Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Washington Outdoors Report

Columbia River Gorge Bass and Pikeminnow


When it comes to fishing, most folks do it for fun, some for competition, and others for money. All three of these motivations were at play in May in the Columbia River Gorge. THE COMPETITORS From May 13th through the 20th anglers from the Wild West Bass Trail and Apex Pro Tour fished two multi-day tournaments on the Columbia River between Arlington and The Dalles. The first stage of the event found 40 Apex Pro Tour anglers fishing out of Arlington for both largemouth and smallmouth bass.

That group was whittled down to 10 anglers who fished the rest of the week in a tournament called the Spartan 580. These anglers reported catching 60 to 100 smallmouth bass a day on the Columbia River in the Dalles and Bonneville pools of the river near The Dalles. The eventual winner of this event was Luke Johns, a 22-year-old angler from Folsom, California who brought in a five-fish limit of smallmouth for the final day of the Spartan 580 that weighed over 18 pounds.

The Wild West Bass Trail was established in 2015 and the Apex Pro Tour, an invitation only affair, started last year. With only a minimal presence from B.A.S.S. and Major League Fishing in the Western U.S., the Wild West Bass Trail is working to establish themselves as the premiere, top-tier bass angling tournament circuit on the west coast. As for the Columbia River? The visiting anglers were impressed and many of them talked about what a world-class fishery this is. You can find out more about this tournament circuit here.


The Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery Program is designed to manage the numbers of native pikeminnow in the Northwest. The fish feed heavily on migrating salmon and steelhead smolt. Removing a certain percentage of these fish from the Columbia and Snake Rivers means more smolt survive their journey downstream to the ocean. Anglers are paid for each pikeminnow, nine-inches or longer, that is turned into a manned registration station. This year anglers are getting a significant raise. The first 25 fish turned in are worth $6 each.

After that pikeminnow are worth $8 each (previously the top rate) until you catch 200. Any fish caught after that during the pikeminnow season, which runs from May 1st through September 30th, are worth $10 each. In addition to this, tagged pikeminnow are worth $500 each. I spent the morning of May 20th fishing for pikeminnow below The Dalles Dam near Dallesport and came across Steven Bennett.

Steven is a retiree from Longview who has fished for pikeminnow the last few years for both fun and money. He told me in 2019 he made $10,000 and last year, which was a slow year for everyone, he only made $8,000. Bennett told me things had been going well for him near The Dalles this year though. Bennett arrived in the area on May 1st and had been fishing for pikeminnow a few hours each day since then. I asked him how many Pikeminnow he had turned in so far. Bennett replied he had turned in 700 fish, and that morning while I was fishing with him, he caught another ten. Doing the math, I realized Bennett had made over $6500 in 20 days of fishing.

This is all the more remarkable because Bennett does all of his fishing from shore. Most serious pikeminnow anglers who fish for money do so from a boat but Bennett showed me you can do quite well fishing from the bank. As for how he caught them?

Bennett was kind enough to show me his set up, a sliding twoounce sinker and corky placed above a swivel. He then has about three feet of leader tied from the swivel to the hook. His bait of choice, Mormon crickets but when they are not available, he uses nightcrawlers. Bennett casts far, lets the rig sink to the bottom, and lets it sit there until he gets a bite from a pikeminnow which on average, measures 10 to 12 inches long. If you want to find out more about catching pikeminnow and making money in the process, go here.

FISHING FOR FUN: My pikeminnow fishing didn’t go as well as Steve’s, simply because I didn’t have the same setup he did. However, I sure did have fun catching multiple smallmouth bass weighing up to two pounds from shore, something several anglers were also doing along the shore in The Dalles Marina across the river. On top of this I was lucky enough to spend a morning in a boat with Wild West Bass Trail angler Bo Fletcher. The fishing wasn’t fast and furious, but we did catch some 15 to 20 bass in three hours, many of them weighing between one and two pounds.

Whether you take them home to eat (there are no limits for smallmouth bass) or release them to grow bigger like Bo and I did, the prolific numbers of smallmouth bass in the Columbia make for a fun day of fishing! If you are looking for more information about fishing or places to stay in the Columbia River Gorge, check out

John Kruse – and

The Washington Outdoors Report, Columbia River, Gorge Bass and Pikeminnow


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