Portland Fishing Report: Spring Chinook Are Here


Rain has been the norm here during the last week, but hey…It’s Spring in the Northwest!

As is typical this time of year, we are receiving several “cells” per day with quick shots of significant rainfall. This has kept most of our systems at good levels to keep the catch rate up!


Yes, the winter season is coming to a close. However, this is a great time of year to hit the small water! Most anglers have moved off to the Columbia and Willamette Rivers to focus on the Spring Chinook that are arriving. This means much less pressure on our small rivers and streams! Secondly, Not only are a few more Winter Steelhead bringing in the tail end of the run, but Summers are well on their way! The water is warming up a bit, so now is the time to pull out your plugs and either back troll or use a side planer from the bank!

These fish, especially Summer Steelhead, can be very aggressive as the water warms. Look to wiggle warts or tadpollies for plugs to use. One of the better plugs as of the last couple of years has been the Yakima Bait Mag Lip 3.5 for Steelhead. Metallic pinks and reds will be your best colors…But, Springers are making their way into our tributaries and coastal waterways, so don’t neglect using blues, greens and yellows as well!

Spring Chinook

HERE THEY COME! The last week has been pretty good for Spring Chinook on the Columbia River. The heavy rain we experienced last week blew out the Willamette for a little while but it may be fishable if this rain coming this weekend doesn’t worsen the water clarity.

If you would like to know when the Willamette will fish again, go to this link. This is the Turbidity scale for the Willamette River in Portland. The Willamette is fishable when the FNU scale is at “15” or less!

As for the Columbia…it has been a really fun week. When the water was high, we were fishing plugs (Kwikfish or Mag Lips) in 5-15’ of water with great success! Now that the river is beginning to drop, most anglers are back on the troll using Fish Flash flashers and cut plug herring. Spinners and Prawn spinners have shown some success, but the herring bite has been good enough to keep anglers from switching to other tactics!

Word also came in today that our season on the Columbia River will be extended until April 14th! This is fantastic news as it will allow us to target these great tasting fish closer to the peak of the run! Expect to see catch numbers increase next week during our predicted warmer weather! Here is a link to the announcement in the regulation change.


Sturgeon fishing continues to be a great option for those just looking to do some catch and release fishing. Smelt is by far the bait of choice. If fishing from the bank, give each spot an hour at most, then move on. The fish are active and aggressive enough that when you find the schools, action should be fast. Same is true if fishing from a boat. Spend most of your time utilizing your electronics to find the fish! Once you find a good group, make sure to drop your anchor well above them, and simply let out line until you are 50-100’ above where you marked the fish. The scent trail from your baits will pull the fish up to you and ensure that you are putting your baits in the strike zone!


Razor Clam dig dates have been set for both Oregon and Washington! These clams make for some awesome clam chowder or deep fried for a great entrée! Good tides can be had this weekend or from April 15th-20th, but make sure to check with your local department of fish and wildlife to ensure what beaches are open! Clamming can be a really fun family getaway to the coast, and with warm weather on the way, the beach will be a beautiful backdrop!

If you have never tasted Spring Chinook…you are missing out on one of the best tasting fish one can ever experience. Columbia River Spring Chinook are THE BEST tasting Salmon on earth. No comparison. Copper River Salmon has nothing on what we have access to in our own backyard! Go Get’em!

Cody Herman
Cody has been a part of the outdoor industry for over a decade. He currently hosts the live TV show “Outdoor GPS” on Comcast. He has appeared in several shows airing on ESPN, WFN, Outdoor Channel as well as many local networks and has participated in two USO/AFE tours to Iraq supporting our Troops.