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tips for catching upriver bright Chinook on the Hanford reach
Fall Chinook Salmon fishing for "upriver brights" in the Hanford reach area of the Columbia River

The fall chinook salmon fishing in this area gets underway about the last week or two of September.   Watch the dam fish count from McNary dam, which is the one just downriver from this fishing location.  When the total reaches 5000 chinook, things will start being GOOD, at 7000 to 9000, you had better be there if you intend to fish this.  Allow 10 days from the daily count to when the fish will move upriver into this area.  Check the number over Priest Rapids dam, usually there will be few, this means the numbers of fish will be between the 2 dams (the fishing area). The fish here will tend to vary in size from 20# to 40#.

One question is often asked, if these fish are called upriver brights, why are most of them a darker fish.  One theory is that the water temperature can vary from 72 to 65 degrees if there has been no rain for sometime during the summer months.   With the water this warm as compared to the ocean temperatures 400 miles away of 56-58 degrees, that this affects the coloration.  Most of these fish are still in a very good condition, just a darker color.

Main Targeted Area   The most common area fished will normally be above the Vernita Bridge. There are some named locations here such as  King Hole, about 1 1/2 miles above the bridge.  Above that will be the China Bar Drift, & the Midway Drift.

Launching & Boat Types   This area can be fished with prop boats if you are careful in launching & reloading if you use the launch on the north side of the river above Vernita Bridge. There are a couple other launches , but these would best be used by jet boats.  There are no concrete ramps in the upper section & will be on river gravel launches.  These launches will sometimes have boulders on them.  The water flow below the Priest Rapids dam can vary 5' plus when open the gates.  You will probably need hip boots to load your boat back on the trailer.

Again a prop boat can be used in most of the river, it may not be ideal, but if you stay in the middle or not real close to the bank, you can navigate.

We will break this area into 2 sections, the upriver section above Vernita bridge & the area below the bridge as another.

Type of Fishing  Fishing here will normally be back bouncing.  This is basically positioning your boat in a trolling position heading upriver, but trolling slow enough that you are drifting down river at about a walking speed.

You will run upriver of where you intend on fishing, getting in position & back bouncing down river.  The water depth will normally be 18'-25' on the edges, with maybe 35'-40' in the center. Most fish will be picked up in the 5' in the shallower & 10' off the bottom the deeper sections.  They seem to suspend in this water depth.   If you drag the bottom you run the chance of picking up an oversize sturgeon.

Other fishermen prefer to run downriggers, even herring on downriggers.

Bait Most common will be Kwikfish with a sardine wrap.  The sardine is used as it is the oiliest of the baits, which sets up a scent trail.  The added weight also slows the action of the lure down somewhat.  Each time you wrap a new sardine onto the lure, you should check the action in the water, and may have to adjust the eye to allow the lure to follow true.

Other bait as cut-plug herring, eggs, large spinners, spoons, plugs can all be used effectively here.  Sometimes when one won't pull fish try another bait.

These fish seem to hit a lure not in that they are hungry as in feeding in the ocean, but as a river situation in that they seem to strike in defense of their territory.

Off Limits  Below the Priest Rapids dam on the West shore is a hatchery, there are boundaries that you are not allowed to fish inside of.  Also you are supposed to stay away from the base of the dam by 600', to save your buns if they open the gates.  You may think you are getting away with not being caught, but the WDFW does sit up on the bluffs with a spotting scope & will read boat numbers, then the next week send you a citation in the mail.

Below the Bridge   There  is also fishing below the bridge.  About 3 1/2 miles below the bridge is the B/C hole.  another 4 mile downriver you will encounter the first Hanford Reactor.  The #1 Reactor is the one most upriver, with the #2 next downriver.

 Downriver another couple of mile below #2 you will encounter a couple of  shallow gravel bars that a prop boat can navigate if you are very careful.  The lower one has a deep slot only about 25' wide.

Then downriver around the bend & past Locke Island there is White Bluffs hole with  a concrete launch from the east side. Fishing can be productive  in a goodly section of this lower area since it is the most downstream section & the prop boats won't usually be there.

The above information was used with the permission LeeRoy Wisner of  www.pugetsoundanglers.org
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!