At this time there will be some Smallmouth on beds on the Columbia. Water temps vary quite a bit from mainstem to the farthest reaches of sloughs. Particularly when the run off has yet to kick in and the river is not stirred up yet. Long Lake below Potholes should be turning on now. We caught some good Largemouth already and the like warmer water than Smallmouth
My log says we found plenty of Smallmouth on beds 4/15. They were in deeper water than they will be later. By no means not so deep you can't fish them with the fly or see them. My thinking is they build beds deeper early because the chilly nights doesn't effect the water temps at 10' deep like it might at 2 or 3'. Some of the sloughs have essentially zero water exchange with the main channel once you get way back in them so they can be much warmer.
If you find fish on beds in shallow water, they often will take poppers. In order for this to happen, water clarity needs to be good enough to see them, and water temps need to be high enough to get the fish on the spawn (60 plus degrees typically - but like Suckegg said, on the Columbia the sloughs can be much warmer than the mainstem, and clarity throughout is normally good). Spring waters on the Yakima are much dirtier than the Columbia (like 12"-24"), so we don't sight fish very often. We fish a lot of sink tips with Crawdad/ Smolt patterns near the bottom.
I'm honestly not trying to stir up anything, but I'm intrigued by the comments about fishing for bass on their beds.
Most of my smallmouth fishing was done in Virginia, and well over ten years ago, but me and my fishing friends never targeted fish on their beds. Maybe the Columbia-Yakima populations are healthier than what we had on the New, James and tribs, and I do know in some quarters of Washington that warmwater fish of any kind are considered to be bad news. But aren't you pretty much wiping out an entire batch of eggs if you take a fish in that situation - unless you practice strict catch and release?
I'm just plain curious.
For what it's worth, we talked to a pair of guys one day that had a cooler full of smallmouth, none of them less that four pounds. They were gear fishermen, targeting bedding fish, and using soft plastic lures that looked like salamanders (actually newts, native to those waters.) Obviously, they didn't know about our inclination to leave sitting bass alone. Anyway, the bass just hated those salamanders, and these guys described the fish as actually picking up the salamander imitations to carry them away. Don't know if there's anything like that in the Columbia drainage, but I'm guessing that something tied up to suggest a salamander would trigger a protective strike in any bass sitting on a bed. Probably an olive or tan woolly bugger would do the trick...
Almost any soft plastic lures you drop on to, or swim over the bed, will be picked up and moved away by the fish. I prefer to use a motor oil colored grub with a 3/8 oz jighead when gear fishing. I like the jighead that holds the lure up off of the bottom at an angle.
Same thing works for flies, but it is much harder to make it "puff" a small amount of dirt on the bottom without a big beadhead or conehead. Jiggling the rod while the fly makes a small disturbance on the bottom is really key sometimes though.
When I was a kid this was the time of the year that everyone slaughtered bass. It was completely acceptable to target bass on their beds. We never kept the bass on the beds, but we did catch the shit out of them.
WA Department of Health (D.O.H.) recommends eating no more than 6 oz of bass per month due to mercury contamination.
My take: If they suggest JUST 6oz.... I think I'll pass all together Thank You.
On top of that. Last fall it was a reported significant drop was measured in that ol' DDT in the Columbia fish. But..... they found a whole new class of contaminates. Personal care products and pharmaseuticals!
Then if you look back historically we had aluminum smelters dumping waste into the river.
Up in BC they still release terrible stuff into the river. Most of the basins ag waste water goes back into the Columbia also.
While the water may be surprizingly clear it's decieving. I see a minority of gear guys keep fish. The local hispanic population appears to keep them all. They also target carp for eating purposes.
I'm all for catch and release even though the bass eat plenty of smolts. I have never kept even a single fish from the Columbia. Having said that I would like to have kept some of the beautiful steelhead that were incidental catches over the years. The problem is there is no steelhead season on the stretch I usually fish. Had I caught the same fish 20 miles upstream or 20 downstream I could have kept some.
Given the size of the Columbia and the extent of the basses range I doubt they are in risk of dissappearing. Widespread targeting for retention could put a dent in the populations in some areas though given the concentrations of fish in the prime spawning grounds.
Smallies are great fighters I to would like to know how to catch the buggers, for alternative reasons though.
There should a no limit kill on those pests, non native bass are huge predators and survive partly by eating salmon and steelhead fry, some say they eat as much or even more than the dams kill.
Look at some of the regulations for the Snake and Columbia, there is a higher fishing kill limit on native trout than Walley and Bass in areas, WDFW out of touch again. If you guys know were to slay them you would be doing the native species a favor in killing them all...if you don't eat them do as the native americans did and use as fertalizer, now I am not saying to break the law by taking more than your limit but just think how many steelhead would be saved by taking what you can.
That could be blast, stripping big ass fry paterns from a jet boat with sink lines drifting over flats, do the drag back aproach and hang on, damn I am going as soon as the steelhead season stops! Did I hear someone say you just had to get 10ft deep no problem. I have a jet sled anyone know where to go!
Do you suppose that a 6oz. lmit on eating steelhead would shut down the comercial side of that fishery?
Man.....in a few years it looks like all the swinging water and bass water will be crowded in the state of WA with professional fishermen and guides. I guess I won't be sharing any spots on bass fishing over the web.