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Trip Report: Fishing the Winter Walleye Social in Irrigon, Oregon - Next Adventure

Trip Report: Fishing the Winter Walleye Social in Irrigon, Oregon

Last month I headed out for the annual Winter Walleye Social in Irrigon, Oregon, put on by Jim Davis and the Tri Cities Kayak Anglers. Fishing conditions on the Lake Umatilla section of the Columbia River were less than ideal on the day of the social, the water temperature was around 10 degrees higher than normal for this time of year, which made the fishing significantly less productive. However, the surface conditions were about ideal for mid-November in Irrigon, mid 40’s and zero wind. 

I launched my Bigwater 132 PDL and joined the fleet of other kayakers on the water. Most people were fishing between 60 and 80 feet of water, while a few others were looking for deeper sections of the river. I made my first pass through the area jigging a blade bait for nothing. I wish that was a fluke but the fishing was much slower than expected for everyone. Eventually, I found a few people I knew and we started fishing the edge of a drop-off around 90 feet. We each picked up a couple of keeper sized walleye but nothing to really brag about. After three or so drifts through the area I headed off to look for anything different, the bottom in this section of the Columbia is generally flat and hard, perfect for walleye once they’ve gone into winter mode, but I had doubts they’d made the switch. 

Cruising around and staring at my sonar, I ran across a section of river with a sharp drop-off that formed a bit of a bowl in the bottom of the river, and that’s where the walleye were hiding. Walleye tend to be a very lazy fish, preferring to stay out of the current and let the food come to them, and this depression was the perfect habitat. Each pass I made through the area ended up with at least one hookup, occasionally multiple. This one 200 by 100 yard section of the river resulted in over two dozen fish, most of which were “eater” sized (between 12” and 18” or so), I stopped keeping them after eight though. 

Since it was a relatively large gathering of kayak fishermen, a bit of a challenge was presented for the anglers, whoever gets the fish closest to 22” without going over gets a $25 gift certificate to Mack’s Lures. I did my best but my largest was 18.5”, which landed me squarely in 4th or 5th place, but I still came home with a bag of fish for dinner and a bunch of people to fish with if I find myself in Tri-Cities!  

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