The area around the mouth of the Columbia has been named “The Graveyard of the Pacific for good reason. Many boats are lost in this area each season, if you want to fish here you need to know how and when how to cross the Columbia Bar. Once you have this down you can access some of the best salmon and tuna fishing in the NW.
Leaving the Ilwaco boat basin from the launch, you will have head westerly toward the red cannery buildings. As you leave the harbor keep Sand Island on your left and follow the green markers out, watch that you stay in the channel, it can get very shallow. You will pass the boat launch at Fort Canby State Park on your right. There is a speed zone/no wake zone from the Fort Canby Boat ramp passed the Coast Guard Station
Follow the channel south and you will come to breakwater pilings as you enter the main stem of the Columbia River. Turn right & head west out into the main river.
The closest buoy will be #11 on your right, head for it. From there, head southwest to buoy #10. Follow the red buoy line out. The roughest part of the bar is from #8 buoy to #6. From #6 you want to head toward #4, but depending on conditions off the old submerged jetty, which has buoy #2SJ you may have to pass outside of it. When you get past the old jetty, you then can head to the east side of #4 buoy. You should be passed the roughest part of the bar about half way to #4. Do not try to cross the bar by following the black or north buoy line if you don’t know the area very well as it is shallower and can be very quite rough.
Salmon Spots: Salmon fishing various on where the fish are day to day. Ilwaco has a sizeable charter boat fleet and many anglers will follow the local experts to prime locations. Lots of the fishing takes place around the Columbia River buoy. North up along Long Beach is another prime location as is south of the river mouth. Locating bait is the key to all ocean salmon fishing. Ocean salmon are active feeders and looking for a meal. Pay attention for flocks of birds feeding or bait on your sonar screen to capitalize on these fish.
Ilwaco has 2 boat launches, one double ramp and a sling run by the port, the other ramp at the Fort Canby State Park. All these ramps are busy places when fishing is on!
Reciprocity Rules with Oregon: When angling in the Pacific Ocean within 3 miles of the shore between Cape Falcon, Oregon and Leadbetter Point, Washington, either a Washington or an Oregon fishing license is valid.
Bait: The Ilwaco location is on a bait dock that is close to the boat launch area it’s very easy to find and opens early. They also sell live anchovies for tuna fishing.