Roaming From Chrome: More Columbia Anglers Turn To Walleye

It’s not just AndyCoho roaming from chrome these days!

The most famous Northwest salmon and steelhead angler’s been dabbling with walleye of late, and an outdoor writer along the world’s Chinookiest crick has developed an interest in the tasty white-meated fish as well.

WHEN THE SALMON AND STEELHEAD DON’T WANT TO PLAY — OR AT LEAST RETURN IN GOOD NUMBERS — ANGLERS TURN TO WALLEYE, AND THIS YEAR HAS PROVED TO BE A GOOD ONE IN THE COLUMBIA’S EAST GORGE RESERVOIRS, WHERE THIS PAIR WAS CAUGHT RECENTLY. (YAKIMA BAIT)

Al Thomas of The Columbian details why he’s strayed in a great article out today.

“This spring chinook season in Southwest Washington was so flaky — with the high streamflows by mid-March and low Bonneville Dam counts — that I only made one trip for the premier fish of the Columbia River.”

“I opted instead to chase walleyes in the Columbia Gorge and that turned out to be a fantastic choice.”

THEY’RE NOT THE TROPHY WALLEYE THAT FISHERMEN FOCUS ON FROM FEBRUARY THROUGH APRIL IN HOPES OF SETTING A NEW STATE OR WORLD RECORD, BUT PLENTIFUL SMALLER AND TASTIER WALLEYE ARE ATTRACTING, SHALL WE SAY, EYES. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

There seems to be plenty to catch this year, possibly due to 2015’s warm waters as well as its low flows providing.

Creel samplers have been tallying high numbers on The Dalles and John Day Pools, and the upper end of the former reservoir is where Buzz Ramsey found himself a couple weeks ago during a Facebook Live broadcast with guide Cody Herman, fellow Yakima Bait staffer Jarod Higginbotham and ODFW.

GUIDE CODY HERMAN OF DAY ONE OUTDOORS SHOWS OFF ONE OF 28 WALLEYE HE AND THE BIG FELLAS FROM YAKIMA BAIT CAUGHT A COUPLE WEEKS AGO. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

“Yeah, walleye are mostly smaller and don’t fight like silver fish but who cares; they offer a great tasting alternative and pull your string a lot more often than most days spent chasing salmon and/or steelhead,” Ramsey told us afterwards.

They caught 28 in a couple hours of “trolling a Hammer Time spinner in combination with a Spin-N-Glo bottom walker,” he reported.

On the end was a slightly different big-river bait than Ramsey usually runs on the Columbia.

“Yeah, the worms are more of a hassle than lures or even herring, but you can take the fight out of the squirmy little fellows with a hard throw to the floor, which makes hanging them straight on your worm harness a lot easier,” he tipped.

A COPPER-BLADED HAMMER TIME SPINNER BAITED WITH A NIGHTCRAWLER WAS THE SET-UP OF THE DAY. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Ramsey tells Thomas that when salmon runs are smaller, state Departments of Fish and Wildlife do notice more anglers going out for walleye in the eastern Columbia Gorge reservoirs, suggesting we’re not as locked into chrome only as you might think.

Thomas has been doing so well, he writes that he and his partner have set a boat limit of 20 between them. (There’s otherwise no limit, as both states eliminated those a couple years ago.)

And you might even see Buzz and his trademark hat out there again, trolling for these Midwest imports.

“I cooked a few fillets shortly thereafter, along with two eggs, and again experienced the taste of a great-tasting fish that I’ve gone too long without,” he told us.

OUR MAY 2017 COVER STORY BY ANDYCOHO — ANDY SCHNEIDER — NAILED WHY AND HOW TO ROAM FROM CHROME THIS YEAR.

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