Brace Yourself for Crazy Coho Fishing
By Dave Schamp
By now most know the 2019 Buoy 10 Chinook forecast is not stellar, and it’s also a safe bet that every salmon angler in the Northwest knows there are almost 1 million coho headed for the mouth of the Columbia. If the forecast is close to correct, we’re in for some crazy coho fishing.
The good thing about coho in the lower Columbia is that they tend to be aggressive biters and the bad thing about coho is that they tend to be short biters (tail nippers). Because of those two traits you’ll do well to adjust what you’re putting on the catching end of your line.
Coho will be all over natural bait, herring or anchovies, but get ready to have a lot of take downs with not a lot of hook-ups. Sure, there are times when they inhale your bait, but most of the time coho are tail biters and you’ll go through a lot of bait to get your fish.
If fishing is tough, stick with the natural baits and always add a hoochie. The hoochie will get a second look even when your herring or anchovy is munched, and hot pink or hot orange colors are best. Most add 3 ½-inch hoochies above their top hook, but I have seen others do well with the hoochie above the trailing hook. Be sure and add one or more 6mm beads above the hook to keep the hoochie from pulling over the hook eye.
In my experience when there are plenty of coho around you will have a much better experience using hardware instead of natural bait. Coho love bright, shiny, fast-moving offerings; and spoons, spinners and Brad’s Cut-Plugs all produce.
My favorite spoons are a size 5 Tom Mack in 50/50 brass/chrome. I’ve also done well using 3.5 Coyotes and Coho Killers. Chrome, brass, prism with blue or green trim will get it done.
Brad’s Cut-Plugs (BCP) are also reliable for coho on the lower Columbia. Best colors include Blue Hawaiian, Shamrock, Black Jack and Twisted Sister. Some of the newer colors look really fishy and just about anything shiny will get bit. I have found BCPs to be particularly effective first thing in the morning. For coho, what you put inside your BCP isn’t critical. I like to smash up yesterday’s fresh anchovies, guts and all.
If I could only use one lure for coho at Buoy 10 it would be a size 5 or 5.5 spinner. You cannot go wrong with a size 5 BC Angling Synergy or size 5.5 Mulkey spinner. Best colors are all pink, red/white, pink/white or flame/brass. And, when you’re targeting coho make sure your spinner includes a pink hoochie skirt.
Whether you’re using bait or hardware keep your rigging simple. I’m not a big fan of divers, but they work really well for coho, especially with inexperienced anglers. Because they are a challenge to reel in quickly you can expect multiple hook-ups when you find a school of fish.
My favorite way to go is a brightly colored Delta Diver with an 8-inch rotating flasher directly attached and a 36- to 40-inch leader of 30-pound mono. Keep them shallow, 8 to 16 pulls (16- to 32-feet deep), and make sure you’ve got two nets handy!
Tackle riggings for both chinook and coho for the lower Columbia River.