Denis Peirce: Salmon fishing on the Feather picks up |

Denis Peirce: Salmon fishing on the Feather picks up

Denis Peirce

The salmon run on the Feather River has finally gotten up to speed. August was a disappointment. We had high water flows but the fish seemed to be more interested in feeding off the coast than swimming up the rivers.

About 10 days ago that changed. A large school of fish was located moving up river at Star Bend a few miles below Yuba City. The anglers got on them and stayed with them all the way up to the Oroville area. Since then there has been a steady run of fish moving up through the river system. The most reliable indicator of good numbers of fish in the system is the number of bank anglers at the After Bay Hole. Two weeks ago you would see only a couple, now there are dozens.

The river conditions on the Feather continue to improve. The high flows that peaked at 8,600 cubic feet per second 10 days ago have backed off a bit to 7,500 currently, still high but a little better access for shore anglers. The water temps have come down below the 60-degree mark in the high flow section below the After Bay Hole. These cool temps are a factor in getting the salmon to bite.

The quality of the fish is decent for this time of the run. In the river below the After Bay down toward Gridley, you will find traveling fish. These new arrivals will be 60% bright and 40% darkening fish. In the After Bay Hole the fish have been holding in the depths and the bright percentage will be lower. Roe continues to be the best bet in the upper river close to the spawning grounds.

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Lower down river, anglers are catching salmon trolling spinners and anchoring up with plugs. The high water has the salmon on the move but they will pause in some of the deeper holes.

On the Sacramento River the salmon run is good. The average fish will be larger than on the Feather. Most of the angling pressure is up river where the water is cooler. The percentage of bright fish on the Sacramento in the upper reaches above Corning is about 50%.

A report from the Sacramento Metro area mentioned lots of salmon swimming through. The water temps have dropped down to the mid 60s which is promising. The unusual comment from Justin Leonard, Out Cast Guide Service, was that the fish were suspended, not on the bottom. In 20 feet of water, the fish were at 14 feet and moving rapidly. It is typical for salmon to swim close to the bottom. Many salmon rigs present plugs or roe just off the bottom. These presentations would be below the fish on the day Justin was fishing there.

The Yuba River is flowing at 800 cfs as it converges with the Feather. Up at the Highway 20 bridge it is 1,150 cfs. Tom Page, Reel Angler’s Fly Shop, guided the Yuba this week. He noted good numbers of salmon starting to dig redds at the Highway 20 Bridge. There has been a notable increase in salmon in the last ten days. Tom commented that this is the best showing of salmon on the Yuba in five years.

The Yuba is closed to salmon fishing but this is the time when the “egg bite” turns on for the rainbows/steelhead in the river. Tom reports the egg bite is off and on. He typically fishes an egg and a nymph. On any given day the trout will have a decided preference for one or the other. On this week’s guide trip Tom said the fish were on the nymph, a small #18 mayfly. The eggs did not get much attention. The trout will still hit hopper patterns on warm days but on cool days the hoppers will be ignored.

We have a good chance of rain this weekend in the foothills. Up in the high country there is a chance for a dusting of snow. This is exactly the conditions that will turn on the fishing in the Sierra lakes. With the shorter days, the sun lower in the sky and some rain, the water cools and the fish come to the top.

I checked in with Val Aubrey, She has been catching all of her fish at Eagle Lake in the top 10 feet of the water column. The overnight lows have been in the mid 30s which has cooled off the shallows to the 58- to 60-degree range. Out over deep water it is warmer in the 61- to 63-degree range. She has found the trout in 5 to 7 feet of water early and they move out over 15 to 25 feet of water by mid morning but are still feeding close to the surface.

The water is still cloudy with only a couple of feet of visibility. The water color is slowly changing from brown toward green. The quality of the trout is good. She had five fish Wednesday that totaled 14 pounds. The best action has come on orange trolling flies.

Jon Baiocchi has been fishing Lake Davis. The surface temps have dropped to 58 degrees and the trout are hitting flies trolled near the top of the water out over the 10 to 20 foot depths. More details on Lake Davis tonight, Jon will be the guest on my radio show.

In the Eastern Sierra anglers trolling the June Lake Loop have been trolling deep, 8 colors of lead-core, doing well on browns and cutthroat trout. I expect any day to hear that the water has cooled off and the fish have moved to the top. A couple of weeks ago a cutthroat weighing 9.5 pounds was caught deep in June Lake, a possible lake record. These cutthroat are the same as the fish in Pyramid Lake, Nevada. It will be interesting to see how large these fish will get in the years to come.

For the bass anglers, Bullards Bar continues to fish well. Tom Page has customers fishing there. They have been starting out early in the morning fishing poppers on the surface. They then switch to a Balance Leech below a float for a slow presentation close to the bank. By mid-day they move to a streamer/bait fish pattern with a faster retrieve. The numbers of fish have been good throughout the day.

October starts next week. It is the peak for fall fishing on so many waters. The lakes are cooling into the prime mid 50-degree range, starting in the upper elevations. The salmon are running which will turn on the egg bite for steelhead. The stripers which are concentrated in the lower delta will move throughout the system. All species of fish are in the transition from summer to winter and the fishing will not get much better than this. I hope to see you 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

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