Buoy 10 Salmon-The Super Bowl of Salmon Fisheries
By: Cody Herman
August 1st is an important date for all Salmon anglers across the Pacific Northwest. This date on the calendar signifies the opener of the Columbia River Estuary each year for what many consider to be the best Chinook and Coho fishing anywhere in the world. Each year, more than 1 million Salmon will cross the “Most Dangerous Bar in the World” as they begin their journey to the spawning grounds hundreds of miles upstream. This 40 square mile area can provide the most fast paced action or incredible frustration. However, every angler knows that on each tide change, thousands of new fish will enter the Buoy 10 fishery. Here are the details you need to know if you plan on making the trek to this world-renowned Salmon Fishery:
Chinook and Coho Salmon. The Chinook average between 12-20lbs most years with Coho in the 6-10lb range. However, each year sees Chinook over 40lbs and 20lb class Coho! Because these fish are entering dozens of different tributaries, there are several runs that are protected in hopes of increasing their future numbers. As such, regulations change each year…and sometimes…each week during the season.
Yes, August 1st is the opener. But what is more important is understanding tides. Whether you are planning out a weekend or to fish the entire season, knowing when these fish will arrive will help set realistic expectations. In general, Peak tides will bring in Coho and the Chinook push into the estuary as those tides begin to fall. As the tides bottom out and begin to rise, the fish will acclimate to the warmer freshwater move further upstream. Chinook will show early in the season, with a good push of Coho arriving on the biggest tide swings around the 3rd week of August.
The main port towns for anglers is Astoria, Oregon and either Chinook or Ilwaco, Washington. Now, let’s talk about where in this massive expanse of water should you focus your efforts! These fish can move 20 miles on each tide exchange which occur every 6-8 hours. This can make staying on top of the bulk of the Salmon entering the Columbia River Estuary difficult.
For this reason, paying attention to water temperature can be your best plan of attack. The new fish will be in the cooler ocean water while your fish moving upstream will be in the warmer river water. There can be a 20-degree difference between the two on occasion. As you start seeing some action from other boats and on your electronics, take note of the water temperature and try to stay within a couple degrees of that number. This should greatly increase your success rate!
Trolling. Because this area is so massive and the fish move with the tides, your best technique will be trolling with the current as it flows in and ebbs out. Pay attention to your electronics. Many areas you could be fishing in 50+ feet of water and these fish could be cruising shallow or be belly in the dirt! Trust your electronics and put your gear in the strike zone! As for tackle, most anglers think cut plug herring for targeting Salmon at the coast. However, the currents often exceed 5mph on the tide changes and can easily rip your bait off the hooks. Because of this, fishing with lures is an excellent option. The new SpinFish from Yakima Bait Company in sizes 2.5, 3.0 and 4.0 have become a quick favorite in just the last 2 years.
This is because you can add bait like Pro-Cure’s “Fish Nip” inside of the SpinFish for added attraction. Another option is using spinners in sizes 3.5 all the way up to size 7 blades in both Cascade and Colorado. Colors that seem to work best are any variation of Pink, White, Red and Chartreuse with a Gold, Silver or Copper base. Fish these lures 3-4’ behind an 8” Big Al’s “Fish Flash” Flasher in Red, Chartreuse or any metallic variations. Be sure to bring the big leads as well. Because of the heavy currents, 12-20oz leads are needed to keep your gear in front of the fish! 9’6” to 10’6” rods with line counter reels filled with either 30lb Maxima Mono or 65lb Maxima Braid 8 is ideal. Line counter reels can help you duplicate each bite and ensure you are staying in front of the fish as they flush through the estuary!
Patience and Safety are paramount if you plan on participating in this fishery. The lines at the ramps are long, parking lots are full, the docks are crowded and many times you are fishing in extremely tight quarters on the water during a good bite. Each year, there are boat collisions that take place simply because of the number of boats on the water. Be aware of your surroundings, pay attention to the details and remember…this is fishing…have fun on the water!
Written by: Cody Herman
TV Show Host
***The author posts daily updates from the Buoy 10 fishery talking through details of the day on the water, where the fish were biting and what gear is working best! Thousands of people watch these videos daily in hopes of gaining an edge for their next trip to the Mouth of the Columbia River or to simply follow along with the biggest Salmon Fishery in the Lower 48! To watch and subscribe to these videos, go to: www.youtube.com/dayoneoutdoors