All posts by Sam Morstan

Smallie Ops Follow Springers

May sees the hungry bass move onto spawning grounds in the Columbia Gorge.

By Jason Brooks

The following story was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Northwest Sportsman Magazine.
THE DALLES—Later this month, the prized spring Chinook run will dwindle in the Columbia River Gorge. But don’t put away the rods just yet: The warming water temperatures that speed the kings upstream spark other fishing opportunities.
Smallmouth bass get ready to spawn in early May, and later this month and into June the fish move into the shallows looking for food and places to make their beds. The prespawn also sees them become increasingly aggressive and hungry. This timeframe will see the sloughs, coves, bays and current points found in the backwaters of The Dalles Dam to the base of John Day Dam warm up and bass go on the bite.

WHEN NOT WORKING in the fishing department at Sportco in Fife, Wash., Curtis Blunck can be found bass fishing various American Bass Association and Northwest Bass Circuit tournaments throughout the Northwest, including the Lower Columbia region. Blunck has two top 10 finishes in recent years, and is always willing to talk bass fishing and give some tips on how to find and catch smallmouth.
“A great way to locate fish is to throw out a crankbait and drop the trolling motor, slowly cruising likely areas until you catch a fish,” he says.
Blunck’s favorite crank is a Rat-L-Trap in shad pattern, as it looks like a typical baitfish or smolt that the bass in the Columbia feed on. Another great lure is a crawfish Wiggle Wart.
“Keep in mind this is a river with  current, so you need to think a little like a steelhead fisherman,” Blunck points out. “Look for seams and boulders or points that create a break in the flows, where the fish can sit and rest while food comes at them.”
As water temperatures rise, smallies move up and into the shallow waters in preparation to spawn once the river hits 55 to 60 degrees. But during this period, the fish have more on their mind than nesting.
“They really put on the feedbag once the prespawn starts,” Blunck says.
He switches to tube baits with a ?-ounce jig head, and says he likes white or chartreuse, depending on water clarity.
A pro-staffer for Trokar, Blunck stresses that sharp hooks are a must, as well as changing up to a weedless hook in shallow water, where weeds can become a problem. He also runs braided mainline on his Okuma reels so he can fight the aggressive fish to the boat as quickly as possible, take a quick photo and then send them back to feeding.

If the Columbia Gorge’s notoriously strong spring winds blow you off the water, its banks still provide a good platform to cast for bass, as Chris Spencer of Longview found a few Mays ago. His smallie bit a gold 3/8-ounce spinnerbait at Horsethief Lake. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

If the Columbia Gorge’s notoriously strong spring winds blow you off the water, its banks still provide a good platform to cast for bass, as Chris Spencer of Longview found a few Mays ago. His smallie bit a gold 3/8-ounce spinnerbait at Horsethief Lake. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

I USED BLUNCK’S advice last year while out fishing for bass with my son, Ryan, and my stepfather, Willie Ross, better known as Walleye Willie, a fulltime guide out of The Dalles. We trolled along the edge of an island and a weedbed where smallmouth were waiting for smolts and other small fish. After only going about a hundred yards, the rod bent over and a big bass was jumping and thrashing around. These fish fight hard and are really fun to catch. We lost that one, but a few minutes later it was fish-on again.
We continued to fish until the sun was too hot and we called it a day. This is probably one of the best things about bass angling on this part of the Columbia: the mornings are brisk and calm and the scenery is incredible. By midday, the famed winds kick up and it’s time to motor back to the launch and enjoy other parts of the gorge.
A great base camp for bass is Maryhill State Park, on the Washington side of the river. It offers camping, a small swim area for those hot days and an excellent boat launch. You can even fish from the park’s shores and catch smallmouth. It is also just down the hill from Maryhill Museum and Washington’s Stonehenge, a replica of the one in the United Kingdom.
There are several small rock islands within a few miles upriver of the state park. They create current breaks and often have shallow coves on one side or the other that hold fish. Smallmouth like waters in 5 to 20 feet this time of year.
Just downstream of Maryhill is the large Miller Island, a former cattle ranch that is now a wildlife sanctuary. It has a shallow shelf on the Oregon side and a large cove on the Washington side with weedbeds. It is also large enough to create a wind break so you can avoid being blown around. But keep an eye on the main part of the river, as you will need to navigate it safely to get back to local boat ramps. If the waters get rough, it is time to head in.

JUST BELOW MILLER Island is the mouth of the Deschutes River, on the Oregon side. The calm waters at the mouth are great for bass fishing, but if you’re a Washington-licensed angler and enter the river’s mouth, under the I-84 bridge, be aware that you are now in Oregon waters and need an Oregon fishing license. Also be sure to check the regulations, as the Deschutes is heavily regulated.
When fishing the main Columbia, a fishing license from either state is valid, but you must follow the state laws that you hold the license for and make sure to check the regulations for size and slot limits if you want to keep any. Most of those who fish for smallmouth like the challenge and fight of these aggressive fish and release them to catch another day.
In addition to another camping option, Deschutes State Park, there is also a rough launch just inside the river’s mouth for smaller boats.
Another option is to stay downstream at Columbia Hills State Park, which has a rough launch with no dock on the Columbia. It also contains Horsethief Lake, a great place to swim and relax or do a little bass fishing. NS

Crankbaits in salmon-smolt-imitating shad patterns or crawfish are great options for spring smallies in the Columbia Gorge, where the author landed this one. (JASON BROOKS)

Crankbaits in salmon-smolt-imitating shad patterns or crawfish are great options for spring smallies in the Columbia Gorge, where the author landed this one. (JASON BROOKS)

Stumptown Part II of II

Catfish Lurks, Vancouver Edition

By Terry Otto

This story was featured in the May 2015 edition of Northwest Sportsman Magazine.

Editor’s note: Last issue Terry wrote about catfish and bullhead opportunities on the Portland side of the Columbia; this issue he takes up whiskerfish ops on its north bank.

While catfish may not be a major player on the local fishing scene, the species continues to grow more popular all the time. The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife has responded to that interest by increasing the stockings of whiskerfish in local lakes, and promoting the simple and fun activity that is catfishing.
Stacie Kelsey of the agency’s Inland Fish Program at the Vancouver office says that when channel catfish are stocked, people take notice.
“Oh, yeah, it’s huge,” she says of the reaction. “There’s a lot of effort for catfish.”
It’s easy to see why. Catfish are eager biters, terrific fighters and they taste very good. In addition, channels grow quickly, reaching a size of 3 to 5 pounds in just three to four years. And they keep growing throughout their life. Catfish from 20 to 30 pounds are present in the state of Washington, and near Vancouver too.

While cats can be found in many lakes and sloughs around Vancouver, the best fishing takes place in three lakes. A bona fide catfishery has been established at Kress Lake, and Kelsey reports that WDFW regularly stocks the 24-acre water just north of Kalama off I-5’s exit 32. Lots of anglers flock there to catch them.
“There is a lot of easy access there, and there is a really big hole in back of the lake,” she says. “Three years ago I saw a 15-pound channel catfish that was caught there.”
Swofford Pond is another stocked catfishery, and Kelsey says the 216-acre lake produces less catfish than Kress, but it has some sizable ones.
“Swofford kicks out a lot of big, big catfish,” she says.
While camping is not allowed at the wildlife area surrounding most of the lake, which itself lies right alongside Green Mountain Road outside Mossyrock, Kelsey says it is legal to night fish there.
However, as good as these two fisheries are, there is another lesser known catfish hotspot much closer to Southwest Washington’s main city.
“Vancouver Lake is kind of our secret catfish lake,” Kelsey says.
She and the rest of her team are hoping to get the word out on this shallow, but excellent water.
It has a self-sustaining population, and since it is open to the Columbia, migrations into the lake from the river happen naturally. The fish must like what they find, for the numbers and size of catfish in the tidally affected 2,300-acre lake are impressive.
Actually, it’s not that secret. Kelsey  reports that anglers fish regularly for  channels here.
“People fish for them at the boat ramp, the flushing channel and off the beach at (Vancouver Lake Regional) Park,” she says.
And with a warm winter, those catfish should be friskier earlier.
“They get more active as the water temp rises to about 60 degrees,” says Kelsey.
The lake’s boat launch is at the south end, at the end of La Frambois Road, which is off Fruit Valley Road. The park is off Highway 501. Access to the flushing channel, or Lake River as it is also known, is via two public ramps in Ridgefield, off Division and Mill Streets.
Then there’s the Lacamas Lake system, on the east side of Vancouver. The prehistoric channel of the Columbia is known for having produced some extraordinarily large channel cats – a 28-pounder in 2011 and a 33 in 2005 –  but according to local outdoor reporter Allen Thomas, it may have been as much as two decades since the last release. Lacamas also suffers from water-quality issues and these days is said to be “OK” for bullheads, but that’s about all.

As the days warm into summer, channel cats turn nocturnal. This is especially true of the larger ones. They hole up in the day, and then go on the prowl for food once the sun disappears.
This often means that they move shallow to feed on small fish and crawdads, or anything they can scavenge.
Savvy catfish anglers know this, and local lakes can get pretty busy on warm summer nights. Fishermen line up along the banks with lanterns, throw out cutbaits and wait for Mr. Whiskers to come along.
Remember that catfish are opportunists, and if they aren’t feeding deep, they can often be found shallow. Don’t be afraid to fish near shoreline cover, and sometimes baits suspended under a float will draw catfish.
They will bite on just about any kind of bait, but favorites at the  aforementioned lakes include stinky  cheeses, cutbaits, shrimp, crawfish and worms. Anything bloody will attract cats too, so give chicken livers or hearts a try. One angler uses dough balls infused with peanut butter. NS

Channel catfish are a long-lived species and can grow large in Southwest Washington’s fertile lakes. This 30-pounder was caught in Round Lake, a part of Lacamas Lake, in 2005, more than 10 years after the last known release of the species there. After a pause in stocking, WDFW has begun putting channels into local lakes, including Kress Lake and Swofford Pond. (WDFW)

Channel catfish are a long-lived species and can grow large in Southwest Washington’s fertile lakes. This 30-pounder was caught in Round Lake, a part of Lacamas Lake, in 2005, more than 10 years after the last known release of the species there. After a pause in stocking, WDFW has begun putting channels into local lakes, including Kress Lake and Swofford Pond. (WDFW)

3 Ways To Grind Out May Gobblers

This story was originally posted in the May 2015 edition of Northwest Sportsman Magazine

The back half of spring season is tougher hunting, but there are ways to notch that tag this month.

By Chris Gregersen

Let’s face it: Chasing late-season turkeys can be a grind. But just because the birds in your area have wised up to hunters or calmed down from the excitement of the breeding season doesn’t mean you can’t be successful as the spring hunt draws to a close this month.

Chasing gobblers in May can be tough for many reasons. Hunting pressure over the first couple weeks of the season not only thins out the most eager birds, but after a few weeks those toms have heard just about every call out there, as well as seen all sorts of decoy ploys. Chances are that by this time turkeys have already been pushed out of their normal routines, putting them even more on edge when it comes to aggressive calling approaches. Also, as the late season rolls around, those gobblers’ interest and aggression towards calling will start to decline as flocks of hens break up and transition to nesting.

But while there’s no doubt it can be a challenge to bag a late season tom, there’s no reason to hang up the decoys just yet. Here are a few clutch tactics that might save your season.
If the birds are acting shy and wary, nothing will put them off even more than the sounds of an overly eager hen. If you want to bring in a wary late-season bird with calls, you’ll need to sound like, well, a wary lateseason bird. Patience is key at this time of the season, so start by setting up and settling in as close as you can to where you expect a tom to be working through.

When using this approach, you’ll want to call far less often than during the early season, while sticking with your set-up for longer as well. I’ll generally stay put for a couple of hours if I know there are toms in the area. Rather than employ the long, drawn-out yelps that you might use often in the early season to evoke frantic gobbles from hundreds of yards away, tone your calling down to soft and short clucks and purrs. Turkeys have excellent hearing, so don’t worry about broadcasting the sound. At this time of season, it’s more important to focus on finesse than worrying about whether or not you’re being heard.

Aside from calling, lightly raking leaves or other ground clutter to mimic feeding in conjunction with soft purrs and clucks is also a good way to mimic a shy turkey. Be persistent and attentive with your set-up. Toms this time of year will usually take their time coming to
your calls, and more often than not they won’t make a sound as they approach.

When calling approaches and decoy set-ups aren’t working, it’s time to get creative. Setting up an ambush takes preparation and tact, but can be very successful if you’ve done your homework. Start by locating and patterning a tom or two; while this may mean foregoing a hunt to simply observe the birds from far away, it will pay off in the end.

Spotting and stalking may be more associated with fall turkey hunting, but that’s how Emily Pawul took her first gobbler. While far fewer hunters will be afield in May, it’s still important to make sure you don’t bust someone else’s set-up on a bird when using this tactic. (CHRIS GREGERSEN)

Spotting and stalking may be more associated with fall turkey hunting, but that’s how Emily Pawul took her first gobbler. While far fewer hunters will be afield in May, it’s still important to make sure you don’t bust someone else’s set-up on a bird when using this tactic. (CHRIS GREGERSEN)

First, you’ll want to know where the birds are roosting. Chances are you’ll already know where this is, but if not, it usually isn’t difficult to find. You can get a general idea of what area they use by observing their morning and evening activity from a good vantage point – turkeys tend to make quite a bit of noise when going up and coming down from a roost. Then hone in on exactly where they’re roosting by looking for fresh droppings near the bases of trees.

Next, see where the birds are going to feed when they come down. Turkeys feed throughout the morning and late afternoon, so knowing what food sources they are keying in on will help you stay one step ahead. As turkeys feed to and from roost, pay attention to their travel routes; they often follow defined features such as field edges, shrub lines and ridges.

Once you have an idea of the travel routes and feeding areas turkeys are likely to be using, set yourself up in a well-concealed area well before daylight and wait. Hold off on the decoys and focus on keeping your set-up as inconspicuous as possible. Be careful not to approach roosting areas too closely, as the birds’ keen eyesight and hearing can blow your cover before you know it. With some preparation and a little bit of luck, an ambush is an excellent way to tag a wary old tom.
Though many seasoned spring turkey hunters look down on the spot-and-stalk approach (probably because sloppy attempts have ruined many a set-up of those who have done their homework and were otherwise patiently working a bird) there’s no doubt it can be effective when done right. This technique is all about strategy and implementing a well-devised plan to outsmart a wary late-season tom after patterning and calling have failed. I rarely use the spot-andstalk approach as a go-to technique, instead using it as an opportunistic late-season backup plan when the chance presents itself.

To execute a successful spot-and-stalk, you’ll need both appropriate terrain and cover to sneak within range, as well as an idea of the turkey’s behavior. Keep in mind, most turkeys you’ll “spot” aren’t appropriate for this technique. You’re looking for calm birds close to or moving towards some terrain feature that you can use to your advantage. Turkeys can cover miles in a day, so you’re also looking for birds that are slowly feeding or posting up for a mid-day break.

When the right opportunity presents itself, you’ll want to close the distance as fast as possible, while being especially respectful of other hunters in the area. Approach from any way you can to keep the bird from hearing or seeing you. Using terrain like a ridge, creek draw or steep bank is the best, since it will both block your appearance and sound. Turkeys are very good at evading ground predators, so use the same care you would if stalking a deer.

Spring turkey seasons in the Northwest run in excess of six weeks – through May 25 in Idaho and May 31 in Washington and Oregon – so there’s no need to limit yourself to the times when toms are most susceptible to calling. By adding a bit of variety and strategy to your approach, you can find late-season success when most others have all but given up. NS


Basaltland’s Backwater Bonanzas

This story was originally published in the May 2015 edition of Northwest Sportsman Magazine.

The sloughs and drowned river mouths of the mid-Columbia and Lower Snake are great places for small-boat anglers to hit for bass, catfish, more.

By Jeff Holmes 

Kayak angling continues to blow up in popularity across the entire United States, including here in the Northwest. Kayaks are especially prevalent on the Westside, and it’s almost becoming uncommon to not see some being paddled and pedaled around the outskirts of popular salmon and steelhead fisheries on the Lower Columbia and Willamette Rivers, among others. The economy, mobility and stability of kayaks makes them the clear consensus craft amongst the nonmotorized crowd these days, including yours truly. I’ve owned several float tubes, a pontoon, a canoe and a small cartopper over the years, but none of them approach a good fishing kayak for versatility. I watched friends and fellow anglers fish from kayaks with jealousy for a couple years until we bought our NuCanoe Frontiers in Bellingham last late spring. Now even my big bank- and boat-loving butt can be seen regularly paddling around my local Tri-Cities-area fisheries, often with my wife. (FYI, fellas: Most women love to paddle, and love it when men take the initiative to do something new and active with them.) You won’t catch me trying to slip in with the sleds at Drano Lake and other combat fisheries, nor likely anywhere a large boat makes more sense for safety, comfort and good company, but I use my kayak where it makes sense to me and where my wife wants to paddle. There are fish waiting to be caught everywhere in the Northwest, and they’re all susceptible to a kayak.

I’m looking ahead to a season of fishing around the edges, and not the edges of big-boat fisheries like many, but rather on the edges of most of the kayak fishing world’s consciousness. In other words, I’ll seek out the vast opportunities all over the Northwest where you’ll scarcely see someone in a kayak. I like solitude and exploration of all kinds of bodies of water, big and small, and May offers a wide range of possibilities to fish before the season’s jet- and waterskiier hatch occurs. Here are a few Eastern Washington options worthy of mention for kayakers and those with small boats.
I opened up kayak season 2015 just downstream from Clarkston on a big Snake River backwater at Chief Timothy Park near the mouth of Alpowa Creek. I towed my Thunder Jet over to Clarkston on a beautiful late March day to have a radar arch welded on my boat and thought to toss my kayak on top of the truck in case the urge struck me to fish on the way home.

Duh, it struck.

I enjoyed 80-degree weather and almost complete solitude as I looked for early smallmouth concentrations moving out of the main Snake into the backwaters to feed and spawn. I was early and visibility was only a foot, and I got blanked, but I had a great time and confirmed that it wasn’t my fault when I talked to two anglers in a bass boat who were also getting blanked. Suntan lotion, warming sunshine, and a little exercise made the skunking more than worth it.
But the potential to catch something here increases rapidly as water temperatures rise throughout April and into May. Smallmouth, largemouth, catfish, crappie and perch are all present in the many backwaters and marinas along the Snake. Check out the marinas in Lewiston and Clarkston, Chief Timothy and Wawawai Parks, and various small backwaters along the river that allow entry under small railroad bridges. The Snake itself here is impounded and kayakable too, and the main river often yields even better fishing than backwaters.

The rocky shores of the Snake provide good habitat for bass. While smolt imitations are a good bet in spring, this one bit a crawdad imitation for Jamison Meeks, who was fishing at Lewiston. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

The rocky shores of the Snake provide good habitat for bass. While smolt imitations are a good bet in spring, this one bit a crawdad imitation for Jamison Meeks, who was fishing at Lewiston. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Further down the Snake at Central Ferry, Lyons Ferry and backwaters all the way to the Columbia add lots of nice walleye to the potential bag.

Catfish are everywhere in the Snake, but the Palouse River across from Lyons Ferry is the best bet. Lots
of large cats stack up here to spawn, and May is the best time to find them concentrated and snappy.
Many thousands of mature smallmouth enter this Central Washington tributary in spring to spawn, and most of them are still in the river throughout May. As summer moves along, most large fish retreat back to the depths of the Columbia to gorge, so May is a great time for numbers and size.

It’s important to note that moving waters and stillwaters are different beasts for beginner kayakers. There are many places on the lower Yakima that would be irresponsible to send beginners, due to swift currents, sharp corners and some rocks to dodge. That said, the river is a treat to fish from the I-182 bridge in Richland all the way to the mouth at Bateman Island on the Columbia. There are occasional power boats here, but avoiding them is relatively easy since it’s best to fish along the edges anyway.

May will find channel catfish in the heat of the spawn, and the lower ends of tributaries such as the Walla Walla, Yakima and Palouse – where Sam Stuart of Moses Lake landed this nice one a few Mays ago – should provide good action for boat-in anglers. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

May will find channel catfish in the heat of the spawn, and the lower ends of tributaries such as the Walla Walla, Yakima and Palouse – where Sam Stuart of Moses Lake landed this nice one a few Mays ago – should provide good action for boat-in anglers. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Treat the lower Yak like a trout stream: pull over or anchor up in soft shallow side water and fish seams, eddies and slots like you’re looking for rainbows or cutts. Also make sure to bring a variety of crayfish and minnow imitations in different colors. Crayfish are usually the main meal ticket in May. Along with smallmouth, channel catfish and walleye are also common, and a tight-lipped cadre of walleye anglers won’t like that I mentioned this.
The first time I floated this western Blue Mountains river, I watched my friend and “guide” dump his kayak 200 yards into our trip, but that was upriver, in the tiny Touchet River a few hundred yards upstream of the Walla Walla. That was 100 percent operator error, but the river does require maneuvering and is best tackled only by intermediate kayakers with a sense for mild adventure. There are some corners and swift, rocky portions that could easily dump a newbie or an inattentive paddler. Take a pontoon or a raft if you don’t have the kayaking chops, or access the river from Wallula Junction and paddle the lower river and the edges of the delta.

Like other Columbia tribs, lots of smallmouth and channel cats move into the river in spring and offer sometimes-spectacular angling. I wrote about floating the Walla Walla last spring in my pontoon, and I’ll be back on it this month in my NuCanoe. The wildlife viewing is right up there with the fishing, which can be frenetically paced. I caught two smallmouth on one cast on my last trip, one of which was over 20 inches.
This large backwater of the midColumbia near the Washington town of the same name houses giant numbers of spawning smallmouth bass in spring. With a warm, lowwater year, much of that spawning probably occurred in April. But those bass – as well as great numbers of walleye – remain in the protected slough until waters get too warm, when they return to the depths of the big river for summer.

Bass and walleye are often concentrated in big numbers around rocky patches of bottom. Use electronics or a long section of 1-inch PVC to probe the bottom in search of rocks, and use marker buoys when you find structure or, better yet, fish. A variety of jigs, cranks, dropshot rigs and other plastic-bait set-ups will take plenty of fish here.

Small numbers of very large largemouth live here, tucked deep into the maze of backwaters. Look for deep pockets in the shallow slough with heavy cover, including beaver lodges. Some large crappie have historically come out of Paterson and other sloughs, but carp, as elsewhere, have degraded habitat for panfish. Still, there are some large perch and crappie, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better place to catch carp, both on rod and reel and with a bow. Erika caught two last time we fished the slough together, one topping 20 pounds!

Access is through the refuge and off Paterson Road. NS

Nootka Wilderness Lodge Clients ‘Arrive As Guests, Leave As Friends’

By Steve Joseph

In salmon fishing-crazed British Columbia, Nootka Island is right in the heart of the action.

Just off the west coast of Vancouver Island, some of B.C.’s best fishing starts right from the port here. Among the top guide services and lodges in this area is Nootka Wilderness Lodge (250-850-1500;, which is run by Brian and Kelly Gage and their kids. We caught up with Brian Gage for more on their business.

Steve Joseph How long has the lodge been around?
Brian Gage The current Nootka Wilderness Lodge has been in Nootka Sound since 1994.

SJ How long have you and your wife been in the fishing industry?
BG Kelly and I have been involved in the fishing industry for 30-plus years now. I started guiding when I was 16.

SJ Is this a total family affair?
BG NWL is a family-run lodge with a capacity for 26 guests, keeping it quaint and personal. I am at the lodge for every group, and that’s really what I enjoy about the business: meeting new people and getting to know them. We like to say, “Arrive as guests and leave as a friends.” Ninety percent of our guests return to NWL, something we are very proud of!

SJ What area do you fish?
BG We have a fantastic area for fishing. Nootka Wilderness Lodge is located in the heart of Nootka Sound, with salmon fishing only minutes away on calm, protected waters. We also have the open ocean with an amazing coastline of kelp beds and rock structure for our more adventurous fishing guests. Our bottomfishing for halibut, red snapper and lingcod is also world class and a “guaranteed” catch for those who enjoy action-packed bottomfishing.

SJ Tell us about your fleet and the lodge.
BG Our lodge, our staff, our location and our fleet are what sets us apart from other lodges. Our fleet of boats is primarily Grady Whites, ranging from 24 to 28 feet in length. We also have one 40-foot offshore vessel for larger groups that want to stick together. All of our boats are covered and have twin four-stroke power and trolling motors. All of our boats have bathrooms onboard. Our 10,000-square-foot lodge features sprawling decks, private bathrooms, spacious rooms, a lounge area and bar. It’s a floating lodge tucked in a picturesque bay with a southwest exposure. We enjoy beautiful sunsets over Vancouver Island’s coastal mountains into the early evening hours. We actually see very little rain throughout our season, so don’t forget your sunscreen!

SJ In one word describe the whole experience.
BG Unforgettable!

Follow and like Nootka Wilderness Lodge on Twitter (@FishNootka), Instagram (@Nootka_wilderness_lodge) and Facebook 

News from Murphy Sportfishing, Kyuquot Sound

Vancouver Island, BC–The season is quickly approaching, and with the West Coast Vancouver Island Chinook run of the decade on the horizon, we can’t wait!

As usual, we have a couple of last minute specials where folks have had to cancel, and deep discounts can be received for those who are able to jump in. For these few limited dates -including the Independence Day Long weekend- you save close to 25% off, plus an additional $300 special discount!Kyuquot Cancellation Special Header

Four Day Package, All meals, 30 hours guided fishing and accommodations.

June 23-26 & July 2-5, only $1360 US per person!
(based on triple occupancy)

Drive In – Save Big

Two people hold one large rainbow trout apiece

8 Great Inland Trout Waters

Lakes and rivers in far Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Western Montana produce nice fish in March.

By Jeff Holmes

March is a lovely month in the Inland Northwest to be a trout angler. While much of the Westside angling army is rotting on the hook drowning bait-wrapped plugs for spring Chinook or trolling herring through travel lanes for these fish that mostly won’t show up until April, dedicated swarms of anglers from all over the Northwest – even the world – show up here to fish trout. Why? We grow ‘em big, and trophy trout wake up in March ready to gobble more and more frequently throughout the day. We see excellent growth rates at many lakes that Westside biologists and other biologists throughout the West would love. But when one thinks about the best stillwater trout fishing in the Lower 48, the Inland Northwest probably doesn’t come up as often as it deserves. The region is dotted with small and midsized bodies of water, as well as huge lakes holding some of the world’s largest trout.
Luckily, not every excellent March trout fishery in Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Western Montana draws well-heeled anglers from afar, nor do many of them draw much of a crowd at all. And none of the fisheries resemble the madhouses of springer season or Washington’s soon-to-follow opening of trout season on the fourth Saturday in April. Except when certain guides blow up fisheries on social media, as was done to an epic Lake Roosevelt kokanee bite this winter, crowds of 30 or 40 boats are uncommon. Most days, expect to never pass within shouting distance of another angler or boat – if you want to. A prime example of that can be found at North America’s third deepest lake, the Panhandle’s Pend Oreille. It, along with several others, should be on your radar this March or in the near future. All lakes that follow are in top form right now.

This giant trout heaven fell on hard times after several habitat and management crises led to severely depressed kokanee populations, an overabundance of newly introduced lake trout and a subsequent bounty on the heads of the lake’s precious Gerrard-strain rainbows to help balance the predator-prey relationship and allow kokanee to rebound. Well, the kokanee are back – really back – and trout of several species are getting huge. I’ll present in depth in the May issue on how the lake’s historic and current habitat and management challenges and successes have led Pend Oreille back into the conversation as America’s best trout lake. Period.

Two people hold one large rainbow trout apiece

Lake Pend Oreille is again in the running for the title of America’s best trout lake. Kokanee have rebounded, and so have their predators, including Gerard-strain rainbow trout, which are once again numerous and often topping 20 pounds – the one Cashmere, Washington’s Ace Campbell (right) holds was estimated at 22 pounds. Specimens much larger than this exist, and in the May issue author Jeff Holmes will go in depth on the Idaho lake’s fantastic fisheries. (JIM CUMMINS)

Let’s look at some basic numbers in terms of fish size. The lake holds bull trout to over 20 pounds, rainbows to over 30, brown trout to the high teens and maybe larger and some large westslope cutthroat trout as well. Despite extensive deepwater netting efforts to eliminate lake trout, they remain in smaller numbers and fatter and larger sizes, topping 20 pounds and possibly larger. Pend Oreille is a big-water fishery that can be as rough as the ocean, and only experienced big-water fishermen in substantial boats should tackle it, except on bluebird days. Probably the best way to experience the 148-square-mile lake is with a guide or hitching a ride with a fellow recreational angler.
The most common approaches for trolling the lake are surface-planer boards and downriggers, usually deployed simultaneously to cover more of the water column. Big bucktail flies are trolled fast behind planer boards spaced far to the sides of boats to cover a large swath for surface-feeding, spooky rainbows, the top target for most anglers. Downrigger offerings are often Rapalas, Lyman plugs, spoons and an assortment of other trophy trout trolling lures including flasher and bait combos for lakers.
March is a great time for big fish on the lake as they begin to move toward an end to winter patterns. Many rainbows leave the lake to spawn, but most remain since they don’t spawn every year. Browns, lakers and bulls are all fall spawners and are in full effect. Several charter operators make a living at the north end of the lake. They and their reviews are available online.

girl with trout

Lake Roosevelt is one of the Northwest’s flagship trout and kokanee lakes. Home to football-shaped rainbows and landlocked sockeye averaging almost 20 inches right now, March is an excellent time to troll the big waters behind Grand Coulee dam all the way to Fort Spokane. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

March should be a fantastic time to fish Roosevelt as the water managers draw down the reservoir in anticipation of a substantial runoff this season. When Roosevelt is low, it concentrates fish, which tend to school up in elbows in the lake where plankton gets washed by the prevailing winds. In these food-rich areas – which are many along the lengths of the 144-mile-long reservoir – fishing can be fantastic for hatchery rainbows reaching 24 inches and averaging 15 to 19, as well as beautiful wild rainbows that occasionally approach 10 pounds. These football-shaped fish should be abundant and concentrated come March, along with 2016’s excellent crop of kokanee averaging 18 inches and reaching 24. The lake’s net-pen program is often chronicled, including by me, because of its scope and level of success. Some 750,000 rainbow trout are released from pens stretching its length. These 8-inch fish grow a whopping 6 inches and change completely in body shape and flesh coloration by the time winter rolls around. In March, last year’s stockers average 15 inches, with many substantially longer.
Rainbows and big kokanee are on the regular docket for March and all the way into summer, and other fish make occasional appearances as they wash through the system. Nice brown trout are occasionally caught here, as are washed down landlocked Chinook from Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. I caught a nice little 22-inch Chinook trolling flies at the big reservoir. That fish came between Hawk Creek and Lincoln, on the lake’s lower section. The areas from the mouth of the Spokane Arm down to Spring Canyon and Grand Coulee Dam are most densely populated with trout, especially true for kokanee. Consider fishing out of Fort Spokane if you catch word of a bite, but I’d focus even further downstream at Seven Bays or even much lower. Think about Lincoln, Hanson Harbor, Keller Ferry and Spring Canyon as your best bets. This is big water and the wind can come up, but I have many times safely fished Roosevelt in a 14-foot boat. March days can be blustery, but they can also be beautiful and sunburny.
Trout and kokanee here tend to be spooky, and most anglers fan out a wide selection of trolled patterns, including Muddlers and other trolling flies, Apexes, Floating Rapalas, various spinners and other proven trout and kokanee lures. In March fish are still almost always in the top 20 feet of the water column, often coming to the surface to feed. Some rely on downriggers, others planer boards, still others leaded line with long monofilament leaders and light trolling weights. Others simply fish mono rigs with trolling weights and lures. Most Roosevelt veterans believe strongly in tipping every hook – even Rapalas – with maggots, worm, corn, etc. The trout and kokanee here will often favor one direction of troll over another, which I experienced fishing with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Chris Donley in late January. Kokanee wouldn’t touch us going upstream and smacked it repeatedly going down. Later in the day, the reverse pattern developed. I’ll feature Roosevelt, along with trout and kokanee guru Donley, in the April issue.

I caught my first Rock Lake trout as an almost-tween and immediately fell in love with the lake’s wildness and geography, as well as the legends about its huge browns. I later taught 25 miles from Rock at Eastern Washington University in Cheney for over a decade and went to school there for way too long before that. During that time I developed an obsession with the lake, even its history, as I’ve written about here before and probably will again. But for now let me tell you this: It’s rad. Also, it’s rad in March. Provided major precipitation or runoff events don’t cloud the lake and throw it off-color, fishing should be amazing for hatchery winter steelhead, released here as a result of the Wild Fish Conservancy lawsuit settlement with WDFW. It should similarly be excellent for some of the season’s biggest rainbows and browns. I can verify browns here to 14 pounds and have personally seen a few topping 10. Most of my time at Rock has been spent fishing flies, and I have caught some giant trout, but to get the real monsters, lures or bait shine. Along with a small-but-strong population of large browns of multiple age classes, the lake has good numbers of 15- to 19-inch browns, as well as skinny, silvery juveniles that are best avoided and left to grow. They tend to bunch up in schools at this size. Browns may be what Rock is best known for – certainly not steelhead smolts – but its rainbows are remarkable. Averaging 15 to 18 inches, with lots of fish topping 20, they reach lengths of 24 inches with substantial girth and growl. A limit of Rock Lake fish can be a real haul. Four limits is hard to carry.
Rock is over 7 miles long and is ringed by steep cliffs and sharp drop-offs. It’s called Rock Lake for a reason, both for the beautiful above-ground volcanic landscape and the prop-shedding, transom-ripping architecture under the water. As a rule, run on plane only up the middle of the lake unless you know it well. I have launched a boat at the lake approaching 200 times in my life and I’m still always wary. Not long ago I found an outjutting shelf I did not know about, almost 100 yards from shore. As I’ve written about, the one boat wreck I’ve enjoyed in my life that wasn’t a whitewater raft or a canoe was at Rock, at high speed, in June. If this happens in March, you’re likely going to die. Of course a rock didn’t wreck me; I reached for a chew and lost the tiller.
I quit chewing.
You don’t want to go close to shorelines at high speed, but you definitely want to troll them or cast to them. Almost the entire lake features steep drop-offs, and food and predators are most abundant close to the rocks. I like to troll flies here like olive and black and brown Woolly Buggers, Bunny Leeches and other unweighted flies on fast-sinking fly lines, or you can even fish them with leaded line or with mono and weight. I also like to troll plugs like MagLip 3.0s and 3.5s, Rapala Shad Raps, and FlatFish and Kwikfish. I’ve caught trout here trolling most of my steelhead plugs, but guys who experiment with hard baits from the world of bass angling do especially well. These fish see a fair number of Rapalas. I like to use large-profile fish imitations from a variety of manufacturers to show them something different, including hard and soft swimbaits. Casting big stuff to ambush cover results in big follows and grabs from browns and rainbows, and March is sometimes the best big-fish month. I choose to release almost all of my fish, but when I want trout to eat, I like to get them out of 360-foot-deep Rock.

Fourth of July grows fish bigger and faster than its winter-only counterparts, and when there aren’t undesirable species like fathead minnows to contend with, rainbows have free reign of the lake, growing fat on scuds (freshwater shrimp), chironomids, leeches and a variety of aquatic invertebrates that also thrive in the lake’s alkaline waters. The lake is a little over a mile long and mostly devoid of trees except for the end opposite the public launch, where ponderosas sit above the narrow lake that fills a coulee in the channeled scablands 3 miles south of Sprague. Its fish are piggish in size and appetite. The lake has historically churned out lots of big rainbows, with anglers biggest gripe being the overabundance of trout over 14 inches. The daily limit here only allows two trout over 14; the other three must be smaller, which isn’t always possible. For guys who like to catch and release lots of trout during a day, this is great news, however. The lake doesn’t get fished out as quickly, and there are big trout galore to be had. Trout as long as 26 inches have been landed here, and specimens stretching at least 2 feet are in the lake now.
The lake’s size regulation makes sense to me, and I’ve seen the benefits of it in excellent late winter and early spring fishing. Keeping five of those plus-sized rainbows would likely result in a declining fishery throughout the season, as was the case prior to the regulation. A fry-planted 18- to 21-inch fish at Fourth of July has more usable meat on it than five of the typical, catchable-sized stocked rainbows. And there are plenty of fish in the high teens and low 20s if taking home some dinners is a high priority. For this angler, however, and for a reliable contingent of other fishermen who value catch and release in order to encounter more fish, the greatest benefit of trout that big is the superior fight and appearance of strong, acclimated fry-planted rainbows. I think these particular fish fight better than they taste; there’s no real conservation objective involved.
On my first morning of fly fishing with sinking line from a float tube during a snowstorm in the mid-1990s, I landed eight fish between 16 and 20 inches at Fourth of July, mostly by accident. As I untied knots in the borrowed sinking fly line, my leech patterns would consistently sit still for long periods, slowly slithering along the bottom only as I shifted my rod tip by accident or as I drifted. On future trips, I made sure to get my leeches and chironomids as close to the bottom as possible, often in very shallow water, and I caught lots. Over the years I’ve learned that rainbows use all depths of the lake, from the shallow end nearest the launch to the far end and its deeper water. One thing is for sure: They are often gorging just out of sight really close to shore and in shallow water.

Person holding a trout

Fourth of July Lake is tucked into the Channeled Scablands a few miles south of Sprague and its namesake lake. Rainbow trout grow very fast here and get very fat – state biologist Randall Osborne landed this one while test-fishing the lake for the winter fishery a few seasons back. It’s tough if not impossible to launch a trailered boat, but very easy to haul a cartopper or a pontoon or float tube to the water. (WDFW)

To generalize, Fourth of July’s big fish spend most of their time quite low in the water column, something I began learning on that day although I might have reasoned it out earlier. When I bait fished the lake in earlier years, I was far more successful plunking than fishing with a fixed bobber, and so were those around me. Whether plunkers use Power Bait, marshmallows, or other means to suspend bait above the bottom, successful anglers are careful to keep baits out of the weeds, and to vary depths throughout the day if not getting bites. The fish are often very shallow and close to shore. Make sure you’re not casting right over the big bruisers that fight their way into the prime spots on the shoreline chironomid-and-leech buffet.

Sorry, Montana, I’m gonna go ahead and be “that” guy and unleash magazine readers on you and your not-so-secret March trophy trout fishery. I’ve seen enough Montanans nymphing the spey runs and speying the gear stretches of steelhead streams lately to not bat an eyelash. Point of fact, the biggest browns, rainbows, and cutthroats of the year begin to feed again for the first time in several months. They all look “up” in earnest for adult bugs, especially skwala stoneflies. These meaty, late-winter/early-spring bugs are part of a rich seasonal diet enjoyed by trout from the local rivers: Clark Fork, Bitterroot, Blackfoot and Rock Creek. All four fish well in March during the prerunoff pattern, which typically continues well into April. Definitely the Bitterroot and Clark Fork see the most traffic, partly because they run through Missoula and other population hubs in Western Montana, partly because they offer the best floating access and strong numbers of skwalas and other bugs, mostly midges, blue-winged olive mayflies and March brown mayflies. Both rivers are well-suited for drift boats or rafts and rowers of all skill levels.
Skwala nymphs become active when the water reaches the high 30s. The nymphs emerge from under rocks and immediately become targets of opportunity for feeding trout well before they make their way to the shore, where they crawl into willows and other vegetation and also rocks to shuck out of their nymph stage into adulthood. Swkalas then unloose, dry and test their wings until they can fly. They then become food as adults when they are driven into the water by high winds, when they die and when the females lay eggs. Trout eat them at all of these stages but eat far more nymphs than anything else. Still, when the adults are present in good numbers, early-season trout can’t help but look up and rise to dry patterns, which are big, fun to fish and intoxicating to watch get eaten. One must wait a count before setting on a trout picking off a big stonefly, long enough for them to turn their head and allow a positive hookset. This is challenging after a winter without dry flies, especially if one is conditioned to watch bobbers drown and to set the hook immediately. It’s fun, and the trout get drunk and dumb on the bounty. The year’s biggest trout are caught every year during the prerunoff. Even wise old browns will rise like greedy westslope cutthroats for skwalas, and the swkalas seem to make big fish eager to rise to other bugs when hatches occur. There are fish present in all four streams of all age classes, but to generalize mightily, all four streams offer lots of “teens” and much larger fish of a mixed bag: cutts, rainbows, cutt-bows, browns and even bulls.

Author holds a trout

All four of the Missoula-area prerunoff trout streams are awesome, including the Blackfoot, Clark Fork, and Bitterroot rivers, but me and my brother Zac’s favorites is more intimate and wild Rock Creek. The little river is home to lots of browns, including specimens larger than this as well as cutthroat, rainbow, brook and bull trout. (ZAC HOLMES)

It’s wise to book a day with a guide out of the better-reviewed of several area fly shops, but after one weekend with a friend in his boat in Missoula, I found it easy to take my own boat, set up shuttles with shops and get on fish immediately on all four rivers. I have never floated Rock Creek, nor would I in a hard-sided boat. It’s more of a small river than a creek, but it is a small river. It may offer the coolest and certainly wildest experience of any of the four major streams. It features healthy bull trout, browns, rainbows, cutts, cutt-bows and brookies. It’s a great trout stream and worth the half-hour drive from downtown Missoula. Expect possible bighorn, moose, elk and deer sightings especially on Rock Creek, but also on the other streams, even in Missoula. This famous trout destination has grown mightily in the last two decades, yet trophy opportunities exist in and around a big, cool town with lots of well-reviewed restaurants and great lodging, shopping, and bars. A trip here is an easy sell for almost everyone.

Westview Marina & Lodge April 2016 Fishing Report


Alaskan Winter Chinook/King Troll Fishery scheduled to close EARLY-because the fishing has been so good they have caught their allocation.

Alaskan winter & early spring Commercial Chinook troll fishery is a good yardstick to measure expectations for the upcoming West Coast Vancouver Island (WCVI) Sport Fishing/Catching.

Alaskan troll will be closing at least two weeks early because of the significant upturn in Chinook abundance.

Grant Hagerman, Fish and Game’s assistant troll biologist for Southeast Alaska, said:

“Looking back, it’s the highest fall catch we’ve seen for 20 years, basically, since the 93-94 winter season, so it’s pretty significant.”


CHINOOK/Springs/Kings – On an average year, a 2.5% to 3.5% return of mature salmon to the hatcheries, rivers, and streams is the norm. The normal math is 1 million fry in the water = Avg. returns of 30,000 Chinook. 5% is the best we have seen over the last 10 years.

Recent Department of Fisheries (DFO) reports have announced that they are projecting a 10%+ return this year. That translates to a serious upturn in returning Chinook. 1.2+ million Chinook passing and returning to WCVI. That is very good news, and it correlates with the Alaskan increase in Chinook abundance reported above.





ESPERANZA INLET/NOOTKA SOUND– Will see at least 100,000 of these Chinook returning to its rivers, stream and Volunteer/Federal Hatcheries in Area 25. In addition, these stocks are going to be 88%+ four-and-five year old salmon. That translates into much larger Chinook this 2016 season. 25-35lb.Tyees will be a regular occurrence on the Marina Daily leader board. Salmon fishing in our local area in 2016 will be the BEST it has been in 20 years.

Come join the Fun and Fishing/Catching!

Local Coho/Silver Salmon- Area 25/125 OPENS JUNE 1, 2016 -Stocks remain moderately strong, which means limits of two per day of hatchery marked or wild Coho on inside waters (Area 25) with possession of four. Same goes for outside waters (Area 125) except only hatchery marked fish can be retained. Still a Great and fun fishery on calm inside water here in Espernza Inlet and Nootka Sound.

Ling Cod- “One of the best-tasting, ugliest fish you ever wanted to catch.”

Stocks continue to remain very strong and abundant in our area. One small regulation change: minimum size now 65cm/26in. No big deal, it is hard to find a Ling in our area under the 65cm/26in limit. That change brings Area 25/125 in line with other WCVI areas on Minimum Size.
Limits still 3 per day, 6 possession of these delicious white-meated fish.

Ling are great fun to catch, and there are LOTS around in our local waters!









Paula’s Favorite Ling Cod Recipe

  • 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 4(3 ounce) cod fillets
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 egg white , lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  • In a small shallow bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, cheese, cornmeal, oil, italian seasoning, garlic powder and pepper; set aside. Coat the rack of a broiling pan with cooking spray. Place the cod on the rack, folding under any thin edges of the filets. Brush with the egg white, then spoon the crumb mixture evenly on top. Bake in a preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and is opaque all the way through

Halibut- More Good News

International Halibut Commission scientists are reporting the size and quantity are on a steady increase for the West Coast of Vancouver Island Halibut. Yes that means Hali fishing is now April, May, and early June. Fishing will remain very good on inside waters and close in shore.


Because we’ve had an excellent Herring spawn in the mouth of both Esperanza Inlet and Nootka Sound. These huge spawns draw the Halibut inside and close off-shore to feast on the Herring. Catching Hali in 90ft of water is the norm through mid-April, May, and early June.

As summer rolls in, the abundant Halibut move out further off shore to the summer feeding and breeding grounds. They are very catchable off shore, too. Come to Westview’s Tackle Shop & we can use the chart to ID inshore Hali Hot Spots & GPS locations off-shore.











Late April, All of May and Early June is some of the BEST Fishing/Catching of the Season.

We get the first shot at the thousands of Chinook that are headed south to the USA. They are already starting to pass and stop in our local inlets and sounds, gorging themselves on the huge school of bait fish that are here now. Limits are already attainable for Chinook, Hali, and Ling! Fishing/Catching is over-the-top GOOD.


Special rates on Spring All Inclusive Packages, Moorage, and Lodging.

Book what services you need. Pub, gas dock, tackle shop and Island Attitude Coffee/Breakfast shop are ALL open NOW! Marina Grillhouse Restaurant opens May 8th for lunch and dinner. See the “Best Kept Secret on the West Coast of Vancouver Island” fishing pkgs. above.

Call 250-934 -7672 for moorage & lodging reservation.

John and Cathy Falavolito
(250) 934-7992, Owner Operators Westview Marina & Lodge
Serving the Cruising and Fishing Public for 24 Years

Kyuquot Sound West Coast Vancouver Island

For Immediate Release – Media Advisory April 4 2016


Kyuquot Sound West Coast Vancouver Island

Chinook Forecast:

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Preliminary forecasts are out and participants from the most recent set of planning meetings this past weekend are saying that for the West Coast of Vancouver Island this season is going to be the Chinook run of the Decade!

Marilyn Murphy, of Murphy Sportfishing says “So if fishing in Kyuquot Sound has ever been on your radar, this year is the year to do it”.

West Coast Vancouver Island hatchery returns are at a combined ten year high with over 250,000, yes two hundred and fifty thousand mature Chinook returning for the 2016 season. To bring this number into perspective it is double the normal average.

Now on top of these astounding numbers you are going to see some girth. Girth is the circumference thickness measurement of a fish. This run is expected to be predominantly four year old Chinook, this means some nice “Tubby Tyees”. A Tyee a native term meaning the Chief of Chiefs, so in the case of a Chinook Salmon, one of which is over 30 pounds is referred to as a “TYEE”.

This is still not the full story, alongside and mixed in with this run as they land in the approach waters of Northern Vancouver Island then migrating south, will be the annual mass migration of aggressively feeding Columbia River Chinook. The adults this year are coming off of a record brood year from 2013 when over 1.2 million adults returned. With ocean condition indicators and the other voo-doo the fish wizards add in, they expect an above average return. Which in other words means over 800,000 Columbia River Chinook will be in this same area over the same time frame. Combine these Southern US bound with Canada’s West Coast Chinook returns and there are going to be over 1,000,000 Chinook foraging on their way South from Northern Vancouver Island to Southern Vancouver Island during June, July and August.

When asked “Why Kyuquot?”, Marilyn explains that Kyuquot is a very unique location as it is perched literally right on the edge of the “Super Salmon Highway” on North Western Vancouver Island, and unlike other terminal areas such as Nootka and Barkley Sound, Kyuquot will not be having large scale commercial net and Seine fisheries to compete with! “Run sizes are so large this year that both commercial Gill net and Seine will also be operating in the hatchery terminal zones. We look forward to being on the waters offshore of Kyuquot with the occasional offshore troller and local First Nations enjoying the vast uncrowded waters of the area. With this many fish returning is going to be an incredible experience”

Look for generous limits within this year’s regulations in times and areas where these abundances will travel. Detailed regulations are announced in June. You can book your trips now with confidence knowing that the regulations will be complimenting the abundance levels appropriately. Expect a full length of the season as well.

Coho Forecast:

Look for moderate to abundant levels of Coho on Vancouver Island’s west coast again this year. Although the run is not anticipated to be as big as last year’s forecast. Anticipate limits to be similar to 2014 with wild and hatchery Coho retention in the near shore and terminal areas adjacent to hatchery approach waters along WCVI and hatchery only in the offshore areas.

Halibut Forecast:

The International Halibut Commission manages Halibut and has a bilateral team of scientists that study the biomass trends. Canada’s west coast is now on a clear trend with increase in size of fish and quantity of fish at an increase WPUE (weight per unit effort) of 11% last year. What we have seen on the waters on Vancouver Island’s west coast does support what the science is saying. The fish are more abundant and the average size is increasing.

Although the biomass is increasing that doesn’t always mean that limits do! For 2016 the recreational limits are similar to last year with a plan in place to be open for the full length of the summer with a daily limit of 1 and a possession limit of 2. A maximum size limit is what has been working well to achieve annual sector quotas. This year the maximum size limit is only one fish of the two in possession may be up to 133cm (aprox 70 pounds whole) and the other can not be greater than 83cm (aprox 15 pounds whole). The annual limit is six.

As Featured on “Fishing with Rod”


Check out Rod’s video from his Kyuquot trip last year!

This year Kyuquot is selling out fast and with this incredible news its a season you really want to be a part of.

Call anytime, day or evening: 250-723-8022


Person on a boat in inclimate weather

Tried-and-true Springer Tactics

With a midsized run forecast, it will pay to stick with techniques that work for Columbia spring salmon.

By Andy Schneider

No matter how tight he pulled his drawstrings, the cold rain seeped past his collar and down the neck of the shivering spring Chinook angler. The rain didn’t fall straight down that cold March morning; no, it was driven sideways by a relentless 20-mile-an-hour east wind. Every time he lifted his head slightly to reassure himself that there were still other fishermen enduring the same punishment, a new trickle of frigid water found its way through his rain gear and down his back. After a quick crank of the reel handle to bring his lead cannonball just off the bottom, the rain transitioned from liquid form to a hard, but still somehow still wet, solid; could the weather get much worse?

Person on a boat in inclimate weather

Mother Nature doesn’t yield her tastiest salmon easily – she’ll throw some of her nastiest weather at spring Chinook anglers as they work the Columbia this month and in early April. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

As the bottom of the boat turned from gray diamond plate to a uniform white, an almost imperceptible twitch of the fisherman’s rod caught his eye. Adrenaline soared through his veins, bringing tingling warmth to his nearly frozen fingers. Scooting to the edge of his damp chair, trying to keep the boat on the same exact path, making only the smallest of adjustments to the trolling motor’s RPMs and silently chanting for the “twitch” of the rod to return, the angler finally let out his breath. Had it just been his imagination? Was it a trick of the bottom? Just when the doubts started becoming reality, the fisherman’s silent prayers were answered: The rod tip plunged into the water and he battled his first spring Chinook of the season.

THIS SEASON PROMISES to deliver just that kind of action for Northwest sportsmen pursuing Columbia springers. Snowpacks are good, the forecasts are decent and fishermen should be able to transition from a fantastic steelhead season right into good angling on the big river. After the long, wet winter, many of us are chomping at the bit to get out and pursue something just a little bigger than winter-runs. Yes, spring Chinook will be caught throughout March, but waiting just a little later in the month may produce better results. Dam counts, flow amounts, water temperatures, turbidity levels and weather forecasts should all be taken into consideration before making your maiden voyage.

Once the count at Bonneville reaches a count of 1,000 and water temperatures climb above 40 degrees, start pinching barbs and brining bait. Normal water flows out of the dam, a steady barometer and low turbidity levels should make angling a little easier and more productive. But if you wait for all these cards to align, you may miss out on the entire season. So when your weekend nears and fishing conditions look to be even remotely tolerable, sometimes it’s best to just take what you can get and hope for the best.

Man with a large herring

Many anglers will troll herring for their springers, but pinch points such as below pile dikes are good places to set up an ambuscade, as evidenced by this one hefted by the author’s dad Ron Schneider. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

LAST FALL’S CHINOOK fishing on the Columbia was epic and definitely reset the standard for “The Good Old Days.” Following on such good fishing, this year’s spring Chinook season will certainly leave many anglers wanting more. To make sure you get the most opportunities possible this season, stick with techniques that have proven themselves in past years.

Herring is going to be one of the most effective baits day in and day out to catch springers. It doesn’t need to be fancy either – a whole herring straight from the package is going to catch fish. But putting a little more care into your presentation is going to make it slightly more effective and should yield more consistent results throughout the season. Plug cutting and brining your herring are easy ways to ensure your baits are fishing properly and will hold up to heavy river flows. There are multiple herring brines and dyes available on the market today, and all work well. Finding one that works for you is as simple as knowing how much effort you want to put into bait preparation. If you find yourself short on preparation time, an “all in one” brine will probably work best. If you like to add your own secret ingredients, or construct your own brine, then you will have even more choices. Brines can be as simple as adding one cup of rock salt to a quart of distilled water in a gallon-sized zipper-lock bag to cure overnight. Some anglers like to tinker with their brines, adding anything from MSG to sodium sulfates, but be wary of adding too many specialized ingredients. Not only is it difficult to remember exactly what and how much of it you put in, you may be end up “burning” your bait and creating a bait that might be more offensive to spring Chinook than attractive.

As for plug-cutting your herring, utilizing a miter box and a sharp knife ensures you get a consistent roll every time.

Most salmon anglers will also agree that a rotating flasher in front of your herring increases your odds. With so many different colors of reflective Mylar on the market today, trying to find the color combination that will catch a fish, seams more daunting than finding a February springer. But take a step back from all those brightly colored reflective triangles and look at the common denominator: Besides the shape, most revolve around silver and shades of green.

Having a good supply of green and chartreuse flashers with their matching chrome side will ensure that you have a fish-catching combination. The second most common color combination that has proven itself for salmon anglers is bronze and orange. There are theories for coordinating flasher colors to weather conditions, water clarity and even bait dyes. While there may be some direct cause and effect, there are just too many variables in our Northwest waters to draw a conclusive relation. Best to just have multiple flashers with different colors and try experimenting when the fish become elusive.

Rigging starts with two 4/0 barbless hooks, fix tied 3 inches apart on 48 to 60 inches of 25-pound fluorocarbon or monofilament leader tied to your flasher. Above your flasher, tie 16 inches of 40-pound-test mono to a bead-chain swivel. Above that, slide two 8mm beads down your mainline to help protect your knot from your plastic weight slider. For a weight dropper, use 15- to 20-pound mono with a duolock snap for quick lead changes. Fifty- or 65-pound braided mainline is the most popular, followed by 25-pound mono.



WHILE SOME ANGLERS take the bait to the fish, others play the odds and wait for the fish to come to their plugs. True, trollers usually fare better at the end of the day, but a well-planned and anchored boat can outfish even the savviest of trollers. Spring Chinook don’t flood into the Columbia in wave after wave on every tide. Instead they trickle in inconsistently, and move upriver in unpredictable surges, frustrating anglers not prepared for the long game. That means finding choke points, pile dikes, wing dams and bottom contours that concentrate and focus the fish will provide better results.

During high-water years, tying or anchoring directly behind pile dikes can be very productive, as fish will seek the slower waters created by the pilings. When tying directly to them, make sure to fish your gear close to the boat, as fish oftentimes will move just behind the pilings. Because in many cases the water can be as shallow as 4 feet directly behind pilings, paying attention to your dropper length is more important than ever, as you don’t want your offering too close to the surface of the water, nor dragging the bottom. The current behind pile dikes can be very turbulent, so utilizing spinner blades made for slower waters or plugs will ensure your gear will keep working properly as flows surge and ebb.

WHERE YOU FISH for spring Chinook on the Columbia should be based more on boat ramp locations close to your home than fishing reports. Since salmon movement upriver is such an unpredictable factor, chasing reports is often a losing proposition from the start as the fish have moved upriver by the time you launch the following day. And while spring Chinook are consistently inconsistent, there are certain locations that produce fish from February till the end of the season. Targeting these popular locations usually gives anglers the best odds, day in and day out.

Author and little girl, each holding a large fish.

As winter’s grip fades and spring blooms comes the best springer fishing. Catches build in March, but take off at the end of this month and early next. John and Leah Lecarno enjoyed a successful outing with the author last April. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

Davis Bar downriver to Caterpillar Island annually is one of the most popular and productive locations. Trolling is by far the most popular technique at both, since water depth and sandy bottom is mostly snag-free. That makes dragging herring close to the bottom easy, allowing for long, trouble-free trolls.

Venturing across the channel to Sauvie Island, bank anglers have a mile’s worth of access to some of the great plunking water at Willow Bar, while downriver from there, Social Security and Collins Beaches offer the shorebound even more plunking water. Boaters wanting to pitch the hook can find locations along Caterpillar Island and along Sauvie Island to intercept fish moving upriver.

Trolling between the interstate bridges has been consistent producer since spring Chinook fishing was allowed above I-5. Most anglers start their troll near Wintler Park, which is just below the Marine Park ramp, and troll the Washington shore all the way to the railroad bridge on the Oregon side just below I-5. Trollers also work the waters from the James Gleason launch off NE Marine Drive down along Hayden Island and down to the railroad bridge. Most of the Columbia below I-205 averages less than 25 feet deep, on normal water years, making for perfect water for trollers.

The last few seasons, the waters directly below The Fishery and down to Dalton Point has produced consistent results for those willing to battle the Columbia Gorge’s east wind and faster currents. However, with fuller snowpacks this winter, we may have higher spring flows, which may negatively effect this fishery. As challenging as this fishery can be, creel counts don’t lie – skippers willing to subject themselves and crew to these conditions may be in for another good season.

NO MATTER WHAT techniques you employ and where you go, spring Chinook fishing is a rite of passage for Northwest anglers. Spring brings green leaves, colorful flowers and chrome salmon, and as the short days of winter slowly transition to longer and slightly warmer days of spring, spending time on the water pursuing one of the tastiest of fish is a great way to shake off any lingering seasonal depression. Start thawing some bait and get out and enjoy salmon fishing as Mother Nature hits the reset button and turns the upper lefthand corner of this country into one of the most beautiful places to live in the world.