Angler fighting a fish from the boat
Columbia Zone

10 tips for Buoy 10 fishing

The Buoy 10 fishery, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific, offers anglers a chance to catch Chinook and coho salmon fresh from the ocean.

Patience and big-water boating skills are a must for Buoy 10 anglers, but Buoy 10 generally offers a safer alternative to crossing the Columbia River bar to fish in the adjacent ocean.

1) Wait. Even though the fishery opens Aug. 1, it may still be a while until the fishing really heats up. Once it does, expect good Chinook fishing through late August and good coho fishing through at least mid-September.

2) Pay attention to the tides 1.0. The tides in and out of the mouth of the Columbia will have a huge impact on fishing. Incoming tides bring in cooler ocean water, more bait fish and, ultimately, more salmon.

There is usually a good bite during the first hour after the high slack tide as the tide starts running back out.

3) Pay attention to the tides 2.0. The change from high slack tide to an ebbing tide, while good for fishing, also can be a dangerous time for boaters, especially on a large tidal exchange. If the west wind is blowing, the Buoy 10 area gets very rough during the ebb tide especially in the shipping channel below the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

If you have a smaller boat, this is a good time to stick close to the area where you launched your boat in case you decide to call it a day. 

For safety reasons, avoid Clatsop Spit and the Astoria shipping channel during the tide runout.

Wear a life jacket. Each year anglers fall overboard while fishing Buoy 10, where the cold water can shock the body and make it hard to get back into the boat. 

4) Pay attention to the tides 3.0.  Large tidal exchanges make for tougher fishing conditions. The current moves faster so you need more lead to fish close to the bottom, weeds can be a problem, and it's usually rougher. Softer tides are easier to fish, and many anglers prefer them, especially for Chinook.

5) Fish where the fish are. That means fishing with your bait/lure suspended in the water column during the incoming tide, and on the bottom during the outgoing tide. Fishing different depths during the incoming tide will help you locate which depth is most productive. If you find a depth that is working, stick with it until it doesn’t work anymore.

During late August and September fish abundance increases and the tides become less critical, but the general guideline still works well – fish suspended on the incoming and on the bottom during the outgoing tide.

6) Carry both bait and hardware. Some days the fish prefer bait and the next day they key in on hardware. A mix of different baits and lures in your spread will help you find what the fish are biting.

7) Familiarize yourself with charts of the fishing area and use a fish/depth finder for success and safety. There are dangerous shoals in the Buoy 10 fishing area you should know about before you get there. A depth finder will help you avoid running aground on shallow shoals and shelves once you’re on the water.

A fish finder also will help you “see” how deep fish are suspended in the water column. And where you should be fishing.

8) To catch more fish, spend more time on the water. This may seem obvious but planning a “quick trip” to the Buoy 10 fishery won’t necessarily set you up for success. You will learn more if you plan on staying for a multi-day trip than a single day trip.

9) Consider hiring a guide. The two best times to hire a guide to fish Buoy 10 are:

  • If you don’t have a boat or salmon fishing gear, or a friend who does, a guided trip is about the only way to experience this popular fishery.
  • After a day or two without success, a professional guide can show you their keys to success. Anglers with some experience under their belt will often benefit the most from a day of fishing with a guide.  Even the most experienced anglers can benefit from hiring a guide, as these professionals are constantly changing their tactics to find out what is working best on a particular day. They also tend to communicate with one another to stay in the know.

10) Look up pro tips on the internet.  You'll find a plethora of tips and techniques from local experts who fish Buoy 10 regularly -- everything from how to rig baits, flashers and hardware; to when, where and how deep to find fish depending on the tide. 

You can get similar information from local tackle shops, but the internet holds a wealth of videos, podcasts blogs and tv clips from anglers who have participated in this fishery for decades.

Check the latest regulation updates before you go. 

Fisheries can open and close on short notice. Columbia River fisheries are managed on strict harvest guidelines to protect several populations of salmon and steelhead listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. For updated fishing reports and current regulations, visit the Columbia Zone of the weekly Recreation Report.

Header image by Bill Monroe

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