A huge basaltic monolith
They are a common natural feature along the river. They are the remnants of volcanic eruptions long ago.
Man-made dams are a common feature along the river
They generate electricity for parts of the Pacific Northwest.
This is the famous Bonneville Dam
On my drive back to Portland that evening, I had hoped to stop by for a look. Unfortunately, by 5:00 PM, most of the facility was closed for security reasons. This is a view looking east with Oregon on the right and Washington on the left.
North side of the Columbia – the Washington side
It looked more like the Sahara Desert side of the Nile than the Pacific Northwest.
Another big barge on the Columbia
We saw several of them during our day of fishing. This one is being pushed along by a tugboat.
One of the huge barges that operate on the Columbia
They are often longer than a city block.
Trolling for Walleye on a very windy and choppy Columbia River
It is a huge river - more than twice as wide as the Sacramento River and three times as long.
A near catastrophe at Biggs
My guide was having trouble with his boat’s motor. Fortunately, he eventually got the thing going.
Enroute east on Highway 84 at 1st light of day
I was on my way to meet my guide for the day at the town of Biggs – a town on the shoreline of the Columbia River.
Day #2 - Fishing the Columbia River with a Guide near Biggs
I was up at 4 AM after a good night of sleep, mostly due to the drowsy effect of my cold medicine. My head cold was reaching the height of its intensity with many bloody discharges from my sinuses. Further, I began to realize that I was losing a lot of my hearing from the congestion. I left the motel in the dark at 5 AM for a long 85-mile (2 hour) drive east on Highway 84, mostly along the shoreline of the Columbia River. It was dark about half of the way and I saw the 1st light of day at around the town of Bonneville at around 6 AM.
At approximately 6:45 AM, I passed the town called The Dalles (Pop. 11,000). It was now a bright sunny morning in northern Oregon and Highway 84 was a good, well-signed roadway.
At 7 AM and right on time, I reached the small community called Biggs. It was more of a rest-stop area along Highway 84 than a town. It had one main street with one bar, one restaurant, and a couple of gas stations. I spotted my guide's maroon boat parked at the restaurant, so I went inside to look for him. He was just finishing his breakfast and coffee. He had some bad news - his Yamaha outboard was giving him some trouble and he needed to do some "handy-man-type" maintenance on it before we could head out for fishing. It turned out to be a very delicate repair job involving a broken hair-like cable inside the motor. It was almost 8 AM by the time he had the job done.
Fishing the Columbia River for Walleye
We launched the boat just a few blocks east of Biggs, and headed back west toward a small dam called the Dalles Dam. Although we were going downstream with the current, the wind was blowing very hard now and the boat ride was the roughest I've ever been on anywhere. The worst part was the trough of the waves. We would rise to the peak of each wave and then come crashing down into the valley of the next wave. Hitting the "floor" of each wave was unbelievably violent. I tried to absorb the shock on my bad back by bouncing at my knees. I signed up for this fishing experience, but right now the pain is making me wish I hadn’t.
By 8:30 AM, we were slowly trolling with 2 lines off the back of the boat. I had to rate the last-minute motor repair job as Snafu #8 and then the very strong gusty wind as Snafu #9. Either one of them could have wrecked the fishing trip. We trolled along a short section of the Columbia for the next 6.5 hours (8:30 AM - 3 PM). We covered approximately 16 miles of river - from the boat ramp and back, but the actual trolling area was much shorter. The wind never let-up; in fact it actually got stronger as we fished into the afternoon.
Walleye are strictly a bottom fish and our hooks and bait had to be right at the bottom to catch fish. To do this type of trolling and minimize bottom snag-offs, a wire-like setup is used that involves a spinner-blade and bead to help attract the fish, a leader with two #3 hooks attached, and a "suspended" weight that is supposed to hold the hooks approx. 10"- 12" off the bottom. A night crawler is threaded on each of the hooks. It is a very cumbersome looking affair, but apparently it does the job. The leader must be fine wire because the Walleye has very large teeth that will quickly cut through any type of mono-line. The Guide referred to the rig as a type of "bottom-jigger" and in our 6.5 hours of fishing we only snagged off one setup.
For 3 long hours (8:30 - 11:30 AM) we trolled without a nibble; then at 11:30 AM, the guide got a great bite. In this type of fishing, the fish will often hook itself, but you never know for sure so you should add a "quick-set" to be sure the fish is on. I played the fish to the boat and the guide netted it. It was a 21" (3.5 lbs) Walleye - a real beauty.
While we fished, the guide told me the history of the Walleye in the Columbia River. They were transplanted here from Minnesota and Canada approximately 100 years ago. They were originally placed in the State of Washington but over the years have spread down into Oregon. They are a well-established game fish now and very popular with many fishermen. They have also become a tourist attraction because Columbia River Walleyes often grow larger than those in places like Minnesota or Wisconsin.
In over 30 years of fishing the Columbia, the guide's biggest Walleye was a whopper at 19 lbs. I asked him how many Green Sturgeon he had caught in that time and he said only 3 - they are definitely a "rare" catch. Unfortunately, over the years as the Walleye has flourished, the Salmon and Steelhead have declined. Some are trying to blame the Walleye for this situation as they feed on small Salmon migrating to the ocean. However, there are many other reasons for the decline of Salmon and Steelhead.
At 3 PM, we pulled in our lines and headed back for the boat-ramp. We were traveling with the wind behind us now but the violence of falling from the peak of one wave to floor of the next was still there. It was by far the most violent treatment my back has had since my near-fatal auto accident 7 yrs ago. I was wondering at the time if I would be able to get out of bed the next morning. However, to my surprise there were no ill effects at all.
We were back at the boat-ramp at 3:30PM and it was only then that I realized just how hard the wind was really blowing. I had to crouch down and creep along the long narrow pier back to land to keep from being blown off into the water. We were very lucky to have gotten this fishing trip done at all and especially fortunate to have caught fish.
By 4 PM, I had gotten all my photos and the guide had cleaned the fish. We said goodbye, and I was off in my Hyundai for the 85-mile drive back to Portland. The evening drive along the Columbia River was very nice. I got to see many things I had missed in the morning darkness. I was afraid I might have some driver fatigue on this long drive after several hours in the sun and wind, but I never had it.
At 5 PM, I was back at the halfway point at Bonneville. I stopped to take a look at the famous dam but for security reasons the only way to see it is by escorted tour and I was too late for that.
Next, I passed the famous Multnomah Falls. I had planned to stop for a photo but it was getting late so I decided to put that off until the next day. At 6 PM, I was back in Portland and there was the inevitable stop for a "Jumbo" Mc-Flurry.
At 6:30 PM, I was back at my Motel 6 with my McFlurry. It had been a very long day and I was pooped. Needless to say, all this was worsened by the miseries of my head cold. Actually, the fishing experience had been so intense that I had almost forgotten about my cold. Another thing that was helping me with the misery of the cold was double—dosing with Ascriptin. It had helped to lessen the aches and misery. However, I was running short now and had to stop at the Safeway for another bottle of the stuff.
Back at the Hotel there was my usual routine (cleanup, shower, dinner, and then prep for another day of fishing).
I got to bed that night at about 1 AM and fell right to sleep. The drowsy cold medicine helped me drift right off to dreamland.
Summary: This had been by far the best day of my trip to Oregon. It had been long and tiring and the violent wind made everything worse. Despite this, I had caught 3 very nice Walleyes (one 4-lb 22" beauty), and played 3 more of the guide's fish to the boat. I had driven the 85-mile drive along the Columbia River in both early-morning and late-evening light, and I had gotten at least a "drive-by" look at The Dalles and Bonneville Dam. It was a great day of travel.
My best Walleye of the day - 22” (4-lbs) (above and below)
We fished that very windy day on the Columbia River for 7 ½ long hours. We fished with a special wire set-up that was designed to keep our “crawler” bait close to the bottom with minimal snag-offs.
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