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How to fish Buoy 10
How to catch Fall Salmon on
the Columbia river at buoy 10

It is common to open this fishery August 1 & close it near labor day.  The best fishing does not usually start on the opener, but picks up within a couple of weeks, depending on the weather.

Most salmon fishing early in the season will be near the Buoy 10 at low incoming tide, following a rip upriver as the tide comes in. Later in the tide /& or season the fish seem to congregate near the Astoria/Megler bridge.  The prime area is near buoy 10, as all the fish have to come past this to get upriver on the incoming tide. 

This can also be called "Combat Fishery"  meaning the boats will be maneuvering trolling/mooching in close proximity to each other, & some skippers do not watch where they are going.  Others seem to not be aware of what is going on around them, as when a fish is being played within 30' of their boat.  This can be compared to a large dance with MOST of the boats all going the same large circle & close to each other.  Occasionally a blind skipper may want to troll across thru the dance floor, which may even get more than under the breath exclamations.  It is not uncommon to look out & see 200 + boats in an area of 1 mile.  One thing, if anyone fell overboard, they would not be in the water over a couple minutes.

The worst as far as concentration of boats will be at buoy #10, which is the western most boundary & the first shot at these returning fish.  This buoy is located at the inside end of the jettys.  This area however seems to be one of the best locations to fill a limit.  Most of the charter boats will work this area.

Many people bypass the buoy & fish upriver near the middle of the river and near the "Yellow Can" (D) buoy which is in 25-30' & is off the breakwater near the Chinook entrance.  There is also a 50'/60' slot at the "Church Hole" which between the Chinook entrance & the bridge on the Wash. side where many chinook are taken.  There is a church on the Washington shore that is right on the shore & it's steeple is very visible.  The other area where many fish are taken is again from the church to the bridge but south 1/4 of a mile in the 30' slot. As the tide nears high, the fish seem to congregate above the bridge & up to the WDOT rest area.  

There seems to be an imaginary line from the Washington side high spanned section of the bridge to Tongue Pt, that the upriver salmon seem to follow and cross over the shallows to the main channel on the Oregon side.  The few that stay near the Washington shore will probably be Deep River or Grays River fish.

The water temperature at Bonneville this time of the year usually will be 70 to 72 degrees, but on the incoming tide at Illwaco, the cooler (56degree) ocean water will come in & back upriver on the high tide, cooling the river to near the 56 degrees at times.  As the tide turns and starts running back out the temperature will raise to about 62-65 degrees. Once the fish get above this cooler water where there isn't the cooler salt mix,  this is really to warm for them to comfortably stay in, so the chinook will more than likely then be found in the holes or at the mouths of the rivers dumping into the Columbia..

The wind here picks up about 1:30PM and there will be chop on the water when you head back if you launch at any of the first 3. With a small or open boat you can get wet.

There are at least 5 launches on the Washington side, with possibly 4 on the Oregon side.

(1) Illwaco              (2) Fort Canby          (3) Chinook
(4) Deep River        (5) Cathlamet            (6) John Day River (Tongue Pt, Oregon)      

Port of Illwaco

165 Howerton Ave






Port of Chinook

1 Portland St





Eva's Bait & Tackle 121 Onieda Rd Naselle WA 98638 360-465-2582     $5.00

Elochoman Marina

PO Box 651






The launch at Illwaco is off the main road into town just after you drop down off the hill, take a left at the sign  that says launching ramp.  If you miss that, then just go to the frontage road at the dock area & follow it to the eastern end & around the boat basin to the launch on the south side.  There is a nice new 2 lane ramp, also a sling,  with lots of paved parking.

Fort Canby you have to go east thru the town of Illwaco at the stop light & east, winding thru the park then down to the ramp, parking again is not the best.

The Chinook launch is off Portland St. it has a new concrete ramp and a sling, but parking is limited & the overflow is along the streets. Also the channel out of the Chinook harbor is narrow on a low tide, it was the last time I was out there marked with sticks at low-low tide.

Bait is available at both Illwaco or Chinook thru Ed's bait.  The Illwaco location uses a float that is close to the launch area.  The Chinook location is out of a small grocery store on the West side of the main road north of the launch road.  It is the Chinook Country Store phone 360-777-2248, you can call ahead & reserve bait for the next day.

The other alternative is Deep River.  It takes 30 minutes to run from this launch to the Astoria bridge. This launch is located off State Hiway 4 between Naselle & Cathlamet. If you are coming from Longview on Hiway 4,  you would go thru Cathlamet, Skamokawa, up over a large hill, & there is a  community of Rosburg.  The next river you cross will be Deep River, this is a low concrete bridge.  This is 25 miles from Cathlamet.  TAKE A LEFT AT THE WEST END OF THE BRIDGE ONTO ONIEDA RD.  This is a private blacktop ramp, small loading dock, & a reasonable parking lot, but a large mowed field as an overflow lot.  There is also in an adjacent field of about 5 acres room for dry camping. The one drawback here is at a low tide the channel as you enter the bay is also narrow. The pay/bait shack is on the top of a hill before you get to the ramp area. Launch fee is $5 and camping is $10, or $13 with power,  She also has fresh bait every morning at about 5:30AM during the season. 

This launch is popular with sturgeon fishermen as well as salmon fishermen & this time of the year you may have to wait to launch or load at the prime times.  There is not enough dock area to tie up to for more than launching & loading purposes. You would have to load your boat back on the trailer if you were going to stay overnight.  They do not allow power loading because the rock off the end of the ramp can be washed out. There are sanicans for restrooms here. A fish cleaning station is also provided.

At low tide the channel is narrow.  There are 3 deadhead logs that have one end floating, but they appear to not be submerged at high tide & are always showing. One is near #16 in the center of the channel & the others are between Rocky Pt & Portuguese Point in more open water.

The piling markers for the Deep River channel seem to use their own numbers, & after you get in the bay some of these numbers may be repeated.

When you run out of the river & enter the bay you need to follow the piling markers close, but stay on the right hand side going out, water depth will be between 6' & 9' on a low tide.  These markers are all within sight of each other (150yds)  unless you get fog, which may be occasionally in the mornings.   The 1st piling out will be #16, then #14, & then #12.  From here you start into a right hand corner to #10.  Between #10 & 8  is where it is sanded in.     Swing toward the RH shore  from #12 to loop around #10, then toward #8, staying to it's right, you will be in the channel.  Now from here you can follow the shore piling on down to Rocky Point.  Do not hold tight to this marker here as it sits on a rock outcropping.  Make another right hand corner beyond the point & head Southwest for about 400yd to within 100yd of the shore.  You will now head South keeping the shore on your right, heading toward but keeping West of piling marker #14A .

GPS readings for the marker piling for the Deep River channel are as follows.
                #16    =  46-18-58        123-42-61
                #14    =  46-18-36        123-42-56
                #12    =  46-18-13        123-42-62
                # 8     =  46-17-31        123-43-62

The point of land here is Portuguese Point, a flat grassy area with the #14A on one side & #13 around the corner next to the shore. A different piling marker #12  is out away from the shore & downstream. Around here is where sturgeon fishing usually takes place.  There is a 90' hole off the point, most sturgeon are not caught in the hole but around the edges of it & down to the #12 piling.

From Portuguese Point, you can see the Astoria bridge, to run to the bridge head to the north end of it, keeping the Wash. shore on your right & don't expect to approach the center of the river or cross  over if you are using a prop boat.

Later when the DFW closes the Buoy 10 area, you will have to fish above Rocky Point on the Wash. side to Tongue Point on the Ore. side.  The middle of the river above & below the bridge gets shallow & changes yearly, so it is not really practical expect to cross over to fish the main channel above Tongue Point from the Deep River side with a prop boat.  Therefore it might be best at that time to launch at Tongue Point or at Cathlamet & run downriver.

The one good thing about this area is that if you use it to fish down to the church, when the wind picks up in the afternoon, you can then slide back upriver toward the launch without bucking the rough water.. And as you head back upriver the water conditions usually lessen. Then from Portuguese Point to Rocky Point you can drop in & fish for sturgeon.

For those of you who want a motel, there are a 3 in Naselle, but reservations might be prudent.

Naselle Village Inn Motel                    Sleepy Hollow                               Hunters Inn    
827 State Hiway 4                             1032 State Hiway 4                       1060 State Hiway 4
Naselle, WA 98638-8539                  Naselle, WA 98638-8506              Naselle, WA 98638
Phone: (360)484-3111                       Phone: (360)484-3232                  Phone: (360)484-9215

There are, I believe 3 restraunts or cafe's in Naselle & at least 1 mini market that has groceries , ice  & gas.

For those of you who have communication radios in board, the suggestion is to follow the Gig Harbor chapter's  method of communicating.        VHF channel 68,     CB channel 6 or 10       Deep River Launch

The above information was used with the permission LeeRoy Wisner of
LeeRoy Wisner had posted several EXTREMELY informative articles on the Puget Sound Anglers website and we strongly recommend visiting that website or
click here to email him directly. As an editor's note I must say that in my lifetime of searching every available resource I have never come across so many helpful and informative articles as those written by LeeRoy Wisner. Thanks again and hats to LeeRoy for giving us permission to post these articles so that you can learn more about fishing and hopefully you catch more fish!