FISHING NORTHERN PIKEMINNOW
Where to Fish: You can catch northern pikeminnow almost anywhere on the Columbia River. Northern pikeminnow congregate in rocky areas with fast current near dams, islands, stream mouths, points, eddies, rows of pilings, and ledges or bars in the river. Most fish are caught in 7 to 25 feet of water.
Northern pikeminnow feed heavily on smolts, freshwater clams, and crayfish. They move to find concentrations of prey. Finding northern pikeminnow may not be easy. After fishing an area for 30 minutes to an hour without good results, try somewhere upstream or downstream.
When to Fish: Sunrise, sunset, and night are generally the best fishing times. Studies show there are greater concentrations of northern pikeminnow in shallow water during low-light conditions.
FISHING WITH BAIT
Tackle: To plunk bait, you will need lead weights from one-half ounce to 2 ounces, depending on the current. Bank sinkers are most commonly used. Number 2 hooks are recommended.
To rig sliding sinkers, you will need swivels to act as a stop. Plastic beads can be used between the weight and swivel to protect the knot. With two swivels, you can rig a sliding dropper (see rigging illustration below). For drift-fishing baits, you will need weights ranging from one-eighth to one-half ounce. Use hollow-core lead wire pinched on the drop-line, or lead shot inside a hollow fabric cord, and a small float to keep the bait off the bottom.
Bait: Worms are the most common northern pikeminnow bait. Chicken liver is the next most popular bait. Make sure it is fresh and keep it cold to prevent it from getting too soft to stay on the hook. Cut-bait (strips cut from fish), fish entrails, skin from fried chicken, salmon eggs, grasshoppers, crayfish tails, and shrimp are also popular.
How to Fish: There are three primary methods of fishing with bait for northern pikeminnow:
FISHING WITH PLASTIC GRUBS
Tackle: You will need assorted soft plastic lure bodies. Use grubs or worms (3 to 6 inches long), tube jugs (3 to 4 inches long), or shad type bodies (1 1/2 to 4 inches long). The color search section of this document explains which colors to use. One-eighth or one-quarter ounce jig-heads are the most commonly used. Jig-heads of one-half ounce or more are occasionally used from a boat, you may also want jig-heads as heavy as 1 1/2 ounces or bottom walkers (wire "arms" weighted with leads).
How to fish: The basic technique for fishing grubs is to drift-fish. Cast slightly upstream, straight out, or slightly downstream, depending on the amount of current. Count down to the proper depth (one-one thousand, two-one thousand...), then start reeling.
You are at the proper depth if your lure occasionally lightly ticks on the rocks. Use the lightest jig-head that allows you to reach the bottom consistently. In slower current, larger grubs (5 to 6 inches long) may work better.
A "dead" drift, with no action imparted, is generally the most effective and the least tiring to retrieve. However, movement may trigger strikes and varying reel speed, adding twitches, jigs, flutters, sweeps, or pauses is sometimes more effective.
Fishing From a Boat: When casting toward shore, slow your retrieve as your lure moves into deeper water to allow if to follow the bottom contour. You may need heavier jig-heads when fishing offshore structure in deeper water.
In addition to the standard drift-fishing technique, there are a couple of specialized methods that work well from a boat. With weight heavy enough to keep the grub near the bottom and the line straight down from the boat, drift your boat along with the current. The jig-head should occasionally tick the bottom. Drifting or trolling very slowly with a bottom-walker is another good technique. When using bottom-walkers, rig your grub directly on a 1/0 to 3/0 hook and use a leader 18 to 36 inches long tied to the top eye.
How to Hook Them: Pay close attention to the light taps that tell you a northern pikeminnow is sampling your grub. Quickly set the hook when you feel a tap. It's more important that the hook set be fast and hard. A quick, tight snap is all it takes.
Color Search: Northern pikeminnow will sometimes ignore one color grub and very actively hit another. A good basic rule is, for bright light and clear water, use light colors; for low light and cloudy water, use dark colors. Northern pikeminnow have been caught on over 100 colors, but color preferences vary from day to day and hour to hour. If you like a particular color, try it, but if that one doesn't work, be ready to try another. Fish each color for about 15 minutes and then try a different color if you don't have good results.
At night, northern pikeminnow are most consistently attracted to grubs with purple bodies and either blue or green glitter. These colors are also available with chartreuse tails, which often work well. Try purple grubs with blue or green glitter first.
Next try a color with just black glitter (salt and pepper). grubs with an orange-brown body and a chartreuse tail, or a "smoke" body with a chartreuse tail work well. Red is the last basic glitter color to try for night fishing. Grubs with a purple and black body with a chartreuse tail and red glitter or a motor-oil green color with red glitter should work if the fish are keyed toward red.
For daytime fishing, try light colored bodies like chartreuse or smoke. Experiment with glitter colors. Fish don't always follow rules; light colors or white sometimes work at night and dark colors sometimes work during the day. Experiment with colors to find what works best for you.
FISHING WITH LURES
Any lure that can be fished near the bottom is a good choice for catching northern pikeminnow. Lipless crank baits containing rattles or diving crank baits with big lips are the most popular. Because northern pikeminnow are color-specific, try lures with blue, green, or black backs to find what works best.
How to Catch Them: From shore, cast upstream or straight out. When fishing from a boat, anchor and cast, or drift and cast. If you're using a sinking lure, count down to reach the proper depth. When using diving plugs, choose one that will at least dive close to the bottom. Actually bouncing the lip on the bottom is the most effective, because it is so easy to lose lures this way, it's not highly recommended. Vary retrieval speeds to find what triggers the most strikes.
To troll, use the same techniques and fish the same structure as you would for walleye. Use a lure that dives close to the bottom. Look for bars or ridges in the river bottom, and ledges by islands. Troll at 2-3 miles per hour and downstream, but experiment to find what works best for a particular location or day. Many anglers have better results with higher speeds and sometimes with trolling upstream.
How to Tie an Egg Loop Knot:
Stick leader over top of hook;
Pull leader tight; and
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|Last Modified: Friday, 15-Feb-2013 08:35:58 PST|