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



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!