Denis Peirce: Slow run, but salmon already spawning |

Denis Peirce: Slow run, but salmon already spawning

Although the salmon run this year has been a disappointment, those fish that are in the Sacramento system have started to spawn.

There has been a steady increase of salmon moving onto the beds on all of the valley rivers. The digging of the nests kicks up various insects to go along with the eggs drifting in the current and the steelhead/trout put on the proverbial feed bag at this time of year.

I heard from Frank Rinella that the “egg bite” has started on the Lower Yuba. When salmon first get on the nest and eggs are plentiful the trout/steelhead get stupid about biting egg imitations. Is takes getting caught a time or two before they wise up and become selective to the proper size, color and drift of eggs.

That initial bite was last week on many of our valley waters.

On the Sacramento River there are actively spawning salmon from the Sun Dial Bridge in Redding down to Balls Ferry. In addition to the resident trout, there are increasing numbers of migratory steelhead showing up behind the salmon.

Two weeks ago, I dropped by the Feather River Hatchery in Oroville. There is an underwater viewing area with a glass wall along the channel leading up to the hatchery. I saw a phenomenon that I was not aware of previously. There were dozens if not hundreds of loose salmon eggs swirling in the current.

The female salmon when ripe, lose eggs during travel as well as when they are actively spawning. This explains why steelhead react to “Glo-Bugs” at the mouth of the Klamath River when they are a 100 miles away from the spawning grounds.

Over on the Trinity River, it seems my trip on the first three days of the month was one week premature. During the week of Oct. 1-7 there were 1,153 steelhead counted going over the Willow Creek Weir. The steelhead count is double last year numbers to this date. Winter 2006-07 was the best season for returning steelhead since Trinity Dam was built in the 1960s.

Last week there was close to two inches of rain in the drainage and the river took on a brown tint for a 12 hour period. This is exactly the formula we need for good fishing. The catching is definitely picking up.

Last Wednesday the Smith River opened to anglers based on the rising river flows. As with the Klamath there was a back log of salmon in the salt water just off the beach. Good numbers of salmon moved in as the river rose 2 feet during the storm.

This is the salmon season on the Smith. The steelhead will arrive in good numbers during December. The Smith is subject to closure if the flows go back below 400 cubic feet per second. You can check this and other north coast rivers by calling (707) 442-4502 to hear a recorded message.

Eagle Lake water temps have dropped down to the high 40s to low 50s during last week’s storms. The early wet season has brought on the good fall fishing.

Out in Nevada, Pyramid Lake reopened to fishing on Oct. 1. The first few days of the season featured high winds and tough fishing in 63-degree water. Since then there has been cooling and more fish are being caught.

There are regulation changes in effect for the 2007-08 fishing season at Pyramid Lake. The major one being the closed spawning areas were extended to protect fish during spawning run. From March 15 to May 16 closed areas are from Sutcliffe Marina up to and including the South Nets beach area.

Other rules include the use of barbless hooks is required and no fishing within 500 feet of any docks. Down riggers are still permissible and the fishing fees will remain the same.


Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union 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. He may be reached via e-mail at

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