Sunday, February 22, 2009

TRIP REPORT: Kayak Fishing the Confluence of the Willamette & Columbia Rivers, and Sauvie Island


I launched at Kelly Point Park at the confluence of the Willamette & Columbia Rivers late afternoon last Monday. The sky was partly cloudy, and temps were in the low to mid forties. The water was glassy, with currents around one nautical mile per hour.

I back trolled a pink Brad's Wobbler upstream of the confluence briefly, before crossing the mouth to Sauvie Island just down stream. Back trolling at this spot was a little intense with constant recreational & commercial boats coming in and out of the Willamette.

I back trolled a plug in fifteen to thirty feet of water, downstream of the confluence for another hour or so before calling it a day.

I saw another fisherman in a power boat, anchored up and trolling in the middle of the Columbia, directly outside of the mouth of the Willamette. He was probably in the best spot to intercept any salmon entering the Willamette, but I could not put myself in an area of such high boat traffic with out an anchor to hold my position.

I may fish the confluence again, but with the industrial setting and high boat traffic, it is not ideal. It is however, convenient. I'll save that spot for when the jones is high.


On my way out to Sauvie Island to kayak fish for spring salmon, I noticed thirty or so power boats anchored up just down stream of the St. John's bridge on the Willamette, and several more upstream around the port of Portland, maybe one or two miles up river from the confluence I was fishing the week prior. What a huge change from the one or two eager fisherman I had seen as of late.

We hit the island around 11:30 AM. There is no such thing as "on the water by dawn" when the girlfriend comes along. I was OK with the late start. My main goal was to enjoy the blue skies, sunshine and 60 degree temperatures. A gentle breeze blew over the glassy Columbia, and the current was moderate, around 1.5/2 knots.

We hauled our kayaks over the levy, and launched from a sand beach at the midpoint of the island, on to the Columbia. I ran a green tipped rainbow brass spinner on a leader of 4 feet behind a one ounce banana weight in 15 to 30 feet of water. I paddled gently backwards against the current; Just enough to keep the spinner fluttering downstream in the current, and changed to forward paddling in the eddies where the current direction changed.

We drifted by Mount Saint Helens:

I backtrolled the spinner for an hour or so and had one nice pull, but no real hookups to speak of. We approached the point downstream two miles where the shipping lane crosses from the Washington side, to within 50 feet of Sauvie Island. Paddling backwards in this environment is proving to be a little dangerous with all the boat traffic. I've been thinking of getting a rear view mirror that attaches to your sunglasses. I know they make them for cyclists, and it would make spotting approaching vessels a bit easier.

As I was very close to the shipping lane, I thought it would be best to turn and face this big boy as he got close.

Every now and then these big ships make a decent three foot wake that you can get a nice surf out of. The river was so flat today that this ship's wake was not big enough to ride.

One thing that always surprises me are sea planes. Growing up in Texas, I never saw a sea plane in real life. Out here in the Pacific Northwest they are common place. Even so, I still forget about three dimensional traffic hazards when I'm on the water. I get focused on boat traffic, and then an airplane comes out of the sky, or leaves the water surface, and really ads another layer to caution.

I saw a few bank fisherman plunking in the channel as I floated further downstream towards Warrior Point lighthouse. It was encouraging finally seeing other fisherman, but it's still a little early in the spring salmon season for much action. The increased amount of fishing traffic does tell me that any day now the spring salmon run will be in full swing, but aside from the one tug of the rod I missed, I was skunked.

I have been thinking about switching from hardware to herring. This seems to be the preferred method around town. With visibility less than two feet, I will surely need to entice the salmon with a scent trail rather than rely on the flash of the spinner alone. I've been trying to avoid using bait because of the increased hassle, but when it comes down to napping or catching salmon, I would rather catch salmon.

With only a half day to work with, we had to turn and head back upstream around 4:00 PM in order to reach the launch before sun down. We paddled hard back upstream, hopping in and out of eddies created by wing dams in order to avoid paddling against the main current, and made it back just in time.

I'm hoping to get down to the Nehalem next weekend to kayak fish for big native steelhead, before heading to New Orleans for my brothers bachelor party. I will resume chasing spring king salmon on the Columbia shortly there after. By the time I return to the Columbia, the spring salmon migration should be in full swing. Hopefully I will get into the fish then!

Until next week,


1 comment:

Rob Appleby said...

Nice report, pity the fish didn't make a show for you.. next time!

Seaplanes... difficult to cater for that hazard, interesting though.