Denis Peirce: Peak salmon run happening now in local rivers |

Denis Peirce: Peak salmon run happening now in local rivers

Denis Peirce

The salmon run in the local rivers is nearing its peak. Traditionally Halloween is the peak of the spawn in the valley rivers. I checked in with the Feather River Hatchery in Oroville. They are currently spawning salmon and expect the hatchery spawning to last another 3 to 4 weeks. This year’s run has been a little late, there are still new fish arriving. The normal range is 17,000 to 25,000 returning salmon and the expectation is for a return in the higher end of this range.

For the steelhead/trout anglers on the Feather and Yuba rivers this is a good time to be on the water. As the salmon are digging their redds they kick up insects from the gravel and loose eggs are common. For the fly anglers this is the season for “Legs & Eggs.” Insect patterns with rubber legs that wiggle and salmon egg imitations, if well presented below spawning salmon, will get you into the fish.

As I am writing this, the afternoon breeze is causing a blizzard of leaves coming out of the oak trees. Strong winds can load the rivers with leaves and make fishing tough for a day or two until things flush out.

For river salmon anglers the best bet is the Sacramento River below the mouth of the American River. The salmon run on the American usually comes on at the first of October so there are fresh fish in the river. Higher up the valley rivers most of the salmon are in spawning mode and the fish are dark.

Support Local Journalism

Justin Leonard, Out Cast Guide Service, has been fishing the “Sac Metro” area. The fishing is great one day and dead the next. It all depends on whether a school of salmon are moving through. His most successful spots have been where there is an obstruction in the water to form a current break. Sunken trees often provide this break but if you don’t fish around it just right it will eat a lot of tackle.

The other salmon river that fishes well in October is the Mokelumne in the Delta. This run of fish traditionally are later than the runs in the Sacramento Valley.

The best angling currently is in the high country lakes for trout. Ideal water temps are through the 50 degree range. Recently I checked on specific lakes and came up with these numbers: Lake Oroville 65 degrees; Pyramid Lake, NV 60; Lake Tahoe 55; Lake Davis 52; Eagle Lake 52. Lower elevation and deeper lakes cool slower than high elevation and shallow lakes.

The hot spot from a catching perspective is Eagle Lake near Susanville. There are a lot of anglers on the water. Common fish are in the two to three pound range but there have been a few five pound fish landed. The trout are in the top 10 feet of the water column. Early in the day they can be found in the shallows but during the day it is common to find them out over 20 feet of water. Reports suggest that the east side has been better than the west.

The best lures have been trolling flies in bright colors such as orange or yellow. Val Aubrey was on the water recently when the fly bite slowed. She switched to a 1.5” Rapala pulled 100’ behind the boat and increased the speed to 2.4 mph. The fish again got on the bite. The other recommendation Val had was to change course frequently. The majority of her fish came when she was turning her boat. This changes the speed of the lure and can change the depth.

Lake Davis has gotten better since I was up there early in the month. Jon Baiocchi has been doing well casting flies as well as trolling. The best day he has had recently was casting flies over a deep hole he has located in the north end of the lake. This spot has lots of submerged weeds. His clients have been fishing flies just below the surface, over top of the weeds. The fish come out of the depths to eat the flies. He spent half a day just on this one hole catching and releasing rainbows.

Tom Page, Reel Angler’s Fly Shop, reports some of his customers have been up to Little Grass Valley Reservoir which is at the top of the South Fork of the Feather River. They reported good fishing for brown trout. They used blood midges and leech fly patterns. I have a hard time getting reports from this lake but this report suggests that now is a good time to head up there. The lake has a reputation for numbers of small kokanee. This is the food source that can produce big browns.

The next fishery that will be coming on is stripers in the Delta. Currently most of the fish are in the lower Delta. Justin Leonard has been guiding there as well. His techniques vary with the water depth. In deep water from 8’ to 25’ he jigs with heavy spoons that flutter like a dying shad. In water shallower that 10’ he will cast soft plastic swimbaits. The problem in the lower Delta around Rio Vista is the weeds. This is the season for them to die, break off and drift on the tide. It is hard to fish with your gear getting fowled with weeds.

The traditional early fall striper bite is on the Napa River and this year is no exception. The Napa River has been the scene for good striper action recently.

November is a great month on the Delta for stripers. These fish are arriving to spend the winter. In November the water is a moderate temperature and somewhat clear. Once winter comes on, the water will be muddy and cold.

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

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Connect with needs and opportunities from

Get immediate access to organizations and people in our area that need your help or can provide help during the Coronavirus crisis.

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

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User