Oregon receives 3 main runs of salmon: these runs are Spring, Summer, and Fall. Spring chinook are the first Salmon to return to the river, they start showing up around march. Spring Chinook are often referred to as “Columbia River Gold” these fish are known to be the best eating Salmon that we get here in the pacific northwest. Springers as we call them can get very big in excess of 30 pounds, however fish from 10 to 20 pounds are far more common. Chinook are very exciting fighters and are very aggressive in the springtime. Columbia river fishing guides will begin their hunt for these fish in March and the fish will be caught on the Columbia right in Portland all the way through May! Spring chinook are one of our few salmon that are still looking to eat as they migrate up river. We take advantage of this and tend to troll herring this time of year on the Columbia.
On a high water year our tactics change completely. When the water is high Oregon, fishing guides will usually anchor up and let the fish come to them. Anchoring on a nice current seam and fishing plugs is very effective in high water situations.
The nearby Willamette River is another hot spot for Spring Salmon fishing in Portland! The Willamette peaks in mid to late April but sees great numbers of fish all the way through June. The Willamette fishery is a lot like the Columbia depending on the area you fish. The Multnomah channel is a very good area to fish for spring Chinook. The Multnomah channel is relatively shallow compared to the main stem Willamette and Columbia. This makes it great for trolling herring or trolling Pro-Troll flashers with spinners. Brining your herring is a very key part of Springer fishing in this area. A lot of Oregon fishing guides like to dye their baits bright green so they stand out amongst the other fishermen. Adding scent in your brine is also a very good way to have success fishing for springers.
Fishing the harbor on the Willamette is a great option later in the season. The harbor is all deep water so your fishing is almost always done suspended (not on the bottom). This means that in 60 feet of water you may only have 30 feet of line out. The fish tend to hang out in this section later in the season looking for that water temp to rise up. I like to troll Pro-Troll flashers and 3.5 spinners here. This is a great option because pro trolls are big and flashy and bring fish in from a long ways in the deep water. Spinners that are pink, green or gold are my go to colors in the springtime. The limit for salmon this time of year is either 2 hatchery Chinook Salmon in the Willamette or one hatchery Chinook Salmon in the Columbia.