Willamette Springer Bite On Fire

The springer run on the Willamette River is everything we expecting and will run through June. If you know what you’re doing, it’s been pretty easy to catch a two-fish limit when you are on a pod of fish. We are hooking three-to-four fish a day. I think their prediction is right on this year, perhaps even better than right on. They did a great job forecasting the Willamette.

I’m seeing a lot of good quality three and four year old fish and a lot of fish with sea lice right. We are also seeing a lot of jacks, which is good because that’s a positive indication of next year’s run. We aren’t seeing any huge fish, but I’ve had a couple of 20-22 pound fish, which indicates a five-year old.


Keep in mind; we’ve had a big problem with sea lions this year. So when you hook a fish make sure you stay seated. When you jump up and look excited with a net in your hand the sea lions come over and I guarantee they’ll get your fish. These things are smarter than we think. They literally swim over if you show a net.

There’s salmon in a big stretch of river. Meanwhile, most people should focus on the on three sections; the lower, middle and upper. The lower runs from St Helens to the head of Fred’s Marina. The middle from Fred’s Marina to Willamette Park and the upper goes from Willamette Park to Oregon City. They’ll be fish throughout this entire area for the next two months.


Earlier in the season when the water was cooler I was using more Fire Brine Chartreuse on herring, but the warmer water has forced us to change. It’s highly unlikely the water temperatures are going to fall on the Willamette this spring, which is why I think prawn spinners are going to fish better than herring. On the other hand, I’m not telling you bait wont work because it will. I wouldn’t hesitate to run bait through May, mostly brined baits in blue, green and chartreuse Fire Brine.  I’ve been mixing my Fire Brine with Fire Dye to get vibrant baits.


On the other hard the water temperature is going up and we have no control over it. When the water temperature rises springers gravitate more towards spinners than trolling bait. When the water warms up they’ll be more apt to grab hardware and that’s where we’re sitting right now. Bait still works, but hardware is big right now.


The hot ticket for me in May is going to be prawn spinners. I’m brining my prawns in Pautzke Red Nectar and charging them with the Red Fire Dye. Be careful not to use too much of the Fire Dye. The stuff is extremely strong. I’ll use about 1/3 of a bottle of Nectar and charge it with a couple squirts of the dye, no more. Keep in mind, this is for a batch of about 12 prawns. I’ll let them sit in the solution for 12 hours and make sure the Nectar and dye embeds into the meat. And, I’m always fishing this stuff on 25-pound Maxima fluorocarbon with a six-foot leader.


It doesn’t matter if you troll up or downriver. I go back and forth, and zigzag, and do fine regardless if it’s incoming or outgoing. It’s best to fish soft tides. When you don’t have much current you can go back and forth without having to contend with tide. This allows you to cover more grown and find more fish. Fortunately, there’s plenty around right now.

Editor’s Note: The Willamette springer limit is two hatchery fish per day. Pat Abel operates Pat Abel’s Guide Service. For more info on his guided Willamette springer trips please visit www.patabelguideservice.com.