What's the Best Time to Fish for Salmon? - North 40 Life

What's the Best Time to Fish for Salmon?

If we're talking about fishing for salmon in the Columbia River, chances are we're talking about Chinook salmon (also called Kings, Springers- etc). And the best time to fish for those salmon, like Matt and Tanner say in the video, is starting mid-July.

BUT that's because they are talking about fishing Chinook near Omak, WA- that's in the upper Columbia, and pretty specific to their local area. It's not the same everywhere. 


The Columbia River System: Lower VS Upper 

Imagine the river system as the circulatory system of a human body, and the ocean is the heart. The Lower Columbia, being closer to the ocean, will see spring run salmon sooner than the Upper Columbia. The fish have further to travel to get that far up, and it's all up stream, against bears and dams- so the further from the ocean, the longer it will take the salmon to get there.

Another thing you need to consider, there are TWO runs of fish, spring and fall. So when Matt and Tanner talk about fishing salmon mid-July- those are actually spring run salmon finally reaching the system near Omak- about two months after they entered the system from the ocean!


Spring Run Salmon VS Fall Run Salmon 

Spring run salmon begin their run from the ocean about April, so if in April you are standing at the mouth of a river on the ocean- congrats that's the best time to catch salmon! Now imagine this flow of fish traveling up the Columbia spring run Chinook salmon are going to reach the Upper Columbia near Omak around July-

So that seems simple enough- but wait! There's a second run of fish that begin their run around July/August, appropriately called the "fall run"- and if you use the same time frame for salmon travel, you could probably fish near Omak around September/October.

So we got the two runs and the time frames straightened out- claro que no? But wait there are more than just Chinook salmon!

There's more "Salmon" Than you Think 

When you are out targeting salmon, don't overlook these other types!

  1. Coho salmon are another popular fish targeted in the Columbia-- and during the last half of August, both chinook and coho salmon will be caught in large numbers. *Insider tip: Buoy 10 during the last half of August there'll be a lot people- but there'll, also be a lot of fish!
  1. Pink Salmon, or humpies, run in the late summer and in much, much more limited numbers. This is because pink salmon forego the freshwater life-cycle, and when they are born they move immediately towards the ocean.
  1. Sockeye salmon are another type to target when heading out to hookup. These fish will start their runs around August and continue through October, but are a "landlocked" species meaning they live on "inside water" system, not the ocean. These fish still need adequate stream flows so check them at our North 40 Fly Shop page here. 

When to Fish for Salmon: Takeaways

The best time to fish for Chinook salmon, the fish that most people talk about when they say "salmon," is during the spring and fall runs.- but the runs take time to travel up the Columbia, and spring runs in the lower are earlier than spring runs in the upper- for that reason!

So best way to fish for salmon? Follow the run up river! Not able to bum it with the fish- then use the website below to time your expeditions based on your location.

Check here for average run times, then watch the dam counts to get more specific.

And that's ^ how you fish for salmon.

When looking for rods to fish for Kings you can check out our spinning and casting rods here.

Or, if you think you can swing a King, check out our two handed spey rods and our exclusive steelhead patterns.

Now, as it is said, "Go forth and slay #FatHawgs."

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#AskNorth40 is our weekly show where customers bring us their toughest questions, and we go find the answer from experts in the field here in the Northwest. Why do you feed flax seed to horses? If you learn your frost lines, can you grow more food? Where can we fly fish in the dead of winter? If you’ve got a question, use any social media platform and ask us with #asknorth40 we’ll be putting a new one out every week, so keep the questions coming. Click the #AskNorth40 name in this profile for a list of our latest episodes!
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