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Denis Peirce: Drought, water temps are fishing question marks

Denis Peirce
Special to The Union
The Union photo/John Hart
John R. Hart | The Union

With the equinox this week, we have officially entered the fall season and there are salmon in our valley rivers.

This season’s salmon run has been a question mark due to the drought and the warm water “blob” along the coast.

At the opening of the salmon season in mid-July, there was a brief flurry of activity on both the Sacramento and Feather Rivers then we settled into a waiting period.

Finally, about 10 days ago, as the hot weather cooled off and the river temps declined, the first good surge of salmon moved in.

Bob Bouke, of Johnson’s Bait & Tackle, said the Sacramento River dropped 10 degrees to a low of 62 degrees last week. It has since risen to 66 degrees yesterday near the Tisdale launch ramp.

Salmon bite best with temps below 65 degrees.

The other factor helping the Sacramento run has been the steady increase in water flows.

In the past month, the river has slowly climbed from 5400 cfs to 6400 cfs. There have been fish taken in the past two weeks, but it is far from a “wide open bite.”

The Department of Fish & Wildlife estimated this year’s run to be 25 percent greater than 2014 based on the winter survey.

The run to date in both fresh and salt water has not lived up to this billing.

The story is the same up the coast also. I recently went to the Puget Sound, Washington to fish for salmon and the runs there have yet to materialize.

There are local salmon to be caught in salt water, but the migration of the large ocean fed fish has not happened.

The commercial fishing fleet has been catching fish, but they are traveling far off the coast to find the cold water that the salmon and their food prefer.

The rivers that flow into the Puget Sound are very low and warm with few, if any, salmon coming up.

What is needed all along the West Coast is rain. The salmon stocks are in the ocean but they are not coming in.

Will they come in this fall when the rains commence, or can they wait for another year? No one has the answer at this time.

For the salmon anglers there are fish in the valley rivers.

Bouke caught good quality salmon in the last 10 days.

There are no “silver bullets,” but most of the fish had only a hint of color.

The best fishing on the Sacramento will be higher up the river above Chico where the water is cooler. On the Feather River, water temps are influenced by the amount of warm water passing over the After Bay dam.

There was no water coming over the dam for a time last week and the Feather cooled off.

There have been salmon caught from the deeper holes from Yuba City up river. The water above the Yuba confluence is very low and caution is advised.

Tom Page fished the Lower Yuba Wednesday evening. The caddis hatch was coming off when he arrived at 6 p.m. and continued until dark. The trout were rising to the bugs. He has seen salmon rolling as they swim upstream for the last ten days. Look for the egg bite to come on in the near future.

A problem has developed in the Sierra above Lake Almanor.

Walker Lake, also known as Mountain Meadows Reservoir, was completely drained. The lake is the source of the water flowing into Almanor through the Hamilton Branch.

It had been a good bass fishery, and after the emptying of the lake a good number of largemouth bass in the 5 pound range were found dead. Many of the locals in the area are rather upset at the development.

Lake Almanor was scheduled to maintain good water levels through the Labor Day weekend and then the water levels would drop. This has been the case, and since the holiday, Lake Oroville, down river from Almanor, has maintained its water level as the water was moved down to Oroville.

The fishing at Almanor has been getting better. The water temps are down to the mid 60s and the fish are scattering throughout the lake.

During the warm weather months, the fish concentrate on the cold water springs and at the mouth of the Hamilton Branch.

This past week, there have been some good catches of brown trout in the 24-inch class. The browns are moving into the shallows in the evening looking for the pond smelt.

The best action is at first light in the morning. I expect this fishing to get better as we move further into fall.

Eagle Lake near Susanville has cooled down to the low 60s. There is a cooling trend predicted for this weekend and into next week. When the temps get into the high 50s, the fishing will get better.

I expect Davis Lake to get good in the near future also. Both of these lakes fish well in the Fall. The question will be boat access.

October is one of the best fishing months of the year. Plan your month accordingly!

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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