Are you interested in guided salmon fishing in Portland, Oregon? Getting a guide is an imoprtant first step to making sure your trip is a successful one.
Portland as a central launch
With its status as a metropolitan hub that also provides easy access to the Columbia River, Portland is the logical place to serve as a central launch.
In fact, Portland Oregon and the surrounding area is a world-class salmon fishery, both for the fish themselves and the surroundings.
Everyone who loves fishing knows that it’s not only about the moment you get the fish on the hook: there’s also the anticipation, and the experience of being out in nature.
The Columbia River around Portland flows through a landscape of green forests, rock formations and cliffs, and the mighty Mount Hood, a snowcapped sentinel over this natural paradise of the Pacific Northwestern.
When you book a guided salmon fishing tour on the Columbia River, you’re getting the best chance at top-quality Chinook or Coho salmon—and in a natural environment of incredible beauty.
And if you’re driving or flying in from out of town, you may want to take advantage of the other attractions the area has to offer. If you look around, you’ll find everything from other outdoor activities to breweries, wine-tasting, and all kinds of other options.
Portland is a big city, and the Columbia River fishery is a good-sized one. Fortunately, there are a few well-known regions of the river that are particularly popular for fishing.
Let’s start at the beginning, specifically the mouth of the river where the fishery begins. The official beginning point of the Columbia River fishery is Buoy 10, which is anchored at the river’s mouth in Astoria, Oregon.
This area is significant because it’s where the salmon wait for the tide to change before pushing into the river. This also means it’s where they congregate.
From Buoy 10 and Astoria, the Columbia River fishery extends up the river through the Portland zone as far as Bonneville Dam. This is also where the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife keeps its largest hatchery facility, Bonneville Hatchery.
All of these regions are popular, and you can have a superb experience fishing for salmon in any of them. You might try the Portland zone for a first-time trip, and then consider other locations for subsequent trips.
What kind of salmon can you catch on the Columbia River? The answer will depend in part on when you want to go.
If you’re going in spring, you’ll encounter the spring run of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), also called king salmon, the first of three season-specific migrations or “runs.”
We’ve talked about spring-run Chinook before: they fight hard, and they taste delicious. They are relatively small by the standards of the species, perhaps 8-12 pounds, but they make up for it by being some of the best-tasting salmon anywhere in the world.
The fishery is tightly regulated, and only hatchery fish—identifiable by their clipped adipose fins—can be taken home for the pan (or grill). Bag limits typically allow only one Chinook.
If you opt for a summer trip, you’ll have the chance to hook a summer Chinook or king salmon. The summer season is short, but the bag limits typically allow two hatchery Chinook to be taken.
Summer Chinook are larger than their spring-run cousins, averaging about 25 pounds, and enter the river later because they do not have as far to travel. They also taste nearly as good.
If you go later in the year, the fall season offers a chance at the third and final run of Chinook salmon. Fall-run Chinook salmon are called “upriver brights” because they tend to still be bright silver when they are caught in the Buoy 10 fishery.
While fall-run Chinook salmon are not as famed for their taste, they’re still great in the pan, and they’re larger: 25-35 pounds is relatively common, and they fight with great ferocity on the hook.
There’s one other perk to fishing the Columbia River in the fall: Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), smaller cousins of the Chinook and a number of other species of salmon and trout. They average about 4-6 pounds for hatchery fish, 6-8 pounds for wild fish.
Coho salmon are also called silver salmon, because of their bright silver color. They are essentially only a fall-run species.
The joy of fishing for coho is their incredible aggression on the line, as well as the fact that they are much more abundant than Chinook. However, they are also easy to spook, which is why it’s important to go with a guide.
To find out more about how we can help make your salmon season a memorable and successful trip, please drop us a line.