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Columbia River Fishing

The Columbia River is one of the great sport fishing rivers in the world. To be a fishing guide and run charters on this river is really amazing and I love sharing it with my guests.  From the mouth of the river at Astoria, Oregon and Ilwaco, Washington to the Hanford Reach, meaningful fishing for Salmon, Steelhead and Sturgeon exists year round.  You really have a ton of options for your fishing trip. I concentrate my efforts seasonally, guiding and running charters in 200 miles of river, from the mouth of the river in Astoria/Ilwaco through Portland, Bonneville Dam and up to the John Day River.  This 200 mile stretch of river is served by my two locations. One in Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia River, and the other in Portland, Oregon. The Portland location is about 100 miles from the river mouth and 100 miles from the East end of the Columbia River Gorge, which is the furthest east that we fish. If you need to fish further east than the John Day I can provide a referral to a guide or charter that might be able to help.

Below you will find summaries for the Salmon, Steelhead, and Sturgeon fishing we do on the Columbia River. Have a look at the various options, and don’t hesitate to call us. There is lots of information to digest and we can help you easily understand the opportunities for your fishing trip.

Columbia River Salmon Fishing

Columbia River Salmon fishing is without a question the biggest angling attraction on the Columbia River.  Thousands of angling days are spent targeting the 5 runs of Salmon that call the Columbia River home.  Three runs of Chinook Salmon, a run of Sockeye and a run of Coho/Silver Salmon provide anglers with plenty of Salmon fishing action throughout much of the calendar year. Seasons for these fisheries are typically agreed upon by ODFW in January, but because of still healthy stocks, seasons remain fairly predictable.

Spring Chinook Salmon

Fishing starts in March and Spring Chinook, for Salmon aficionados, is the best tasting of any Salmon in the world.  These fish are prized at great restaurants around the country and often times go for in excess of $30/pound in our local stores. Fortunately for us, we like to catch them ourselves and do a pretty good job of doing just that. The season below Bonneville Dam usually only lasts through the first week of April. The season above Bonneville is longer, typically going through the first week of May. Once the Columbia closes, we branch into the Columbia River tributaries.

a limit of springers from bonneville dam

For more on my guided Spring Salmon trips, visit my Columbia River Spring Chinook Salmon Fishing page.

You might also check out my Spring Chinook Salmon fishing opportunities on Oregon’s Willamette River.

Summer Chinook Salmon

a.k.a. the “June Hog” fishery has come on strong since the early 2000’s.  Fishermen on the Columbia River went decades without Summer Salmon fishing opportunities and focused efforts to revive the run really paid off.  Although not as large a run as its Spring Chinook counterpart, Summer Chinook Salmon fishing now gives us two weeks of good fishing, usually running from the middle of June until the first of July.  These fish are known for their size and eat very similarly to a Springer.  The season also coincides with the warmer weather and the arrival of Columbia River summer steelhead and sockeye runs, which incidentally tend to bite much of the same gear.  Needless to say, this has become a very popular window of opportunity for people to get out on the water.

A nice Columbia River Salmon.

For more on fishing for June Hogs, visit my Columbia River Summer Chinook Salmon Fishing page.

Columbia River Fall Chinook Salmon

Fishing kicks off in August with the arrival of fish in the mouth of the river around Astoria and Ilwaco.  This “Buoy 10” fishery as many call it, may be the most popular fishery of the year.  Hundreds of thousands of Fall Chinook enter the river and provide seasonal opportunity as they migrate up the river to areas like the mouth of the Lewis and Cowlitz Rivers near Longview, Washington, farther upriver by Bonneville Dam, the Klickitat River and finally the Hanford Reach.

Awesome day fishing Buoy 10 in Astoria

I spend the entire month of August in Astoria fishing for Fall Chinook and then Coho/Silver Salmon before moving upriver to the Cowlitz River.  From there, I bring my clients to the Klickitat River in Washington where I fish September and into the beginning of October.

To learn more about the Fall Chinook and Coho fishing around Astoria and Ilwaco, visit my Buoy 10 Salmon Fishing page.

For more on my upriver fisheries, visit my Cowlitz River Salmon Fishing page and Klickitat River Fishing page.

Columbia River Sturgeon Fishing

Columbia River Sturgeon fishing is one of the great attractions for anglers.  It’s characterized by naturally propagating fish below Bonneville Dam, and long time resident and stocked fish above Bonneville.  Sturgeon fishing on the Columbia River is heavily regulated with most of the annual seasons set sometime in January.  Catch and release fishing is always available, but if taking fish home is a priority, you’ll need to make sure you’re fishing when you can do so. Check in with us if you’re interested in the keeper sturgeon season. Dates are usually announced in late March.

A big limit of Astoria Sturgeon.

Columbia River Sturgeon fishing starts the first of the year and continues right into the spring fishery. Sometime in May or June, many of the fish that were in the Portland area will migrate downstream to the estuary in the Astoria area and provide anglers with some of the best sturgeon fishing of the year. Since 2017, there have been a limited number of sturgeon retention dates, typically in May and early July, in Astoria, before the Trophy season begins.

Astoria, Trophy Sturgeon Fishing

Fishing for sturgeon in Astoria is one of the major fisheries in the calendar year for NW residents.  While this is purely a catch and release sport fishery, it is about as good of fishing as it gets. Landing 50-60 fish per day is typical, with 10-20 of those fish ranging from 60-200 pounds. The size of the fish caught in this fishery has increased dramatically in the last five years, since retention was stopped. It was once thought that you had to go to the dams to catch these fish, but now many would say that the trophy fishing in Astoria is as good or better than anywhere on the river. The reason many consider it better, is that you catch more quality fish and secondly, an 8-footer caught in the estuary is twice the fish that an 8-footer caught above the dams is. The main reason for this is that estuary sturgeon are still migrating as they have for thousands of years. The fish are thicker and far fitter than anything found above a dam.

A rod about to break fighting a big Columbia River Sturgeon.

If you’re interested in fishing the Columbia River estuary in and around Astoria and Ilwaco, please visit our Astoria location for more information.

Columbia River Steelhead Fishing

Columbia River steelhead fishing starts in early June in the Lower Columbia River. As the run progresses we will see fish move up the river, with some all the way to Idaho by August. Just about every tributary on the Columbia River sees some semblance of a summer steelhead return with major runs existing on the Cowlitz River, Deschutes River, the Willamette River Drainage, John Day, Snake and Upper Columbia River. My summer steelhead fishing on the Columbia River focuses from Astoria to Bonneville Dam.

Targeting Summers early on entails reeling in lots of different species, which gives some nice action. As we get into July, our catch is dominated by steelhead that are more than ready to take our offerings down.  On any given summer steelhead trip, you may also encounter Chinook and Sockeye Salmon.

A Columbia River Steelhead double!

If you’re interested in fishing a smaller tributary out of the jet boat, the Cowlitz River and Lewis River are also options

For more how to’s, maps, news and other valuable information, visit my Columbia River Fishing Guide

Follow these links to find out more about other fishing in Oregon or the opportunities I might have for your fishing in Washington.

Contact us to discuss options, ask questions, and choose your fishing trip. A deposit is all that’s needed to hold your date. We’ll send you a trip confirmation email with all of the details. The hardest part of the process is probably waiting for your fishing day to arrive. 🙂