By: Kyle Buschelman
So far the spring Chinook season has been a challenge. Meanwhile, making adjustments to baits and how we present them have helped me put a few fish in the boat. Those putting in the work and time can catch springers.
The Columbia River is closed. Therefore, most anglers will travel above Bonneville Dam to fish or move to the Willamette River. Last year I did a blog on the Willamette River and focused on trolling the Multnomah Channel and harbor fishery. This blog builds on that, but focuses on running baits in higher and dirtier water than we had last season.
For the remainder of the season we’ll be fishing the lower channel or harbor until flows subside enough to fish below the falls at Oregon City. We all know spring Chinook are difficult even when we have ideal conditions, so adding a few things can help. This season especially you may need to explore and reach outside your comfort zone.
I have been catching half of my fish on Chartreuse Fire Brine herring. They are simple to prepare and something we’ve been doing for many years. To recap I use one bottle of Chartreuse Fire Brine for two trays of herring. I also add Chartreuse Fire Dye so the color pops. In this water bright bait is imperative. I recommend letting trays of herring thaw slightly before adding brine. I think the bait takes the brine and dye better if you do this. I also add 1/2 cup of kosher or sea salt to the brine just before clients arrive. This toughens up the bait further and makes it more durable. I also use Blue Fire Brine/Fire Dye baits this time of year, but chartreuse has been the go-to so far. While some anglers only brine their bait six hours I’m a firm believer than the longer you brine them the better the bait is. Sometimes I’ll brine them for two days. They toughen up, the color is perfect and the scales shine.
My recipe for Natural Fire Brine herring is simple. I use one bottle for every two trays of herring. One trick I use with natural is to add two drops of Blue Fire Dye. It makes the herring shine bright. To toughen it up shortly before trolling I add a half-cup of salt before clients arrive. Scent is a big deal in the Northwest. On the other hand, I put more value is presentation. Sometimes I add anise, garlic or tuna to brines, but proper presentation holds more value.
There are many options for trolling baits. I prefer herring/anchovies. In the spring I focus on herring. Spinners and Super Baits work, but I have faith in good bait that isn’t overwhelmed in scents. Having good bait is part of the solution. You still need to fish the correct water and provide good attraction. I like using two flashers in dirty water, like we have now. And when I do this I setup different colors so it contrasts better. Generally, I run double flashers on the side rods and singles out back.
I’ve mentioned presentation a few times. Fish move different in high/dirty water. They use edges and run in water where we may not be accustomed to fishing. This can be difficult to adjust to and take us out of our comfort zone, but necessary to maintain success on tough years like this. A lot of times the areas are snaggier.