Catch More Springers in High Water!

Spring Chinook are highly prized no matter how hard it is to catch them-Jason Brooks

by Jason Brooks

With record high water and water clarity the color of mud it’s been hard to get excited about spring Chinook fishing. That is until you realize that it’s already mid-April and the fish are in the river. Regardless of the water conditions this is our chance to catch the worlds best eating salmon before they head to their natal streams. The main Columbia and most of its tributaries are flowing high this spring but here are some tips on how to fish for Springers while we can.

Double up on in-line flasher’s like Big Al’s from YBC attracts fish in muddy water-Jason Brooks

Double up! Its no secret that trolling Big Al’s Fish Flash with a trailing herring is a top producer for springers. With low visibility use two of the in-line flashers to create even more flash. Buzz Ramsey of Yakima Bait Company explained that the fish are attracted to the flashing of the rotating flashers so in very low visibility waters he will put two of them end to end to create even more flash.

Brined and Dyed baits with UV finish on a shorter leader will catch more fish-Jason Brooks

In low visibility water the double flashers draw the fish and if you use the standard 48 inch leader the fish simply won’t see the bait. Instead shorten the leaders to 24-30 inches.

Ultraviolet light is radiated from the “electromagnetic spectrum” of light that “glows”. You and I can’t see it but the fish can. Many lures come with UV enhancements and on dark days using lures, flashers, and bait dyes with UV can attract fish. In high water this can make a bite turn on. Use cures such as Pro-Cure’s Brine-n-Bite Complete with UV on your herring and UV dyes such as Bad Azz bait dye don’t hurt either.

High water means fish will be on the move so trolling can be more productive for suspended fish-Jason Brooks

Trolling in high water can put you in front of more fish, as the fish are on the move and can be scattered. During normal flows it’s common to sit on anchor for the outgoing tide and on smaller rivers anchoring on seams and current breaks can work well. With the extreme high water we have right now, however, the fish are on the move and trolling can produce more fish than “sitting on the hook”. Keep in mind that the fish are not always right on the bottom and in slack waters they’ll suspend so it’s a good idea to stagger the rods at different depths while trolling.

Regardless if a storm is coming or a sunny day is forecasts, get out and fish!-Jason Brooks

Get out and fish! Regardless of tides, high water, rain, wind, or any other excuse that you’re using to stay home, the Spring Chinook season is very short so get out and wet a line!

Buzz Ramsey is no stranger to springer fishing on the Columbia River and regardless of the conditions you’ll find him out there on the river on a daily basis trying new color patterns and techniques. All the hard work paid off with this nice springer for Shirley Sanchotena on a recent outing.

Shirley Sanchotena and Buzz Ramsey are all smiles with Shirley’s Springer caught during high water that bit a herring on a short leader trailing two Big Al’s Fish Flash-Jason Brooks

Jason Brooks
The Outdoor Line Blogger
710 ESPN Seattle

Sea Lion’s Invade Lower Columbia

On the heels of a record smelt run in the Columbia River there’s a new record, of sorts, being set by California Sea Lions on the lower Columbia River. Yesterday there was an astonishing 1420 sea lions hauled out on the floats of the East Mooring Basin in Astoria, Oregon. It’s the highest number of the furry pinniped’s ever encountered in the marina and biologists, as well as anglers, are hopeful the sea lions are heading downstream instead of upstream.

Here’s a shot from Q float in the East Mooring Basin. There’s 529 sea lions on this float alone. I’m not certain how these folks plan on getting to their boats…yikes!

Astoria - California Sea LionsRob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle


Springer School!

Just as every northwesterner counts down the waning days of winter looking forward to spring, salmon anglers eagerly await the arrival of our earliest running chinook affectionately known as “springers”.

Trying to fit the four-hour springer sojurn to the Columbia into a busy schedule is challenging enough. Add to that the inconsistent, early season springer fishing reports and the term “forcing the issue” comes to mind.

After Saturday morning’s weekly installment of The Outdoor Line Radio Show and then the annual Master Marine Spring Seminar in Mt Vernon, “The Commish” Larry Carpenter and I hooked up to Big Red and did some I-5 time, launching in the Columbia just before dark.

A Columbia River Sunday morning sunrise greets us. We had great baits -and great attitudes- working early and late…


Unfortunately for us, despite great bait and a long effort, we would not get a single bite on Sunday. Mark Coleman of All Rivers Guide Service was the only guide boat we saw land a fish. Here is Mark and his happy clients with a springer right under the I-5 Bridge.


Enter my ol’ buddy Eric Linde for a little technique refresher… “springer school” if you will… Eric and his clients had a tough day on Sunday as well and since he didn’t have clients on Monday, he agreed to jump onboard Big Red for the Monday morning bite.















And yes,… true to form, on the second drag of the day Eric’s rod lit up and no matter how hard he tried to pass off the rod, no one would accept it! We “made” him play the fish!


I’m pretty sure there was no more experienced net man on the entire Columbia River that day than Larry Carpenter. Here he checks traffic ahead while he waits for Eric to get control of a hot springer.


Just one more run alongside the boat….


…and our first Columbia River springer of the season is in the bag!


Nothing quite says “chrome” like a St. Patty’s Day springer. Eric Linde’s smile says it all!













There are springers a lot bigger than this one, but what he lacks in size, he will more than make up in taste on the table tonight!!!


This year’s springer season is just getting cranked up. We’re guarenteed a season in the main stem of the Columbia through April 5th. After that, we’re at the mercy of an in-season update which may result in more days on the Columbia, but probably not until May. The Willamette, Wind and Drano Lake will remain open through April but keep in mind that until we see springer numbers over Bonneville in excess of 2000/day, the Bonne pool “bubble” fisheries will not be worth the drive.

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I have to put a springer on the “Bar-bie”

Tom Nelson

710 ESPN Seattle


Northwest Outdoor Report

Humptulips and Satsop Kicking out Coho
Patient anglers that waited until the end of the season to fill their freezers with coho were rewarded with great fishing this past week on the Humptulips and Satsop Rivers. Scott Sypher from Canyon Man’s Guide Service (206-518-4982) and Phil Stephens from Mystical Legends Guide Service (206-940-0052) both reported excellent silver fishing on both rivers. They both got quick limits on the Humptulips fishing eggs under a float two days ago and the fish have been big…running between 10 and 15 pounds. Over on the Satsop several fish in the 18 to 20 pound range have been reported the last couple of days, as well. These fish are often called the Christmas coho because the fishing usually remains good right up until Santa Claus rolls into town. The only problem is that the Northwest River Forecast Center is predicting that these rivers will be well out of fishable shape until as late as next weekend.

Cowlitz Slow for Steelhead
Outside of just a few winter steelhead being caught on the Cowlitz River fishing has been really slow there this past week. Derek Anderson from Screamin’ Reels Guide Service (206-849-2574) thinks the next high water should bring some fish into the system in the next week or so. The Northwest River Forecast Center is calling for the Cowlitz to ramp up to over 16,000 cfs by mid next week after a series of wet weather systems hits Western Washington, which is much too high to effectively fish for steelhead.

Blackmouth Still Holding off South Whidbey
When the weather allows for it Derek Floyd from Angler’s Choice Charters (425-239-5740) has been stroking the blackmouth at Possession Bar off the South end of Whidbey Island. Derek said he landed 13 legal blackmouth last Saturday on the bar and released another 5 wild fish before calling it a day. Floyd said it’s been tough to fish lately with all the wind, but when it lay’s he thinks the fishing will remain good. The Floyd fishing team will be heading to Friday Harbor the middle of this next week to compete with 70 other fishing teams and $15,000 in cash prizes in the Resurrection Salmon Derby.

Gillnet Removal on Tap for Columbia River
Sportsman may soon get their wish to have non-tribal gillnets removed entirely from the lower Columbia River. The Oregon and Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissions will meet at the Holiday Inn in Portland on December 7th and on January 11th and 12th in Olympia to vote on a plan to push gillnets off the mainstem of the lower Columbia and into designated off-channel netting areas. If the plan goes thru the sportfishing quota on runs like summer Chinook would be increase to 100% of the non-tribal catch. Sportsman would also see an increase in spring Chinook, fall Chinook, coho, and sockeye quota if the plan is approved. While the plan is very complicated many are hopeful that the gillnets will be removed and that a new era in sportfishing will dawn on the Columbia River.

Resurrection and Roche Harbor Derby Tickets on Sale
Tickets are still on sale for the Resurrection Blackmouth Derby in Friday Harbor next weekend. The Outdoor Line crew will be fishing in this derby and broadcasting live from the derby on Saturday. The derby is December 7th and 8th and boasts $15,000 in cash with $10,000 for 1st place. Log on to for more information about this event. The next  big derby in the series is the Roche Harbor Derby held February 7th thru the 9th at Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. The Roche boasts $25,000 in guaranteed cash prizes and this year the resort will kick in an additional $30,000 for a winning blackmouth over 30 pounds. Tickets are $700 per boat for the Roche and registration forms can be found at

Arizona Fish and Game Corrects False Press Release
Television, radio, newspaper and online news outlets carried a story this past week that elk hunters who hadn’t filled their bull elk tag at the end of the season would get a weeklong extension to their season. The Associated Press released the article without checking credentials and now Arizona Fish and Game officials are scurrying to clarify the situation. Officials aren’t quite sure where the press release came from, but suspect that an elk hunter with media access is behind the hoax.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle