ASTORIA — It begins near Buoy 10 south of Cape Disappointment and extends to Tongue Point south of Astoria.
The waters of Buoy 10 — essentially the enormous lake-like Columbia River estuary — remain famous as one of the biggest attractions in sports fishing.
The length of the season, the behavior of the fish and geographical location of the Columbia River all contribute to what many consider some of the best salmon fishing in the world. The fishery attracts thousands each year and brings big business to local merchants on both side of the Columbia.
In this feature, we take a look at some of the individuals and small businesses that rely on Buoy 10 for a big shot of income and excitement before rainy weather sets in.
Tackle Time Bait and Charters
Gene and Linda Kane, owners 530 E. Harbor Street, Warrenton, OR 503-861 3693 • www.tackletime.net
Since starting their business in 1983, Gene and Linda Kane have become accustomed to the rush that the Buoy 10 fishery brings. During a busy afternoon, more than 1,000 pounds of anchovies and herring can be sold from the Warrenton-based business. The days are long and the season is short.
“I’m here at 2 every morning,” Gene said.
“And I’m here until about 5 every night seven days a week for about four months.” The herring and anchovies are picked up in Westport and distributed by drivers as they head south with stops in Tokeland, Raymond, South Bend, Seaview, Ilwaco, Chinook, Astoria, Warrenton, Hammond, Seaside and Gearhart.
“It’s one of those deals that, if you’re not a fishermen, you would never hold up to it because a good fishermen has the adage that when the fish are there you have to fish,” Gene said.
“It’s like milking cows. When the cows are ready you have to milk them.”
‘World-class fishery’ Unique location and geography make Columbia unlike any other
Gene Kane has fished on famous salmon rivers all over the world, including the Kenai in Alaska, but he feels few can match what the Columbia offers
“We have a world-class salmon fishery. There’s nowhere like it anywhere. I’ve fished all of it. They have nothing compared to here because it’s so long,” he said. The central location of the Columbia is unique is unique for passing salmon.
“Most of the Puget Sound, Sacramento and Rogue River fish come by here — everything up and down the Northwest Coast. If they come by the Columbia River they stop for two or three weeks to feed. We fish on everybody’s fish here. That’s the difference between here and any other port on the West Coast. These are feeding fish, not traveling fish,” Kane said. Underwater geography also plays a role.
“We have the Astoria Canyon 20 miles offshore. It’s 6,000 feet deep and upwells nutrients right around the mouth of the Columbia. Any fish that’s coming by stops because it’s what the herring and candlefish feed on. The fish stop here and bulk up before continuing their run,” Kane said. Anchovies and candlefish are the primary forage fish.
“The Columbia River is so huge, we don’t have herring here,” he said. Fresh herring and anchovies are the bait of choice.
“We run fresh bait and we troll,” Kane said. “We fish them completely different from every other port including Westport, Garibaldi, Depoe Bay, Newport and Brookings, any of them.”
Cracker Box Bait Chinook, WA • Jack Marsh, owner • 3 60-777-0555
Jack Marsh’s bait business has been a mainstay near the Port of Chinook where fresh herring, anchovies and ice are the hot items.
“When we first started we sold herring for $2.50 a dozen, now it’s $6.50,” Marsh said. The changes in price are a testament to how long Marsh has been in bait business, more than 20 years. The bait shop is only open for five weeks summer mirroring the annual arrival of salmon at Buoy 10, typically peaking in August and continuing into September. This year marked the 22nd season in business, one that all began with a simple bet.
“There was a gal that used to sell us fishing items,” Marsh said.
“She said ‘you can’t sell bait out of that cracker box.’”
Chinook Country Store 775 US-101, Chinook, WA Tim Johnson, owner • 360-777-2248
Over the past four years, Chinook Country Store owner Tim Johnson has learned how important fishing is to his business.
“Without Buoy 10, we wouldn’t be here,” Johnson said in between loading bags of ice on Wednesday, Aug. 16.
“Without the influx of people and the impact they bring, this store wouldn’t be able to survive through the winter.” Johnson said that three months — July, August and September — account for 70 percent of his business.
“Forty percent is in August alone,” he said. The store relies on five full-time employees.
“I sell a ton of ice, bait and fuel,” Johnson said. On a typical weekend the store sells around 200 pounds of anchovies and 200 dozen herring. The former owner, Ed McClure, who operated the store for nearly 20 years, still supplies the anchovies and herring.