One great thing about living in Southern British Columbia is the easy access and the radius to world class Non Tidal Salmon Fisheries. The fishery that mainly comes to one’s mind is the Fraser River as it provides satisfactory fishing for the Salmon enthusiast. But what if I told you that within less than an hour and half drive south of the Osoyoos border there is an incredible salmon fishery that gives the Fraser River a run for its money or even out performs it! Let me introduce you to the Columbia River in Washington State.
The Columbia River is over 2000kms long making it the longest River in the Pacific Northwest. The head waters start in the BC Rockies and flows through 7 states until it dumps into the Pacific Ocean on the Oregon Coast. Even with the 14 hydroelectric dams on the river it is still home to many anadromous fish, mainly salmon, that make their way from fresh water to the Pacific Ocean. These Columbia River Salmon make their way as far up river as the Chief Joseph Dam just thirty minutes south east of Omak.
Over the past few year’s collaborated efforts made by Washington and Oregon State, the Colville Tribes, the Okanagan Nation Alliance, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration have helped restore a healthy salmon population back into the Columbia River. While our BC Rivers are struggling to bounce our salmon population back, the Columbia River is thriving!
The two main Salmon species that the Columbia is home to is Chinook and Sockeye. The Sockeye Salmon will make their way all the way back into the Canadian Okanagan River System that includes Osoyoos and Skaha Lake. The Chinook Salmon mainly return near the confluence of the Okanagan and Columbia River; this area includes Brewster, Bridgeport and Pateros Lake. Some Chinook Salmon do make their way as far up the Okanagan River system into the Canadian waters.
This year, 2013, marked the ribbon cutting of the Chief Joseph Dam Chinook Hatchery. This hatchery was designed to release up to 2.9 million Chinook salmon back into the Columbia River annually. With this in mind the Chinook fishing is going to get even better!
One may think that going into the USA to go fishing then bring back your catch is difficult due to border restrictions. The truth to the matter is that it is very easy to do so. As long as you have a valid passport, Washington State fishing license and Salmon Catch Card you will find it very easy to transport your catch home over the Canadian border. If you are traveling south down on Hwy 97, you can obtain all your fishing licenses and gear at Big R in Omak. The staff there are very friendly and are always eager to share local fishing reports.
Pateros Lake located near Brewster Washington is one of the most popular summer Chinook and Sockeye fishing areas along the Columbia River. The main boat launch area is located in the community of Brewster and it can be very busy with boat traffic, so an early morning start is needed. The best way to discover this fishery is by hiring a local guide. The guides know the waters very well and they all work together to share information on what the fish are biting on and where the hot spots are located. You will also find the fishing guides in Washington state very well priced and affordable. Hiring a guide for your first time will get you familiar with the fishery and will assist you in building your confidence for your next trip if you decide to bring your own boat.
This past summer the BCFishn.com team connected up with Austin Moser from Austin’s Northwest Adventures LLC. Austin came highly recommended from one of Washington’s top notch guides, Shane Magnuson from Upper Columbia Guide Services. Shane told us that we would be in the best hands with Austin as he is a highly qualified pro angler. Shane was right! Austin has been fishing the Columbia River area for over 18 years and is highly decorated with numerous angling sponsors; his local angling knowledge surpasses many! The moment you step onto Austin’s Jet boat you will feel welcomed and in good company. We have now gone out twice with Austin and have not been disappointed with the results. He consistently changes up his methods and presentations to zone in on what the fish are after.
Brewster Washington & Pateros Lake
This fishery is very close the Canadian-USA border on Hwy 97. It is only an hour and half drive from Osoyoos BC. This area produces well for summer Sockeye and Chinook Salmon. Depending on where the fish are either in Pateros Lake or below Wells Dam; there is an abundance of salmon to be caught! (Check out this video on fishing Wells Dam with Austin Moser) Accommodations for this area are best found at Pateros Lake community only 10 minutes away from Brewster. There is camping and some quaint hotels such as the Pateros Lakeshore Inn. Accommodations at Brewster are hard to find and camping is limited. Omak is approx. 40 minutes away and offers numerous hotels and camping opportunity.
Vernita Bridge & Priest Rapids
If you are up for a little bit more of a drive it is well worth checking out the Vernita Bridge & Priest Rapids area on the Columbia River for the Fall Chinook run. This fishery is known to pull in an abundance of salmon and much bigger in size! Fish in the 30 plus pound range are not uncommon.
It is approximately a three and half hour drive from Osoyoos BC, just south off the I90 highway located on highway 243. A popular landmark in this area is the Gorge Amphitheater (approx. 30 minutes north of Vernita Bridge) near the town of Quincy. There is plenty of camping at the boat launch and in around the river area. When camping or parking at the Vernita boat launch area you will require a Washington State Discovery Park pass. You can get these at the same place you get your fishing licenses. For hotel accommodations it is best to check out the Quincy area as it is closest town. We stayed at the Cave B Inn & Winery which we highly recommend! Try out their Yurts for a unique experience!
The Columbia River is a gem of a fishery from it’s headwaters in BC to the outflow to the Pacific Ocean in Oregon. This fishery is very much either forgotten about, ignored or not even known to BC anglers that live along the Washington-BC border. After our first fishing trip on the Columbia in Washington I couldn’t believe that this amazing fishery was so close to home. The next time you are looking for a change in scenery and want to try your luck for some world class salmon fishing; call up Austin’s Northwest Adventures and try out the Columbia River! You will not be disappointed!
For more information on fishing salmon on the Columbia River in Washington please feel free to contact us through email or our BC Fishn Facebook page!
Tight lines & Conserve our Waters!