By Bill Swann | 08/04/2013
Buoy 10 marks the start of the fall king season in the Northwest. People anticipate this annual event because they are able to catch fresh kings and bigger kings than normal. On a normal day there can be up to 5,000 boats out there. I’ve seen over 1,000 boats above the Astoria Bridge alone.
We call the extravaganza “Buoy 10”, but Buoy 10 is 10 miles downriver from the Astoria Bridge. This entire area can hold salmon and with a projected forecast for 700,000 plus kings back to the Columbia River I think it’s going to be a great season.
For those from out of the area, Buoy 10 is the lowest part of the Colombia River system, basically where the fish are coming right out of the ocean. Three quarters of a million kings have to come through this estuary to come up the Columbia River.
Fish The Tides
There’s a lot of pressure surrounding this fishery. The important thing is to fish the tides. What I mean by that is you want the least amount of water movement between high tide and low tide or low tide and high tide. The reason why you want the least amount of water movement is because the fish have to swim in order to live, which makes them more active.
For example, when there’s a lot of water movement the fish hunker down, go down to the bottom and sit in the current. The current pumps through the gills and they breathe well. However, when you have 3.5 feet, or less, of water movement the fish have to swim in order to breathe.
The low water movement causes them to be more active. They are more energetic. They feed better. I’ll catch the most fish on slack tide, whether it’s slack high or slack low. The action is the slowest when you have more water movement between high and low or low and high.
I’m trolling cured plug cut herring. I cure all my herring in Fire Brine and Pautzke Nectar. Nectar brings bite stimulant properties and the brine excels at keeping the quality of my bait.
In fact, the key to the fishery is good bait. If you have good quality bait and good cured bait, you’ll catch fish. Another key is to keep your bait one to two cranks off the bottom. The water temperature is running from 68-70 degrees and these fish are trying to find the coolest water temperature, so they are right on the bottom.
We are trolling with the most amount of water movement. Therefore, we could be trolling up and downriver, it just depends on what the tide is doing. We may be trolling crossways, upriver or downriver. Basically, we use 8-10 ounces of lead on a one-foot dropper, using a Fish Flash, if needed, with a six-foot leader.
I don’t use scents down there because it’s an estuary and these fish aren’t craving anything other than herring and anchovies.
Columbia River limits are as follows: Anglers may keep one king per day
& one hatchery silver or two hatchery silvers. Note regulation change: This year anglers must use barbless hooks on the Columbia River system.
Pautzke pro Bill “Swanny” Swann operates two trips daily during the Buoy 10 season. For more info on his salmon catching excursions please visit www.swannysfishing.com.