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The Columbia River is by far one of the most renowned fishing destinations in the Pacific Northwest and is known around the world primarily as a premier salmon and sturgeon fishing destination. With that in mind, the most common fishing trips available on the Columbia River are for either salmon or sturgeon.
Salmon Fishing Trips
When it comes to salmon fishing on the Columbia there are three primary species targeted. The largest of the species being chinook salmon, then Coho as well as sockeye. There are three primary salmon fishing season on the Columbia River that consists of spring salmon season, summer salmon and fall salmon. If you are looking to plan a Columbia River salmon fishing trip you’ll need to do so within these time frames. Also, keep in mind seasons can be cut short due to run sizes and catch rates. You’ll want to refer to any department of fish and wildlife notifications in regards to the Columbia River system to keep abreast of any in-season closures of season extensions.
Chinook Salmon Fishing Trips
Among the most sought after salmon species found on the Columbia are Chinook salmon. They are the largest of the species and range anywhere from 10lbs to 45 lbs. because of this chinook are often considered the most desirable of the species for both the commercial fishery and sports fishery.
Chinook are divided among spring, summer and fall subspecies, based on what time of the year they return from the ocean to spawn. In the Columbia River, spring chinook begin their journey to the spawning grounds from March through May, summer Chinook return from June through July, and fall Chinook return from August through November.
Of the three subspecies of chinook salmon, spring chinook are considered the most prized of the species. This is due to the high-fat content and excellent condition of the meat which results in the most flavorful and best-eating chinook that resides on the Pacific Northwest.
When the spring fishery begins anglers focus their efforts at the mouth of the Columbia near Buoy 10 or on the Oregon side near Astoria. As the salmon move up river there are several popular holding spots like the mouth of the Cowlitz River or on the Oregon side the confluence of the Willamette River.
Sockeye Salmon Fishing Trips
Columbia River Sockeye salmon are unique among the species because they spawn and rear in lakes, can spend up to two years in freshwater before going to the ocean. They return about June 1 through August 1. and are targeted among side chinook salmon during the summer salmon runs. Sockeye move rapidly through the lower portions of the Columbia River and are primarily sought after in the midsections such as the Brewster Pool where they tend to hold up before working their way up the river in some cases all the way to Canada.
Coho Salmon Fishing Trips
When the fall salmon season comes around it’s all about the Coho action. Columbia River coho, which also have a stream-type life history, return from the ocean between late August and early November. In some cases, you can still find some fall chinook to target during this time as well, but the vast numbers of Coho can make it hard to get to them. Fall salmon season is generally the best salmon fishing the Columbia has to offer, largely due to the extensive numbers of fish available in the river system during that time.
Steelhead Fishing Trips
Steelhead are also a very popular species to target in the Columbia River Basin. The two primary runs that are available are the summer steelhead runs and the winter steelhead runs. Similar to spring chinook, steelhead return from the ocean between June 1st and November 1st, with that time period about evenly split between summer steelhead and winter steelhead, although winter steelhead also can return after November 1st. Summer steelhead spawns in tributaries throughout the anadromous fish range of the Columbia River Basin; winter steelhead are found mainly in tributaries downstream of Oregon’s Deschutes River. Summer Steelhead trips tend to be the more popular of the two as winter steelhead fishing requires the angler to endure the cold climate the winter season has to offer.
Sturgeon Fishing Trips
The Columbia River is one of the last bastions of keeper sturgeon fishing in the world. With many sturgeon populations at a critical low, the Columbia still has healthy enough populations to allow decent fisheries. The season usually consists of keeper sturgeon season or catch and release sturgeon fishing depending on the time of the year. Sturgeon are among some of the tops Columbia River Fishing trips available due to the ease of being able to catch them. Another very attractive aspect of fishing for sturgeon is that they can get up to 6ft long making them a true challenge that most anglers will never forget.
These are among the top Columbia River Fishing Trips currently available on the Columbia River system. There are some less notable fishing trips such as walleye, bass, shad, and catfish. Keep in mind if you want to target these Columbia River fish you’ll have to work a little harder to find a fishing guide that offers trips for these particular species.