Denis Peirce: Yuba steelhead, better than the salmon |

Denis Peirce: Yuba steelhead, better than the salmon

As expected the salmon run on the valley rivers increased in early September. Conventional wisdom has these fish coming out of the salt water on the higher tides of the new and full moons. The salmon moving under the Golden Gate and up through the Delta can be hard to quantify. With the full moon Sept. 2 the fish coming into the estuary of the Klamath River and swimming up through the riffles on the lower river were very evident. The salmon run on the Klamath is expected to be modest this year but the steelhead run is the best in a decade .

On the Sacramento Valley rivers, salmon were arriving in the upper Feather River near Oroville a couple of days before the full moon and increasing numbers have been seen in the week since. The problem has been the bite or lack thereof. It is common for salmon to “porpoise” or roll on the surface as they swim up river. This is more evident where the river is shallow in a pool – riffle configuration as can be seen from the highway bridge over the Lower Yuba River. I have not seen this in deeper river areas near Sacramento and the Delta. It can be quite frustrating to be on the river watching the salmon breaking the surface and not getting bit. In large part that has been the story on both the Feather and the Sacramento rivers.

On Wednesday of this week guide Justin Leonard (Out Cast Guide Service) estimated seeing a hundred salmon roll over the course of the day, yet only landing a few salmon out of the hundred or more passing under his boat. Justin was “boon doggin” roe. This technique is drifting on the current dragging roe along the bottom. It is the highest percentage tactic on the valley rivers. Justin was fishing the Sacramento River near Corning. The water temperatures in that area have been in the high 50s throughout the day, prime temps for freshwater salmon.

The situation on the Feather River is similar. Early in the morning the water temps are in the low 60s breaking up through the mid 60’s in the afternoon near Gridley. There are numbers of fish moving through daily headed for the hatchery. The best bet for hooking up with a salmon is early in the morning but the numbers of fish being hooked is disappointing.

The salmon run on the Klamath is expected to be modest this year but the steelhead run is the best in a decade.

The flows on the Feather have been low, about 2,000 cfs. The lower Yuba River puts in another 500 cfs which is not a big draw for salmon. I have heard of anglers fishing the Feather above and below Shanghai Bend landing a few salmon for quite a lot of time on the water. Currently the salmon fishing is fair at best but it will get better as the weather cools and more fish keep moving in.

The best news from the valley rivers is from Tom Page (Reel Angler’s Fly Shop). He has been guiding on the Lower Yuba with good overall success. On many of his recent trips his clients have been landing steelhead/rainbows breaking the 20 inch mark. The common Yuba fish is 12 to 16 inches. Fish in the high teens and over 20 inches are hard to come by.

During the third week of August the Yuba flows went from 1200 cfs up to 2200 cfs. The flows were then ramped down to 600 cfs by Sept. 1 — autumn flows. Prior to the surge of water the fishing on the river was sub par, mostly smaller juvenile fish. Since the surge there have been many of the 14 to 16 inch fish again and many days Tom can put a client on to one really nice steelhead. Without the fish being available for an interview, the best guess is that the high flows brought back our local fish which may have been wandering around the valley and what looks to be steelhead the size of Feather River origin fish. This bodes well for the egg bite once the salmon begin their spawn in October.

For the kokanee angler, Shaun Rainsbarger has moved many of his kokanee trips to Boca Reservoir, downstream from Stampede. The kokanee there are consistently two inches longer than in Stampede. The down side is you must launch from shore, there is not a paved ramp available. The best spot is the east shore closer to the inlet of the Little Truckee River. The ground here has some gravel to keep you from sinking a larger boat trailer. The west side of the lake is soft clay. The kokanee are turning color as their spawning time approaches. About 50% are still in good shape if you get up there in the near future.

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

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User