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Eastern Washington Sockeye

By on August 11, 2014

On Thursday July 19, my son Kevin and I fished with our friend Rick Graser of Moses Lake.  Our plan was to target sockeye on the Columbia River just below the Wanapum Dam (River Mile 416).

Previously, Rick has been getting most of his sockeye between 7:30 and 11:30 in the morning.  That information allowed us to sleep in a little later and avoid the pre-dawn crowd at the boat launch.

However, as soon as we put the gear in the water, we started getting bites.  But what really surprised and pleased us was that one of the first two fish that we netted was a king!  The kings had just moved in over night.  The king was really bright and extremely feisty especially when hooked on a sockeye rod.

This posed a dilemma for us.  We had to decide which species to target.  Part of the dilemma is that current WDFW regulations allow each angler to keep 6 sockeye and 6 kings.  Additionally, for the kings, the regs allow you to keep 3 adults including 1 king that is not marked. That can be a whopping total of 12 salmon a day per angler if everything works out right!

After some discussion, we decided on a compromise.  We fished two rods with sockeye gear and one with king gear.

We used Rick’s “go to king rig” which consists of a Pro-Troll 11 inch ProChip flasher and a Brad’s Super Bait Cut Plug.

One of Rick’s Sockeye set-ups that produced the first fish

One of Rick’s Sockeye set-ups that produced the first fish

Rick says that he will only fish with ProChip flashers when he fishes for kings! Here are features that he says that make the ProChip flasher special.  First, the ProChip flasher has a kicker fin, which allows you to troll very slowly and still get a full rotation.  Then there are the stainless steel ball bearing swivels front and rear, which accentuate the action of your lure.  Finally, it has the patented EChip, which helps induce finicky fish to bite.  His most effective ProChip flasher this year has been the PC11-106. It has a chartreuse blade with silver foil on one side and glow white tape on the other side.  Rick also says that other consistently good ProChip flasher colors are “All Chrome” and “Glow Green”.

Rick runs a 5-foot leader to his Brad’s Super Bait Cut Plug in the 4.0 size.  His most effect color is the Lemon Lime although he says the Hot Tamale Super Bait runs a close second.  He opens up the Super Baits and fills the cavity with tuna that is packed in oil.  He also soaks the “insert sponge” that in the tuna oil.

As Rick predicted, when the sun rose higher in the sky we started to get even more bites on all the rods.  The air temperature went from warm to extremely hot 99 degrees!  However, the bright sun did not deter the fish from biting.  The action was very fast at times, including two double headers.

However, as they released more water from the dam, the fishing slowed.  But after a while, they reduced the outflow and the fishing improved again as the water level stabilized.  We were also very fortunate in that there was no wind.  This area is known for high winds on hot days.  Those winds can create large white caps that can made fishing dangerous.

The biggest fish of the day came late in the trip when the “king rod” went down and stayed down!  We all knew it was a big king by the way the fish was ripping line off the reel.  Ripping line in crowded fishery is not a good thing!  We watched in the horror as the fish went under several boats.  Fortunately, the other anglers were quick to react and pulled up their down riggers.  However, the fish was tangle with 7 other rods.  In the frenzy to clear the tangle of gear, someone cut the wrong line!  Our hearts stopped as Kevin’s rod when slack.  Fortunately, I saw the end of line being pulled out of the boat and was able to grab it.  Rick tied a hasty blood knot and then Kevin was finally able to gently coax the king to Rick’s net.  When we started to reset the gear, we found that 150 feet of line on the “king rod” was severely damaged by all the tangling and contact with downrigger cables.  That fact, when coupled with all the tangles and the cut line, made it a miracle that we able to land this hefty king!

We ended the day keeping 5 nice kings and 5 tasty sockeye.  When we got back to the launch, Linda, the WDFW fish checker, told us that we had brought in more fish then any other boat that day.  In addition, she said that we also had the biggest king of the day!

Rick grew up in Vancouver Washington and started fishing the Columbia River when he was just a boy.  He moved to Moses Lake and has been professionally guiding on the Columbia for more than 30 years.  During that time, he has accumulated a wealth of fishing knowledge. We personally observed several of the younger guides asking for his advice because they were having trouble hooking fish.

If you want to fish with Rick, give him a call at Graser’s Guide Service.  His cell number is (509) 760-6743.  In addition to his fishing knowledge, Rick is also a very nice guy, so I know you will have great time.

Another Eastern Washington Columbia River Sockeye and Chinook opportunity farther up the river is at River Mile 530.

What’s hot is Sockeye Salmon fishing at the mouth of the Okanogan River at Brewster.

The Sockeye are in the Upper Columbia. And boy, are there a lot of people fishing for them! Fish the edge of the old channel just above the depth you mark them on your sonar. Pull big chrome dodgers with a short heavy leader back to a big Mack’s Lures Wedding Ring baited with a piece of Pautzke Fire Cured Shrimp. You can also get some Chinook fishing Super Baits behind a rotating flasher. Fill those Super Baits with oil based tuna and dip them in Pautzke’s Krill Juice. Strap on your patience as there were 345 boats on Saturday on the Columbia at the mouth of the Okanagon.

Fishing is good between these points (River Mile 416 and River Mile 530) as well.

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Mark Gavin
Mark Gavin is an expert and dedicated salmon and steelhead fisherman covering the Northwest and British Columbia. Part of the Pro-Troll pro staff, he is a popular seminar speaker and member of several Puget Sound Anglers chapters.

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