Denis Peirce: Salmon count looking good |

Denis Peirce: Salmon count looking good

Jay Lander with a fresh salmon from the rogue River estuary.
Photo by Denis Peirce |


Fishing the Rogue River Estuary

In the warm summer months the river reaches temperatures well into the 70 degree range.

In contrast the tidal change brings in salt water at least 20 degrees colder. The warm river flows above a pool of cold water.

As the salmon come in from the Pacific they stay on the bottom of the estuary for an extended period to acclimate before moving on. With the protection of a breakwater and good launch facilities it is an ideal salmon fishery for small boats.

You can avoid the problems of boating on the ocean or navigating a river. The salmon are fresh from the ocean in prime condition.

The most popular way to fish the estuary is to troll an anchovy or herring on a double hook with fluorescent spinner blades on the line above. The dead baitfish is rigged to roll as it is pulled through the water and the blades give a color flash as well as vibration to the rig.

I have not seen this rig used in California waters.


Local Salmon Fishing

This week’s full moon produced a surge of salmon moving up the valley river system. The next few weeks should be the best combination of salmon numbers and quality for the 2017 fall run.

Local reports paint a picture of salmon moving rapidly up the Feather River and piling up in the After Bay Hole near Oroville.

The water is cooler at the top of the river and that is one of the main motivators for salmon.

Fishing pressure is high at the After Bay. You might have a better experience by boat, lower down on the Feather River.

With the cooler air, the river may not be as warm as the past week.

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council is an organization meant to address fisheries on a regional basis.

Their prediction last winter of a poor salmon return led to a number of fishing restrictions in an attempt to address the issue. Off the central California coast, anglers have been pleasantly surprised with the salmon action that was not anticipated.

The situation on the Klamath River at the top of the state and on the Rogue River in southern Oregon lead to a complete closure for both sport and commercial salmon fishing in the ocean in that region.

The returns on the Klamath last year were so poor that the river is also closed to salmon fishing during the fall run.

There have been signs in the past two weeks that things are turning around. There are a few steelhead anglers on the water and they report seeing a lot of salmon moving up the system.

Without salmon anglers on the water it is hard to get a read on the quantity of salmon moving through at this time.

I spoke with Tommy Chew who owns “Little Ray’s Tackle” near the river mouth. He saw a significant surge of fish come in on the high tides two weeks ago with the new moon.

This week’s full moon tides brought another push of fish. The numbers returning to the system will become clearer when the counts from the weirs upriver come in.

The brightest salmon picture is north of the border on the Rogue River. The salmon run was a big unknown without salt water fishing to give an indication.

Guide Jay Lander (541-373-1337) has been fishing the Rogue estuary for over 20 years and this is the best year he has seen.

The Rogue is quite different from the Klamath in that there is no sand bar at the mouth. The Rogue has a channel to the ocean that allows for a Coast Guard Station and a marina. This creates a situation that produces a great fishery in the summer and early fall.

Eight miles upriver on the Rogue is a fish seining station at Huntley’s Bar.

This year’s Chinook salmon count has been up 33 percent above the 10 year average. The return of “half-pounder” steelhead is 40 percent above the 10 year average.

Both of these numbers are an indication of how well the runs have bounced back.

Is this due to the cessation of fishing offshore? Is it part of the natural cycle or a combination of both?

I don’t know.

What I can say is that we are seeing a very good year on the lower Rogue and that should extend upriver to the Grant’s Pass and above area in a month or so.

Due to geography and the road system the lower Rogue at Gold Beach is a long day’s travel from home. The Grants Pass stretch of the Rogue is only five hours up Interstate 5.

The other good news is for steelhead angling on the Klamath.

Currently the half-pounders have moved upstream from Weitchpec at the confluence of the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.

I have not seen numbers regarding this run but anecdotal reports and the numbers from the Rogue give me motivation to make a trip up there next month.

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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