How To Fish Columbia River Sockeye

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Brewster Sockeye

How To Fish Columbia River Sockeye

The month of July often finds us fishing the Upper Columbia River in the Brewster Pool for Sockeye Salmon. Columbia River Sockeye Salmon average between 19-24 inches. What they lack in size they more than make up on the dinner table. Columbia River Sockeye Salmon are some of the finest tasting fish that swim in the Columbia River, and at times they can also provide outstanding fishing action. When Sockeye action is good quick limits of delicious fish are the norm! While these fish may seem easier to catch than their larger Chinook cousins, there are some specific tackle rigging and fishing differences that separate the guys that catch some from the guys who “Smack Em.” This article is designed to give you the information and gear selection that we use in our professional guide business to put consistent catches of Sockeye in our boats day in and day out. There are as many different set up as there are anglers out there, and this is not an end all be all approach to fishing Columbia River Sockeye, but simply our method for putting our customers on fish. Keep in mind that we live by the “keep it simple” approach and find that by not over complicating our rigging and gear we are able to focus more on actually putting our boats in the best position possible to catch fish.

Set up

Rods: Gloomis E6X  1143-2C STR This is a great 9’6″ casting rod that also doubles as our preferred steelhead plug rod in the Sled.  The little bit longer length gives us a little more spread in our set up.

Reels: Shimano Tekota 300 LC

Line: 25# Mono

Our set up starts by running the 25# mono through a sinker slider followed by a small bead to act as a bumper between the slider and the knot.

We tie this off to a 6 ball bead-chain swivel.

Attach a duo lock snap to the bead-chain so that the open end is toward to terminal gear ( this makes breaking down, and storing rods easier)

For the dodger lead we use 40# mono with a barrel swivel on one end and a Duo Lock Snap on the other.  We like our dodger leads to be 36″ long.

For Dodgers we mostly use the 8″ Double D Dodger from Mack’s Lures or the 11″ Sling Blade dodger from Shasta Tackle,.  Attached to our dodgers we run 8-24 inches of 40# mono for our leader.  The reason for the very heavy mono leader is that we want to be able to impart as much action as possible to our lure from the dodger and the heavy line helps this.  Also these fish tend to twist and spin an awful lot and when you are into 30/ day its nice to know you don’t need to check your leaders for abrasion.  We just re bait and drop em back out.

On the business end of our leaders we run two different set ups.  The first includes a .8 inch Mack’s Smile blade, 2 4mm beads, and a #4 Gamakatsu 2x strong red treble hook.  The addition of the single treble hook increased out hook to land ratio from a dismal 30-40% to almost 85%.  Its been that effective.  The other leader set up we use is just the same leader to nothing more that a #4 treble hook.  On both of these setups we bait up with coon shrimp.  To learn how we cure our coon shrimp click here .  We find that some days the fish want the rig with the Smile Blade and other days they just want the plain coon shrimp, but no matter what the main key to this is our coon shrimp.

To watch a video on how we set up our gear Click Here

 

Fishing

When fishing this set up in the Brewster Pool we troll at a speed between .8 and 1.4 MPH on our GPS.  This is pretty much going as slow as we can go.  Keep in mind that when trolling with the current you will carry a little more speed since the current is helping to push you along.  One trick we use is to really watch that speed and vary how fast we are going by kicking the throttle in and out of gear.  This also imparts a slight jigging action to our terminal gear.

The depths we fish vary between 8-30 feet.  To figure out where the fish are we pay close attention to our sonar and stagger our depths until we find the fish.  We commonly fish our set up between 12 – 30 feet on our line counter reels.  One tip I would like to share is that when you find some fish stay on them.

As in many salmon fisheries Brewster can be a very busy place.  If you are expecting a quiet fishing experience with few other people around then this is not your type of fishery.  Please have patience and when things get crowded and busy just remember that we are all out there for the same reason.  This is a place that I love to fish and I know many others do a well, if we are able to keep a cooler head out there it makes it much more enjoyable for everyone.

Make sure your enter for your chance at winning one of our monthly free trip drawings!  We randomly select a person every month for a free fishing trip with us.  The only thing you need to do is sign up for our newsletter and you are entered!


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Hanford Reach Fall Chinook

How to rig a Superbait and Leo Flasher

Its no secret that over the last few years Brad’s Superbaits, both the Original Series and the Cut Plug have become a very integral part of the Northwest salmon fishing scene.  This has come as no surprise to many of the anglers that have been fishing these lures on the Columbia River east of the Cascades since they were invented.  The reason Superbaits have become so popular is that they are extremely effective in almost any salmon fishing application.  I have used them with great success in every salmon troll fishery from Astoria to Brewster.  Over the past few years I have come to realize that anywhere a herring is effective a Superbait will also catch fish, and often out fish herring.  With unlimited color options and the ability to always be fishing (a Superbait never blows out or gets ripped off), combined with great action and proven in a wide range of water temperatures and run timings, if you are not fishing Superbaits you are missing the opportunity at more fish.

In the last year one of the most exciting developments in this style of fishing has been the introduction of the LEO Flasher by.  The Leo Flasher is a game changer because one of its great features and selling points is that it functions as BOTH  an inline flasher, and as a rotating flasher eliminating the need to purchase flashers that only do one or the other.  The other great thing about this flasher is that it will perform the rotating flasher role at a slower speed than other leading flashers.  This translates into being able to use the flasher in more situations.  One area I found this to be true was the anchor fishery in the Clarkston area of the Snake River for Spring Chinook.  Here we did not have quite enough current to be able to keep our herring spinning utilizing a traditional inline flasher, but when I decided to try the LEO its ability to complete its rotation at a slow current speed imparted enough action on my herring that I was able to get the spin and action needed to catch fish.  As a full time fishing guide with guiding as my sole income to provide for my family I am always on the lookout for products that help me put fish in the boat on a day to day basis throughout the season.  Brad’s Superbaits and LEO Flashers are two products that help me to accomplish this goal, and you will see them in my boat everyday.

Below you will find a detailed description on how I rig my Superbaits and LEO Flashers for Trolling.

Mainline: 50# Power Pro braided line 

Lead: 6-20 oz cannon ball sinkers connected on a slider with a 6 inch section of .035 spinner wire in between the slider and the lead.  The purpose of this is to help eliminate tangles between the flasher lead and the cannon ball, and also helps the user feel for the bottom when trying to fish in areas where we are keeping our gear just off the bottom.

Flasher Lead: 24 inches of 50# Berkley Big Game (use a different color than your leader to help identify which is which when a tangle does occur)

Leader: 36-44 Inches of  40# Berkley Big Game

Hooks: #2 Gamakatsu 2x strong treble hook followed by 2 #2/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hooks tied an inch apart 4 inches behind the treble hook.  Set the treble hook so it rides inside the hook garage of the Superbait and the two singles riding just behind the Superbait.

To Watch a video on how we set up this system please check out How to Rig a Super Bait and Flasher Video!

I almost always stuff my Superbaits with Tuna.  For information on how I do up my tuna Concoctions click HERE.

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how to rig a superbait and flasher


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Astoria Fall Chinook

How to Tuna Wrap a Plug

It’s no secret that we use a lot of different canned tuna concoctions while targeting Chinook salmon through the year.  One of the biggest advantages we have is that we fish for Chinook from March – October every year starting with Spring Chinook, then Summer Chinook, and finally rounding out our salmon season with Fall Chinook.  This 7 month season give us the advantage in truly being able to dial in our baits to match the situations we are presented with.  Over the course of our 7 month salmon season we target fish with many different baits and lures, but there is one item that can always be found in our boat, canned tuna.  One of our favorite ways to use tuna is to wrap it onto plugs such as the Maglip by Yakima Bait.  The following video will show you just how we go about turning our tuna concoctions into a great bait wrap.

Also don’t forget to sign up for our Newsletter and enter your self in for a chance to win a free guided fishing trip.  We draw a random name from our list in July and January!


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How to Prepare Canned Tuna for Salmon Fishing

Many salmon anglers have come to realize the effectiveness of canned tuna as a bait source for salmon fishing.  Canned tuna, especially packed in oil, has many uses as a salmon bait.  It is often wrapped in mesh to form tuna balls, wrapped onto plugs, stuffed in Super Baits, or added to eggs as a flavor enhancer, and because canned tuna is sold in every grocery store and is transported with no refrigeration needed it is an extremely versatile and cost effective bait.  While basic tuna taken directly from the can has, and continues to be, the most used variation of the bait there are a some things we can do to make our tuna fish even better.

Myself and many other anglers throughout the northwest have discovered that there are often extra things we can do to our tuna to make it fish even better than taking it directly out of the can.  The end result is what we often call Tuna Concoctions, or mixes of scents, cures, salts, and a few other key ingredients that takes that old boring canned tuna and turns it into a very dynamic bait that can be tailored to any salmon fishing situation presented.

The following steps are just a simple version that some would consider just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to development of tuna concoctions.  The information provided here is presented in a way that might open up your mind to many possible ways to improve you salmon fishing success with the use of canned tuna.

Ingredients:

Tuna (packed in Oil)

Salt (non iodized)

Super Dipping Sauce ( My Favorite )

Measuring Spoons

Container with a lid

Can opener 

 

Step 1:

Open the can of tuna and drain off the oil.

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Step 2:

Add tuna to container (preferably one with a lid)

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Step 3:

Add salt to your tuna. The amount varies depending on time of year and where the fish are in the system.  As a general rule of thumb for Chinook it seems that the farther you get from the ocean and the warmer the water the more salt the fish crave, I often add anywhere from a tablespoon to a half a cup per can of tuna.

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Step 4:

Add scents and additives to this mixture.  A must have line of scents for me are Super Dipping Sauce scents by Money Maker Fishing.  I add a table spoon of each scent I want to use to per each can of tuna.  My all time favorite is the Garlic Super Dipping Sauce.

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Step 5:

Refrigerate overnight or place on ice.  Give this mixture time to set up and really let the scents and salts get into the tuna.  The next morning your tuna concoction will be ready to fish!

 

As you can see this is a very easy and quick process that will give your tuna an extra kick.  The sky is the limit as far as what can be added to this mixture.  Always be experimenting because you never know when you might stumble upon the cant miss recipe that fills your boat with limits.

Look for blogs in the near future that discuss how to wrap tuna on plugs, rig tuna balls, stuff / rig Super Baits, and other creative ways to fish this versatile bait.

Don’t forget to sign up for our Newsletter and enter yourself for a chance to win a free fishing trip.  We draw a random winner from our email list every July and January.


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How to Brine Herring for Salmon Fishing

With Columbia River Spring Chinook fishing right around the corner I wanted to cover a topic of discussion that often comes up on my boat. Many people ask “How do you brine your bait for Spring Chinook”. Below I have outlined my simple process for turning my frozen herring into fish catching machines. Keep in mind that I use a very simple approach that gives me consistent success day in day out.
Ingredients:

Container
Rock Salt
Bottled Water
Herring
Various scents (optional)
Dye (optional)

How to Brine Herring

Step 1:
The first step is buying quality herring and prepping it for the brine. Make sure to buy quality herring! By quality I mean packages that are blood free, have clear eyes, and have most scales intact. One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to brine up bait that is of sub-par quality. Always remember that it takes good bait to make good bait. Don’t fish crappy bait!
After removing the package from the freezer it is best to cut one side of the package open to let air in. This removes the vacuum seal and will ensure that as your herring are beginning to thaw the packaging does not pull any of the scales off.
Make sure at this point to let the herring thaw until they are able to be removed from the package without having to pull them off the Styrofoam tray.

How to Brine Herring

Step 2:
While your packages of Herring are continuing to thaw it is now time to make your brine. This is a very simple brine that contains only two ingredients, Rock Salt and bottled water. Combine one bottle (16.9 oz) of water to 1 cup rock salt. At this point you can now add any optional scents or dyes to the brine. For Spring Chinook I often will add a very small amount of Blue Bad AZZ bait dye from Pro Cure. For some reason at times these fish seem to really crave the slight blue tint.

How to Brine Herring

Step 3:
Carefully remove the herring from the package and add to your brine. Now put the brining herring into your cooler and keep on ice. This bait is best fished 8-48 hours from when first put in the brine, so brine your bait the afternoon before you are planning on fishing, but don’t worry if you start the process too late I have fished these baits after only sitting in the brine for a few hours and they fished fine, and got better as the day went on. Just always remember to keep your bait nice and cold while on the water!

How to Brine Herring

How to Brine Herring

How to Brine Herring

For up to date fishing reports make sure you check out our reports page.

Don’t forget to sign up for our free newsletter and enter yourself in for a chance at winning a free guided fishing trip!  We draw a random name from our newsletter list every January and July.


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Summer Chinook and Sockeye

SUMMER CHINOOK AND SOCKEYE

Come Late June, July and early August we can be found fishing the Upper Columbia between Tri-Cities, Washington and the town of Brewster, Washington.  Summer Chinook are commonly called June hogs and are known for their size and incredible strength.  During this time of year we often have great numbers of Sockeye available. What these fish lack in size they more than make up for as table fare.   We often catch both Chinook and Sockeye on the same trip.  This is a fantastic fishery and we can’t think of a better way to spend a summer day than fishing the Columbia River for Summer Chinook and Sockeye Salmon.

 Hanford Reach

We target the Hanford Reach fishing out of Vernita Bridge and Ringold for summer Chinook and Sockeye starting the end of June.  We also offer catch and keep sturgeon fishing at this time and often do combination trips.  This is mostly an anchor fishery as we like to sit on travel lanes and wait for the waves of migrating Chinook and Sockeye to meet our gear.  The flows of the Columbia River at this time are often very high due to the early summer run off, it is this high water that makes these fish available and aggressive.  When fishing here we are looking for points and bars, or any structure that disrupts the flow of the water and creates an easier place for the fish to migrate.  These fish are constantly moving and are looking for the slower inside bends to help them conserve energy for their long migration.  It is at these congestion points that we often anchor up and deploy our gear.  This style of fishing is both very relaxing and exciting.  The Hanford Reach is a huge place and we often have large areas of river almost all to our self’s.

To see a Google Map of our meeting locations click here.

 

Wanapum Dam

Starting July 1st the Columbia River above Priest Rapids Dam opens.  Our first stop for these fish is the tail race of Wanapum Dam, it’s here that the heavy currents caused by the Dam congregates migrating Summer Chinook and Sockeye Salmon.  This is a very popular troll fishery.  When targeting Chinook we like to troll flashers and Brad’s Super Baits, Flashers and herring, and spinners.  When targeting Sockeye we fish 8 inch chrome dodgers followed by a small hoochie squid tipped with a coon shrimp.  This can be a very busy fishery, but the fishing here can be absolutely fantastic!  We typically will fish Wanapum through the 10th or so of July before moving up river.  The Sockeye and Chinook caught here during early July are some of the best table fare around!

To see a Google Map of our meeting locations click here.

 

Brewster/Wells Dam

We start fishing in the Brewster, Washington area about the 10th of July.  When fishing here we target both the Brewster Pool and the area just below Wells Dam.  We will put you on the best location to get you on a bunch of Chinook or Sockeye.  Both locations are primarily troll fisheries.  For Sockeye we like to troll 8 inch dodgers followed by a small coon shrimp, and when targeting Chinook we like to fish Super Bait’s, Herring, spinners, or plugs.  Wells Dam is much like the fishery we see at Wanapum Dam.  Lots of current and fish stacked up trying to get through the fish ladders.  One difference here is that unlike Wanapum there is a Chinook Hatchery at Wells Dam and for many fish this is the end of the line.  This means there are always fish holding here waiting to head up into the hatchery.

The Brewster Pool is very different from both Wells and Wanapum and resembles a big reservoir.  Here the current is slowed and the fishing is a little more laid back.  This is a holding area created by the warm water temperatures of the Okanogan River.  Most of the Upper Columbia River Sockeye and lots of Summer Chinook are headed up the Okanogan River to Spawning grounds in Canada and the Okanagan River Valley.  Once the water temperature hits the 70 degree mark its creates a temperature barrier for migrating Salmon.  It is once this barrier is set that the Brewster Pool becomes a salmon fishing paradise.  Tens of thousands of Chinook and Sockeye hold here waiting for the temperature in the Okanagan River to cool enough to allow safe passage.  Quick limits of Sockeye and multiple hookups on great fighting Summer Chinook are the norm.  We offer both full and half day trips in this area and often run a full day followed by a half day afternoon trip.

To see a Google Map of our meeting locations click here