Walleye Fishing on the Lower Columbia
Lance Merz for The Mack Attack, June 07, 2018
Walleye fishing on the Columbia River is a destination hot spot for anglers who seek this predatroy fish. In fact, most walleye anglers will tell you that if you can catch a walleye, you can catch just about any species of fish.
Departments of Fish and Wildlife in Washington and Oregon, over the last two years, have lifted the limits while fishing the Lower Columbia. Studies are showing that walleye are eating the salmon and steelhead smolts and they want to eliminate the species altogether. Only one rod is authorized per angler, but there is plenty of fish to be had for all. I had the opportunity to fish with Mack’s Lure Pro Staff angler Ted Beach, a professional walleye angler whose knowledge compares to that of an encyclopedia. When Ted talks about fishing, people listen. He gives various seminars throughout Washington Each year and loves to tech people how to fish.
There is an art to fishing walleye.
We launched in an area of the Lower Columbia, just below the McNary Dam in a place called Crowe Butte. We were fishing in attempts to find some fish to catch for an episode of Northwest Fishing Reports. Due to the harsh winter that was felt by all, the current of the river was moving quite fast. Instead of moving into the main current, Ted sought his attention to areas of the river where the current wasn’t as swift. Normally, these areas are closer to shore and range in depts of 5- to 25-feet. We were trolling with bottom walkers with about a 5- to 6-foot leader, primarily using Double Whammy® Walleye and Smile Blade® Super Slow Death Rigs tipped with nightcrawlers.
It wasn’t long after we started trolling that the first fish of the day came into the boat — a 16-inch walleye that knocked the funk off of the boat. A slow troll downstream revealed a few more fish in the live well — this was going to be a good day!
River that can be very intimidating and, if you’ve never been on that particular area of the river, I would recommend going out with a guide who knows the water. Channels can be very shallow, which can take out a lower unit very easily. There are even areas in the middle of the river that can be as shallow as six inches!
Ted and I fished throughout the day — a fish here, a fish there. The fishing was consistent, but it wasn’t lights out. The water temperature for fishing was still a bit chilly at about 57 degrees and the clarity of the water was a chocolate milk color.
Then the wind picked up. It is imperative that, if you’re operating a boat on the Columbia River, you are aware of the water conditions at the time you are going to fish. Without warning, the chop on the water can product 5- to 6-foot swells and without enough knowledge of boat operations, it could be catastrophic.
Since the wind was so severe on the main channel, Ted decided to tuck into a slough, which protected us from the wind. Not only did we start to catch walleye, we also began to catch smallmouth bass and perch, as well. Since walleye are predatory fish, catching these other species was a good sign.
The next day, we decided to fish in another area of the river, adjacent to the town of Plymouth, Washington. Ted made this decision because the forecast was calling for wind gusts of up to 22 mph that day with some rain mixed in, as well.
We met with the Northwest Fishing Reports crew and began to film the show. Mike Carey, owner of NWFR, jumped in the boat with Ted and I, and his crew was in another boat fishing, as well. We launched the boat and the conditions were perfect — calm with no rain.
We decided to take advantage of the early morning fishing in an area Ted called the “Plymouth Slough,” a branch of the Columbia just off the main channel of the river, which, if needed, could protect us from the gusts, which were on their way.
The fishing was consistent and, again, we were using Double Whammy® Walleye and Smile Blade® Super Slow Death Rigs. The hot Smile Blade® on this day, however, was the UV Glo® Burst, which produces a the water and the preferred method was to troll up to the border — a line just below the dam that no one is allowed — and drifted down. All but one chute was open at the dam and the water was swift, to say the least. Even without wind, the swells were consistent at 5- to 6-feet. In all, 40 fish were caught over the two day period.tremendous amount of flash and attraction even in murky waters. We pushed the limits and decided to fish just below the McNary Dam. There was only one guide boat on the water and the preferred method was to troll up to the border — a line just below the dam that no one is allowed — and drifted down. All but one chute was open at the dam and the water was swift, to say the least. Even without wind, the swells were consistent at 5- to 6-feet. In all, 40 fish were caught over the two day period.
Ted is an excellent teacher. I learned a different way to rig up the walleye rod and even learned a new way to thread a worm on a hook. What I learned the most from Ted was that preparation is essential for walleye fishing. As with any other fishery, having the line in the water longer will eventually lead to more fish. Ted’s boat was filled with additional tackle and riggings that made it very easy to slide off each lure to try a different color.
That same week, Bob Loomis and Richy Harrod took their shot at fishing the Lower Columbia, as well. They fished in an area of the Columbia adjacent to Maryhill, Washington, at a place called Peach Beach. Trolling was the preferred method, just off the main channel using Wally Pop® crawler harnesses, as well as the Double Whammy® Walleye and the Smile Blade® Super Slow Death Rig.
Although there are no limits on parts of the Lower Columbia River, it doesn’t mean that all of the fish have to be caught. I have seen first-hand where anglers will go out fishing and catch in excess of 100 fish or more in one day. In my opinion, catch what you’re going to eat. Set a limit for your boat, which will allow others anglers the ability to catch fish, as well.