at 12-feet for the morning bite

The dogs sure enjoyed Wickiup

When we finally made it back to shore, Missy was kind enough to have packed up a lot of camp and we were able to put the rest of camp together and make it out well before 'check-out time'.

While most journeys home after camping are a little on the 'ho-hum back to reality now' blues, we were all still pretty excited to have found such a gem of a campground, lake and scenery and know we will be back again soon! That and the Java Chiller Mocha (with an extra shot) from Sonic made the drive home much more enjoyable too!

Ayden couldn't get enough of fishing, luckily he didn't need to go far. Fishing just below camp, is pretty awesome for a kid!

May 21, 2013

Eastside Rainbows; a good alternative to slow Springer Fishing!

by Andy Schneider

This Northwest Spring has been especially cruel this year, beautiful and unseasonably warm weather followed by wet and unseasonably cold weather. Add in a slow Columbia and Willamette Spring Chinook season and it's sure to drive any sane NW Angler a little crazy.

After having a productive weekend of yard and house work, I needed a day out on the water fishing; somewhere for something! The local tributaries are running just a little too low for the sled, the Willamette isn't producing huge numbers of Spring Chinook, the Shad haven't shown up in force yet....what to do, what to do.....

Looking at the weather forecast on the east side of Mt. Hood, I saw that we had potential for a 80-degree day and knowing ODFW, most lakes would be stocked to capacity for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend crowds. So I saddled up the Drift Boat, convinced my Son that Trout fight just as hard as Steelhead and threw the pups in for a short drive over the mountain.

We deploying Mack's Flash Lites trolls and small Triple Teasers and Needlefish on light action Spinmatics Kokanee rods. The action started 100-feet from the boat ramp and didn't let off till 10:30 where the action drastically slowed. Most the fish we were catching where recent stockers, or 2-months previous stockers. But one fish was a little more....After catching a bunch of these stockers, I substituted a 1-ounce weight instead of a 1/2-ounce, attempting to get down a little deeper. Moments after deploying, Ayden's rod folded over and just stayed over. Ayden actually struggled getting the rod out of the holder, maybe not just a stocker after all! Ayden battled the fish with care, since I was using 4-pound fluorocarbon leader and I saw a fish that resembled more a Steelhead, than it did a trout. I scooped up the fish quickly and I was looking at one of the most beautiful specimen of trout that I have ever seen first hand from a Oregon Lake. This fish looked to be a multiyear holdover and not a brooder stocker, since it's tail and mouth were in excellent shape. Once filleted the fish cut a beautiful Ocean Coho Red, I'll let you know how it tastes after tonights dinner!

We only kept fish that had damaged themselves during the fight...and of course Ayden's monster Rainbow.

After watching The CraneBow episode on Joy of Fishing (what 12-times on reruns?) I wanted to try their Trout Grenobloise recipe. So I carefully filleted out the trout, browned some butter, lightly breaded the fillets, added fresh croutons and capers and drizzled the browned butter over it all; WOW! Talk about some excellent trout!

Having a 20-fish day of trout, in the warm sun on a calm lake with good company helped make up for the inconsistent Spring us anglers have been suffering from lately.

May 01, 2013

Catching fish via megapixel, rather than rod and reel...

by Andy Schneider

After 2-months of mediocre Spring Chinook fishing, I was ready for a little break. Early Summer Steelhead usually starts to pique my attention this time of year and a trip or two in pursuit of these fantastic fighters renews my interest in Chinook. This year Summer Steelhead just wasn't enough and I needed to head a little farther west, to the Hawaiian Islands! Well, okay, maybe this was more of a planned family vacation rather than just a break from Springers.

On our every-other-year Maui trip, we usually book a fishing trip for Yellow Fin and Big Eye and I'll pound the surf in search of the elusive Ulua. This trip I decided to pursue these tricky Island fish via Camera, rather than rod and reel, here are some of my "Catches" from the last couple of days:

This pesky guy kept showing up...I guess he's a keeper!

April 07, 2013

Springers; A Boy's new best friend!

by Andy Schneider

After last weekends beautiful weather, this weekend left a lot to be desired. But being a resident of the Pacific Northwest, one must learn to "adapt" to the weather here. I asked my friend Mike Fung early last week if he wanted to go fishing Saturday, not really paying attention to the weather forecast, just recent fishing reports. I let Mike know that Ayden, my son, was going to be joining us and he asked if his boys could come. "Sure, but do they know what their getting into?" I asked.

Anyone who has fished Spring Chinook in the Lower Columbia river knows that fishing can be extremely 'hit and miss'. That just because you had a good day, the next could leave you skunked, wet and worn out. But once you tie into one of the tastiest fish to swim up the Columbia, it's hard to turn down the opportunity to try and catch one again.

Mike's Boy's said they were up for the challenge; wet, windy and maybe fish-less. Ayden and I met Mike and his two boys, Alex and Tyler, at 7am. Mike had picked up some Hot Chocolate for all the boys and Coffee's for the Dads, a great way to start a fishing trip!

Anyone that was on the water yesterday, knows that the first part of the day was actually pretty nice, brief showers followed by long sun breaks. Though the weather was nice, fishing was slow on the Outgoing tide. Low tide had come and gone, but the outgoing current remained and so did the slow fishing. 2-hours into the incoming tide the outgoing current finally slowed and we saw our first fish caught of the day; a bank angler who was trying to slide his fish up the beach by walking back. But every time the fish's belly touched the beach, it would make another run. By the time the angler landed the fish he was over a 150-feet away from the waters edge; but he got the fish and it was a keeper.

Then boats around us started hooking up, a sign that our turn was sure to come. But nothing on that pass, or the next. And then the rain started, no Spring showers, these were drenching downpours that attacked us at a 60-degree angle with hints of hail mixed in to keep us huddled and bundled up. Just as the bilge pump kicks on, Mike points at my rod and says something that is drowned out with; rain, hail and wind. I look at my rod and sure enough, there was a fish munching away on my herring. I stir Ayden from his slumber in his seat and he is soon into his first Springer of the Season. A keeper no-less!

After Ayden's fish is thrown into the fish box, Mike's Boy's interest seems to grow now that they have seen our targeted quarry. And on our next pass, in the exact spot Ayden hooked up; Tyler's rod buckles over and he is fighting his first fish bigger than a stocker trout. As the fish neared the boat, it started doing the feared, 'Salmon Thrash' and threw the barbless hooks, Dang! Now that everyone was thoroughly wet, smiles were big and spirits were high, just waiting for another bite.

Some were a little more impatient for the bite than the rest,

Now the downpour has turned back to showers, but not without scaring 3/4 of the boats away from our troll. When we were reaching the end of the same troll that Tyler lost his fish, Alex's rod takes a dip, then shudders and finally folds over and stays over and he is fighting his first Salmon. This time, I decided to keep the boat in gear, like I do for Ocean Salmon to keep tension on the line. This worked and Alex was holding a fish that eludes a lot of us:

On our run back to the top of the troll, another rain shower awaited us, but we didn't take this to be a bad omen, just the opposite.

And sure enough Tyler hooks up again, keeping the boat in gear worked this time, but it was a Native and Tyler got the honor of releasing it and letting it head upriver to it's spawning grounds.

Bringing Boys fishing can sometimes be a blessing of good fortune, or a question of our sanity, since short attention spans which can result in boredom and impatience. But Ayden's, Tyler's and Alex's attention hung in there longer than their Dads probably did and they were rewarded with bragging rights come Monday morning recess. Us Dad's were rewarded with great moments with our sons and passing on some of our passion for the rewards of living in the Pacific Northwest.

March 21, 2013

Getting Skunked, doesn't have to be ugly!

by Andy Schneider

Getting Skunked is something all Anglers have to face, it's just part of the sport we call; Fishing. Sometimes we go on droughts where we cant get a bite for weeks on end, other times fishing is slow but we still want to spend time on the water and getting a fish would have just been a bonus. Other times, the most painful of Skunks, is when we are surrounded be anglers catching fish and for some reason, we can't get a bite to save our lives.

Thankfully we had the less painful skunk the other day; not a lot of fish around, but just wanted to be on the water. I was joined by two good friends, Dwight and Brenda and both decided to take pictures in-lieu of catching fish, here are some of their pictures from our Skunk Day:

The Captain (myself) and Co-Pilot (Oliver);

Starting out down the Channel:

Trolling conditions were terrible as you can see;

Along the way we came across some wildlife:

Blue Heron building nests-

Double Breasted Cormorant (aka-smolt eaters)

While we didn't catch any Spring Chinook, the day was a productive one for relaxing with friends away from the stress of the Work Week. Some of my most memorable fishing trips have been days where we didn't catch anything, lost a bunch of fish for one reason or another, or caught a ninth inning fish. It's days like this one that I will reflect back on when the stresses of work start to wear me down. While the fish box remained empty, my memory was filled with great scenery, hearty laughs and good company!

February 25, 2013

The Guaranteed Spin

by Andy Schneider

The Guaranteed Spin

Ever have trouble getting your cut plug Herring to spin 'just right' or spin at all? This is actually a common problem and it actually starts when 1st pulling the package of Herring out of the freezer. There is no 'one' cause that causes a Herring not to spin; it's actually a combination of problems the Herring develops from freezer to hooks. To have a cooler full of quality bait takes at least one day of preparation, but taking the time to prepare, will pay off in dividends of Chrome. Follow these simple steps and you will have a Herring that's guaranteed to have a fish catching spin.

Step 1: Break and shuck. When you pull your Herring out of the freezer, cut the bag to break the vacuum packing seal, then "shuck" the bag to pull the plastic away from the fish. There are 3 reasons for this; 1st- breaking the vacuum will make sure that the blood of the Herring isn't pulled through the skin and scales, discoloring the Herring. 2nd- breaking the vacuum will let the fish resume their natural shape. Having a tight bag vacuumed to the fish will collapse body cavity as the bait thaws and you will have a misshaped Herring that will be problematic when it comes to spinning properly. 3rd-pulling the bag away from the fish while the Herring is still frozen will help keep the scales on the Herring, not on the bag.

Step 2: Thaw it. Put your package of Herring in the Fridge and allow 12-hours to thaw your Herring. The more time you allow your Herring to thaw the better; this allows your Herring to take on their natural shape.

Step 3: Miter box's not just for wood working. When you place your Herring into your bait miter, make sure you line your smaller Herring up properly. Place the belly of the Herring on the bottom of the miter box and line up the lateral line of the Herring so it's parallel to the miter box.

Step 4: Slice, don't saw. Sharpen your bait knife and slice, don't 'saw' through the bait. Use the thinnest, sharpest bait knife you own. A sharp thin blade will give you a clean miter cut on your cut plug Herring. Having a clean cut contributes to having a nice roll on your Herring, but also keeps your baits from 'blowing out' with heavy currents.

Step 5: Gut and vent your Herring. Start at the anal vent and slice up 3/4- to 1-inch to allow water to flow through your bait; another strategy for keeping your bait from, 'blowing up'. Don't forget to take the guts out before throwing your bait in the brine.

Step 6: Add your bait to your brine. Use 2-cups of chlorine-free water to 1/4-cup of Pautzke's Nectar for each dozen Herring. Pautzke's Nectar is a premixed brine that firms your bait, adds color and scent. You can add other ingredients to spice up your brine; Pautzke Fire Power, Sea Salt, Sugar (yes Springers have a sweet tooth), Mrs. Stuarts Bluing or your favorite scents.

Step 7: Cure your bait. Put your Herring in the back of the fridge (where it's coldest and less likely to be seen by the Mrs.'s) Let your Herring cure for at least 8-hours. If your adding salt or sugar, make sure to monitor your brine so you don't shrivel your bait.


Step 1: Thread the trailing hook through the lateral line 3/4- to 1-inch down on the short side of the Herring.

Step 2: Pull the trailing hook completely through.

Step 3: Start the top hook on the roof of the Herring's body cavity on the long side (long miter cut), get as deep as the bend of the hook will allow. Thread the hook through the top of the Herring, crossing over to the short side (short miter cut) of the back bone.

Step 4: Throw your Herring over the side of the boat and fish, no need to even double check if rigged properly. Rigging your Herring this way will give it a quality spin without any need to 'fine tune', which only tears your Herring and will give you a bait that may fall off on the first slash of a Springer, leaving you fishless.

*Barbed hooks are shown, make sure you are using barbless when fishing the Columbia, Willamette and Multnomah Channel.

February 05, 2013

From the Coast to the Clackamas

by Andy Schneider

While most folks were getting ready for the Big Game on Sunday, a couple friends and myself decided we would have enough time to sneak down to the coast and get a drift in and still make it back home before the kickoff. From recent reports, the crowds were pretty much unbearable on Friday and only slightly better on Saturday. We were still hoping that there might be some fish left in the system when we got down there Sunday. We started up high on the river and found the only company we had was another friend that wanted to learn the drift. Our plan was to side drift most of the day, only plugging our most productive "Plug" holes.

Our first hole we came to has always produced fish for us on plugs, especially in a very specific spot. But knowing that these fish have been heavily fished the last few days, we started plugging much higher than we normally do. So high in the hole, that the oars were bumping bottom on each stroke. And not long after getting the plugs out, Pat Bauer was into a nice bright native. With a fish hooked up within the first 15-minutes of the day, we thought it was going to be an extraordinary day of fishing. But after hitting lots of promising water with no results, we all agreed that there was just not a lot of fish in the system.

Pat seamed to have picked the right side of the boat (actually the port side) that day and all the action came on his plug rod and side drifting rod. Pat hooked up another fish on a plug, but the fish quickly threw the hooks after taking to the air. And while Tom and I were side drifting the side of the river that has always produced for us, Pat casted to some slower water and hooked up with his first ever side drifted fish.

Pat with his Keeper

The Coast only produced 3 bites for us, resulting in one native and one hatchery and while I made it home shortly after kickoff, I caught the best part of the game; definitely the second half!

Our Coastal trip highlights
[ ame ] www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN2WvdnLIbQ [ /ame ]

The next day I reconnected with a friend, Dwight, that just bought a new boat and was looking at exploring some local rivers around the metro area. Since Dwight's new boat is a prop boat, I decided to take him for a Jet Boat ride and show him some local scenery. Another good friend, Brian, joined us before he had to go into work and with only another few months before retirement, Brian was definitely "Pre-Scouting" his retirement.

While Side Drifting is by far the most popular technique on the Clackamas, I have found decent success plug fishing. While the numbers of fish I put in the boat are usually around two-thirds that of a Side Drifter, I burn a lot less fuel, eggs and stay a lot warmer. While some may think I'm taking the "lazy" way to catching a fish, to be a successful plug fisherman in such a large river, like the Clackamas, you really have to work the water and remember where you got fish before at the same water heights. One thing I've learned from fishing the Clackamas, is that the river level effects where the fish are holding more so than any other factor on this river.

Monday proved to be fairly productive for us, myself getting a nice Hatchery Steelhead and Dwight getting a nice Hatchery fish as well. Though Brian didn't get a fish, he didn't mind too much, since he had to head to work....but I notice him paying special attention to where he was going to spend part of his retirement!

Our Clackamas trip highlights

Clackamas Winter Steelhead

Dwight's Winter Steelhead

January 20, 2013

Cold and Clear Tactics

by Andy Schneider

With cold weather settling in the region for the last couple of weeks, most rivers are; low, clear and cold. While not as many Winter Steelhead enter tributaries during these conditions, enough fish are still moving in to keep a hardy angler busy. 40-degrees seems to be the magic temperature for Winter Steelhead: above 40-degrees and they behave, just as Winter Steelhead are suppose too, but below 40-degrees, they start to get lethargic and are not as predictable.

One of my favorite techniques for Winter Steelhead fishing is to pull plugs. Thankfully it works well in cold water conditions, since making multiple passes in a jet sled in 20-degree temperatures is brutally painful!

While I used to think that I had to "down-size" my Steelhead plugs fishing in cold water, I've actually come to believe a larger plug may work better. #30 HotShots were my #1 "go-to" in cold water and I caught enough fish to keep me believing in them. But I found that the #30 wouldn't dive deep enough into a hole that I knew held Steelhead, so I swapped out to a K11X for the deeper holes. Soon I found my self using nothing but K11X's (and now; MagLip 3.5's) for cold water Steelhead and catching more fish than I did with the #30 HotShots.

Some tips I've learned fishing cold water:

-Long line your plugs. For some reason, fishing your plugs 70- to 75-feet behind the boat produces more bites. Sometimes this means that you need to start your run well above any sort of holding water, to make sure your plugs don't miss any part of the holding water.

-First Water. Having "First Water" is always nice, but during optimal flows and "Steelhead Green" water, it's much easier to catch fish behind anglers than during cold and clear water.

-Wait. I've had some of the strangest bites on plugs during cold water. Sometimes, they bite just like normal. Other times, I've had them pick up the plug and slowly load up the rod without any head shake. Other times yet, I've had them pick up the plug and just hold it till the boat passes them, thinking that we are hung up until the line comes tight into a Steelhead.

-Good netting needed. Cold water Steelhead seem to "roll-up" your line, more so than they would normally. This makes it tricky trying to net a wrapped up fish, coming tail first at the boat. Without savage take-downs and hard runs, the hooks don't seat as firmly into a fish's mouth, making it easier for them to throw a hook at the boat.

Here is a video from Friday:


of you will recognize the river and hole, but please don't think that the river is navigable at the current level for every jet boater. While I've run this river at even lower flows, it takes a lot of scouting and I still bumped bottom. What the video doesn't show is the minutes of scouting all the runs from boat and shore.

The video does display Tom VanderPlaat doing an excellent job of netting a fish that might have thrown the hook if fought for much longer. The video also shows how far above the holding water I started fishing....a long ways....but it produced for Brenda. It was our only Keeper of the day, missing another one in the 38-degree water.

While many of anglers didn't brave the 24-degree temps on Friday, it was still a fun day with friends and pups!

January 15, 2013

Winter Bottom Fishing; cold, but fun!

by Andy Schneider

Winter time usually doesn't draw a lot of bottom fisherman to the coast. Maybe the icy coastal passes, cold weather or a winterized boat, hinders bottom fishing enthusiasm? But when you see a Ocean Cam that looks like this:

And a NOAA forecast that looks like this:

NE wind 5 to 10 kt. Wind waves 1 ft. W swell 5 ft at 14 seconds.

Thu Night: NE wind 5 to 10 kt. Wind waves 1 ft. W swell 4 ft at 13 seconds.

Fri: E wind 5 to 10 kt. Wind waves 1 ft. W swell 5 ft.

You really need to brave this (which doesn't look too bad), to get to the coast:

Taking a look at the tides for this week and weekend, you can easily grab some breakfast, wait for the coastal passes to thaw and still make it to the coast just as the tide starts to flood-making for a comfortable bar crossing. Bottom fish don't bite any different in the Winter time, than they do in the Spring or Summer months. If anything, they are a little easier to catch with less competition on the salt. While using a banana sinker and a short mooching rig with a Herring or Anchovy will catch Lings and Bass all day long. Using a 5-inch fish trap usually works just as well, if not better, without the mess of bait. As you walk down the "Bottom Fishing" aisle in Fisherman's, you notice large quantities of "bulk" swim baits. While these will catch fish, investing in a little higher quality swim bait will produce better results. FishTrap, Berkley and ZMan are some of the most popular ones to find, but a tour down the "Bass" section of Fisherman's, will yield a lot more Swim bait options.

My favorite bottom fish colors

Often times in the Winter months you may need to move in tight to the structure you're fishing, as shallow as 20-feet to find where the fish are feeding.
Shawn Seals with some shallow water Bass

When Winter Steelhead season slows, or you find the Broodstock crowds just unbearable and still want to feel a fish on the end of your line; check the forecasts, roads and tides-then head to the coast!

January 09, 2013

The Kitchen Pass

by Andy Schneider

The Kitchen Pass

"Everyone I know that has had a kid slows down or stops fishing." Says my friend David Johnson. "Everyone except for Andy." He continues with a sideways glare and an elbow in the ribs to his long term friend and new Father, Sam.

What can I say, I'm lucky when it comes to being able to get out and spend some time on the water. If I'm not fishing ½ as much as my friends who Guide for a living, I feel like I'm falling behind on my ‘River Studies' and start to get a little anxiety. Do I feel like I'm a bad Husband? A Father by definition only? Do I feel guilty that I'm spending time on the water instead of with my Family? Nope! Because 1st and foremost my priorities are to be a good Husband and a great Father, just like every other Fisherman with a Family. Am I just a clueless inconsiderate future ex-husband? Well….

A hardcore Fisherman who is a good Husband and Dad. Is that an Oxymoron? No! And if it sounds like it is, you may be looking at "Fishing" the wrong way. Fishing is our passion, but so is our family. Can the 2 coexist? Yep. Can I show you how? Nope. But I can give you some tips on how to get a little more fishing time in without compromising ‘Family Time' and how to get issued a "Kitchen Pass" and consecutive "Kitchen Passes".

What is a "Kitchen Pass"? Well it's simply a blessing from a spouse, significant other, parent and (occasionally) children. A "Kitchen Pass" is issued for only one (that's 1) fishing or hunting adventure. "Kitchen Passes" do expire and have to be renewed by the issuing party. "Kitchen Passes" can be bought, but often their expense outweighs the reward. "Kitchen Passes" cannot be stolen, borrowed or rented. "Kitchen Passes" also have a strict ‘No Return' policy.

Fishing Schedule via Rockstar
There are ways around a "Kitchen Pass". One way is to find time on the water that doesn't take away from "Family Time".

Can you physically be on the water during daylight hours in your current work schedule? Even ‘Banker Hours' (9-5) can give you time on the water. What time is Sunrise? When is the most productive fishing time of the day? Do the two coincide? Can you sacrifice some sleep for some time on the river? Sure you can! After all why do we even have beverages with caffeine?

David Johnson, a Professional Fishing Guide, believes that sleep can be equally substituted with caffeine (use the simple equation: >Sleep=<Caffeine^2). "I usually start with a pot of coffee in the morning, just to get me going. I'll empty the pot into my cup before I hop in the truck and head to the river."

After a couple of hours on the river as the day starts to warm, Johnson starts feeling the effects of a late night tying leaders and curing bait. This is where a good, hard working fishing guide needs a little ‘more' than what coffee alone can accomplish. In 1980 a Long Haul Trucker would swing by a Truck Stop, buy some Yellow Jackets and wash them down with a Jolt. But now we have ROCKSTAR.

"A fisherman invented ROCKSTAR, I'm sure of it." Says Johnson, who knows that there is more than just Caffeine in the drink; Taurine, Yerba Matte, Green Tea and enough B-Vitamins to fulfill your % Daily Value 10 times over in one drink. Johnson doesn't know exactly what all those ingredients do independently, but put it all in one drink and he can go 4 Days with just 8 hours of sleep. "It was on my last trip to Alaska and I didn't want to miss out on any fishing opportunities."

So what do you think? You now know that there are ways to squeeze in fishing time when you should be sleeping. But you don't know if drinking a Rockstar is for you….Johnson used to think that too. "I still remember the 1st time I tried a Rock Star. I was fishing with Kevin Lund and Nick Amato on an Oregon Coastal River in 2006. Kevin offered me a sip. I was hesitant, but the pressure was thick in the boat and I finally caved. The 1st sip didn't taste so good, but the second….it was the second sip that had me hooked."

Making ‘Them' want you to go fishing
"I like to start planning my fishing trips early in the week." Says Tom VanderPlaat. "Surprisingly, organizing my fishing gear and boat is only a small part of what it takes to make sure I have successful day fishing. A big part of having a successful day is having a happy and cheerful reunion with my family at the end of it."

VanderPlaat is a father of 3 who is still happily married to his high school Sweetheart, Sue. According to the Beaverton's Spouses Association; VanderPlaat received more "Kitchen Passes" in 2012 than any other Fisherman in Washington County. VanderPlaat was also recognized in 2010 by the B.S. Association as Family Man of the Year, recognizing VanderPlaat's hard work raising 3 daughters, while still fishing 136 days in 2010.

"My Wife has a calendar on the fridge and I start there marking a fishing trip with a question mark at least a week out." Says VanderPlaat. "Then I casually mention, ‘I was invited to go fishing next Saturday.' Then ask, ‘What should I tell them?' But hang on; before I even ask that question, I make sure that any chores that needed to be done that Saturday have already been taken care of. The lawn's been mowed and the dog washed."

"You never, ever want to announce that you are going fishing." Warns VanderPlaat. "Since you are stating that you're going fishing, there is no sense asking for a ‘Kitchen Pass' and you can assure the next time that you ‘ask' to go fishing….well you know the answer to that."

VanderPlaat explained that most spouses want you to go fishing and have a good time. It's also important to pay attention to what we do after a day of fishing to insure we get issued consecutive "Kitchen Pass". "It's very important to clean up your mess after you return from fishing. You don't want to leave a big mess."

VanderPlaat makes a great point here; you don't want your family walking around your wet waders, or smelling a carton of leftover Sand shrimp in the fridge. This also means no fishing poles leaned in the corner of the front entry way or a ‘fishy' towel left to ferment in the laundry room.

"I simply want the opportunity to say no." Says Sue Vanderplaat. "It's not a competition either. I don't need to spend an equal amount of time or money shopping that Tom spends on fishing."

"If Tom is going out and having fun, I expect to be able to get out and have some fun too." Says Sue. "I don't begrudge Tom for having fun and I expect the same in return."

"I'm definitely more likely to send Tom fishing with my blessing if the day before isn't all about fishing." Advises Sue. "And the few times that I do say no, I expect Tom to honor and accept it."

"And when he has to stay home from fishing, it's not ‘Baby Sitting'. It's called being a Father!" Shouts the youngest of the VanderPlaat's.

Some simple and easy tips VanderPlaat does to keep the Kitchen Passes coming are:
-Sleep in a different bed or on the sofa so not to disturb the spouse and children when you're waking up early.
-Prepare your lunch and clothing the night before so you can make a quick and silent exit from the house.
-Leave a ‘Float Plan' so your Spouse knows where you're fishing, with who and when to expect you home.
-Don't state that you're "Bringing meat home for the family".
-Shower quickly after returning from fishing.
-Don't be MIA as a Human Being when returning from fishing, even if you're exhausted.

Exempt from the Kitchen Pass
How do you get away from having to use a Kitchen Pass (besides taking a vow of celibacy)? You can always take the Family with you! This is where life long memories are made…right? I bet you can pull a couple of those memories at a drop of a hat.

So what does it take to have a successful outing with the Fam? Ask your kids, your wife or your parents what they want out of a fishing trip. What were the answers? My answers, "Have fun", "Relax" and "Enjoy the company". I didn't hear, "Catch a lot of fish", "Catch a big fish" or "Out fish our friends".

When you break down what their priorities are, it's actually a pretty easy day. Most of us are proficient enough with our boats and putting our gear together; we can do it in our sleep (and often do). This alone should take any stress away from the Family before your trip and enroute to the water.

Some tips to help keep everyone happy and enjoying their day
-Take the Family someplace easy to fish and boat. Buoy 10 (at its peak) and Tillamook Jaws (at its peak of the seaweed run); not the most enjoyable….
-Bring lots of entertainment for the kids. Portable DVD players, favorite books and the ½ of the toy box they actually use and play with. This can also include best friends.
-Bring lots of entertainment for the wife. Not that you can't supply enough entertainment on your own….on second thought, let the spouse bring entertainment of their choosing.
-Bring the pets. Our pets are definitely part of the family and our entire Family wouldn't be complete without them.
-Bring enough to eat. Don't bring anything more than what you would eat in a normal day. This isn't a time to try ‘new' things, bring the old standby's that everyone enjoys eating.
-Bring a potty or be ready to make a potty break. Bleach buckets or fish boxes (just ask Johnson), don't cut it for the rest of the family.
-Bring lots of patience. Your calming demeanor will help assure everyone that forgetting to put the plug in the boat is a ‘Pre-fishing bilge cleaning procedure' that most professional anglers do at least once a month to keep bilge odors to a minimum.
-Know when to call a day. It's not easy to throw in the towel early, but fighting it can never turn out good.
-Stop some place fun on the way home. There are a couple of little food stands, restaurants and stores we always hit on our way home from our different adventures.
-Put the boat and gear away yourself. I found this out the hard way, whatever you do, DON'T use this line, "I put everything together. You can put it away."

December 02, 2012

Winter Chinook; it's not over yet!

by Andy Schneider

December 1st always marks the start of Winter Chinook fishing for me, while I'm sure they are still technically called, "Fall Chinook", there is no doubt a run of Coastal Chinook that return after the last of the fall leaves have left the trees. These Winter Chinook are bright, full of red delicious meat and capable of incredibly hard fights in cold tributary waters.

With the rivers coming up more than expected over the weekend, my crew and I were pulled to the sidelines to watch the high brown rivers dash our hopes of finding any chrome glory. The day before the Tillamook tributaries blew out, there was a surge of bright fish that gave me confidence that we will have Chinook available till the new year.

My friend Brian Hawkins and I found a lonely river and decided to give it our best shot. We deployed 4.5 MagLips with sardine wraps into the murky green waters hoping for a bite. After getting 'First Water' for most of the entire river our hopes of buried rods and peeling drags was quickly being dashed.

Just as I started getting a cramp from lack of rowing and heavy flows, Brian's rod folded over at the very head of the hole. The water couldn't have been any deeper than 3-feet, but I have had good success starting my plugs higher than most. With the rod bucking in the holder, the fish thrashing on the surface and Brian struggled to find a place to set his coffee cup, I pulled back hard on the oars to insure the fish was hooked good and started rowing for softer water. Brian eventually got the rod out of the holder and landed his first Tillamook Winter Chinook of the season.

With fresh blood and confidence in the boat, I made another pass through the hole with plugs, but no more takers. We then switched it up with a plug and diver and eggs. Immediately I thought we had hung up the diver since there was a ton of slack in the line. Brian reeled it in and as the diver reeled to the rod tip a Chinook calmly sat there with my eggs hidden in it's mouth. Brian tried setting the hook, but the fish simply opened it's mouth, and with a splash headed back to the depths.

I had seen this trick before and knew exactly how to remedy a Chinook that likes to be lead around like a dog on a leash. I pulled up river 10-feet, dropped anchor and swung a back-bouncing rig over the side. Before I could make my first bounce, a Chinook picked up the bait. I let the fish chew on the eggs for what seemed like an eternity, but the Chinook finally started moving downriver. I set the hook and a strangely familiar Chinook made it to the net.

After multiple passes through the hole, no one else seemed to be home, so we moved down river. As if on cue, a Chinook picked up Brian's MagLip, again, at the extreme head of the hole. This fish wasn't as bright as our last two and he was sent on his way to the spawning gravel. We continued working through the rest of the hole with our MagLips hunting, we found one other biter in the far tailout. This one fought even harder than the rest, but was well colored up and released without even being netted.

While we still had plenty of promising river below us, nothing was interested in our offerings. Though we could have limited out, keeping two chrome bright, (bonus) Hatchery Chinooks, was enough to keep us looking forward to the rest of the Winter Chinook Season!

November 25, 2012

Sagebrush and Ducks; a great combo!

by Andy Schneider

With the long Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, I decided I needed to get out of the Metro area and head east. I saw that a strong Southwest wind was predicted for the Columbia River around Boardman. For Oregon bound hunters that like to pursue waterfowl on the Columbia River, a strong Southwest wind is what we look for. It pulls the birds off the main river and north shoreline and puts them right into your face when you put the wind to your back. I invited my good friend Brian Hawkins out with Oliver and I. Since the SW wind was predicted to get over 30-mph we didn't want to put out a big spread incase the wind was too much to battle picking up the decoys.

With the wind a 'no-show' first thing in the morning, I was getting a little worried. But as the morning progressed, the wind got stronger and stronger and the birds responded just as we had hoped. Shooting wasn't fast or furious, but enough birds were dropping into the decoys to keep Oliver busy,

By 11am, the wind had really shown up and any remaining birds in the territory sought more protected waters. But all said and done, Brian and I each had just shy of a limit each; Widgeon and Mallards made up for the majority of our bag, all except for a lone Lesser Scaup.

While Sauvie Island and coastal estuaries offer great waterfowl hunting closer to home, there is something to be said about the crisp smell of sagebrush in the duck blind that has a allure all to itself, definitely making it worth the drive!

November 17, 2012

On our Outdoor Journeys; Dogs make great companions!

by Andy Schneider

I grew up around dogs, but I never considered myself a "Dog Person" till my wife talked me into getting a Golden Retriever 12-years ago. Ripley turned out to be a wonderful dog, independent but was somehow capable of cheering anyone up with her wide grin that you would swear she was smiling.

Ripley converted me to a "Dog Person" within a few short weeks and she became a part of our family, going fishing, hunting or just tagging along for errands.

Ripley had a favorite spot in the boat; The Net:

With her second favorite; The Bow:

Soon our family grew, Ayden was born and 4 years later, Missy talked me into another dog, " To keep Ripley young and spry." Enter, Oliver:

Missy's 'Plan' actually worked,

Oliver took to fishing like a natural and always wanted to be included,

Sometimes, 'too' included,

Oliver grew impatient at times waiting for a bite,

He spends lots of time just contemplating where fish come from,

Sometimes it's contagious,

A little play is always appreciated,

While Oliver seems to truly enjoy fishing, he has to earn his kibble hunting now and again,

Nobody said the job would be without benefits,

And a nice warm truck on the way home always feels good,

Sadly, Ripley passed away a month ago. She was such a loving part of our family she is missed everyday.

But we do have a new addition to the Family that is trying her hardest to fill some awfully big paws, meet Piper;

A journey through life, is made much more enjoyable with a dog by your side!

October 21, 2012

The Bounty of the Northwest!

by Andy Schneider

With the recent freshet that hit our Oregon Coastal Estuaries and Tributaries, I knew it would move some Salmon and Waterfowl around. So I took an educated guess and talked my Dad into loading up the boat with Salmon plugs and decoys and heading to the coast.

My theory that there should be some fish around was not shared by any other angler and having no competition was refreshing for a change. Trying to keep things simple I deployed small 3.5 MagLips wrapped with sardines and slowly worked them through promising water. My Dad was lucky enough to hook into the first fish:

Since we were using such small plugs, I was using my light Steelhead rods (HSR9000's to be exact) and these Chinook maxed out the rods, but also made it very challenging to land fish.

We fished for a couple more hours without any more action, but the next bite was worth the wait! It was absolutely savage and the rod maxed out and line sped off the reel faster than I have ever seen before. This Chinook fought like it was still in the ocean, thrashing on the surface multiple times and making blistering fast runs.

After tagging a fish each, I saw that we were halfway into incoming tide. I wanted to be set up waiting for the ducks as them move from one end of the bay to the freshly flooded grass at the other. So we kicked the boat into gear and headed to the quickly flooding grass. We didn't set out a huge spread of decoys, relying on being in the proper place with strategically placed decoys.

We didn't have to wait too long and the ducks started moving our way. Widgeon, Green Wing Teal, Pintails and Mallards. My Dad and I took our time and picked out easy shots, since we were both out of shooting practice.

At the end of the tide, we quickly realized that we would have to let it recede before we could make out way back to the blind. But time spent in a boat, field, forrest or duck blind is never wasted and we both enjoyed watching the tide recede as the birds made their way back to the lower bay again.

Poor Oliver ran out of ground:

Having a retriever was the only way we could have retrieved birds without the boat, Oliver definitely earned his kibble by the end of the day!

While our day lasted well beyond sunrise and sunset, enjoying the Bounty of Northwest with your Dad is well worth a little exhaustion.

October 13, 2012

When it's storming on the coast, head East!

by Andy Schneider

The Oregon Coast finally got some much needed rain this weekend, which should definitely spur some Chinook and Coho to start their final stages of migration to the spawning grounds. But with the first October rains, came some gusty south winds. Making fishing a little more challenging, but making commuting to the coast from Portland all but impossible. Having been stuck in traffic for 5-hours a couple years ago in the first rains of the season, I knew better than to even think of venturing near a crowded interstate where commuters struggle to remember how to drive in the rain.

So with encouragement of Rick Hale (aka; baitboy), we decided to head east one more time to see if any Coho where staging in front of tributaries in the Columbia Gorge. We arrived in the dark and wrapped up some 3.5-MagLips with miniature Sardine Wraps:

And started trolling slowly upriver into a brisk North Wind, that reminded us that Fall is here. During our first pass we saw that there were, indeed, some Coho staged at the mouth of this Tributary and a surprisingly amount of Chinook too.

It wasn't till our second pass that Ayden's rod folded over and just stayed bent over. Ayden was a little chilled by the cool weather, but was quick to grab the rod and start fighting a Coho. Fighting a Coho on light tackle is as fun as fishing gets and watching someone fight them on light tackle is almost just as fun!

As more and more coho stage in front of tributaries during the month of October, plug fishing remains very effective all day long. But unfortunately, the plug bite slowed and died quickly as the sun and a strong West wind came up.

We retreated into the protected waters of the tributary and saw that plug fisherman where doing well trolling small pockets of deep water; we were not so lucky. After switching tactics to hover fishing and catching some jack Coho, we headed back into the windy Columbia Gorge. Rick had just dropped his bait to the bottom and was quickly hooked up with a nice Fall Chinook. Try as I might, running the trolling motor in reverse into 20-mph winds I was unable to hook-up while hovering eggs.

As the early morning caught up with Ayden and he took a snooze in the seat, I baited his rod and set it in the rod holder for him. Of course his was the next rod to get a bite and a Chinook was peeling line of the reel with no one to fight back. As Rick and I yelled for Ayden to grab his rod, all he did was curl tighter into the seat and fall back to sleep. So I helped my tired son out and brought in the fish and tagged a nice little Chinook for myself, thanks Ayden!

While these Fall Chinook are not as chrome as a Tillamook Bay Chinook, they cut just as red.

So while high winds and heavy rains are predicted on the coast for the next few days, fishing plans don't need to get put on hold.

September 23, 2012

East to West

by Andy Schneider

September just offers too many choices for a Salmon Angler in the Northwest; should you follow the URB's east? Or should you head to a Coastal Estuary and pursue newly arriving Salmon and Crab? Well this weekend I found myself with a full tank of Diesel and some extra energy to do both!

There is something just magical about a sunrise in Eastern Oregon. As the sun lights up the grassy hills the Canadian Geese start talking, Chuckar's start their noisy, "Chuck-Chuck-Chuckar!" and the smell of dusty sage fills your nose. The sounds and smells of Eastern Oregon seem clear your mind of your busy work week and make you take notice of the beauty of the drier side of our state.

I was joined by my good friends Brenda Skinner, Rick Hale (aka Baitboy) and, of course, Olliver. We started trolling 3.5-MagLips at first light hoping for a little plug action, but after a few misses, we decided to change things up a little and try hovering some eggs. Hovering eggs is fairly simple; a 48-inch leader, 3-inch lead dropper, 3-ounces of lead and the smallest of egg clusters with the compliment of sandshrimp. The idea of Hover fishing is to suspend your baits in "The Zone" while drifting downriver at the same speed of the current. But with a 25-mph sustained wind and gusts to 35-mph, it gets a little tricky!

Every pass we would get biters, some would be Pike Minnows, some would be Sturgeon, some would be Super-Jacks and some would be Adult Salmon (our elusive target species). But hooking into any of the mentioned was another matter all together. Unlike Back-Bouncing eggs, these Salmon had a hard time committing to a bait. You could get rod bending bites, only to pull back and get nothing but a clean hook. Other times you would get a small "peck-peck" and pull back into a hard fighting Salmon. Or you could put your rod in the holder to help net a fish and look over as lines peeling quickly off the reel and the rod tip is hidden in the depths of the Columbia!

Brenda was the first to show us how it was done:

While I broke off and bent hooks on hook-sets; Rick found some good timing and started hooking up consistently:

And I finally found a few biters that would hang on long enough to the bait so I could set the hook:

Every fish caught was supervised by Olliver:

We ended the day with 3-Adult Salmon, 5-Super Jacks, countless misses and a half-dozen lost...not to mention some serious wind and sun burn!

Day 2

While sunrises on the Pacific are not usually as exciting as Eastern Oregon, this one offered some stiff competition:

With a incredibly flat ocean we dropped some crab pots to the north of the Tillamook Jetties, then trolled our way south into the mass of anglers trolling for staged Tillamook Bay Fall Chinook. Today I was joined by my good friends; Mike Fung and Tom VanderPlaat. My son, Ayden and, of course, Olliver.

Tom had something nibbling on his bait and pulled up a Sand-Dab for Olliver:

Salmon Fishing has been a little 'hit and miss' in Tillamook the last few weeks, but more 'hit' than anything, so we had some high hopes. But we must of ventured to Tillamook on a 'miss' day. But the beautiful ocean, good crabbing and good friends on board made it a great day!

Tom and I's good friend Pat Abel told us we needed to be along the North Jetty, 1-hour before low slack to get into a good bite. So I took Pat's advise and pulled tight to the North Jetty and dropped 16-ounces of lead to the bottom and held against the weakening ebbing tide. As our weights tapped bottom occasionally, Mikes rod started getting bit and was soon loaded up with a Chinook, but before he could get the rod out of the holder, it was gone. But that fish must have still been hungry and Ayden's rod was bucking and peeling line. Ayden grabbed the rod and was battling a mean Chinook. Tom helped Ayden keep tension on rod and did a great job coaching Ayden as he reeled frantically or watched in awe as line peeled off the reel at blistering speeds. Since barbless hooks are required in the Ocean, we never switched out and were still using barbless inside the bay. This put us all on edge hoping the fish wouldn't slip the hooks. But Ayden and Tom prevailed and Ayden was holding his 1st Tillamook Fall Chinook of the season:

What a great way to spend a tank of diesel with some great friends, family and pup!

September 03, 2012

September is the start of; Jumbo Dungies!

by Andy Schneider

September is the start of months that end in, "r". And that is important because crabbing becomes, nothing short of, "Spectacular!" Dungeness crab are aggressively feeding across the ocean floor right now, filling out after their recent molt. Throughout the month of September, Dungeness crabs will continue to fill out till they are weighing in over 2-pounds each.

September usually offers some of the best ocean conditions we see all year. Albacore, bottom fish, Chinook and Coho are all options for a September venture offshore, but you can stay even closer to port and pursue some of the largest Dungeness Crab that lurk in the Pacific.

Here are some helpful tips to insure some great Ocean Crabbing!

1) Pick a ocean that looks like this:

To pick a good ocean, check with NOAA and SwellWatch.

2) Use "Chewy Bags" instead of boxes. Chewy bags are flexible and can be crammed full with Tuna carcasses, salmon heads or Shad. The bag can be suspended from the top of your trap insuring that the current will carry the scent of your bait and bring in hungry crab.

3) Put the boat in gear and head into the drift (the Pacific usually runs North to South at a little over a mile an hour of current). Then throw the buoys over the side of the boat:

4) Feed out your rope to insure that there are no tangles.

5) Clip on a inline weight if you are using Polly rope, or any other buoyant rope. This insures that boats don't run over your crab rope, tangle their outdrive and/or cut off your crab rope. Clip the weight on 30- to 60-feet down from the buoys.

6) When all your rope is trailing behind the boat drop your crab pot straight down on top of the water. With the rope trailing behind the boat, this insures that the pot will fall straight down and not land on it's side. Mark the spot on your GPS. Now repeat with the rest of your pots, spreading them 1/4- to 1/2-mile apart.

7) You have an hour of time to kill while your pots soak, so go fishing. Today we decided to try our luck at the "Selective Coho Fishery" out of Tillamook. But all we caught was a Chinook! Good Job Brenda!

8) Approach your pots from the down current side and start pulling, look for hitchhikers sitting on top as your pots get close.

9) Send back any soft shelled, undersized or female crab as quickly as possible and marvel at the size of some of these September Ocean Crab!

August 20, 2012

Buoy 10 Chinook; Passing on "The Fever"!

by Andy Schneider

Buoy 10 is the talk of everything right now; Internet, tackle counters and Magazines. It's easy to get caught up in the Buoy 10 hype and try and squeeze as many trips as you can into this productive fishery. I'm no different; I invest a week every year into this fishery and am absolutely wiped out when I get home, almost ready to get back to work and rest....almost....

And it seems Buoy 10 has started out beyond everyone's expectations this year and has been producing lots of boat limits of Chinook; though the Coho seem to be somewhat elusive so far. All week my cell phone was assaulted with pictures of bloody fish boxes mounded with Chinook and pictures of; way to happy anglers holding way to big of Chinook with way to big of smiles. I couldn't take it any more and gathered a crew for this weekend, the Crew turned into 3-Dads and 3-Sons. Consisting of John and Alec Lacarno (aka; Leatherneck), Brad and Wy Baker (aka; Greenbuttskunk) and, my son; Ayden and I.

We started our day trolling with the last of the outgoing tide along the Green Buoy line and Wy was the first to hook up, with a small amount of coaching from Dad, Wy landed a beautiful Upriver Bright Chinook:

Alec was next with another great Chinook:

The tide turned and we found ourselves around Buoy 14 holding against the Incoming tide watching small porpoises (Dolphins according to our son's) feeding amongst the fleet of sport boats. Ayden noticed his rod take a dive and was soon battling a hard fighting Chinook:

Now it was the Dad's turn to start putting some Chinook in the boat! So we held against the tide, we trolled with the tide and we held against the tide again, but it seemed that Feeder Chinook found our Herring more enticing than big Upriver Brights. And while none of us Dads took a fish home for ourselves, we brought home some great memories and undoubtedly passed on a little bit of that, "Buoy 10 Fever"!

August 10, 2012

Down-rigger Steelhead

by Andy Schneider

Early August is always an "in-between-time" for me; Columbia Summer Steelhead are racing over the dams towards Idaho and cooler waters, leaving fishing slow downriver. Salmon are just starting to enter the Estuaries, with the peak of the run still a couple weeks away. The Pacific usually gets upset when high temperatures invade the Valley, taking Albacore fishing offline till things cool down. It won't be long before there are too many fishing opportunities and not enough vacation time, but for right now things are slow for most anglers. Some anglers might use this "in-between-time" to get caught up on "Honey-Do's" and save their Kitchen Pass for more productive times. But I found myself caught up on "Honey-Do's" and needing a "fishing-fix".

Destination: Drano!
With high temperatures predicted in the Portland area last weekend (and this coming weekend too), I wanted to find a destination to catch some fish and cool down with a swim afterwards. The Columbia was instantly off my list, since pleasure boaters would be swarming the ramps and waters making fishing and swimming difficult. So after some pondering of past August fishing and family trips, we all decided on Drano Lake.

Drano Lake isn't a true lake per se, its part backwater, part slough and part river (Columbia and Little White Salmon). And just as Drano Lake doesn't really fit one specific definition, Drano doesn't really have just one specific "Fishery". A variety of fish can be caught in Drano Lake all year. Drano's Salmon and Summer Steelhead are the big draws to the lake, being a spring through fall affair. And that's fine with most anglers, since the Gorge winds would be truly inhospitable in the winter.

When I first ventured east with a Washington fishing license, 18-years ago, I found that Summer Steelhead where pulling into the cool waters of Drano Lake to escape the warm water of the Columbia and anglers took notice. Most Drano Anglers were trolling back and forth with flat-lined Wiggle Warts having decent success. Over the years down-riggers where being utilized to troll spinners and plugs with even better success. Then approximately 10-years-ago, there was a transition at Drano from trolling to anchoring up with bobbers and coon-stripped shrimp....and it was deadly effective! While I gave this a chance and caught fish, I still enjoyed trolling Drano; so I kept on trolling.

Not many trollers anymore at Drano:

Even dogs like Drano

Lots of rail traffic along Drano

For 2012, it seems that the "troll" fishery at Drano is becoming a thing of the past and we only found 5 other boaters, out of 80-ish total, trolling the Lake. We trolled the lake for the best part of the morning, graphing lots of Steelhead in the lake, but no action for us. As we trolled close to the Bobber Fisherman we found they were having consistent action with purple dyed shrimp, set close to the bottom. Every fish we saw hooked seemed to rocket out of the water and could be seen all the way across the lake, the sun reflecting off their chrome bodies.

I set the plugs 75-feet behind the boat, before clipping them in, then send the down-rigger weight to 14-feet. That should put the plug right at 26-feet deep in the 28-foot deep lake.

As the heat of the day drove us to a small cove to swim, I didn't have much hope of hooking any fish for the day, but the water felt good and there wasn't another swimmer in sight!

I decided we would make a long troll around the lake while I stowed and cleaned up gear. As Ayden was in the bow of the boat pulling in our sea-sock, he pointed behind the boat at a Steelhead that was jumping out of the water over and over. He commented, "That fish is just teasing us!"

But I've seen this trick before and scanned the rods and confirmed, that the Steelhead jumping behind the boat was, in fact, hooked up with one of our Wiggle Warts. When I informed Ayden of this, he raced to the back of the boat and started battling with the feisty fish. Ayden subdued the crazy fish, I saw that it was actually a Keeper and I swung the net underneath it with a whoop and holler from a 8-year old.

A family affair
Sometimes when fishing, many of us forget to look up and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. Drano Lake is one of those places that demand attention when fishing, but the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge also demands attention. There may not be a more scenic place in the North West as the Columbia River Gorge. With Drano Lake positioned in the middle of the Gorge, there may not be a more scenic to place to fish, period. When fishing Drano, we can't be too selfish to keep all this beauty to ourselves; we definitely need to invite friends and family. No need to drag the family out of bed 2 hours before light. You can easily have your family or friends meet you at the boat ramp after a leisurely drive up the Gorge. No matter where you are fishing at Drano Lake you are only minutes from idling over to the boat ramp. After a couple of laps around the lake playing "Tour Guide", your friends and family will surly be impressed and undoubtedly you will be too with the beauty of Drano Lake.

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