With the official start of summer just around the corner the walleye bite on the Columbia River is really starting to heat up. Water temps are now in the upper 50’s and walleye are feeding heavily as they feed on migrating juvenile salmon smolts heading to the ocean. We have been having success both pulling crankbaits, and fishing bottom walkers and worms. Our best bites the past few outings have been using crankbaits in color combinations that mimic downstream migrating salmon smolts. Any baits with chrome, blue, and purple hues to them have been getting consistently attacked by hungry walleye.
A major key to our success this year has been the use of inline planer boards. We like the yellow boards made by Offshore Tackle Company and we use them in conjunction with the tattle flag system. Trolling with planer boards lets us really expand the amount of water we cover, with our outside boards often 50 feet to the side of the boat we are covering over 100 feet of river from the outside board on the right side to the outside board on the left side. Another benefit to fishing boards is that it lets our baits fish out away from the influence of the boat. Fish that come in contact with our plugs on outside boards have no idea our boat is even in the area. Yet another advantage of fishing planer boards it the ability to run deep diving plugs on short set backs. Yesterday for example the fish really seemed to be keyed into a Bandit Walleye Deep, and by using a planer board to fish the lure to the side of the boat we were able to run them at 40 feet behind the board. This put our Bandits fishing at around 13 feet which was perfect for the active feeding walleye that were looking up from 15-19 feet of water.
The video included below is an example from some trout fishing earlier this year on how we set out our planer boards and the spread we get from using them.
We started our 2020 walleye season last week on the Columbia River. To say that fishing started out hot was an understatement. Fishing was on fire! The beautiful spring weather has pre spawn Columbia River Walleye on the bite, and the box of fish we brought back to the landing last Thursday was one of the best we have seen in years. The fish this year are averaging a little bigger than the past few, and although we may be catching a few less the overall size is fantastic. If you are looking to break the magic 30 inch mark you need to do yourself a favor and give us a call.
All our fish were caught last week trolling crankbaits in 16-24 feet of water. Currently the large deep diving plugs such as the Bandit Walleye Deep, and the long extra deep Bay Rats are fishing well. We also did very well on Berkley Flicker minnows in the #11 size. For a detailed article on how we fish crankbaits early in the season click on the following link.
Fishing will continue to be very good for big fish over the next few weeks. The water temperature last Saturday was 41.5 degrees, so we still have a little ways to go before active spawning starts, at least in the mainstream Columbia. The Walleye spawn will kick off when water temps are between 45 and 50 degrees.
Our main focus will be on chasing Columbia River Walleye now through June, and into July. These are a great, excellent eating, and plentiful fish that are great for the entire family. If you are looking to learn this fishery booking a trip with us is a great way to shorten your learning curve, and we love helping people learn how to target these cool fish.
We are back for another instalation of our Tip Tuesday series. This week we discuss what crankbaits we choose and why we choose them for early spring on the Columbia River, as always we really appreciate you watching our videos, and please leave us comments with questions or what you find to be effective when chasing walleye early in the season.
On this weeks Tip Tuesday we are going over how we rig up our Kokanee Cut Plugs to catch more salmon. Over the past three years we have experimented with a number of different hook configurations to try an get the best performing hook setup. What we have settled on two different set ups that seem to give about an equal hook to land ratio. The first is a single #4 treble rigged behind eight 4mm beads, and the second is two #1/0 Owner Cutting point octopus hooks. The two hook set up is also rigged behind eight or so 4mm beads. The purpose of the beads is to set the hook just behind the cut plug, an to let the lure spin freely on the line enabling it to spin faster that it would if it had to spin the hooks an the lure. Check out the video below to get all the details on how we rig these awesome little lures. Also make sure to check out our other tip videos on how to make you a better salmon fisherman.
Its no secret that the line of Superbaits produced by Brads Killer Fishing Gear have become a staple in the Northwest Salmon scene. One of the newest arrivals in the line is the Kokanee Cut Plug. While this version was originally designed for the little land locked Sockeye that inhabit many of our local lakes and reservoirs, it quickly gained a following among serious salmon fisherman on the Columbia River and its tributaries. Even though it’s smaller than a lot of lures used for salmon this little bugger has proven itself for both Spring, Summer, and Fall Chinook. Its primary foothold in the Adult Salmon world came from spring Chinook fisheries such as Drano Lake, and the Wind River.
Although the Kokanee Cut Plug fishes very well directly out of the package, there are a few tweeks that allow the KCP to be a Chinook catching machine. Check out the video below for a modification that we do that makes these things fish much better.
Welcome to our second installation in our how to fish for Columbia and Snake River walleye series. Our first article titled “How to Fish for Columbia River Walleye: The Easy Way” was a detailed introduction to what we consider the easiest, and most basic way for the beginning Walleye angler to get into fish. All that information is still valid and the things we discussed there are still very much part of what we do. This part and the following articles are meant to add more tools to your walleye fishing toolkit and give you an added advantage over the other anglers around you. The following is Part 1 on how we approach fishing crankbaits for Columbia River Walleye. This is the hard earned knowledge we have gained from running a full time guide business, and you will often find us utilizing these techniques to put fish in our boats even when the bite gets tough.
When talking about fishing crankbaits on the Columbia River for walleye the four seasons of the year dictate when, where, and what style of baits we fish. Our approach in the winter will be very different from July and the baits we use will vary as well. The following is part one of a four part series breaking down how we fish crankbaits throughout the year. Welcome to the insanity inside our brains.
Part 1: Winter – Early Spring
This period of the year is often referred to as the pre spawn. During this time of the year large female fish will be traveling to, and staging in, areas adjacent to where they will spawn later in the year. Walleye on the Columbia River spawn in the spring of the year when the water is between 42 and 48 degrees. Spawning often occurs in April and is done in areas of current over rocks. Walleye are broadcast spawners and spawning most often takes place at night in shallow water. During the pre spawn the smaller males will stage near the large females, but won’t necessarily be with the large female fish. Fishing for the smaller “eater” size fish takes a different approach than fishing for large “trophy” fish, as they are often in different locations. The one constant during the winter is cold water. When the water temps are in the low to mid 30’s the overall objective is to go SLOW.
During the cold pre spawn period you will generally find “eater” size fish grouped up in areas of deep water. January – early March we often find these fish in 70+ feet of water. It is possible to fish stickbaits, such as the Rapala F11, on three way rigs, but there are other more effective methods for fishing these cold water walleye in deep water. January, February, and March are arguably the absolute best months of the year for a chance at catching a true Columbia River giant, and this is where we focus our energy in the early season.
Large pre spawn walleye (mostly females) will be found much shallower than their smaller male counterparts. The large fish are still actively feeding on whatever food sources are available to them as they try and pack on as many calories as possible to support the growth of their eggs. The predominant food sources during this time of year are the young of the year minnows from the previous year, including suckers, juvenile shad, juvenile Pacific Lamprey, and the ever present sculpins that inhabit the rocky areas of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. These minnows have had an entire summer and fall to grow, and by January – March most of them are 3-5 inches in length. During winter and early spring we find large mature females in less than 20 feet of water. During daylight hours most of these fish will be in the 12-20 foot range, and at night they often move very shallow to feed. Our preferred method to target these fish is to SLOWLY troll with our bow pointed upstream against the current. The goal here is to troll upstream at less than 1 mph, and oftentimes as slow as .6-.8. Remember that on the Columbia we are fishing in areas with current and if your speed on your GPS says anything less than .5 mph there is a good chance you are actually drifting back with the current. The goal here is to present our crankbaits as slowly as possible while still being able to cover some ground in search of fish. In this situation we favor long bodied deep diving walleye plugs such as the Bandit Walleye Deep, Bay Rat LXD, #11 Berkley Flicker Minnows, as well as #10/#12 Rapala Deep Husky Jerks. Not only are these plugs an almost exact size match to most of the available forage present, but they are also all capable of diving to our targeted depths when flatline trolled. Our standard procedure is to troll these plugs with long setbacks with 30# power pro braid to get them to run just above the bottom. Resources such as the Precision Trolling APP which can be downloaded on your IPhone or Android device really help in knowing approximately how many feet of line to run using a line counter reel. Remember that when targeting trophy walleye it’s not a numbers game, but at any time a rod goes down during the winter / early spring it has the chance to be a giant. Walleye in the 12-16 pound class are common on the Columbia, and fish over 18 pounds are caught ever year.
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We are now through our second full week of fall Chinook fishing on the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River. We have been non stop fishing since September 15th. Over the past week we have had some amazing fishing and a few days that we absolutely could have done better. This week saw our first major weather event of the fall, and the drastic drop in temperatures and strong winds made for a tough weekend. All in all though fishing has been very good this week and we are excited to see what this upcoming week has to offer.
Again this week we almost exclusively trolled brads superbaits behind pro troll flashers or small 3.5 Colorado spinners behind the same flasher set up. We still have been having the most success fishing in the bottom 10 feet of the water column, but don’t be afraid to run a few rods suspended well above bottom as we have been seeing multiple fish come on the suspended bow rods every day.
We still have some open dates next week and we have room for anglers to jump on boats the 7th -10th. The 8th we have an almost open boat, and the 9th we have an open boat. Plus 2 seats open both the 7th and 10th. October 10th will be our last day on the Hanford Reach for 2019 as we transition to fishing at home on the Snake River our of Heller Bar for some awesome steelhead fishing in the entrance to Hells Canyon.
It’s been a full week straight of fishing for us on our 2019 Hanford Reach Fall Chinook season. This week has seen its ups and downs, but we are definitely on fish and we have had the opportunity to limit each of the past 4 days, some days we have pulled it off and other days we came in a fish or two short.
This is one of our absolute favorite fisheries of the year, and there is nothing quite like spending an early fall day on the Hanford Reach. The weather this time of year makes for some amazing days spent on the water.
All our fish have been coming on the downstream troll. We have been doing equally well on both superbaits and spinners pulled behind pro troll flasher.
Our program goes roughly as follows, remember there are a lot of times we may fish deeper or shallower depending on the situation. Bow rods with 12oz at 30′ (these often start much shallower, but when water depth allows we run these suspended all day) middle rods 12oz at the same depth as the bottom (if it’s 35 feet deep these rods are run at 35 and so on) back rods 10oz at 10 feet deeper than the bottom depth ( if in 35 Feet the line counter is at 45 and so on).
We also still have some openings for this year. Our open dates for Kyle’s Boat are as follows.
We all have been there before. Why is this rod or that rod not as productive as the others? Why is that rod always tangled? Well have you checked to see if you line counter reels are reading similar to the other rods?
Below is a video tip we put together showing just how much this issue can impact how your lures are fishing. Please make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel.
To say that the past few days have been a challenge would be an understatement. Due to recent heavy rains the flows on the Columbia River have changed greatly in the past week. As I write this the river is currently dropping and the conditions are getting “better.” I put that last statement in quotations because although things were a little difficult, after a few adjustments we found the Walleye very willing. I have wrote before on how we approach fishing for walleye during high flow periods on the Columbia, so when flows came up we changed from primarily pulling deep diving crank baits to trolling bottom bouncers and worm harnesses. Our key to catching fish in these conditions was to find areas out of the main flow and troll downstream as slow as possible. We also played with a bunch of combinations with beads/floats and blades before we locked into what these fish seemed to want. The color combo that worked the best the past two days for us is Gold and Black, and in particular we did well with a black fish pill and a Gold Smile Blade.
Although we kind of stumbled onto a working color combo, our biggest key to success was simply fishing hard. We barely had one fish by 11am on Friday and we ended with 10, and again on Saturday we didn’t really get into fish until after noon and managed to end up with 15 including a monster 12.35 pound beast! Walleye fishing is all about paying attention to minor details. Pay attention to the details, make adjustments, and when you find a groove ride it until it goes away.
The Walleye Spawn is currently on and the spring weather is improving, with that said we have openings over the next few weeks and going all the way through July. Walleye have become a favorite fishery of ours, so if you would like to see why we like it so much, or to just learn how we go about it get in touch with us and book a trip.