“Plunking” one way to deal with murky water from storms


A series of significant rain storms have kept anglers guessing in terms of river accessibility. The high, unfishable water has left another question unanswered.

That question is whether any winter steelhead have arrived and in what kind of numbers. The answer will not be known until anglers put in some serious river time, which will hopefully be soon.

One of the ways to fish off-colored water is a technique used widely by steelheaders of another era, known as “plunking.” In a day when modern methodology has taken over the fishing world, some of these proven techniques have gone by the wayside. Yet, this approach was used extensively with great success. It was a style of fishing which, at one time, dominated bank fishing.

It was not uncommon to see fishing shacks along a river or gravel bars lined with fishermen employing the concept of plunking.

This approach served steelheaders well, but it was also an excellent way to overcome colored water. This manner of fishing simply waits for fish to migrate in the path of the waiting terminal tackle.

Since this method of fishing focuses near the banks where migrating steelhead generally travel, it makes good sense to intercept them at this point in their river travels.

When water color is questionable, a large spin-glow or scented bait will attract steelhead which are passing by. Anglers often use a bell attached to their fishing pole to alert them to a strike. The lure is held in place by a rather significant lead weight.

There is a downside to plunking and because of the stationery lure in the water, it will gather leaves and debris easily. The solution to this problem is to check the terminal tackle often and clear the debris.

When the weather is downright nasty, anglers can huddle next to a fire on the bank or in a shack and stay warm. A common sight on gravel bars is an angler sitting in the comfort of their idling vehicle awaiting the bell to ring, or observing violent action occurring with their mounted fishing pole.

I give this information because it is a very sure approach to fish high and colored water. If we have a rainy season and river levels are high, I think anglers may want to consider plunking as an alternative rather than letting a season get completely away from us. Some fishing is always better than no fishing.

In a normal year, December can be a great month for hatchery steelhead. The accommodating rivers in an area get a significantly larger plant of winter fish than does their summer counter parts.

The Quillayette River System received 150,000 smolt in 2009 and these are divided with 100,000 going to the Bogachiel River and 50,000 to the Culawah River. The Humptulips River was planted with 129,509 smolt.

The Chehalis River system got 331,280 smolts. The breakdown of this plant is as follows: Wynoochee River 140,380, East Fork of the Satsop River 47,400, Skookumchuck River 103,000 and the Upper Chehalis River 40,500 smolts.

So, if all goes well and conditions turn favorable, anglers can be in for a productive steelhead season.