Willamette Springers Here Now

By Bill Swann | 04/22/2014

With the Columbia springer season behind us, anglers here in the Pacific Northwest are now focused on the Willamette River. Unfortunately, our season has started a little slow, but given the massive weather fluctuation we’ve seen the past few days this is no surprise.

I’m still expecting a great season on the Willy, meaning 62,000-63,000 fish should be showing back up anytime. I think the springers are still in the main stem of the Columbia River now and they aren’t moving very fast. There’s springers in the Willy right now, but not as many as we’d like to see. However, as the water temperatures down there warm those salmon will move into this system to find cooler water. That could happen within the next few days, on up to a week.


So far this season I think the size of our run is smaller than projected, but that doesn’t mean we should be disappointed that they aren’t coming because that could change tomorrow. I’m expecting lots of fish to arrive shortly. We still have a strong month of springers ahead of us.

Right now the water temperatures are staying cooler than normal. What that does is enable us to fish just about anything. The springers will show on herring, prawns and eggs. Basically, on the Lower Willamette we are trolling herring and prawns. However, at the upper end (by the falls) guys are back trolling and back bouncing eggs. Don’t get me wrong; as the fish get up towards the falls they still catch them on herring. Meanwhile, eggs seem to work better because they yield more scent, which is necessary because of the faster moving water.


The best way to troll is downstream with the most current so you can cover the most amount of water to find the most aggressive biters. Tides are important here. There’s always bites on the tide changes. Personally, I like the low slack and high slack. However, you don’t always get those. So by covering the most amount of water, and using multiple rods, you’ll have a better chance at catching more salmon.

Having good bait is extremely important. I use Pautzke Fire Brine, mostly Natural, Chartreuse and Blue, to brine my herring. I brine them for 12 hours in the fridge or on ice. It’s important to keep your bait cold and I can’t stress how vital it is to have good bait.


Moving upriver, when back trolling or back bouncing eggs slower presentation is critical. You want to go slower than the current speed. This is achieved via boat control. Basically, I want my FireCured eggs to milk and create the most amount of scent released. The more scent the better chance of a bite.


Editor’s Note: Bill “Swanny” Swann will be offering guiding springer trips on the Williamette through May 20th. Anglers are permitted two hatchery salmon per day. All wild fish must be released. For more info on Swanny’s guided fishing adventures please visit http://www.swannysfishing.com/.