We started off the year chasing winter steelhead and, perhaps like you, later added spring chinook, trout and summer steelhead to our fishing pursuits. June is when we continue to chase trout (but, now in the high mountain lakes), summer steelhead and, happily, add summer chinook to our fishing adventures.
High Mountain Trout
Our trout season started off on the lowland lakes where the trout bite has now tapered off due to the ever -ncreasing water temperature. It’s the high mountain lakes where the water remains cold and we will find fat trout this month. The high mountain lake nearest to our home is Goose Lake, located south of Mount Adams — but, there are many high mountain lakes and reservoirs that can be found at higher elevations nearby.
It’s amazing how different this fishery is as compared to the lakes near the Columbia we fished earlier in the year. You’d think high mountain trout would go for pretty much the same lures and baits we used earlier in the year but, with the exception of PowerBait, they don’t. At Goose Lake it’s spoons and spinners that produce the quickest limits for us. We cast and retrieve Thomas Buoyant spoons and Rooster Tail spinners. We’ve noticed the cutthroat trout like a steady retrieve speed while the rainbow and browns will sometimes go for a more erratic presentation.
When it comes to lure color we’ve had the best success with copper, brass or black in the Thomas Buoyant and black in the Rooster Tail or Vibric Rooster Tail spinners. We tip one prong of our spinners with a short section from a PowerBait or Gulp! Worm — black is usually the best color. And while tipping will add to our success anytime, it is sometimes the only thing that seems to work when the fish are in no mood to bite. For us, tipping our spinners has turned slow days into limit days.
June is the month the summer steelhead action is beginning to peak on many tributary streams that empty into the lower Columbia that receive hatchery plants of Skamania strain steelhead. The Skamania strain, as they are called, is the hatchery stock planted into nearby streams like the Hood, Sandy, Klickitat, Drano Lake and Washougal. Skamania steelheads are aggressive biters and known to be one of the hardest fighting steelhead strains on the planet. These fish will respond to all fishing methods from back-trolling plugs, drift fishing, side drifting, spoons, spinners and bobber and jig — it all works.
June is also when Skamania steelhead can be found prowling the lower Columbia along with an ever-increasing number of steelhead bound for the upper Columbia and Snake River systems. The hot ticket when plunking the big river from shore or a boat is a number 4 Spin N Glo tipped with a coon or sand shrimp. Plugs, like Mag Lip 3.5 or medium size FlatFish or Kwikfish also work.
For many of us the opportunity to fish for and keep a summer chinook from the Columbia River is a dream come true. Although summer chinook were once the most numerous of chinook the Columbia had to offer; for example, in the 1880s the average annual run was 4 to 5 million wild salmon. Since that time the population dropped so low (around 40,000 annually) anglers were denied a season for 29 years. However, in 2002, because of court-ordered flow and spill that benefitted out-migrating smolt and returning adults, combined with the fin-clipping of hatchery salmon, the population rebounded enough to allow for a limited sport season.
The summer chinook fishery on the lower Columbia is one where lures fished in a stationary position are set to ambush salmon migrating toward the upper Columbia and Snake River systems. This salmon strain comes in all sizes but a few can bounce the scale at 40 to 50 pounds.
For boat anglers salmon size plugs like Mag Lip 4.5, FlatFish or Kwikfish with a fillet of sardine strapped to their bellies work as do medium size spinners like a Toman Cascade. Bank anglers rely on size 4 and larger size number 2 Spin N Glo when targeting these salmon.
According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the season on the Columbia River is open now from the mouth upstream to Beacon Rock for fin-clipped salmon and steelhead. As of June 16 the big river will open upstream of Bonneville Dam. Check the Department of Fish and Wildlife website for the latest season info and possible in-season changes.