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Epic 2014 Fall Coho Returns | By the Numbers
The Fall of 2014 has produced some of the best Coho Salmon fishing in recent years for Columbia River and OR/WA Coastal anglers. In todays guest article, author Kevin Gray gives an overview of 2014’s coho run.
Anyone who has spent any time fishing the lower Columbia or any of the SW Washington/NW Oregon Tributaries this fall knows that the coho run has been nothing short of spectacular. In fact, in some areas, it is on a record setting pace. Here’s a little update on the status of the run,as of October 30th, and what to expect for the rest of the fall.
SW Washington Tributaries – Hatchery Trap Counts
Cowlitz: 49,909 adults
Kalama: 21,588 adults
Lewis: 43,967 adults
NW Oregon Tributaries & Columbia River – Hatchery Trap Counts and Dam Counts
Big Creek: 18,278 adults (Highest return since 1967!)
Eagle Creek: 14,525 adults
N.Fork Dam (Clackamas): 7,350 adults
Sandy: 14,024 adults Bonneville Hatchery: 21,108 adults
Bonneville Dam: 277,217 adults
Willamette Falls: 17,908 adults
How do these numbers compare to last year? Here’s a few examples to put things into perspective. Bonneville Hatchery and Lewis River are both seeing coho run sizes that are tracking at twice the size of 2013’s run. Cowlitz River and N. Fork Dam on the Clackamas are seeing coho numbers that are better than triple the size of 2013’s run. Big Creek Hatchery, Bonneville Dam, Eagle Creek Hatchery and Sandy Hatchery are seeing coho numbers better than 4 times the size of last years run! Lastly, the Kalama Complex has received 5 times as many coho this year as it had in all of 2013! Can you say bumper crop?
What is most exciting is that coho are still piling into these facilities and over dams. Where will the run end up? We won’t know until the salmon run is finished. Some rivers are nearing the end of their coho runs. Eagle Creek, Big Creek, Sandy River and Willamette River coho are about finished for the year as they consist only of early stock coho. But, there are tributaries that see a late run of coho that will be in catchable numbers and of great table quality until nearly the end of the year.
The Cowlitz, Lewis and Kalama rivers are among those in SW Washington that see a late run of coho that are showing up as I write this article. The number of these late run coho have been very strong already. It’s looking like the next few weeks will continue to provide excellent coho fishing opportunities.
Coho Salmon Fishing Techniques
My favorite ways to target coho are with bobber/eggs and twitching jigs. Both techniques are incredibly effective and allow you to cover every bit of holding water with ease.
When I’m looking for coho I usually start by looking for rollers. Coho are notorious for their tendency to roll, especially when stacked up in holes. If I’m not seeing too many rollers, but know fish are around, I will start covering the water from top to bottom in each hole.
I will usually go with bobber/eggs first. Start by setting your slip bobber to the depth where you think fish are sitting, I like to use a 1/2oz float setup, 30 inches of 10-12lb leader, and a 1/0 hook.
Cast well above where you think the fish are sitting to allow the bait to settle into the water column. Allow the float to drift through the run until it reaches the end of the hole. Continue this process until you feel you’ve covered the water completely. If you get a bite or hook a fish, you’ve pretty much cracked the code in that hole and keep repeating the presentation.
Twitching jigs is about as easy as it gets for catching tons of coho. All you need is a dozen or so twitching jigs and a medium steelhead rod loaded with 20lb braided line. The jigs should be 1/4-3/8oz size jig head. There are many companies now that make jigs just for twitching. My favorite color patterns for coho are: purple/black head, purple-black/orange head, black/chartreuse head, and blue-black/purple head. I also like jigs with rubber legs added to the body for extra profile.
Getting rigged is easy; just tie the 20lb braid directly to the jig and you’re ready to fish. Twitching works in current and in frog water. When twitching in current I will cast straight out in front of me or slightly angled downriver, allow the jig to sink down to the bottom and start making short little 1 foot hops as the jig swings downriver. In frog water, I will do pretty much the same thing. Cast out, let it sink down close to bottom and start slowly hopping the jig back toward me with a slow retrieve on the reel. The bite is quite odd when using twitching jigs. The fish pretty much always hit on the drop. So, when you go to hop the rod tip it will feel like the jig is snagged on bottom. I always set hook as soon as I feel that. It is usually a fish. One last trick that I’ve used when twitching for coho is to make several casts without twitching at all, just a very slow retrieve like I am throwing a spinner or a spoon. The trick is to retrieve at a speed that is slow, but not too slow where the jig snags bottom. The best way to describe the bite in this situation is that it feels like some grass or debris has slid down the line onto the jig. They usually won’t rip the rod out of your hands on the strike. So, anytime you feel something out of the ordinary, set the hook! You’ll be surprised at the result.
Good luck out there the rest of this banner year. Fish on!
Article courtesy of Kevin Gray 2014 (Kevin Gray’s Guide Service)
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