Denis Peirce: Opening day on the Yuba River |

Denis Peirce: Opening day on the Yuba River

There can be an excitement about “Opening Day.” In professional sports they have their defined seasons. It is the off season that allows for the build up of anticipation getting ready for the opening game.


In the angling world we used to have that with “Opening Day” of the trout season in the Sierra, the last Saturday in April. Small mountain towns would have community events. Places like Downieville, Dunsmuir and Truckee would make a big deal out of the opener. I recall the opener in the Mammoth Lakes/Bishop area in decades past. Literally tens of thousands of trout anglers from southern California would travel to the eastern Sierra for the weekend. To an extent the eastern Sierra has preserved their trout opener.

Over a decade ago we began year-round fishing in these areas. The winter fishing was catch & release, no bait and other restrictions. Since then I have noticed a decline in the anticipation of a defined day to start fishing again. You can fish the week before, just with different rules.

Despite the lack of hype about the reopening of a water, it can be an excellent opportunity for some good fishing. The reason for most closures is the protection of vulnerable fisheries. The last days before the close and again at the reopening can produce excellent fishing.

On the Lower Yuba River the stretch from the Hwy 20 bridge upstream to Englebright Dam closes at the end of August and reopens on the first of December. This is the peak of the salmon spawning season and this stretch of river has some of the best salmon spawning water on the Yuba.

With good river conditions and no fishing pressure, this area attracts a disproportionate number of steelhead and rainbow trout in the fall. Early December you can find some of the best Yuba River fishing of the year here.

This past week local anglers Bill McCrea and Chuck Ragan spent a day fishing upriver from the Hwy 20 Bridge and had an epic day. The recent weather has been sunny and mild mid-day, with cool nights. They were on the water early but the fish were not in a dining mood. It was not until mid-morning that the trout woke up and started some serious feeding. The bite lasted into the mid-afternoon.

For those wanting to go, they were fishing a three fly rig under a float. They fished two nymphs and an egg imitation. The egg did take a few fish but the nymphs were the preferred menu item.

Bill McCrea described it as possibly his best day ever on the Yuba, he has been fishing the river for three decades.

This has been a very good year on the Lower Yuba. The river food chain has recovered from high scouring flows that knocked down the insect populations a few years back. The salmon spawning population is on the rise, although not yet back to levels of a decade ago. If you think of the river in cyclical terms, the fishing is at or nearing a peak. Mother nature controls the cycle and we can only hope that these great conditions continue.

We are almost two weeks past the opener and I suspect that the fishing has dropped back to the normal range above the Hwy 20 Bridge. But on the horizon the first of the year will bring on a number of other opening days on valley rivers. The most notable for locals is on the Feather River in Oroville. Again an area closed for salmon spawning that is reopening to trout/steelhead anglers at dawn New Year’s Day. The American River in Sacramento has a similar opening day.

The knock on the Yuba above the Hwy 20 bridge is access. It can be a long hike up the river. There is private access up toward Smartsville. On the Feather and American rivers you will be joined by many other anglers due to the urban location and easy access.

But if you want to be where there will be a lot of fish caught, opening days can be very good.

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

Photo by Bill McCrea
Chuck Ragan landing a fish in fast water on the Lower Yuba River.
Photo by Chuck Ragan
Bill McCrea fly casting on the Yuba River.
Photo by Bill McCrea
Chuck Ragan with a Lower Yuba River rainbow trout.



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