The Portland-Metro spring chinook fishery

Posted: May 11, 2013 by Hellcat in Fish Reports, Gear Fishing, News, Salmon, Trout & Steelhead
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Picture to the left is life-long friend Tony ‘Big Tone’ Davenport from a 2008 springer trip in the city.

PORTLAND, Oregon – Each year during this time of year anglers from all over the world descend to the many various waters of the Pacific Northwest in pursuit of arguably the most sought after food fish in all the land. The highly coveted spring chinook salmon.

Even with the lower-than-normal predicted adult spring salmon returns this year (141,400 upriver fish, about 25 percent below the 10-year average )here locally in the Portland metropolitan area the anglers still attend the rivers each morning as if it was church on a Sunday. For many it is.

When looking at what is generally considered a ‘mecca’ in any given angling community (and the requirements therein) it’s no surprise to anyone that the Columbia and Willamette Rivers in and near the Portland Metro area are the destination for all anglers suffering from the annual affliction of SPRINGER FEVER.

Spring chinook salmon have an extremely high fat content and are three times as oily as other salmonids we may catch. Such as fall chinook, winter steelhead or ever coho salmon. It is this same oily content that makes the flavor of the fish so absolutely unmistakable. Costing typically five times as much as its fall cousin in the grocery store….the spring chinook salmon must live as a guest in the freshwater passages for much longer than any of its brother, sisters or cousins. Hence the need for a more resilient biological design intended by nature to provide the strength for one of the longer migration patterns of any anadramous species.

Some of the most popular and productive places in and around the Portland Metro area to catch these flavor-packed silver bullets include boats launches and access points to water right inside the city limits. I’ve trolled through downtown Portland with thirty other boats and it’s quite surreal. To be so close to wild nature while existing simultaneously directly in the middle of a city of two and a half million is exhilarating for certain. For the local anglers a very nice change of pace from the typical need to drive to the coast for salmon and for the visitor a chance to live in style when you’re not fishing and being very close to the action when you are.

The majority of this fishery is done through a method called ‘trolling’ for salmon. A slow, near idled motor crawls gently along while the anglers on board offer threaded and hooked herring and prawns with rigged rods extended behind the boat at selected depths. Trolling can sprawl out to several miles at a time as you find your ‘lines’ or preferred trolling paths. Also, the regularity of the bite is often difficult to locate requiring frequent movement sometimes significant.
Unlike fall chinook who spawn almost immediately upon entering fresh water the spring chinook may take six months. Many will also not travel very far keeping them accessible to fish for throughout much of that described period. However the fishing locations and methods will always be changing to accommodate the water the fish is entering.

Through May anglers interested in this Portland metro area fishery I’ve described will have a fighting chance to catch and harvest the very same fish that professional guides who make a living on catching fish for their clients are banking on. Enjoy on your own or give one of them a ring.

For more information please contact Christopher Heller Owner of at

  1. BHOOV says:

    Great read brethren

  2. Hellcat says:

    Thank you, Brandon!

  3. says:

    Another excellent read. Well done Hellcat.

  4. Hellcat says:

    Thank you Tony!

  5. Derek Reed says:

    Lovin it Heller. Great read.

  6. REEL LIfestyle says:

    My mouth just waters every time I hear the word springer..So great to catch and eat..Excellent job Mr. Heller.

  7. Donaca says:

    Its nice to see Big Tone holding on to the fish instead of slapping it out of the way.

  8. Big Tone says:

    Crazy that was 5 years ago!! That was a great year for the oily bastards!!
    Donaca, I love the smack talk!! That is half of the fun we call fishing with friends!
    Only one trip for me so far this year for Springers. A big blank!
    Heller, you know how to pull someone out from being “Dark!” You’ve always had that ability.
    Donaca, you did win an Oscar for Silence Of The Lambs correct??

  9. Hellcat says:

    OMFG Big Tone comes out of the blue and lays it down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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