Columbia River Fall Coho
Jacob Munden, November 05, 2017
As the fall leaves change colors and the mornings get a bit crisper, I know the Fall King fishing is coming to an end and it’s time to switch gears to Coho fishing! Whether in a tributary or the main stem Columbia in the Gorge, Coho, or silver salmon, are abundant and provide great angling opportunities well into December. I focus my efforts on the Columbia Gorge and target the Silvers before they enter their spawning tributaries. I feel the fish are more aggressive and more eager to bite my offerings!
The Wind River, Klickitat, and Drano Lake are all great Coho areas. The Klickitat is the main fishery. The launch sites are at Lyle, WA or on the Oregon side at the Rowena Boat launch. Fishing takes place at the mouth of the Klickitat, in the Columbia where the fish will stage before running up the river. Fishing can also be good inside the river as the fish begin running up to their spawning areas. The water is shallow in places and on low water, the sand bar from the Columbia up into the Klickitat can be only a few ft deep in places. Take special care when navigating into the Klickitat itself.
For me, trolling is the name of the game and provides quick action if the fish are present! As for techniques, one of the go to methods that is time tested and fail safe, is trolling regular and magnum wiggle warts 60-75 behind the boat. These plugs will dive 15-20 feet and be right in the zone where these fish are piling up. I am also a big fan of the maglips line of plugs from Yakima Bait. The 3.0, 3.5, and 4.0 are great sizes and can be enhanced by adding a small bait wrap of sardine, tuna, or shrimp for flavor! What I like about this method is its simplicity! Put the gear back behind the boat and start trolling. The more water you cover, the better your odds and you will eventually find the schools. Watch other boats, and if you see them catching, get in that area and join the party!
Coho are always going to be near bottom in the river. Trolling the gear near bottom will put you in the strike zone. I like to target water that is 30 feet deep or less. Some of the water at the mouth of the Klickitat is only 15-20 ft deep. Electronics are essential for marking pods of fish. Trust the electronics and when you find a pod of fish, stick on them and work that area very hard. Trolling both ways is fine, but try to blend in with the guides and locals, if you are new to the area. You don't want to be "that boat" that messes up the traffic!
If the fish are really stacked at the mouth of their spawning tributary and you want to slow down your presentation, I like to troll triangle flashers and prawn spinners, similar to what you would do Spring Chinook fishing. I run 6-8 oz. dropper leads and target the bottom while slowly trolling my prawn spinners. If the fish are piled in tight, it won’t take long to find the biters! A more recent technique has been to keep your 360 flasher set-up from Fall King fishing and add a small spinner or prawn spinner to the business end. Keep everything else the same as you have been doing for the last 2 months and hang on! This technique requires a bit more speed than the triangle in-line flashers, but does have an advantage if the water from the fall rains starts to get a bit murky!
Once the Silvers get into their spawning tributaries, twitching jigs, hovering eggs, or casting plugs/spinners are all great techniques to catch these fish! I find that the main priority is getting into an area where the fish are stacked and you will eventually find the biters. If you know you are on fish and are just not catching them, switch techniques until you get them to pop. Once in the rivers, Coho can get a bit moody and you need to find the technique that works. More often than not, something will work if you work at it for a while.
Overall, coho are smaller than Chinook and fight a bit more like steelhead. They tend to jump more and fight on the surface, so keeping the line tight and hooks sharp will help in landing your catch. The run size this year is average. I can't say there are a ton of Coho in the system, but the action has been steady and there are fish to catch. Check your regulations for clipped/unclipped rules. Each section of water has different regulations. At the Klickitat, both clipped and unclipped fish can be kept.
Don’t let the end of King fishing give you the blues! Get your plugs and spinners out and get out after those Silvers! You will find lots of fish and very few crowds during this great time of year!
Jacob MundenMunden’s Rising Son Adventures