Nothing compares to the exhilaration of boating over waters where the Columbia River, having reached journey's end, rushes into the Pacific Ocean. Add the thrill of catching large game fish and the experience will be imprinted in memory forever.
Fortunately, these excursions are available to anyone, thanks to charter boats berthed at the Port of Ilwaco. Charters provide outings ranging from sightseeing to bottom- and deep-sea fishing. Everything is provided except personal clothing and favorite refreshments.
Many anglers also fish from private boats, a great option if you're prepared for the conditions.
The view of the land from the seaward side - lighthouses, Astoria, Saddle Mountain and Tillamook Head - are often breathtaking. Crossing the bar, where river and ocean meet, is an exciting time as the skipper skillfully maneuvers the boat through often-turbulent waters to reach open sea.
Sea lions bask on jetty rocks. Seals' heads pop out of the water here and there, and seagulls fly overhead hoping for a handout.
How can you catch a trophy-sized salmon or sturgeon if you don't have a boat? Simple, head for the south jetty at Cape Disappointment or east of the Chinook tunnel and get ready for a fun day of sports fishing on a budget.
You will need a stout 9- or 10-foot rod and a spinning reel large and strong enough to crank up at least 200 yards of 40-pound test line. A sliding swivel that can accommodate six to 16 ounces of pyramid sinker goes above the Dacron leader and a 2/0 or 3/0 hook is placed at the end of your gear.
Bait of choice seems to be sand shrimp, but anchovy or smelt or anything else a scavenging sturgeon will engulf will do the trick. Cast toward Astoria, sit back to enjoy the comfort of your own rock, and wait for a bite.
But be careful when you rear back to set the hook, jetty rocks can be slippery. If you fish east of the Chinook tunnel, the highway is only inches from your back and trucks, cars, and RVs zip past at 50 miles per hour.