Denis Peirce: Some Nevada County salmon runs ‘disappointing’ |

Denis Peirce: Some Nevada County salmon runs ‘disappointing’

The Union photo/John Hart
John R. Hart | The Union

We are into the third week of October and still the warm weather holds on. Off the coast, there are warm water species that would normally be far to our south.

The salmon are coming up the valley rivers, but the numbers are below expectations.

In the Lower Yuba River, the fall salmon run has been disappointing.

In years with normal precipitation, the peak of the salmon spawning occurs at Halloween. To date, the quantity of salmon from the Highway 20 bridge down to DaGuerre Dam is the lowest in recent memory.

What anglers on the lower river look forward to is the first heavy rain of the season that will swell the local creeks. The increased flow of stained water in Squirrel Creek and Deer Creek will turn on the egg bite of the steelhead, below the salmon redds. But the ingredients for this, salmon and rain, are not in the picture yet.

Tom Page received a guide report that there are a couple hundred salmon spawning below the dam.

In normal conditions, the salmon tend to travel as far upstream as possible looking for spawning locations. They take the best spawning gravel at the top of their river and subsequent fish fill in below them, with the river filling from the top down. The news of the biggest spawning numbers below the dam makes me wonder if the spawn will be centered on the area below Daguerre.

The salmon are running on the Feather River. The river is closed to salmon fishing above Live Oak.

The key to finding salmon to fish for is water depth.

The flows are so low in the system that the salmon are concentrated in any deep water holes. There is a slot of deep water at the 5th Street Bridge in Yuba City. It has been the focus of wading anglers and a number of fish have been caught there.

At the upper reaches of the Feather, the steelhead fishing near Oroville has been productive.

With the poor fishing on the Yuba and American Rivers there has been quite a bit of angling pressure. If you go you will not be fishing alone.

I recently spoke with RJ Bennett, ( He has been guiding the Sacramento River below the mouth of the American River and made the case for fishing this section of the river.

He is intercepting the fish for all of the Sacramento River tributaries. The river is wide and the flow supports boats of any size. You do not have the boat congestion of the smaller river higher up. The water temps are in the mid to upper 60s, which is a little high but he is catching fish. And the fish he is getting are much closer to the ocean, in better condition.

He prefers to troll down river with Flatfish or large spinners.

The holes in the river have been holding the majority of the fish.

The lakes up in the mountains are another option.

Davis Lake dropped below the 60 degree mark ten days ago and then warmed back up. Boat launching has been a problem for larger craft.

The east side has a steep bank and has been producing fish for bank anglers. The shallower west side has been better fished from a float tube or car top boat.

Guides Jon Baiocchi and Ed Dillard have had good days in the recent past. A good cold snap will turn this lake on.

Donner’s water temps are 59 to 61 degrees during the course of the day. There are still kokanee to be had at 35 to 40 feet. Fish for mackinaw on the bottom near China Cove. The boat launching is good at this lake.

The best lake fishing reports are coming from Pyramid Lake in Nevada.

The water surface is in the mid 60s. The big cutthroat trout are down below the 20 foot depth.

The key has been to find the schools of tui chub bait fish. Once you locate the food, the predators are not far away.

Water fowl have been the best indicator of the bait fish schools. If you find the birds, even if they are not diving, the food and the big trout will not be too far off.

Another option is to locate the trout with a fish finder. If these fish are bottom oriented, jigs are a good method for targeting them.

For stream anglers, the North Yuba has continued to produce trout. The October Caddis hatch is occurring and are most active below Downieville.

Now that the days are shorter the river has cooled. During the summer we had to travel to the higher elevations to find active fish. Now the whole river is worth fishing.

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

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