Denis Peirce: Fall salmon run gears up
It is late August and the valley salmon run should be approaching high gear. There are salmon here but the numbers are not overwhelming yet.
I drove up to Redding this week. My usual route is to go over the Sacramento River at Woodson Bridge on the road to Corning. The parking lot at the launch ramp was packed with boat trailers, an indication of where the good salmon fishing is.
A check with my salmon sources revealed this assessment. The best river fishing is from Chico up to the Barge Hole above Red Bluff on the Sacramento. Guide boats typically have scores of 2-3-4 fish per boat. The water temp is 61 degrees at Woodson Bridge. Most of the boats are heading down stream from Woodson Bridge where the water is more friendly to prop boats. There are more riffles up river from the launch ramp that make a jet boat more practical. Both plugs and roe are catching fish.
Closer to home the Feather has been disappointing. Water temp in the Outlet Hole is 65 degrees, which is marginal for the salmon bite. The water coming down the river channel into the hole is 60 degrees but this is a no salmon fishing zone. The cool water will be attracting the salmon up stream. The Outlet Hole has had very few fish. Recently the Feather River has produced few fish and those that have been caught are small and dark colored.
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The mouth of the American in the Sacramento Metro area has not been fishing well for salmon.
So much for the bad news. The good news is off the coast in salt water. The party boats from the Bay area, that are looking to produce salmon for 20 to 30 anglers are heading out 35 miles to fish over large schools of salmon and are regularly catching limits. The smaller 6-pack boats are concentrating just outside the Golden Gate where they can find enough fish for up to six anglers. These small boats report new schools of bait fish and squid showing up which is a good sign for continued good fishing.
What is unusual is the condition of the female salmon. Many of the fish caught close to the bay have fully mature eggs in them and they are continuing to feed in salt water. The speculation is that the fresh water is too warm for them and the dining is so good they are staying longer in the salt. Regardless of the reason, these conditions suggest a rapid swim up to the spawning grounds when they do start their run.
Farther up the coast there are salmon being taken off Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg. These fish are ultimately destined for the valley rivers. There is also a good tuna bite off Fort Bragg.
For Labor Day Weekend the best bet is the Sacramento River or salt water. The good news is that the fish will be coming in but the timing is unknown. They could show up tomorrow on the Feather.
The Lower Yuba River is changing. The annual late summer drop in flows is currently underway. This is the end of the irrigation season and the flows are being cut 200 cfs per day heading for a flow of 400 cfs on September 3rd. Tom Page, Reel Anglers Fly Shop, noted that once these flows stabilize the insect hatches increase and the fishing takes an up turn.
Bullards Bar has been fishing well for bass anglers. They are catching good numbers of spotted bass but they tend to be smaller fish. Tom Page’s customers have been using the “Float & Fly” technique fishing 10 to 15 feet down close to the bank. What is unusual is the food these bass have been burping up. The bass have been stuffed with minnows 1 to 2 inches long with an olive/gray back and white belly. Tom was shown a picture and he identified them as juvenile kokanee. This explains the Float & Fly success.
For kokanee anglers on Bullards, the mature fish have started heading up the river arms on the annual spawning run. They are still in the lake, but if you can not find them below the water skiers this weekend, head up the North Yuba arm. The mature fish will be 12 to 14 inches long.
Tom Page fished Scotts Flat last Sunday and picked up some small mouth bass with crawdad imitations on the bottom in 12 feet of water.
Another couple of options are the North Yuba or the Truckee River for stream trout fishing. On the Truckee the crawdads have been molting and the trout have been feeding heavily on them. On the Yuba you can tempt trout with a variety of flies. Stimulators in the smaller sizes, #14 & #16 have been producing well when the sun is off the water.
This is the last big holiday of summer, be sure to spend some time on the water.
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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