Adventures Without “Reservations”…

My first taste of the annual lower Columbia salmon bonanza known as Buoy 10 was over a decade ago and ever since, the challenge of this huge river mouth fishery has captivated a part of my thoughts and, an increasing part of my fishing plans!

After a season of deep downrigger trolling for chinook –which I love by the way- there is something about a savage shallow water strike from a big king on a short length of braid that is violently refreshing and exciting all at the same time!

The average size of these Columbia River fall chinook and coho is impressive, their fight is inspiring and they perform on the dinner table and in the smoker as well as any fish you’ll find up and down the coast. After reading all that it should come as no surprise that finding a way to comfortably and economically spend some time at this world class fishery is definitely my plan. Options for accommodations are limited and can be expensive on the lower Columbia. I’ve tried the Washington side but I prefer Astoria, Oregon.

Is it because Astoria has the only Starbucks on either side of the lower Columbia? I’ll have to take the Fifth Amendment on that inquiry…

Thankfully, our friends at Roy Robinson Chevrolet RV suggested an alternative to booked motels with no boat parking!

That “alternative” came in the form of a Winnebago Journey diesel pusher and once we hooked up to the ESPN Weldcraft “Great White” didn’t look quite as big as it used to…
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Once we got to Astoria, it wasn’t very tough to get the Winnebago Journey “popped out” and set up so it was time to hit the river!aWin Left (Small)We didn’t know it at the time but this year’s Columbia River Chinook run ended up as the 3rd largest since 1938 and they were in a biting mood!

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When we got back to our “Fish Camp”, vacuuming and freezing was a snap as the Winnebago was hooked up to shore power but the on-board generator would have also handled this with ease!

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The fires in Eastern Washington were apparent in this Western Washington morning as the smoke made for a vivid red sunrise.

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The smoky sunrise didn’t slow down the bite and we had a couple days of double-digit hookups.IMG_0160 (Small)

Eric Jorgensen of Roy Robinson Chevy/RV joined us for a couple days of our Astoria Adventure and was rewarded with solid action and BIG CHINOOK!!!

IMG_0138 (Small)I can’t tell you how great it was to come “home” to comfortable furniture, a warm shower and yes, the built-in washer and dryer in the master bath was not too bad either!

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The lasting lesson from this trip was the flexibility that a motorhome can provide you by towing a boat, small vehicle or an ATV to your vacation location. I had never really considered that a confortable, luxurious Motorhome could be a tow vehicle as well but now I know different! If I had not experienced towing my boat to Astoria from Roy Robinson Chevy/RV in Marysville myself, I never would have believed how comfortable and easy it was. The trip itself was a breeze and i did get a kick out of the looks I got when this 80-foot total rig length went cruising by.

See you on the open road!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

 

Coho Know How!

Last season was a tough one for big coho in local waters but hot on the heels of a large pink salmon run is a very solid showing of chunky coho salmon!

With the Edmonds and Everett Coho Derby looming in the coming weeks, let’s brush up on some silver slaying strategies!

The name of the game is getting a box full of chunky chrome coho!

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One look at the forecasts for Puget Sound coho should make you forget all about the end of summer with over 140,000 headed for the Skagit, 31,000 Stillaguamish silvers, the Snohomish chipping in with over 200,000 and the mid & south Sound totaling over 200,000 more! That’s over 570,000 reasons to get fired up for fall fishing and the upcoming culmination of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series, The Everett Coho Derby.

Robbie Tobeck hoists two chunky coho that would have been a dandy derby day catch!

 

In order to get off to a fast fall start on coho, let’s talk technique & tackle. I tend to view saltwater coho angling in light of chinook techniques. After all, we spend winter, spring and summer targeting chinook and only get a crack at coho in the fall so it’s useful to consider chinook techniques as a “baseline”.

Coho are nothing short of metabolic machines and as such, tend to be interested in smaller offerings trolled faster and shallower than their chinook counterparts. We’ve spent a good part of the summer keeping our gear close to the bottom while running familiar bottom contours. No more! Silvers seemingly avoid structure and have an affinity for the shipping lanes out in the middle of the sound.

Where are the “Shipping Lanes” in Puget Sound? Open up your chart or Navionics Ap, look for the pink shaded areas and the yellow navigational buoys in the center.

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One aspect of successful coho fishing that we need to keep in mind is that we should not have to “scratch” for long periods of time between strikes. Don’t keep grinding for hour after hour without action. Slow periods happen even in the best of days but with the numbers of coho available and their aggressive nature, you should be able to change depths, locations, gear, speed or direction and get it done! Don’t be satisfied with a bite or two!
Quick, morning limits are often the case when the silvers come streaming in!

 

So where do we start our search for silvers?

By looking for Surface activity: Bait jumping, birds working or my personal favorite: tide rips. Generally there is a “dirty side” and a “clean side” of a Puget Sound rip. While trolling, try not to cross the rip and stay on the clean side to minimize gear fouling but don’t feel like you have to “rub” the rip. In other words, if you can clearly see the rip, you’re close enough!

Kevin Gogan and his daughter Hannah were “close enough” to a tide rip for this limit of silvers!

 

To place numbers on the other concepts, start fishing at first light with a cut plug herring six feet behind a blaze orange trolling “kidney” or mooching sinker fished twenty “strips” deep (a two-foot pull of line off of your reel is known as a strip) and run a downrigger 40 feet deep. Keep your speeds in the 2.5 to 3.5 mph speed range which should result in a 45 degree downrigger wire angle assuming you’re using 12 pound Cannonballs. As the light level increases throughout the day, increase your depths and when you hook up, enter a waypoint into your plotter so you can troll back into the school. Silvers tend to mill around and when you find one, there is sure to be more!

Silver Horde’s “Coho Killer” have been a winning piece of gear for not only coho but chinook as well! 

Coho like a very active presentation so shorten up your leaders to the 26-34 inch range behind Luhr Jensen Coyote Flashers and you’re in business!

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Get out there this late summer and enjoy some of the fastest, wildest salmon fishing of the year! Heck, summer isn’t really over…is it????

 

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com