Buoy 10 Salmon – Get Your Diver On

Divers for the Buoy 10 Salmon season in Astoria

I don’t write a lot of gear articles any more. There are lots of them out there, but know that most are just tooting the horn of the guy giving them gear. It’s kind of funny watching guys post stuff and know that they rarely use the stuff they are telling people to use. You all know who I’m talking about, so I’ll pass on the insults.

So why then are you doing an article about Buoy 10 Salmon fishing with divers, Lance??????

Here’s why. First, Buoy 10 Salmon Fishing is right around the corner. Second, I love Gary Abrahamson, aka “the Delta Diver man,” the owner of the EZ Tackle Company. Dude is true old school. Everything is made here locally, and he is one of the best guys I know. But there’s another reason: there is an entire generation of fisherman out there that have no idea how to fish a diver, and have landed in a rut of thinking that fishing huge chunks of lead is the only way to go. This article is about Astoria, Buoy 10 basics. This is about having a well rounded tool box, and being able to fish a variety of conditions. This isn’t even hard, but I stand here today among ignorant masses (I’ve been a part of this crowd BTW), and feel the need to at least set the record straight.

Divers have been around for a lot longer than I’ve been guiding. They were initially built out of cooler tops, and then later produced by a few different people for the charter fleet. The early divers were all the EZ type of diver. They were and still are smaller 2-4 ounce divers that are really effective in the ocean. The introduction of the Delta Diver and it’s subsequent popularity in the Columbia River peaked during the runs of the early to mid 2000’s. The Coho and Chinook runs were huge and everyone was fishing divers! It’s funny to think back and remember the 9′ leaders that some guys were trolling back then! Admittedly I tried it too, as there were some pretty good sticks fishing those long leaders. 🙂 There are a lot easier things to do than land Chinook with clients on a 9 foot leader, let me tell ya.

By 2010, lead had begun taking over. The deep water fishing that was discovered using lead seemed to really start the trend. Of course, when many premier guides and sports start advocating for a certain way of fishing, many follow. Trends everywhere tend to follow a similar path, but often times trends can create facts of their own, and among the fishing community a ground swell. Fishing is a practice, and often takes focus to really understand how to perform and fish a technique in a variety of situations. Because of this, many alienate their previous methods with a subconscious desire to simply understand. In the case of fishing Buoy 10, the ebbs and flows of the various tides create very unique complexities to our understanding. Perhaps I’m slow, but some of the things that I understand today have taken me 20 years.

In 2014, I didn’t fish a diver. I caught fish and had a decent year, but who didn’t? There were a gazillion fish around. In all honesty, even with a lot of fish, I never really felt totally dialed. I was good in certain parts of the tide, but in others, I wasn’t as strong and confident fishing all the different areas that I frequent. Perhaps my issue is that I like to move around. Sorry, but staying above the bridge on the Washington side for the entire day is not my idea of a good time. I know some really good fishermen that do this, but my ADD won’t allow it. Perhaps I’d be better off grinding the flats, but like many, I do like to burn some gas and really understand fish movement at the mouth of the Columbia.

In 2015, I started to do some switching back and forth between lead and divers. On the hard tides and in the ocean I was fishing divers. During the softer tides, I was switching over to lead. And while I was able to get bit and felt better in more situations, my conversion rates weren’t good. For the sake of the length of the article, I’ll just say this: divers suck with braid. Fishing 55 feet of water with 16 ounces of lead sucks with mono. Neither one of these scenarios convert well. 50-60% conversion rate (bite to land) are simply not acceptable to me.

Divers fish best on #30 mono. Like many of you, I’m an Ultra Green guy. There’s not a better monofilament main line for the Salmon fishing we do. And when fishing deep water with lead, you have to fish braid, at least with the rods I fish. You might be able to get away with mono on a broomstick, but out of respect for the art of herring and anchovy fishing, I’m just not going there. I’m a PowerPro guy and love the #65 when I do fish braid.

I bought my second set of G. Loomis IMX 1174’s in 2016. For the record, there isn’t a better rod for fishing herring or anchovies with lead or divers. This isn’t an opinion or even a Ford/Chevy conversation. This comparison to the rest is more like Ferrari/Pinto. This was the first year that I had 7 rods set up with divers and 7 set up with lead. With the rod lockers on my Willie Raptor, carrying the load of rods was no problem, and the only inconvenience was initially rigging so many rods. In the end, the inconvenience wasn’t much at all with my overall catch rate in all the conditions and locations being significantly better.

So here’s the skinny.

In the ocean off of the Columbia River, divers are king. There’s a reason every charter boat out there uses them. You can troll faster, your gear fishes more effectively in the sometimes rougher conditions, and your conversion rates are going to be significantly better with divers as long as you use mono. Forget the good conversion rates if you are using braid. My setups are pretty simply. I’m not a flasher guy in the ocean. I know some guys are, but you really don’t need them. I’d even contend that they often times provide too much flash in the clear water and will hurt your catch rates. Run your main line to a locking swivel and snap into your diver. I like to snap in to make changing colors a cinch. I also snap my leaders in with a #5 locking swivel. Run a 5′ leader or so and you’re in business. Hoochies, whole anchovies, and herring? Yes, I use them all. Lastly, always troll with the current. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve all been bit going into it, but I do like to cover water in the ocean. If I run into fish, I simply mark them on my Garmin and will run right back through the area by picking up and making another pass. There’s more to my program, but this will get you in the zip code.

From Buoy 10 on into the river, I fish divers on the big tides. What’s a big tide? I’d say above 6′. Again, mono only ,and if you’re into flashers, I think they can do you some good in the greener water. Personally, I rarely fish them with a diver, as I believe I’ve got enough flash in the divers I fish. But I know several good diver fishermen that like the bling, and they do great. I think you can bring in some personal preference here without hurting your results too much.

Below 6′ tides, you guessed it, I love me some lead. I typically fish 12’s and 16’s, but will get into 6’s and 8’s when fishing the flats. I like fishing flashers with my lead rods. Of course I don’t have the attraction of the diver and do like some bling in the green and sometimes dirty looking water. Personally, I like the thickness of the Fish Flash, but the colors that JT puts out with Short Bus are really good. 2′ to the flasher. 5′ to the hooks. Easy stuff.

There is a diver variable here that I won’t get into that involves fishing heavier deltas during softer tides. Gary put out a 12 ounce diver a couple years ago that is really effective, but needs to be fished differently than I’ve described above. I’ve worked with the heavier divers for a while now, but am still figuring out how to work them into the above system. The effectiveness isn’t the question, it’s getting the conversion rates up to the 80% range, and that’s taking some time to figure out.

There are different tools to get the job done. One method won’t give you everything you need in all circumstances and, in my opinion, there is tons of benefit to fishing both divers and lead. Yes, it takes a little more work on the front end, but having both techniques available as I run guided fishing trips and charters in Astoria is a lot more convenient than fishing longer days while waiting for the part of the tide that my gear will work in. Know that both lead and divers will work in any tide, but we’re talking about being as close to 100% effective as possible, and really owning any part of a particular tide. It’s the quest for the better mouse trap and the feeling we all get when we’re really dialed in.

Be safe and have a great year.