For many of us spring means a number of things associated
with the usually nicer weather. For some it's the opportunity to
do yard work that has been on the back burner for months for some
it's time for baseball and the starting of many outdoor activities.
For others it means fresh Spring Chinook are on their way up the
Columbia River in earnest and it's time to go fishing.
One of the best places in Washington to fish these
fabulous hard fighting, great tasting Chinook is Drano Lake which
is a few miles above Bonneville Dam on the mighty Columbia River.
One of the things that make Drano Lake a great place to fish is
it easily accessible for just about every type of boat you can drag
out there. A word of caution to those using small car toppers is
that Drano is located in the Columbia River Gorge which is known
for its strong winds that can turn a mirror like lake into a white
capping mess in a matter of a few minutes.
The size of these Drano Lake Spring Chinook average
around 12 pounds with many going well over 20 and a few although
rare hitting that 30 pound trophy mark.
Here's some tips on when and how to put a nice Drano
Lake Spring Chinook or two on your Barbecue.
Drano Lake Spring Chinook fishing is generally in
full swing by the middle part of April but every year is a little
different as the run seems to be getting a little later every season.
So how does one determine when to go? Look for the
amount of Chinook going over Bonneville
dam to be at one thousand fish a day for 5 days in a row if
you see those numbers, get going! You can catch fish in the lake
before the numbers over the dam reach the magic thousand mark but
those numbers are a pretty good judge of how the fishing is going
to be. We start fishing when numbers are in the hundreds a day and
fishing can be very good at times.
What to use to get these fish to bite is pretty straight
forward. Since Drano Lake is pretty uniform in depth, at about 25
foot give or take a foot or two, trolling is the best method for
taking the Springer's here at this time. Trolling up and down the
lake until you find areas were the fish are that day is the way
to go. Just start trolling as soon as you leave the dock and watch
the pattern the others are doing and you're good to go.
Since we are going to be trolling, rods we want to
use should be capable of trolling up to 4 ounces of weight and have
reels that carry at least 140 yards of 20 pound test.
Early in the season I really like to troll herring
above any other method. Spring Chinook can be very picky eaters
so make sure your herring is good and fresh. Green labeled herring
seems to be the best size and accounts for more fish than any other
size of herring at Drano. I like to brine my herring before I fish
them and the Salmon
University Herring Brine recipe works extremely well for these
Here is the basic set up I use for trolling herring
at Drano. I use 20 pound main line and I always like a sliding weight
system for this way of fishing. So I slide a slider onto the main
line, add a bead then tie a good quality bead chain swivel. I then
attach my leader which is 6 foot long to the bead chain swivel.
From the slider itself I attach a 2 foot piece of Mono with a swivel
to attach my weight to.
As for hooks I use a good quality 4/0, 3/0 combo.
Add my plug cut herring and I'm fishing. I rig my herring just like
For many simply dropping their offering out a few
pulls and sticking it into the rod holder and trolling away is the
way they get fish. I like more of a hand on approach and like holding
the rod when fishing herring. So we will drop our offering until
it ticks bottom reel up a few cranks, troll for a little bit and
repeat the process over and over again always working my baits up
and down from right on bottom to as much as 10 foot off the bottom.
Often times when these fish bite they will not take it hard at all
and when you have the rod in your hand you want to set the hook,
DON'T! You want these fish eat it. Let them try to rip the rod out
of your hand. I know it's hard to do but you'll put a lot more fish
in the boat this way. Getting to anxious and setting the hook to
early will lead to many lost fish. Patience pays off big when the
Many do not use bait at all instead they use plugs.
There are a wide variety of plugs you can use but there are two
that account for more Chinook here than any others.
The first is a Magnum Wiggle Wart not just any color
although many colors will catch you fish. The most common and widely
used color is bright orange. It is by far the most productive and
fished color there is on the lake. I don't know why but these fish
in this lake love these orange plugs. The way we troll these is
probably the easiest and user friendly method there is. The same
rods you would use to fish herring will work just fine for fishing
these plugs. Twenty pound mono for your main line is perfect for
attaching your plug snap. Attach your plug, let out roughly 50 foot
of line and set your rod in the holder and troll away. These plugs
will dive to about 13 foot and can be a hassle free productive way
to fish the lake.
The Second plug that has been out fishing others is
the new Wordens M2 SP Flatfish fished in the same manner as you
would the Wiggle Wart. The
two differences between M2 Flatfish and the Wiggle Warts would be
you can wrap the M2 plugs with sardines to help give the plug added
scent without affecting the action and for some reason Orange doesn't
seem to be the best color when using these plugs. With the M2 Flatfish
greens seem to be best for me. Plugs with Chartreuse on them or
colors like Wordens Fickle Pickle or the Metallic Chartreuse Lime
are top producers. These plugs are relatively new to this fishery
so trying various colors may work for you. I like limes and chartreuses
as they have put a lot of fish in the boat from this area. And always
seem to be colors an angler can have confidence in when fishing
These M2 dive to about 17 foot, a little deeper than
the Wiggle Warts and can be just the ticket when the fish are a
little deeper during the course of a day.
Don't forget you can use scents on these plugs and
I wouldn't think about throwing them out with out using my favorite
The last and over the past few years one of the top
three tactics for catching Drano Lake Springer's has been trolling
the brightly dyed cured prawns with spinners. This method is fished
basically the same as you would the herring. Prawns have gotten
a lot of attention lately from Springer fisherman from Washington
and Oregon and its well deserved. Many tackle Shops now sell these
prawns already cured and dyed for you. Remember when buying your
bait fresh is always best. The Spinner rigs are also sold at the
same stores you get your prawns. Blade colors for your spinners
vary widely with silver and gold blades tipped with chartreuse,
blue, green or pink being top colors.
Drano Lake is a busy fishery that can at times be
the best Spring Chinook fishing Washington has to offer. When you
go be open minded, have fresh bait and be prepared with the 3 basic
methods we've discussed and you'll come home with a fish or two.
For more information on the great fishery or to book a trip with
Phil, you may email
him or vist his website