Fall Royalty: The fail-safe way to catch Columbia River Fall Kings

by Jacob Munden, August 05, 2018

As the summer is slipping away, it is hard not to get excited for the beginning of the Fall King Salmon run up the Columbia River. As we speak, Fall kings are staging at the mouth of the Columbia River and from Astoria to the Hanford Reach, anglers will have many opportunities to catch these fish as they travel to their spawning grounds.

In this article, I want to focus on 1 main rigging that I feel will give any angler the very best chances at catching these fall fish. In recent year’s the development of trolling techniques using “skateboard” flashers or “360” flashers and some type of bait, spinner, or other lure has evolved and for good reason. Trolling these set-ups in deep water as these Fall kings migrate up river is an excellent way to catch them and has accounted for a large percent of caught fish in the last 5 years.

Fall kings enter the river when it is warm, so rule #1 is to remember to get your gear near the bottom! You can run a dropper on your lead, or not, but either way, it is important to be within 5-10 feet of the bottom no matter where you are fishing. Usually, this is deeper water too. This time of year, the deeper water is the cooler water. With surface temperatures in the Columbia between 70 and 74 degrees, these fish are deep trying to stay cool as they migrate upstream. I like to use 10-16 ounces of lead to get down deep and maintain a 45-degree line angle. Some areas like Drano Lake or the mouth of the Deschutes, 10-12 ounces will work great for this trolling application. However, at the mouth of the Klickitat River, sometimes 16 ounces is needed because of the deep water, up to 60 feet, that you would be fishing. Obviously to do this, you need a good heavy salmon mooching rod. I like a 10 ½ foot bait caster that can effectively troll these leads and has a line rating from 15-30lb. I use 50-65-pound braid and make sure that I have a line counter to repeat any success I have. When I start catching fish, I want to move all my rods to that depth and dial it in.

Here is a good look at how to rig the 360 flasher/lure set-up.

On the business end of the rigging, I like to run Brad’s Superbaits or small inline spinners. Experiment with inline wire spinners and “springer” type prawn spinners. Sometimes a little extra “meat” can get a bite going. Also, in the fall, I like to trade my prawns or coon shrimp for sandshrimp. Fall kings have a hankering for sandshrimp it seems. I like to run these offerings 32-26 inches behind my flasher and really get them whipping around. In the fall, the fish are aggressive and more action is typically a better bet!

As for trolling these rigs, I like to troll downstream with the current in areas where the flow is greater than 2 mph. If I can troll up and down stream, I will do that, but the key to effectivley fishing this rig is watching your line and keeping your spped at just the right amount so that your line is at a 45-angle. This helps calculate excatly how deep you are fishing and I feel gives the flasher just the right action. The simple goal for me is to get that rod thumping at 1 beat per second. A 45-angle withyour line will accomplish this.

Finally, when a fish strikes let him bury it and do not be too quick to the rod. Keep a tight line and don’t give any slack. You will notice that you may have a higher percent of lost fish with this rig because of so much gear flopping around when fighting the fish. However, you will also get many more strikes than you are used to, so in my book….its a wash! You may want to experiment with some of the flasher quick release options that allow your flasher to dangle free once the fish is hooked. I do not use them, but some people really feel they help.

The Fall King season looks to be decent, however numbers will be down from what we are used to. There are some restrictions in place this year depending on where you are fishing, so make sure you always check your local regulations before going out. Even though numbers may be down, use this rig with confidence. The fish that are in the river, will no doubt bite this offering and you will be rewarded with an awesome fish for the table!

Jacob Munden

Munden’s Rising Son Adventures



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