Fish to Catch on a Columbia River Fishing Charter

One of the ultimate fishing spots any angler would want to visit is the Columbia River. It’s a fantastic body of water with a ton of fishing opportunities all year long. Whether you fish from the banks or on a boat with a fishing charter, you will enjoy the peace and natural beauty the area has to offer.

Before you head to the Columbia River, you must prepare! Not only should you have your fishing gear and a plan ready, but you also need to know what to expect and what fish you can catch. Even if you plan on joining a charter, it’s best to know what fish to catch on a Columbia River fishing charter. That way, you can ask the captain about the possibility of catching your target species. 

Read on as we share the list of fish to catch on a Columbia River fishing charter!


Fish to Catch on a Columbia River Fishing Charter

If you aren’t familiar with the Columbia River yet, this is the biggest river in the American West, which is why you can expect a ton of awesome fishing action and opportunities! 

The quarry includes a ton of native species, having the largest run of king salmon (chinook salmon), coho salmon, white sturgeon, and more.

The river has more than the usual native fish species, such as walleye, smallmouth bass, and American shad, among others.

While you can go fishing yourself, it’s best to join a fishing charter. After all, the Columbia River is a huge body of water, and you’ll want someone to help navigate the waters with you and know where to go based on the fish you’d like to catch. Moreover, they can share tips and techniques on how to catch the fish you can find in the Columbia River! 

Without further ado, let’s delve deeper into what fish to catch on a Columbia River fishing charter.


Chinook Salmon

Spring chinook is known as one of the most prized species among the salmon species. Even if they tend to run a bit smaller compared to smaller and fall runs, Chinook has the most delicious meats. In fact, they are said to be comparable to Copper River runs in Alaska in terms of flavor.


Coho Salmon

Coho salmon runs would overlap with the fall Chinook run on the Columbia River. You will want to target these species come summer to fall, particularly the second half of August. 

You will also want to catch coho salmon in September, right before fall rains would draw them upriver. Moreover, September is less busy than August.


Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye is the smallest species among the Pacific salmon family running into the Columbia River. You can expect a lot of excellent sockeye salmon runs and while they aren’t the most popular species, they are worth catching.


Chum Salmon

This salmon species has a greenish hue, heading to the Columbia River in modest numbers. They would also spawn in low-gradient tributary streams in the lower Columbia River. You can also find them in the main river right below the Bonneville Dam.



Also known as rainbow trout, these are big fish that arrive in two major runs. However, you can also find them in the river all year long.

Most of the Columbia River, whether you’re in Oregon or Washington, would run too warm come summer for good trout fishing opportunities.

That said, you can still find huge native and planted rainbow trout. You can find them in Rufus Woods Lake and Lake Roosevelt, to be more specific. You can also try the lower Deschutes River or the upper Yakima River. 



When you spot a giant sturgeon while fishing, the first thing in mind is: Oh my gosh, it’s a great white shark! However, this is a grand sturgeon, which you can identify with its round, rubbery mouth.

The Columbia River is home to some of the biggest sturgeon around, which is the white sturgeon. Note that this species is catch-and-release!


Northern Pikeminnow

You might have wanted to skip this because this species isn’t the best sports fish or table fare. But they are fun and easy to catch, making them great for beginners.



Smallmouth and largemouth bass are non-native species you can find in the Columbia River.

You can find a ton of these species, particularly the smallmouth bass. There are a lot of tournaments happening related to the species, and you can usually find 5-pound smallmouth.

As for largemouth bass, these are bigger fish but with a smaller presence compared to smallmouth. That said, it’s still possible to catch them, particularly in backwater coves and sloughs.



Crappie is a favorite among warmwater anglers as they are aggressive biters. They aren’t the strongest fighters, but it will be a fun battle when using light tackle Moreover, they will travel in schools, so expect to catch crappie in great numbers.



While a non-native species, the Columbia River is considered to have some of the best walleye fisheries today. This species isn’t as easy to catch compared to smallmouth, but the added challenge makes them enjoyable to target, especially with their delicious meat. 


River Shad

Shad is an East Coast native and is the largest fish in the herring family. While they only weigh a few pounds, they put up a fun fight after hooking them! You can find river shad by the millions come late spring to early summer, so they are worth catching!


Wrapping It Up

When it comes to fishing in the Columbia River, you can expect dozens of species to catch, depending on the time of year. Either way, you’ll surely have an enjoyable time, especially when on a fishing charter where you can learn a lot from the captain and crew!

We hope that our list of fish to catch on a Columbia River fishing charter helped you out. Make sure you contact us for fishing charter services!

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