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how to catch Salmon fishing in a hogline on the Columbia River
hog line fishing techniques

Season Settings: For setting seasons for this fishing, the DFWs for both Oregon & Washington together, set an estimated quota based on the number of returning "Jacks" the previous year. The jacks that return, are salmon that get the urge to return a year earlier than the mature fish. Therefore, using this data & using a multiplier factor, the DFWs can predict the following years estimated runs. The quota setting also has to take into account the ESA listings of some salmon from particular rivers, (of which are mixed into the possible take) the sport %, commercial %, & the tribal legal take. So there are complicated legal matters involved here.

photo by David Johnson's Guided Sportfishing

These fish come up the Columbia River system, many are bound for the their home tributaries, as the Cowlitz, Lewis, Kalama, Willamette, Snake, Yakima, etc. The first dam on the Columbia is Bonneville, & it has a fish ladder with people employed as fish counters. Also at the Willamette falls is a fish ladder with counters, so a somewhat accurate count can be established. One of the websites for Bonneville is, http://www.fpc.org/CurrentDaily/7day-ytd_adults.htm .

There may need some explanations to this fish count data. The counters do not start until Feb 1 & shut down Nov. when there are a minimal number of fish going over the dam. The "Spring Chinook" are by definition are salmon counted between Feb 1 & May 31. Summer salmon are those counted between June 1 & July 31. Fall salmon are those counted between August 1 & when the count is shut down in Nov.

Basic Info: This type of fishing can be in the whole river system, but this article will specifically cover fishing from Kalama downriver where there is a substantial tidal influence on the river. Here you need to govern your fishing by the tides. These fish are usually on the move on the outgoing tide, it has been found best to anchor, allowing the water flow to work plugs or spoons, preferably in one of their travel lanes. At the tide change where the flow is not enough to work the plugs properly, change your tactics & troll.

Basically the Spring & Fall Chinook fishery will vary from the standpoint that the spring fish will normally be concentrated near the Oregon shore line, while the fall fish tend to follow the Washington shore. Spring fish tend to run from 15# to 20#. Fall fish usually go larger, up to 45#. Also the spring fishing seems to produce better if using Kwikfish in water up to about 30’ deep.

The fall fishery seems to be better in water depths of 40’ – 50’ & using Clancy or Alvin spoons.

Spring Chinook:
Method: Hoglining is a term commonly used in conjunction with tying up to a anchored buoy . A hogline will essentially be many boats tied in a row across the river, with hopes of intercepting the fish as they move upriver. Of the boats anchored here, the ones who are in the right spot will get the best fishing. These fish tend to run in distinct lanes, so it is important to be in the right spot, just anchoring in a hogline does not guarantee you will see lots of action on your boat.. It would probably be advisable to spend your first trip as an learning experience to locate these possible lanes, or hire a guide.

One method would be to use a good depth-finder to locate bottom structure. You want to locate a edge of a ledge, say if the bottom is 12' or 16' and then drops off to 30'. You want to be so that your lures are on the deeper section of this ledge. Some of these ledges do not run for great lengths in the river, this is why you will find the hoglines in particular locations, and not upriver or downriver to any degree. You might save that general location on your GPS, but plan on locating it again next time with your depthfinder. Other than that, triangulate off piling, trees & etc after you watched other boats. Or you could try finding an expensive guide boat and anchoring near them may get you started.

If you decide to anchor below another boat, give them plenty of room, as when a large fish hits, it will normally run downriver. You should not drop your anchor downriver closer than maybe 75 yards form other boats. The reason here is that you will probably have out upwards to100 yards of anchor line. This will give them some fighting room to try to keep their fish out of your anchor line.

The better locations will be this ledge in conjunction with a mouth of a river. The reason for this is that the water temperature will usually be cooler coming from these smaller rivers than the mainstem Columbia. The mouths usually have a deeper spot where they dump into the Columbia, this water will be cooler for two reasons. (1) that it is deeper and (2) it is from the side smaller river. The fish will tend to congregate in this cooler water before they continue on up the Columbia, or decide to go up their home side river.

Anchoring will be using a sand anchor, 6’ of chain, 150’ of 3/8” anchor rope, and a 15” dia. or so, anchor float attached to a Anchorlift retrieval system. Also one thing to consider is to place a small float on the other end of the anchor rope. This is in case you have to disconnect & chase a fish, you can come back, pick up your anchor rope & re-anchor in your established spot, the small float helps keep the rope’s loose end from being pulled under. The reason for disconnecting & floating away from the hogline is out of courtesy to the other fishermen, in that you don't want your fish to tangle in their gear. These fish tend to run in small schools, so if you catch one, the rest of the school may be there also & your neighbor would be rather irritated if he lost his chance to catch a fish, while untangling from your fish.

The one time that might be better to not disconnect would be when the seals start gathering in wait for a fish to be caught that they can steal. If you drift away from the hogline, then the seal has you more at his mercy, compared to if you stayed in place. With that many boats concentrated in one area, Mr. seal tends to not want to come in that close. If you do disconnect & drift away from the line & a seal targets you, your best hope is to maneuver the boat so it is always between the fish & the seal.

Your boat may not position itself exactly as you wish in relationship to other boats. In case of this turn your motor to act as a rudder in the current. If this is not enough, slightly change the position of the anchor rope off your mooring cleat. These methods can change your position up to 20’.

Time: Fish only the outgoing tide. Be there 1 ½ hours before tide change for that area.

Water Depth: The depth you will usually find these fish will be from 15’ to 30’.

Rods: Typical rods used will be an 8’ back-bouncing rod.

Reels: You don’t need anything of a large size here, as you will be in a boat, & can chase the fish if need be for a larger one. An Ambassadeur series or smaller size level- wind reel will function fine here.

Line: It is best to use one of the new spectra type lines for this fishery, as you can feel the slightest bump. However if you can feel them, conversely, they can also feel your thoughts. The recommended line weight would be in the 65# range. This gives you about a 15# mono dia., with this small size the weight required to keep the lure down is considerably less.

Leader: Use a 60” mono leader of 20-25# to your lure.

The Knot: The new spectra type line requires a different knot than most fishermen are used to. Most of the knots specified for these lines are not that good, & will break at about 1/2 the specified strength.

Lure: Kwikfish: If you have to pick one size & color, that one would be a K15 in chrome with a chartreuse head. Or the same with also a chartreuse tail. Keep the triple hooks sharp. Or change & replace them with Gamakatsu 2/0 triple hooks, which are sharper, but may need resharpening after some use. Wrap this lure with a sardine fillet. With this method you need to buy good fresh bait. Keep it frozen until the night before needed. Fillet off both sides. Keep it iced down until needed. Cut the fillet into small enough size as to just fit under the Kwikfish rear section. Split the fillet slightly in front so that this split straddles the lures front eye to the hook. Wrap this fillet onto the Kwikfish skin side to the lure with either plain sewing thread, stretchy thread, or dental bands.

The one thing to remember is that you do not want it tied on so tight that all the oils are squeezed out at the time of wrapping. Looser may be best as long as it stays on. You may also have to trim the fillet with scissors to keep it from unbalancing the Kwickfish. Now place the lure in the water & check to see how it is running. If it moves off to the left, twist the eye to the right.

Sinker: Usually a 6-8 oz. round cannonball sinker off a 30” dropper will be enough to keep the lure down. This dropper will be attached to a slider on the mainline.

Rod Holder: Use a rod holder that has rod removal very readily achieved. Position the holder with the angle lower than normal.

In Use: The fish will hit the Kwikfish maybe more than once, when the rod tip is pulled into the water grab it & set the hooks.

Weather: Be ever so watchful for wind to pick up as it can get rather nasty this time of the year. You will typically be in a smaller boat, & if the wind produces choppy enough water, you can take water over the bow if you have to run a distance to get back a the launch.

Fish Size: These fish tend to run in the 15# - 25# size range.

Fall Chinook:
Methods: Basically the methods for fall fishing is the same as for spring fishing, with these exceptions:

Water depth: The fall Chinook tend to favor deeper water, from 40’ to 50’ depths.

Lure: Here the use a Clancy or Alvin spoon comes into play. These are rather large spoons. They can also have to possibly be “tuned”. To do this place it in the water & it should not rotate, just a back & forth wobble. You may have to bend it in the middle for more of a bow to achieve this action.

Some years the fish may favor one brand lure over the other, or at the least color of the lure. It may be best to go to a model shop & purchase a few different colors, namely blue, green, & red. With these you can while on the water, paint stripes, dots, or combinations of these to try.

Sinker: Usually you will need a heavier weight than for the spring fishery, up to a 20 oz. round cannonball sinker off a 48” dropper will be enough to keep the lure down. This dropper will be attached to a slider on the mainline.

Leader: Use a 48” mono leader of 30-40# to your lure.

Hold Onto Your Rod: As said previously, the fish can feel your thoughts, and they do not hold onto these spoons once they soon decide it is not something to eat. Set the hook even if you see what you think is a nibble from a minnow.

Attractant: Here is a chance to use your WD-40 as a scent & preserve the spoons coloration.

Fish Size: These fish tend to run in the 30# - 45# size range.

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!