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Tommy Allen record walleye
by Tommy Allen, click here for bio

Program: Sportsman's Spotlight
Date: February 23, 2017

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Spring walleye season is here according to Mark, sales associate in the fishing department at Sportsman’s Warehouse. Summer on the eastern stretches of the Columbia River can be scorching. Temperatures rarely cool below 70 degrees at night, and sun-scorched daytime highs can hit triple digits, leaving you as red as a Lund boat by day’s end. Ordinarily, this kind of heat can be miserable, but for walleye anglers, hot days are as welcome as a big fish in the boat. Warming water temperatures translate into active spinyrays. On the Columbia, it’s the time to catch a lot of walleyes.

One of the best places for marble eyes on the Columbia is directly below McNary Dam. This is hallowed bugeye water. Washington’s record walleye was caught here, and it’s where anglers catch 15-pounders every year. Highway 82 crosses the river here; looking south toward Oregon from the bridge, the dam is to your left and the best water is immediately to your right.

You’ll find boat ramps just over the bridge on the Oregon side at Umatilla and Irrigon. From Irrigon it’s a short run up the Oregon side to a long, flat shelf at river mile markers 62 and 64. This shelf has probably produced more big fish than any other part of the river. To fish it, stay between the markers and on top of the shelf. Work it by jigging a blade bait or a roundhead jig with a nose-hooked night crawler. You can also troll it upstream with crankbaits, or troll downstream with bottom walkers and worm harnesses. Locals fish a glow/chartreuse roundhead jig with a nose-hooked ‘crawler, then above that run a worm harness and a whole ‘crawler off a three-way swivel.

If there’s significant current from McNary, the walleye will flare to the sides of the river, get behind structure and settle on the inside of current seams. In mild current they congregate atop mid-river shelves.

Across from the Irrigon ramp is Boulder Alley. This water can be tough to fish because of a rock-strewn, tackle-grabbing bottom, but lots of big walleyes live down in the rock humps. Here again, pay attention to current. Kimo Gabriel, the Washington state walleye record holder, pointed out to me, you can be in Boulder Alley and not hit a fish all day, while only a boat length away you can pound them all day. The keys here are to find the inside current seams and pay attention to electronics. Summer walleyes will stay just inside a current break and at one depth contour.

For information about this area, call Rod McKenzie at the High Desert Marine in Umatilla, (541) 567-8419.

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