Charting Buoy 10 Tides
This year, the area extending from the Buoy 10 navigation marker to Tongue Point, at the Columbia River mouth, opens to salmon fishing August 1 and extends through August 24 for chinook, with a one per day chinook, fin-clipped coho or fin-clipped steelhead daily limit. To be clear, that means one fish only per day during this time frame. After August 24, no chinook can be kept (fin clipped or not) but the salmon season will continue west of Tongue Point for hatchery coho salmon with a two fin-clipped coho daily limit.
When it comes to catching salmon or the best time-of-day to fish, it's all about the tides at Buoy 10. Every year, well in advance of the fishery, I write the time and height of each daytime high on my monthly calendar. The reason: the majority of the time the best bite will occur two hours before and three or more hours after each daily high tide.
Obviously, the time of the high tide is important because it’s the incoming tide that pushes salmon into the estuary. In addition, knowing the height of the tide is essential as a big tide will generally push larger numbers of salmon near or above the Astoria-Megler Bridge while a small tide exchange may only push them midway into the fishing grounds.
My favorite time to troll is when the high tide occurs in the AM, say before 10 in the morning. When high tides occur during the middle of the day, from 10AM to 2PM, getting on the water early isn’t nearly as important as when the high occurs at or just after daylight. And although strong afternoon winds can make you hate Buoy 10, when they aren’t blowing the fishing can be pretty good when a PM high tide occurs during the late afternoon and or evening time period.
It’s likely the most productive morning (AM) tide will begin August 2 through 5 and 16 through 20 when the flood will likely produce the most salmon for those trolling areas where the high water left them. Given that the tides are minimal early in the month the salmon may not push very far into the estuary, meaning the best fishing might be near Baker Bay, Chinook, or Hammond. The tides are a little bigger during the August 16 through 20thtimeframe when the fishing might be best near or above the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which is where I’ll be starting my early-morning-day when participating in the NSIA Buoy 10 Salmon Challenge tournament on August 17.
During times when the high tide occurs between 10AM and 2PM, like during the August 6-to-10 and 20-to-24 timeframes, a more leisurely morning that includes breakfast might be in order. In addition, it opens up the opportunity to make day drips to Buoy 10. For example, a person living in the Portland or Seattle-Tacoma area would have time to drive to Astoria in the morning, launch two to three hours before high tide, and troll from then until half way through the outgo before heading home.
The evening high tides can produce salmon results at Buoy 10 too, providing you’re spending the night in the area. According to my calendar, the best evening tides will occur during the August 11-to-15 time period, when you might think about skipping the early morning bite all together and instead launching late and fishing into the evening. Since afternoon winds can make for rough conditions, you should think about launching at the East Mooring Basin or John Day boat ramp. Keep in mind that the Astoria Megler Bridge blocks an amazing amount of west wind, at least on the north end, which might be the place to be trolling when high tide occurs late in the day.