Clearwater Steelhead Update

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Clearwater Steelhead Update

With a shot of cold weather settling in on Idaho’s Clearwater we decided to reschedule some of our trips over the next few days in an effort to make sure our customers have an enjoyable experience on the water. Single digit lows, and highs barely reaching the 20 degree mark make everything about steelhead fishing difficult, and puts unnecessary stress on our equipment. I know this first hand as a few years ago I launched the boat at three degrees, froze up a coolant line, and subsequently overheated my motor, causing the number one cylinder to blow into a bunch of little pieces. It was a 20k mistake, and stark reminder that sometimes it’s better to just stay home, then push back on Mother Nature.

The fishing on Idaho’s Clearwater has been a lot like steelhead fishing over the past few weeks. One day we will go out and land 6 or 7 and the next we might be struggling to put fish in the boat, but it’s the challenge that steelhead fishing presents that makes it so enjoyable.

Over the past month we have been spending most of our time and energy side drifting bait, and beads, as this is one of the most enjoyable ways to catch steelhead, and let’s our customers be the main participant, but as the latest cold front started to move in Barry and myself decided to stop pounding our heads against the wall and make an adjustment. We dug out the plug rods and decided to slowly pick apart the holes and see if we could force a few fish to bite. The results speak for themselves. The last 3 days the fishing has picked up significantly, and I attribute this to switching things up.

This week was just another reminder that often times switching things up can be a huge difference maker in the number of fish brought to the net. It also made a point clear that as Steelheaders we need to be confident in fishing multiple presentations to consistently put fish in the boat. So, going forward my advice is to keep an open mind, and never keep those plug rods too far out of reach.

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Buoy 10 update, only a few days left to go!

Today marks the start of our final week chasing Fall Chinook and Coho in the Columbia River estuary for 2020. This has been an awesome season so far, and it has been a pleasure to spend some great days on the water with such great people. Our customers are the absolute best and our business would not be growing without their support.

While we have seen some amazing fishing, this season has also had plenty of challenges. We have had some days where we struggled to get fish only to have our day saved in the 9th inning, and other days that we just couldn’t quite come up with the magic formula. Some years this fishery is difficult and this is one of those years, but despite having to work extra hard for fish this year the payday is seeing a 30 pound black and chrome specimen hit the deck.

With the tides setting up great it’s looking like we will have the opportunity to end our season with a bang. The next few days we get soft tides, and great fishing should follow.

While this season is winding down others are just starting to ramp up! We are beyond excited to get back to our side of the mountains and chase fall chinook and steelhead in our favorite fisheries. September will find us both on the Hanford Reach and at the Confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers. We consider both of these locations to be home waters, and we are so looking forward to this season.

Once fall is officially here and the nighttime temps get crisp, you will know October has arrived. October will find us fishing for fall Chinook and steelhead on two of our favorite rivers. The Clearwater and Snake Rivers in October are two rivers everyone should have a chance to fish. We will be targeting the 1-2 punch while side drifting small baits on light rods for both acrobatic steelhead and hard pulling Fall Chinook.

We still have openings during both September and October, and with access to some of the best guides in the inland northwest we can find a way to get you on the water almost every day.

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Buoy 10 is off to a Great Start

Our first day of the 2020 buoy 10 season was a huge success. We started off the day on the Oregon side of the River near Hammond. There was a good bite going but it only lasted about a pass, then we managed to just pick up one here and there, and had all our Chinook by 10 am.

Today our hot combinations were both anchovies, and 3.5 Colorado style spinner. We almost exclusively fish with rotating 360 style flashers. This is just a combination that we have a ton of confidence in, and we just like to roll our program.

This is setting up to be a great, although short season down here, and we are excited to se what happens over the next 13 day. Please stay with us on the journey and hopefully we can provide some insight to this incredible fishery. Look for a video from us soon that goes over our setup, and get the full rundown on what gear is working best for us.

Also don’t forget that even though we are full for this years Buoy 10 season, we do still have openings for our Snake/Clearwater Fall Chinook, and our Snake and Clearwater Steelhead season will be upon us before we know it.

Please let us know in the comments below, or shoot us a message on our social media pages with any questions you might have. We always love to help people be become more effective anglers.

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Columbia River Walleye Fishing Heating Up!

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.

Using planer Boards to Catch More Fish

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Columbia River Walleye Report

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.

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Tip Tuesday! Selecting Walleye Plugs For Early Spring on the Columbia River.

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.

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Hanford Reach Fall Chinook

How to Rig Brad’s Kokanee Cut Plugs to catch more Salmon

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.

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Columbia River Spring Chinook

How to Catch more Salmon with Brad’s Kokanee Cut Plugs.

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.

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Columbia River Wallere

How to Fish for Columbia River Walleye: Crankbaits! When, Where, Why and How to take your Walleye game to the next level. Part 1: Winter – Early Spring

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.  

Make Sure to subscribe to our blog or follow us on Facebook and Instagram @jonessportfishing, so you don’t miss out on the future additions to this series on How to fish crankbaits for Columbia River Walleye! 

Columbia River Walleye
Columbia River Walleye
Columbia River Walleye
Columbia River Walleye
Columbia River Walleye
Columbia River Walleye
Columbia River Walleye
Columbia River Walleye

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Hanford Reach Fall Chinook Report

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.