The Columbia River is one of the most renowned sport fishing destinations in the world. From the mouth of the river at Astoria, Oregon and Ilwaco, Washington to the Hanford Reach, there are endless fishing opportunities for Salmon, steelhead and Sturgeon year around.
Of course when it comes to the Columbia River Salmon fishing is without a doubt the biggest draw to the area with literally thousands of hours spent targeting the five main runs of Salmon that work their way up the Columbia River every year.
Three runs of Chinook Salmon, a run of Sockeye and a run of Coho/Silver Salmon provide anglers with plenty of Salmon fishing action throughout the year. Seasons for these fisheries are typically agreed upon in January, but because of healthy stocks, seasons remain fairly predictable.
Spring Chinook Salmon fishing starts in March and is, for Salmon aficionados, the best tasting of any Salmon in the world. These fish are prized at great restaurants around the country and often times go for in excess of $30/pound in our local stores. Fortunately for many washingtonians , we like to catch them ourselves and do a pretty good job of it.
Summer Chinook Salmon fishing, a.k.a. the “June Hog” fishery has come on strong since the early 2000’s. Fishermen on the Columbia River went decades without Summer Salmon fishing opportunities and focused efforts to revive the run really paid off. Although not as large a run as it’s Spring Chinook counterpart, the is almost a good eating.
Summer Chinook Salmon fishing now gives us two weeks of good fishing usually running from the middle of June until the first of July. These fish are known for their size and eat very similarly to a Springer. The season also coincides with the warmer weather and the arrival of Columbia River summer steelhead and sockeye, which incidentally tend to bite much of the same gear. Needless to say, this has become a very popular window of opportunity for people to get out on the water.
Columbia River Fall Chinook Salmon fishing kicks off in August with the arrival of fish to the mouth of the river around Astoria and Ilwaco. This “Buoy 10″ fishery as many call it, may be the most popular fishery of the year. Hundreds of thousands of Fall Chinook enter the river and provide seasonal opportunity as they migrate up the river to areas like the mouth of the Lewis and Cowlitz Rivers near Longview, Washington, Bonneville Dam, the Klickitat River and finally the Hanford Reach.
Columbia River steelhead fishing just starts getting good in June right about the time that the Summer Salmon and Sockeye fishing is in full swing. Just about every tributary on the Columbia River sees some semblance of a summer steelhead return with major runs existing on the Cowlitz River, Deschutes River, the Willamette River Drainage, John Day, Snake and Upper Columbia River. Targeting summers early on fortunately entails reeling in lots of different species, but as we get into July or catch is dominated by steelhead that are more than ready to take our offerings down.
Columbia River Sturgeon fishing
Columbia River Sturgeon fishing is one of the great attractions for anglers. It’s characterized by naturally propagating fish below Bonneville Dam and long time resident and stocked fish above Bonneville. Sturgeon fishing on the Columbia River is heavily regulated with most of the annual seasons set sometime in January. Catch and release fishing is always available, but if taking fish home is a priority, you’ll need to make sure you’re fishing when you can do so.
Columbia River Sturgeon fishing starts the first of the year and continues right into a spring fishery. Sometime in May or June, many of the fish that were in the Portland area will migrate downstream to the estuary in the Astoria area and provide anglers with some of the best sturgeon fishing of the year.
The estuary Sturgeon fishing in Astoria has over the years been one of the major fisheries in the calendar year for NW residents. Keeper fish to 60 pounds and oversize fish to 125 pounds can provide both quantity and quality that I’m not sure exists anyplace else. Fishermen from around the country have also learned about this opportunity and as a result come from all over the world and fish the estuary in Astoria to experience this unique fishery.