The glamour fish for Northern California anglers is salmon. There are more fisherman days spent on bass and trout, but salmon are big and strong with excellent eating quality.
The salmon season on the Sacramento and Feather rivers have been open for 10 days, and there has been no shortage of anglers on these two rivers pursuing them.
The season opened July 16. There were good numbers of salmon on the Feather River in the upper reaches of the river. The boat traffic and angler pressure pushed a lot of these fish upriver into the “Low Flow” section in the first couple of days. The Low Flow is closed to salmon fishing.
The water flow regime this year is very different from seasons past. The Low Flow section of the river that runs through town to the Afterbay Hole usually carries 600 cubic feet per second and cooler water
This season the Low Flow is running at 2,600 cfs. The warmer water coming in from the Afterbay is flowing at 3,000. The water temp in the Low Flow is 60 degrees and afternoon temps on the combined flows is 70 degrees below the Afterbay.
Salmon are cold water fish. The ocean is normally in the mid-50s this time of year and the thermal shock swimming up through the delta must be considerable. These fish move up river and find cooler temps the farther upstream they swim. At this time of the year on the lower stretches of the valley rivers, you will find travelling fish. Consequently, the best prospects for salmon anglers are in the upper rivers. An exception to this rule would be the occasional cold water tributary such as the Yuba River.
The Feather just below the confluence with the Yuba is a consistent salmon spot.
We are currently at the tail end of the spring salmon run. The hatchery in Oroville has tagged and put back into the river 27,750 “springers.”
They estimate that this is one-third of the salmon in the Low Flow. Spring run fish spawn in the fall simultaneously with the fall run. The prospects for this season look as good or better than 2012.
The bulk of the angling pressure on the Feather in concentrated on the Afterbay Hole. I counted 70-plus anglers one morning last week. In the river below, some salmon are taken at first light mostly by boat anglers.
The shore anglers at the Afterbay are picking up a few fish but most of the success comes to a few locals who know the hole and exactly how to fish it.
If you want to fish here, my advice is to arrive early and be ready to fish at first legal fishing time, one hour before sunrise. You can’t access the Oroville Wildlife area before this time.
Be prepared to spend time watching the anglers who catch the fish. You might consider bringing a set of binoculars. These fellows do not cast randomly into the hole. They cast at specific spots where the salmon hold.
Look at the way they are rigged and after your first trip, go into Huntington’s Sports in Oroville and get the correct gear. Your chances on the second trip will be much higher. The majority of the salmon are caught in the first hour of the day.
The rules have changed again at the Afterbay Hole. We are now allowed to fish at the edges of the dam BUT!!! You can’t be on the concrete apron out of the water.
If you get on the apron, there are men who will write you a $400 citation.
Since the opener the results on the Feather have declined. During the first week many of the guides were fishing the Sacramento from Hamilton City up through Red Bluff. The farther up the Sacramento you go, the cooler the water.
The results there have also been spotty. The good news is that the full moon this past Monday should bring a fresh wave of salmon out of the salt water and they could be in the local rivers by this weekend.
The best salmon reports have come from salt water. I got two excellent reports from Bodega Bay for last weekend. The water was a warm 59 degrees at the surface with a lot of food, both squid and baitfish, in the area. Much of the action came off downriggers fishing just above the bottom in 80 feet of water.
Captain Les Fernandez (http://www.fishoncharter.net/) produced limits for his clients on deeply trolled bait. Brian Roccucci (http://bigdaddyfishing.com/) was catching limits using trolling flies on the bottom and midway up through the water column. Brian also ended the day with a couple of gallons of squid caught on his downrigger gear.
The size and quantity of the ocean salmon this season look very promising. Many of the saltwater fish are in the 20 to 30 pound range. If your goal is a high percentage trip resulting in quality table fare a saltwater salmon trip in July and August is a good bet.
2013 is shaping up to be a very good year for salmon fishing. The majority of the returning fish will be in the fall run. Look for the fall run, in the valley rivers, to be in full swing just after the full moon in late August.
Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at www.fineflies.com.
There were good numbers of salmon on the Feather River in the upper reaches of the river.