Denis Peirce: It’s been a great season for anglers |

Denis Peirce: It’s been a great season for anglers

Denis Peirce

We are in the midst of a good salmon season. Off the coast there are still good numbers of fish being landed. For local anglers the Sacramento and Feather Rivers are the main focus.

The season opened in mid July with fish in the rivers. Many years the salmon do not show until well into August.

Trout anglers in the upper reaches of the Sacramento were seeing salmon well before the opener. Since that time more fish have been continuing to come in from the ocean. Typically the run will continue to increase, reaching a peak in late September.

Changing temperatures

At the start of the season there was a lot of activity at the mouth of the American River where cool water was flowing into the Sacramento. Since then the majority of the action has moved up river. The main determinant of river success is water temperature.

The salmon have been living in 50 degree salt water and swimming into 75 degree fresh water is a shock. The river water comes out of Shasta and Oroville Dams cool and warms as it flows down stream.

The magic number is 65 degrees. Above that number it is possible but not probable to get a salmon to bite. Below 65 degrees the odds improve considerably.

Currently, the Sacramento River warms to the 65 degree range near Butte City across the valley from Oroville. The best action is from Woodson Bridge, near Corning, up river to the Barge Hole, above Red Bluff.

My sources report not an open parking space for a truck and boat trailer at the Woodson Bridge launch ramp at dawn.

On the Feather River the water has been 63 degrees at dawn near Gridley and rises to 65 late in the day if the air is hot enough. This puts the salmon action primarily in the Afterbay Hole and some of the deeper holes down river.

I have not received any word from down river but there maybe some cool water coming in from the Yuba River.

Plenty of fish to catch

In the 2017 season all of the action was on the Feather River. The Sacramento fish did not come up in any appreciable number and the Feather was loaded with fish. This year the rivers have returned to the normal balance with more fish in the Sacramento than the Feather but still good numbers in the Feather.

If table fare is your goal, the trip to the coast might be your best bet with a two fish limit and fish still feeding in salt water. For the last week Bodega Bay has been the hot spot.

On the rivers, the earlier in the season you go the fresher the salmon will be.

As the fish are in fresh water they begin to change into spawning mode. The more recently they have arrived, the better they are.

Early in the season they are all fresh and as the season progresses the percentage of fresh fish decreases. This year the limit on the rivers is one fish.

The prognosis for steelhead on the north coast is excellent. The “half-pounder” run on both the Klamath and the Rogue is very good. These fish started coming in the first week of August and they are continuing to come in and move up river.

Tommy Chew, Little Ray’s Tackle Box on the Klamath, has been fishing the lower river. He commented that the “spinner bite” has been excellent and the fly anglers have also been doing well.

I don’t have word how far up river the first arrivals have gone, but I expect this fall on the Klamath and Trinity to be excellent.

The salmon bite at the estuary has been good but it is best at dawn. The word from the Rogue River in Oregon is similar with good salmon action and an above normal run of half pounders in the lower river.

Trout & kokanee

For trout anglers there are still fish to be caught despite the summer heat. An angler friend caught a couple of nice trout over two pounds trolling 50 feet down over 140 feet of water in Berryessa Lake.

Val Aubrey has been fishing on Eagle Lake and been catching trout. The water is near 70 degrees on the surface and she has been successful at the 14 to 18 foot depths. Some of the high elevation meadows have had incredible numbers of hoppers this season.

Along the Owens River near Mammoth Lakes guide Eric Hein said at times the ground seemed to be moving there were so many hoppers. Up on the Klamath River basin in Oregon it has been an above average year for hoppers, with the trout keying in on them.

Kokanee fishing continues to be good. Two weeks ago there was a big derby on Stampede. The team of Ed Fisk ( and Danny Granholm came in 12th in a field of more than 125 entries. He did well fishing from the dam to the Davies Creek arm.

The largest fish are close to 17 inches. The biologist at the weigh in said the largest fish was an eighth of an inch below 17. Fisk expects the fishing to remain good for at least another month.

The other good kokanee lake is Bullard’s Bar. I fished it last week with Bob Lively and did well at the 60 to 70 foot depths.

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

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.