Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The Salmon are Back!
The summer run of chinook & coho salmon are upon us! Reports indicate that 400,000 chinook and 100,000 coho are moving into the Columbia river estuary as we speak. The word is the coho are larger than usual, with a high number in the 16-18 pound range. Most likely I will try and catch up with this run when they get near the Portland, Oregon area in an upcoming post on urban fishing.
Fish are also cycling in and out of Nehalem bay, and will push into the tidal reaches of the river with each rainfall. I can't wait to get to Nehalem, it is one of my favorite areas on the coast for fall fishing. I plan on fishing the Nehalem within the next two weeks, and will post pics and a journal entry as soon as possible.
It's time to get that fishing gear out of the basement and get ready to go. I can feel fall in the air, and I've got salmon on my mind. Fishing is only part of the equation; I really just enjoy being at the coast in the fall. There's just something about the colors of the maple leaves, the smell of the rain in the forest, and coffee from a percolator on an open fire that I absolutely love.
Did I mention that there are monster chinook salmon flopping all over the river? I've nearly had a few flop right into my kayak. Sometimes I think they do that to torment me. Catching chinook in the river can be a serious test of persistence, determination, and patience.
Salmon don't really eat once they enter a river system. They are only concerned with one thing; returning to the spot where they were born in order to spawn a new generation. I think it is one of the most amazing life-cycles on the planet, but I digress.
So if the salmon are not eating, why do they strike bait, flies, and lures? There are many ideas out there on this subject, but I believe it is a combination of two things;
Aggression/agitation & establishing genetic security.
In other words, a flashing, vibrating, spinning piece of metal whizzing in front of your face is probably going to irritate you enough to strike it out of aggression or defense of territory.
A big blob of salmon eggs floating down stream means another fish has reached the spawning grounds before you, and the offspring from those eggs are going to compete for resources with your offspring, so better to take them out now.
Geography becomes an important issue for targeting salmon in a river system if you factor in the above theories. I look for deep pools that are fairly small in size (like fish in a barrel).
Timing is key. The salmon are migrating up river, all the way to the tiniest little streams and brooks in the upper watershed. If you are going after that chrome-bright chinook, you need to know where fresh fish are at in the river system at any given time.
With all these things factored in, one of my best salmon spots is a place where a long, deep pool tapers off at the bottom of the run into a channel, which, as the tide drops, shrinks to a diameter of about 10 feet. Every migrating salmon in the river has to pass that spot at some point, and I'll be waiting there to greet them with an irritating fly or lure, or a big blob of genetic competition.
Here's to a great fall salmon season!