Whether you’re a beginner angler or a seasoned professional, Washington state offers some great spots for salmon fishing. This basic information will help get you started:
The Columbia River and its tributaries are the best places to head for salmon fishing. That’s especially true this year, as record numbers of salmon are expected to flood the river—experts say that 1.6 million Chinook salmon and nearly a million coho salmon will head for the mouth of the Columbia. There’s never been a better time to pick this river! If you’d rather skip the crowds, salmon can also be found in the Grays, Elochoman, Cowlitz, Lewis, Kalama, Washougal, Wind, and Klickitat rivers.
August and September are prime salmon fishing months, although some anglers hit the rivers as early as June, and Chinook salmon start to migrate in July. The season wraps up in early October.
You should get an 8-10 foot rod that can support a 15-30 pound line. If you’re shooting for smaller salmon, you’ll want a 15-pound line, but larger ones like Chinook salmon will need a 20-25 pound one. Use brightly colored lures to attract the fish’s attention.
Strategy — Catching
Drift fishing is a time-tested method of salmon catching. From the shore or a boat, cast your line upstream and let it drift through the run of salmon. Your line should be weighted so that it gently bounces along the bottom, touching once every foot or so. Repeat this until you feel a bite. Another method is “plunking,” where you set up a line in the middle of a migratory path and simply leave it alone until a salmon bites. These are the easiest and most popular methods, but you can research others like float fishing and trolling if you’d like more of a challenge.
Strategy — Landing
Since you’re casting upstream from your location, reeling in the fish is a relatively simple matter. The salmon will have a doubly hard battle trying to swim against the current and against your line, so reel in steadily and it will come to you without many problems.
Be prepared. Know how high the water is and how fast the current is. Wear suitable footwear that won’t slip, and always keep a life vest on—precautions save lives. If you plan to wade in the river, bring a long, sturdy stick that will help you regain your balance if you fall. Good luck and happy fishing!