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Spring Chinook

March through early June we target Spring Chinook, starting on the Columbia River near Portland in late March and early April then following the fish up river to the Columbia Gorge, John Day Dam and finally ending up on the Snake River sometime early to mid may. These are the Kobe Beef of the Salmon world. In our opinion no other salmon species are as good on the table as Columbia River Spring Chinook. Most Spring Chinook average between 10-15 pounds with fish over 20 pounds considered large.

We start off our Spring Chinook season around the last week of March in the Portland, Oregon / Vancouver, Washington area. We mostly target the Columbia River, but we will also fish the Willamette. We fish this area through about the first 10 days of April. This is a very unique fishery and is our first shot at these amazing fish. Experiencing such wonderful fishing so close to a major metropolitan city is very cool, not to mention that Portland is a really neat place to spend some time. Our main area of focus is in the vicinity of the I5 bridge. This makes meeting up with us really easy for traveling fisherman staying in the Portland/Vancouver area.

If you want a shot at some of the best tasting salmon you will ever eat this is the fishery for you. Portland area Spring Chinook are our absolute favorite fish to target for the dinner table. No other salmon in the Columbia River System comes anywhere close to comparing to the quality of these fish. Many of these fish are bound for spawning grounds 500+ river miles upstream in Idaho, and will not spawn until late august and September, so consequently Columbia River Springers are packed with great fats and oils to survive the journey.

In the Portland area we mostly troll herring close to the bottom. This is a fantastic technique for covering lots of water, and because we are constantly adjusting our depth to stay near the bottom it is also very hands on. In this fishery the most successful folks on the water are the ones making sure their herring is fishing near the bottom

Columbia River Gorge
The second half of April usually finds us upriver of Bonneville Dam in the Columbia Gorge. While in this area we fish the mouth of the Wind River, Drano Lake and John Day Dam. We base our decisions on where to fish based on which location is fishing the best. While fishing the mouth of the Wind River or Drano Lake we primarily troll herring, prawn spinners, Brad’s Superbaits, or plugs. One of the coolest things about fishing the “Gorge” and particularly the Wind River, is the scenery. The way the canyon raises almost vertical from the river and the deep shade of green covering everything in the spring really makes you feel as if you or in a special place. This is an exciting fishery and when the fishing is good it’s a crowded, but energetic place to be.

Even though its a little bit east of the official Columbia River Gorge we still include John Day Dam fishery in this category. This is predominantly an anchor fishery in that we anchor up on travel lanes and wait for the fish to come to us. Our favorite lures here a the large salmon style plugs such as the Luhr Jensen Kwickfish, Yakima Bait Flat Fish, or the Brad’s Killer Fish. This is a very relaxing and extremely productive fishery,with the added bonus of keeper sized sturgeon fishing in combination with your Spring Chinook Trips. It is not uncommon for us to limit out on salmon in the morning and spend the rest of the day pulling on sturgeon. This is one of the only fisheries that we fish that gives us the opportunity at both salmon and sturgeon on the same trip, and has become an absolute favorite of ours.

Snake River
Once enough fish have started crossing the dame we follow the migration up the Snake River. The areas we target most are Little Goose Dam, Lower Granite Dam, and Clarkston. Like at John Day Dam we mostly fish these areas on anchor with bait wrapped plugs such as Kwickfish, Flatfish, and Killer Fish. The one exception to this is that in the Clarkston fishery when the current is slower (as was the case in 2015) it is an absolutely fantastic troll fishery. This is often a short but very productive season. We typically fill our Snake River quota fast, so this is not a fishery to wait around for. If it’s open and we are here then you better get on it now!

On the Snake we are mainly targeting fish bound for the Clearwater, and Salmon Rivers in Idaho. Even though we are fishing quite a long ways from the ocean, many of these fish still have a few hundred miles to travel before reaching their home waters, so the meat quality is absolutely fantastic. Just like at John Day Dam we often offer sturgeon fishing to go along with your trip (ask us about this at the time of booking as we may or may not have this option depending on the location we are fishing that day.)

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