Kevin Klein Reports on the return of the Columbia River King Salmon
The Friday Harbor crew made the annual long haul down to Buoy 10 to fish on the predicted big return for the Columbia River. With fishing slow in Marine Area 7, we had to saddle the horses and hitch the wagons to go find some Kangs.
The first couple days didn’t disappoint, as previous shots of rain sent a jag of fish up the river. We got on limits of Chinook and Coho right out of the gate. The super hot fishing we were hoping for never really materialized, however. The next couple of days we had to grind to find ’em. A hot bite would come and go as the fish moved.
Some nice fish hit the deck, but not what you’d call easy limits. It sounds like that was the norm for most. The fishing out in the Ocean off Long Beach and elsewhere is still on fire. I think a big mass of fish will push up the river after September 1st. My guess is that we’ll see dam counts skyrocket, when some are lamenting a low return.
1. Kevin Klein hoists a Chunker. Lots of big hatchery brutes in the mix. Almost all the Chinook we caught the first couple days were clipped. With hatcheries under fire, it’s nice to see them proving their worth with tangible results. And tangible it is. Besides looking at a beautiful, bright, hard fighting fish…and they fought hard this year… looking at the amount of dollars in boats, fuel, gear, tackle, lodging, groceries, dining and everything else that goes into this fishery is staggering. What a much needed boon to the local economies in the area. More fish is a good thing.
2. Andy Holman and family on the Slayride 2. Cut plug Herring on the bottom was the go to for our boats. Spinners on the third rod out the back took their toll on the Kings, yielding massive, rod flattening takedowns. What a rush!
We also found a secret weapon of sorts. I had tried the Point Wilson King Kandy Cutplug in Glow up in the ‘Juan’s with good results. We stopped by Holiday Sports in Burlington on the way down to pick some more up, as they looked about the same size as the Blue Label Herring we were going to be using. Sure enough, a lil’ Anchovy scent packed in the cavity, and they produced. A good third alternative to bait and spinners in the spread.
4. Andy, Floyd, and Alex hold up a pair of nice Chinook. 5 year old Floyd reeled in the big one by all himself, with a net job from Dad. Alex also brought her good fish to the boat herself. “Get the net Dad…I got a big one!”.
5. Our friends Bill, Jeff and Greg hold up their fish back at fish camp. Grab a cold one boys, them’s good Kangs!
My family has been putting fish on the beach during extended fish camps for years, since before the dams were built. I’ve got a great post-war picture somewhere of my Grandma with a 54lb and a 48lb Chinook, caught on the same morning. They would harvest what they needed from the massive runs to smoke and can for the Winter.
It’s good to see the tradition continue. Fall is just stirring in the air already…and Winter is coming.
Kevin Klein – Fishing Columnist
Born and raised in Washington, Kevin Klein has been fishing since childhood. From the rivers and lakes of Washington, Idaho and Oregon to Alaska and Mexico, you will find Kevin chasing everything from salmon, trout and steelhead to halibut, lingcod, and sturgeon.
A writer for many media outlets around the Northwest, Kevin loves to share his lifelong passion with everyone from novice to expert anglers in hopes of drawing more people into this great outdoor pastime.
Since 2004, Kevin has made his home in Friday Harbor in the beautiful San Juan Islands. When he is not busy with his daily job of barging propane gas to the islands, you’ll find him advocating for salmon enhancement and sport fishing issues around the Northwest.
Kevin is a regular salmon fishing competitor, who founded the popular Resurrection Salmon Derby in the San Juans. Most weekends he can be found on his boat with friends and family, looking for a big king salmon and a good story to tell about it…with pictures of course!