As the rain comes and the rivers rise, the coho and chinook salmon will begin entering the tributaries along the Columbia River and Oregon Coast in good numbers. When the rivers bump up with increased rain, the salmon will begin stacking up in various spots along the rivers.
On the initial rain and rising of the rivers it is commonly seen that the rivers will get fairly dirty or not fishable during the initial rise. This is commonly seen on rivers that are fed by glaciers and snowpack from the mountains in the Cascade mountain range. The reason for the increased silt and sediment is because the hot summer weather has caused the glaciers and snow to melt, causing the sediment on the mountain to enter the waterways and settle on the riverbanks.
The best time to target chinook and coho in the tributaries is when the rivers begin to drop and stabilize. As the rivers and the freezing levels drop, the rivers generally clear up quicker and become fishable. If the river appears “milky” or “off-color,” the fishing can tend to be very productive as the fish are not easily spooked because of the poor clarity of the water conditions. When the water is silty, targeting salmon with cured salmon eggs can show significant results. In many cases, using eggs that are cured in Pro-Cure Fuze or Red Hot Double Stuff can be some of the best options to entice salmon to bite. This occurs because of the scent, sulfite compounds, and the vibrant colors the cures produce when the eggs are cured.
As the rivers continue to stay “off-color,” it is good to find locations on the river where the fish tend to stack in decent numbers. Some of the areas that are found to stack fish better than others are small or larger holes that are between 4-10 feet deep. Once a spot is located within these depths, it is good to determine the water is not running with a strong and powerful current. The stronger currents can typically prevent the fish from holding in large numbers because they do not want to exceed large amounts of energy to hold in a location while they are waiting to move up the river system. Coho and chinook generally like to hold in locations with smaller amounts of current compared to rushing water. These locations can be medium depths with slow and swirly or semi stagnant water.
When floating eggs while targeting tributary salmon during the fall, it is common for anglers to use bobbers with weights that are rated from 1/4-1 ounce. The water is low enough during the fall that it is not necessary to run heavy bobber gear on some of the smaller rivers. Some areas that have very deep holes on the river may require the use of heavier gear if bobber fishing, especially while targeting chinook salmon in very deep holes.
When setting up the bobber gear, it is good to run a braided line that is rated 20-30 pounds. It is also important to use braided line while bobber fishing because it makes it easier to manage your line because the braided line floats and does not sink. It is good to run at least a size one hook while targeting coho salmon and at least a 3/0 hook or bigger if targeting chinooks.
When running bobber leaders for coho salmon, it is good to run leaders rated between 10-15 pound test. While running bobber leaders for chinooks, it is a good choice to run 25-30 pound test because there are some chinooks in the tributaries that can be as large as 50 pounds, this is not common but they are around. A good leader option to run is P-Line CFX Fluorocarbon. It is strong and does not break down easily when fish are hooked with it.
The coho and chinook salmon fishing in the tributaries will generally last through November as long as the river systems do not receive a substantial amount of rain. Make sure to bring good quality cured eggs and the results can be eye opening if the fish are willing to bite!