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St. Helens fishing expert Eric Swanson is always ready to assist the new or experienced angler.

COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF ST. HELENS - Sand Island is a location for salmon and steelhead fishing.A St. Helens native with a wealth of knowledge about Columbia County fisheries is always on hand to guide the newbie angler or provide guidance to the more seasoned fisherman.

Fishing and hunting guide Eric Swanson runs Eric Swanson Outdoors in St. Helens.

Swanson provides guided sport fishing for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and walleye on the Willamette and Columbia rivers.

If you're not familiar with walleye, it's a great fish to use in fish tacos. Swanson said some people refer to walleye as "the poor man's halibut," which has flavorful, flaky meat.

In describing his business, Swanson said, "I specialize in teaching folks who are new to the area the resources we have, teaching them how to take advantage of the fishing we have."

Swanson likes what the Columbia River has to offer fishermen.

"It's a great opportunity for spring chinook salmon and also walleye," Swanson said. "The Multnomah Channel, right in our backyard, has a really good population of walleye."

Swanson added, "When the Columbia River closes down in the spring for Chinook salmon, the Multnomah Channel always stays open, so there's always an opportunity."

Multnomah Channel is east of St. Helens, between the Scappoose area and Sauvie Island.

In Columbia County, fishing is available year-round, but certain months favor certain runs of fish.

The optimal time to fish, according to Swanson, is March, April and May for spring chinook, while June and early July are good months for summer chinook salmon.

Swanson, who has a 28-foot Riverwild open sled he can take people on, adds that September through October on the Columbia River is a great time for fall chinook salmon.

"Also, we have phenomenal catch-and-release sturgeon fishing in the Willamette River (and) Multnomah Channel in the springtime," he said.

There are many opportunities to fish in Columbia County, whether by boat or simply taking a rod and fishing off a dock.

"Popular spots are Scappoose Bay Marina," Swanson said. "There's a large mudflat that's easily accessible for warm water species such as bass, crappie and perch."

Swanson said, "As you work your way down towards the Columbia, you have the St. Helens Courthouse boat docks. There is a lot of public access down there for salmon and sturgeon and more of the colder-water species, if you will."

If you're fishing off a St. Helens dock, you may encounter salmon, fall chinook, summer steelhead and sturgeon.

Swanson notes there's also good salmon fishing off of Prescott Beach and Dibblee Beach in Rainier.

"Those are two popular spots, very productive spots that a lot of the locals go to," he said.

On the back side of Sand Island, you'll find "plunking," which is a style of bank fishing for salmon and steelhead.

Fishing can be fun for the entire family, and it's a great way to burn off steam during troubled times in the world.

"Bring the family out, relax and enjoy the warm days," Swanson said. "People like to get away from the stress of their day-to-day life and they like to come sit on the boat. We have tons of bald eagles, beautiful scenery. We have all the mountains."

He continued, "It's a nice time for people to get way, forget about the stresses of life and enjoy eight hours of great conversation and great fishing."

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