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The Angle: The Chinook Salmon of the Sandy River posted on 07/27/2023
By Lucas Holmgren
The Mountain Times
Flowing out of the pointed glaciers of Mt. Hood comes one of the most unique, and environmentally sound rivers in Oregon. Pouring into the Columbia River through Troutdale, it extends along through towns like Sandy, Zigzag and Mt. Hood Village. Featuring relatively high-water quality, the glacial melt creates a milky, green-gray coloration to the water during the summer, when most other rivers are getting low. Because of these characteristics, the Sandy River supports a run of Chinook (King) Salmon that is much different from other tributaries of the Columbia River.
Spring Chinook are the most prized in terms of table-fare, due to their high fat and oil content. This is because they enter the river many months before they are ready to spawn, the Sandy River stays cold, with adequate flow and low-visibility that protect the Spring Chinook during the deep of summer, and the flow and visibility provide miles of high-quality fish habitat in the upper reaches where the fish go to spawn.
My first Spring Chinook on the Sandy River was a gorgeous, fresh, wild Chinook, caught mid-river in April while driftboating and fishing for steelhead. Last year, I had a phenomenal year of catch-and-release fishing for Spring Chinook, with the best numbers in August & September. I even caught them into October. My friend and I were casting #4 Blue & Chrome spinners, as well as fishing cured salmon eggs under a float (bobber). The Sandy River Chinook tend to bite better in summer and early fall as compared to other rivers. This is likely due to the colder temperatures and the low visibility. They don’t see you standing on the bank nearby, thus don’t feel exposed to threats.
If you would like to see these fish, they often are “jumping” or “rolling” out of the water in a number of places. If you are looking to fish for these magnificent Salmon, take a look at the ODFW Regulation booklet before you go.
Although many arrive in Spring, the Sandy River supports a very healthy population of Chinook that arrive in the summer and spawn in the fall. They support a healthy ecosystem and provide essential ocean nutrients to the wildlife, fish and trees of the basin. If you get a chance to stop by the river, see if you can spot one of these beautiful fish cresting the surface!
The author is a father, author, fisherman and musician. He is passionate about fishing and learning about the species of Oregon.



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