Denis Peirce: Salmon still off the coast |

Denis Peirce: Salmon still off the coast

When you step out of your air conditioned car these days it is hard to find the motivation to spend time outdoors. Normally heading up the hill into the Sierra is the answer to escaping the heat. That option is off the table currently with the national forests closed. The other option is to head west to the coast. One hundred miles from here there are air temps requiring warm clothes and occasionally a rain jacket.

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to get a seat on the Reel Obsession. A six pack fishing boat which fishes out of Bodega Bay north of San Francisco. A friend, Adam Koons, invited me to fill an open slot on the boat for a salmon trip.

The boat started loading at 5 a.m. For me the best bet was to leave home at 9 p.m. arriving at Bodega Bay after midnight. Boats leave on time to hit the morning bite, they don’t wait for late anglers. I slept in my truck for a few hours. I awoke in the early morning darkness as other cars were pulling in. There was a light rain falling, you might have described it as a mist but it was water falling from the sky. I had not seen that for months.

We were on the boat and headed out of the harbor at 5:30 a.m.

The boat was part of a fleet headed south to fish off the Point Reyes Peninsula. All of the fishing boats were in the shallower water between 50 and 90 feet deep. For some reason the jellyfish were present in considerable numbers in deeper water. This area had been producing the most salmon for the past week.

As is often the case the salmon bite had dropped off in the recent past and the bite was slow. There is a progression to the salmon migration as the summer draws to a close. The salmon, that have been feeding somewhere in the north Pacific, start their migration back to the Sacramento Valley. Some will move down the coast coming within range of Bodega Bay on their way to the Golden Gate. They come through in schools and if you hit it right, you will have an epic day. The most recent reports have the best saltwater salmon fishing near the Golden Gate as these fish funnel through the bay headed for the Sacramento River.

Our day on the water yielded three salmon. The number was less than hoped for but the quality was excellent. All three were over the 20 pound mark, good size by California standards. The feed has been good off our coast and big fat salmon have been the rule this season. You can see this in the river caught salmon, from the Sacramento River in recent weeks.

We were a full eight hours on the water fishing from 6 a.m. until after 2 p.m. The salmon were eating squid and anchovies close to the bottom. Our results were similar to the other boats. The most notable catch of the day was a 70+ pound yellowtail caught incidentally while salmon trolling on another boat in our area.

Many of the sportfishing boats based at Bodega Bay have switched to bottom fishing when the salmon are not passing through. As we head into October, the rockfish and lingcod move out of the deep water and head into the shallows for fall spawning. Late summer through fall conditions on the Pacific Ocean are the best of the year for modest seas and light winds, a good time to go, and escape the late summer heat.

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


The best local fisheries have been the Lower Yuba River for steelhead/trout. Tom Page, Reel Anglers Fly Shop, has been on the river seeing a good run of salmon which has led to a good egg bite for the steelhead. The “local fish” have been well fed this year and are an inch or two longer than normal. Tom also has reported a few large 20+ inch steelhead showing up. The river above the Hwy 20 bridge is closed to fishing until December.

The best salmon fishing in the valley is on the Sacramento River where cool water can be found above Corning. The Feather River is so low that fishing is tough. I am guessing that some of these salmon and steelhead have been tempted to swim up the cooler flows in the Yuba.

— Denis Peirce


Adam Koons with a 20 pound salmon.
Photo by Denis Peirce
Trolling for salmon along the coast off Point Reyes.
Photo by Denis Peirce
A good grade of salmon.
Photo by Denis Peirce

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