HOW TO PLUNK FOR SNAKE AND COLUMBIA RIVER SPRING CHINOOK:
The Snake and Columbia River Spring Chinook fisheries are challenging for several reasons:
1. Spring runoff
The rivers have a faster than normal current due to the large volume of water being discharged from the dams.
2. Turbid water conditions
At times, the water can be quite dirty.
3. Low light conditions
Daily fishing begins one hour before sunrise and ends one hour after sunset.
4. Sharp lava rocks on the shoreline
You must use a heavy leader to avoid breaking the fish off. This is not a problem since Spring Chinook are usually not leader shy.
At times, the number of lines in the water is staggering.
1. 25-30# mainline terminating in a #4 Duolock Snap. I use P-Line 25# CXXFGB which is stretchy, abrasion resistant, tough, easy to cast and is fluorescent green, a great help locating your line among the many other lines.
2. An 8-10# breakaway leader from the Duolock Snap to an 8-10 oz claw weight.
3. Use a 6-10” spreader to separate the leader from the claw weight.
4. Attach the lure leader to the end of the long arm of the spreader.
5. The leader should be 30-40#, 30-36” in length, with a 100# crane swivel on the spreader end and a Duolock Snap on the lure end. My plunking lures are made with P-Line CXX 40# Crystal Clear leader.
Floating Plunking Lures
One of the most popular plunking lures has two ¾” Lil’ Corkys®, two single hooks and a fresh shrimp.
Most plunker fishermen use components similar to these:
1. A 30-40# fluorocarbon leader 30-36”long, with a 100# crane swivel on the spreader end.
2. Two (or three depending on the current), ¾” nickel plated or luminescent Lil’ Corkys® or a large Spin-n-Glo® from Yakima Bait, for maximum visibility and flotation.
3. Two 3/0 Gamakatsu Big River, bait hooks, tied with the lower hook slightly below the upper hook and facing in the opposite direction from the upper hook. Note that the upper hook is tied with an egg loop knot.
1. Prepare the shrimp by packing them in non-iodized sea salt. The sea salt firms the shrimp and provides a familiar burst of saltiness when the fish bites it.
Use natural sea salt. Sea salt is produced from evaporated sea water. Do not use rock salt as it is mined and contains contaminants such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, various sulfates and organic matter.
2. Refrigerate and allow to drain in a perforated container until they become firm.
3. Vacuum seal and freeze into small, daily use packages.
Alternative: I recommend Northwest Best Bait’s prepared shrimp.
How to Attach the Shrimp to the Lure
1. Insert the upper hook into the body of the shrimp at the bend.
2. Wrap the shrimp with Miracle Thread® until you reach the end of the lower hook shank.
3. Be sure the lower hook is positioned in the opposite direction of the upper hook.
4. Continue wrapping until you have wrapped the carapace solidly. If you don’t do this, the carapace may separate from the body and create an unnatural turbulence in the water.
5. Finally, use your favorite gel or dipping scent.
This offset hook configuration results in hookups with both hooks in the fish an amazing 75-80% of the time!
Bait Fillet Preparation
1. Pack sardine, anchovy, herring, or tuna belly fillets in non-iodized sea salt to make them firm.
2. Cut the salted fillets into strips about ¾” wide tapering to point about 2” long.
How to Attachment the Bait Fillet to the Lure
1. Wrap the entire strip with miracle thread.
2. Run the single or treble hook through thickest end of the strip.
3. Finally, use your favorite gel or dipping scent.
General Tips for Plunking
1. In fishing, as in life, there are things you can control, and things you can’t. Make the effort to control the things you can control, like regularly washing your hands in unscented soap or lemon Joy. Your choice of pole, reel, line, weight size and style, leader, lure, bait, scent, your lure presentation, depth, hook sharpness, etc., will determine if you are a successful fisherman.
2. Because of the strong current, the location of your lure can be confusing. Always take up the slack in your line, until you are tight to your sinker. If you don’t do this, setting the hook is next to impossible. Plus, by the time you have reeled up the slack, the fish (if it’s still hooked), has probably crossed several fishing lines. Incidentally, using a sinker which is lighter, or of a different type than those used by the fishermen around you, will be sure to make yourself very unpopular.
3. Since you are required to use barbless hooks on the Snake River (optional on the Columbia), it’s very important to keep the line tight at all times when fighting your fish.
4. Do not set the hook violently. If you are using sharp hooks, they will set themselves. Violent setting of the hook merely enlarges the hole the hook has made in the fish. Just tighten the line, and let the fish do the setting. If you feel you have to jerk your pole because your hooks are not sharp, see tip #1.
Follow the four tips outlined above and you will be a successful Snake and Columbia River Spring Chinook plunker like these guys!