Springers!

It’s Springer time again so you can get ready for your flood of articles on the Columbia and its tributaries.  Statewide tackle shops will be dusting off last years bounty hunting gear and will once again market it as the latest and greatest hardware that surely will put some of these world class fish on your table.

Does it work…?  Oh yeah.  Even though many of us are still in search of steelhead, the allure of Springer’s is too hard to pass up.

You see those 12 – 16lb steelhead are magnificent and there’s nothing else like it to a true steelhead bum like myself.  But, given the chance at a 12 – 16lb Springer that is arguable the best tasting salmon on the planet, well most are going to leave my steelhead alone.

Do I like Springer fishing?  Of course.  Under the right conditions its almost like trophy steelhead fishing. While most will be targeting these spectacular fish on the Columbia, Ill be looking to change things up a bit, not only giving me some elbow room, but also trying to maximize my time on the water as well.

Spring run Chinook salmon are among the most prized fish for their table fare and hard nosed fighting style.  Usually running from March through May they have a large buildup of fat, are very eager to attack a well presented offering and are full of fight.  Although averaging around 15lbs, many are hooked each year in the mid to upper 20lb range.

Spring Chinook enter river systems when waters are cold and full of oxygen which warrants no restrictions on travel. With this in mind, spring Chinook are found travelling in shallow water, about 9- to 25-feet in depth in larger river systems such as the Columbia River, and along the banks on most others. In order to make travel as easy as possible, spring Chinook dodge heavy head-on, currents by travelling the river edges where the speed of the flow is reduced.

Think of those awesome steelhead holes that make you drool – add another 2 to 6 ft of depth and you have Springerville.

With so many fish entering the main stems at the same time of year, and the thousands of anglers wanting to stake their claim, to say things get interesting is an understatement.  Throw in a few dozen unwanted sea lions and now you have a recipe for Americas Funniest Videos or Americas Most Wanted depending on how the tide turns.   Um… I’m not into that.

Oh, I’m looking forward to Springer’s alright… in Forks!  The Hoh… it’ll have fish, but I won’t be on it.  The Bogachiel, the Sol Duc?  Kinda… Ill be targeting both their fish, in a sense doubling up on my chances. I’m talking about the 4 mile mega fishing river known as the Quileute.

The Quileute is formed where the Bogy and the Duc come together and meanders downstream a total of 4 fish holding miles of virtually untouched waters.

ALL springer’s bound for the Bogy and the Sol Duc must travel the shores of the Quileute before entering their home river so why not hit them when they’re fresh and haven’t been targeted yet.  Once you get into the upper rivers you will have company.  Bet you wished you would have fished the Quileute then.

Float fishing bait is going to be my method of choice for fishing this river.

For Salmon I prefer a baitcaster.  Much heavier presentations along with heavier fish require more control of the fish once hooked.  With the heavier presentation the line will roll off the reel when the spool is disengaged.  For beginners, make sure you adjust your casting tension so you don’t end up with a nasty bird’s nest, which sometimes necessitates cutting most, if not all of your line off in order to rectify the situation. A moderate action, 10’ 6” rod rated 10 – 20lbs is perfect.

For springer’s a nice golf ball sized cluster of milking eggs will produce best.  A sliding float rig with a 2ft leader, 2/o sticky sharp hook and 20lb leader material tied to an inline weight and 30lb power pro is the setup I’m looking for. I like Bor x o fire in red and this out of the jar would be awesome.  But of course I’m looking for an advantage… that being sugar or honey.  You want your springer eggs sticky sweet. Ill add a quarter cup of one or the other to a large set of skeins when curing them

And then there’s your stinky method – tuna.  Pour tuna oil from a can (bumble bee, chicken of the sea, Kirkland, etc) onto the eggs and let them sit.  Springer’s love tuna. For those that haven’t used tuna for springer’s I’ll just say one thing… Its a Wicked Pissah!

Having already divulged my favorite method, ill touch briefly on a couple other Quileute methods.

Plunking.  Yep I said it.  My least favorite fishing method but it downright catches fish.   In fact many days the plunkers will outfish all the other methods when it comes to springers.  The idea with plunking is to have your presentation sitting in the hole as fish swim through it.  Using a 2 to 6oz pyramid sinker you’ll want to cast your weight above the hole and let it glide into the heart and to dig in.  reel up any slack and place your rod in a holder.  The line should be taught all the way down.  Old school plunkers would already be worried about getting tangled up.  But… we haven’t added any lure yet.  Nope, just mainline to a large swivel, then 3 to 5 feet of leader to the pyramid weight.

Good bets for plunking springers is a large spin n glo with those same eggs we mentioned before.  A 3ft leader, attach a swivel and send it down the line.  Another great presentation would be a Wordens Mag lip 3.5 in misty river or shrimp.  Don’t worry about it diving too deep – just use a 4 ft leader and it’ll be fine.

What’s great about these methods is your presentation is covering water as its making its way to the heart of the hole.

Probably the most popular method on the Quiliute which accounts for most springers taken then all the others is pulling plugs.  Sardine wrapped Mag Lips are deadly if tuned true.  The pattern isn’t as important if the plug is not tuned. Along with the patterns already mentioned I also like the Grinch, blue piarate, good ol boy and the undertaker.

 

 

Terry J Wiest

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