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Denis Peirce: Looking for cold water

Denis Peirce

Our current heat wave has been brutal on the fish and the fishermen if they venture out any time but early morning.

The most heavily impacted fish are those salmon which have entered the valley river system. The water temps close to Oroville on the Feather River are in the middle 60’s. Above Red Bluff on the Sacramento River the water is at the 60 degree mark. Both of these temps are acceptable. The problem is the water temps down river. By the time the river gets to the city of Sacramento it has reached 80+ degrees. Luckily there have been only a few salmon coming into the system. A few pods of fish have tried but they have not fared well. Water temps this warm can be fatal.

The number of salmon off the coast this season has been quite good. We are hoping they will not move up the rivers until conditions are favorable. I have seen salmon coming up to spawn in the Yuba as late as December in years past. Hopefully we can get some rain to turn things around.

There are other river systems that are not in such bad shape. The Klamath River has been fishing well near the mouth. Salmon started coming in two weeks ago when the flows on the Trinity River were raised from 400 cfs to almost 1000 cfs. These higher flows are projected to continue until September 21. The raised flows dropped the water temps to the 69 – 71 range. The Klamath is usually in the middle 70’s in August. As the temps fall below the 72 degree mark the salmon and the steelhead will come in from the salt.

Currently the salmon quota for the lower Klamath is close to being met. The half-pounder steelhead which came in recently have moved up river. Prospects for the fall steelhead fishing look good for the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.

In southern Oregon the salmon fishing in the estuary of the Rogue River is good. There is an ocean influence with cold salt water moving in and out with the tides. The warm river water rides on top of the cold salt water. The salmon are comfortable sitting on the bottom. They stack up in the estuary waiting for river conditions to improve. It is one of a few places to catch salmon fresh from the ocean using a small boat.

A local river with cold water is the Lower Yuba. It drafts water from the bottom of Englebright Reservoir and is consistently in the 58 to 62 degree range through the summer. The fish in the lower Yuba did not know about the heat wave. The only clue they had was the lack of grass hoppers landing on the river. The heat knocked the hopper population down. The current flows are a respectable 1200 cfs but a drop to 900 cfs is anticipated once the hottest weather passes.

Tom Page, Reel Anglers Fly Shop, anticipates a change in the insect hatches with the drop in flows. The river will warm a little in the shallows which will stimulate better evening caddis hatches. He recommends caddis patterns in the #14 & #16 range.

Another cold water fishery is Fuller Lake off the Bowman Road east on Highway 20. Fuller is fed by canal from the bottom of Bowman Lake. Fuller is planted with trout and a good prospect for summer fishing.

The North Yuba River is flowing warm for most of its length. Catch and release fishing is not recommended. There is cool water at the highest elevations on the approach to Yuba Pass. The water is “thin” but the fishing can be fun. Being there very early in the day is your best bet.

This year with the river salmon fishing not looking good, many of the river guides have turned to the Delta for striper fishing. The action has been good. The more popular places have been the Westside, near Rio Vista. From there down to the Antioch Bridge has been producing well. Guide Justin Leonard has been targeting the flowing water before and after low tide. With a Delta breeze it can be more comfortable there than farther up the valley.

The kokanee fishery, which has been the mainstay of the summer lake fishing, is wrapping up for the season. The majority of this year’s fish are turning to spawning mode. Late summer they lose their scales, turn dark from bright silver and the males develop hooked jaws. They are still present in very good numbers. A report from last weekend on Stampede mentioned lots of fish caught but the quality is in decline.

What we need to get the fall fishing on track is a change of weather pattern. Fronts coming in off the Pacific even if they don’t carry much moisture will help a lot. Pray for rain!

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 http://www.trollingflies.com


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