By: Terry Wiest
The Springers are coming! Meanwhile, the Columbia River is high and dirty. Therefore, many anglers will be looking for smaller water alternatives. On the other hand, to approach smaller water alternative tactics need to be employed, which we’ll cover in this blog.
In the Northwest we have several alternatives to the Columbia that offer reasonable spring Chinook runs. In Washington, I like the Cowlitz, Lewis and Kalama down south and the Sol Duc further up the coast. In Oregon, give the Trask, Nestucca or Rogue a try. The McKenzie used to be phenomenal, but has dwindled in recent years. It’s trying to come back, and if it does it’s a fantastic river to fish. The McKenzie also produces good numbers of summer steelhead. Particularly in late May and June you can target both.
In these smaller tributaries hover fishing deeper water is effective, as is back bouncing holes and running bait divers. These methods aren’t different from what we do to catch fish on the Columbia. However, success can be realized by switching up baits. Most will be using eggs, but I prefer shrimp. Sand Shrimp works paired with eggs. Nonetheless, it’s tough to beat cured coon shrimp.
When running shrimp I look for deep holes below fast water. The fish tend to hold in these pools while gaining energy before conquering the next set of fast water. Also look for structure. Like other salmon, springers want to protect themselves from predators. Structure gives them a sense of safety.
Rigging a coon shrimp is easy. Using a two-hook mooching setup (1/0’s are ideal) insert the back hook underneath the shrimp where the tail meets the body. Push it along the inside of the tail shell, then push until the point comes barely out the bottom and the eye of the hook is barley showing. Now take the top hook and insert it from the bottom of the head through the top with just the point sticking out and pointing forward. The eye of the hook should be about even with the nose of the shrimp. Most anglers break off any existing whiskers.
Before we dive into how I cure my shrimp know that creating a scent trail is going to be the single most important factor in getting a springer to bite. While many use Fire Brine or Nectar, when curing shrimp I prefer Red BorX O Fire and then add scent to give the shrimp a little kick. Fire Power is krill. I believe it enhances the coon shrimp’s own basic smell. I add that and anise.
Color is equally important. A bright coon shrimp might catch the eye of a Chinook even if the scent trail is off to the side. This is why I add Red Fire Dye. Some argue BorX O Fire itself has color, which is true. Nonetheless, after adding the Fire Dye you’ll notice a huge, fish attracting difference. (Remember to wear gloves or your hands will be red, too.) I don’t like to get too fancy and add a bunch of ingredients to my cure, but I do tweak my cure slightly from what’s in the bottle. This is what I use.
¼ cup Red BorX O Fire
2 Ounces Red Fire Dye
½ cup bakers sugar (it’s finer & dissolves better)
1 teaspoon Fire Power (or Liquid Krill)
½ teaspoon pure anise oil
Mix ingredients in a quart mason jar. Make sure the sugar is completely dissolved.