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

www.jasonbrooksphotography.com

Tributary Springer’s

April and May means it's time to fish the tributaries for Spring Chinook-Jason Brooks

April and May means it’s time to fish the tributaries for Spring Chinook-Jason Brooks

By Jason Brooks

Spring Chinook are undoubtedly one of the most sought after fish for the barbecue. Here is a quick rundown of some of the best Washington river’s for April and May Chinook.

#1. The Mighty Cowlitz

With 25,100 Spring Chinook expected to return to the Cowlitz River as well as a chance to double up with some late winter or early summer steelhead, this is easily number one. Back troll wrapped plugs below the I-5 launch down to the confluence of the Toutle, boondog eggs and sand shrimp anywhere from Blue Creek to Toledo. And for the bank anglers, the combat zone at Barrier Dam floating Wizard Cured eggs.

Columbia River Gorge Tributaries are always productive-Jason Brooks

Columbia River Gorge Tributaries are always productive-Jason Brooks

#2. Drano Lake

This impoundment of the Columbia in the windy gorge along highway 14 is expected back 9,800 fish. Though that’s roughly half of last year’s run this is still a yearly top producer. Boat anglers who dare the combat conditions at the highway 14 bridge will hover cured prawns until pushed aside by other boats. The trollers in the lake pull wrapped Mag Lip 4.5 plugs and the “old school” bright orange Mag Wart still produced for the bank anglers that cast and retrieve from the shoreline.

Ted Schuman with a Springer! -Jason Brooks

Ted Schuman with a Springer! -Jason Brooks

#3. Wind River

A few miles from the Bridge of God’s the Wind River dumps into the Columbia. This deadline fishery targets both the 6,500 fish cruising towards the Wind itself as well as other fish heading up the Columbia and stop to rest in the calm waters. Just like the name suggest, this fishery can become Windy and watch the water conditions. Here pulling Mag Lip 4.5’s or Mag Warts on a dropper to keep them close to the boat is the most popular technique. There is some bank access for anglers who like to pitch spoons, spinners and Mag Warts.

Fresh Spring Chinook-Jason Brooks

Fresh Spring Chinook-Jason Brooks

#4. The Quaint Kalama

A smaller river in Southwest Washington that is hoping to get back the predicted 4,900 fish, which is an improvement over the 3,100 predicted last year. This river is for the drift boat and pontoon angler and offers solitude compared to the previous three mentioned fisheries. Blue Fox Vibrax spinners in sizes 4 and 5 as well as float fishing big gobs of eggs are popular.

Wrapped Plugs are a top producer for tributary Springer's -Jason Brooks

Wrapped Plugs are a top producer for tributary Springer’s -Jason Brooks

#5. Icicle River at Leavenworth

This river is not open yet, and we really won’t know much about the season, if or when it will open until WDFW makes its decision later this month or even early May. This is typically a May fishery and with the snow runoff the river isn’t usually in shape until then anyway. But when this river opens this is a “must do” trip just for the scenery and for the warm eastern Washington sunshine while fighting a Springer. Back bouncing eggs or wrapped K-14 plugs in the few deep holes of this very short float is what catches fish.

Northwest Outdoor Report

February Razor Dig Scheduled
WDFW just tentatively approved a razor clam dig on the Washington coast for the weekend of February 7th thru the 12th at Twin Harbors. Long Beach will be open February 8-10 and Copalis and Mocrocks beaches will be open February 8th thru the 9th. WDFW will release a final approval for the dig after marine toxin test results come in next week.

Smaller Spring Chinook Run Forecast for the Columbia
Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are projecting a run of just over 141,000 spring Chinook for the Columbia River this year. The forecast is down 25 percent from the 10 year average and well below the 203,000 spring Chinook that returned to the upper Columbia River last year. The forecast will allow anglers to catch up to 5,000 upriver springers before the run is updated in early May.

Lake Washington Kicking Out Cutties
Todd Daniels from Tall Tails Guide Service (206-437-8766) is reporting excellent fishing for cutthroat trout on Lake Washington this past week. He had a thirteen fish day on the lake earlier in the week that included a few blackmouth between 3 and 5 pounds. Daniels says that even though the blackmouth have to be released they are a blast on light trolling tackle. The most productive areas have been on the south end of Lake Washington between the Cedar River and Mercer Island and also up on the north end of the lake near Kenmore.

Wynoochee Fishing Well
Derek Anderson from Screamin’ Reels Guide Service (206-849-2574) is reporting steady action for hatchery steelhead on the Wynoochee River the past couple of weeks. Derek has been catching most of his fish backtrolling plugs and baitdivers. Anderson said his biggest hatchery steelhead so far this winter has been 17 pounds and he’s had quite a few chunky fish in the 10 to 14 pound range. He’s been getting his fish on a mix of plugs and baitdivers and Anderson thinks the size 35 Hot Shots in green and blue will really produce this next week in the low and clear water. The Wynoochee River should fish excellent all the way thru the month of March.

Dickson Eye’ing Queets and Hoh for Wild Steelhead
Longtime north sound flyfishing guide Dennis Dickson of Dickson’s Flyfishing (425-238-3537) says the dolly varden are still snapping Egg Sucking Cop Cars on the upper Skagit river, but the steelhead fishing has been poor. With the upper Skagit closing on February 15th, however, he’s gearing up to head to the coast to fish the Queets and Hoh Rivers for wild steelhead. Dickson’s top choice on the coast for flyfishing water is the Queets followed closely by the Hoh River. He suggests tying up pink or black leeches when the water is high and red or blue marabous for low and clear water. Check out Dickson’s weekly flyfishing reports at Flyfishsteelhead.com for up to date river reports!

San Juan Islands Steady for Blackmouth
Derek Floyd from Angler’s Choice Charters (425-239-5740) is reporting fairly steady action in the San Juan Islands this past week. He’s had blackmouth all the way up to 16 pounds and he says the average weight of the fish has been around 9 pounds. He’s been using smaller presentations like 3” and 3.5” Coho Killers and Kingfisher Lite in glow patterns behind a green glow flasher. Floyd says that the northern Rosario Strait has been fishing good as well as the north shore of Orcas Island on the ebb tide. Derek says there’s definitely been some bigger fish in the islands recently and he wouldn’t be surprised if a 20 plus pound blackmouth won the upcoming Roche Harbor Derby.

3 Spots Left for Roche Harbor Derby
Debbie Sandwith at Roche Harbor Resort reports that there are only 3 spots left in the Roche Harbor Derby next weekend. The derby boasts $25,000 in cash prizes and this year there’s a $30,000 jackpot for any winning fish over 30 pounds. The derby is February 7-9 and you can find more information about this great event at Rocheharbor.com.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com