The Northwest's Premier Outfitter offering guided fishing trips on Idaho's Clearwater and Snake Rivers, American Falls Reservoir, CJ Strike Reservoir, Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir, and the Columbia River in Washington and Oregon.
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.
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!
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.
We have been fishing hard over the past week and getting into plenty of action on the Columbia River for delicious Walleye! This year we are not catching the numbers of fish we have the past few years, but the overall size and quality of the fish this year is amazing, and we are putting plenty in the boat for guys to take home.
We are finding most of our fish in 20-25 feet of water. Our most successful presentation has been trolling crankbaits. For some reason the action of the cranks are just driving them crazy. We have been running a wide selection of colors, and have really just been playing with things as the day goes on to find the right combination.
Despite the changing conditions this year, I think this has been the most fun I have ever had Walleye fishing as it’s really making us think and execute to constantly put fish in the boat. The months of April and May have for the past few years been our absolute best time frame, so hopefully our good fortune continues over the next several weeks and we get to experience more of this great fishing.
If you are interested in fishing with us we still have plenty of open dates, and we would love the opportunity to earn your business.
At Jones Sport Fishing we have absolutely fallen in love with chasing tasty Walleye on the Columbia River. Our Walleye season starts in full force during the month of March, and we chase these fish hot and heavy all the way through July. The Columbia River is known both as a place to catch monster Walleye as well as large numbers of great eating size fish. On any given day you could find us pulling crawler harnesses, dragging crankbaits, vertically jigging, or casting swimbaits for these incredible tasty fish.
At Jones Sport Fishing we are full time fishing guides that pride ourselves on working hard to make sure we both put you on fish, and make your day as enjoyable as possible. We have years of experience and have assembled a great team of guides that all share our philosophy. We hope that after you book your first trip with us that you will come back for years of fishing fun. To Book your next Columbia River Walleye adventure give us a call at 208-669-1569 or click on the green Book Online button at the top of the page.