LOWER COLUMBIA: Northwest Wealth
The lower Columbia River that delivered Lewis and Clark to the Pacific coast is making history again.
Last year, the river bustled with the largest runs of hatchery-raised salmon and steelhead since Bonneville Dam was completed in 1938. This spring, anglers and the area’s economy are cashing in on another superior run of spring chinooks.
The Columbia shares its wealth of anadromous fish with numerous tributaries, such as the Cowlitz, Wind, and Klickitat on the Washington side and south into Oregon’s Willamette, Sandy, and Deschutes.
And spring is just the beginning of lower Columbia seasons that give anglers little time to rest weary arms.
By June, shad averaging 3 pounds are pouring into the river by the millions, a bounty so large the states don’t apply a limit on the sporty fish. Shad pique the appetites of sturgeon that provide a reliable fishery in the Columbia estuary.
Summer steelhead catches pick up in June and July along the lower river, especially at the mouths of tributaries where the fish congregate.
By August, fall chinooks are staging at the Columbia’s mouth, with coho coming on their heels and into October. Winter steelhead show around Thanksgiving in the lower Columbia tributaries, peaking in December.
The river is big on smaller quarry, too. Focus below John Day Dam for walleyes and near the Dalles for smallmouth bass. Check out the sea-run cutthroats that usher fall chinooks into the Cowlitz. Got a gap in the larder at the end of the year? Try dip-netting for smelt in January.
Contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife for Oregon at 503-872-5252; www.dfw.state.or.us. For Washington, call 360-902-2700; www.wa.gov/wdfw.