Salmon finally arriving |

Salmon finally arriving

The late summer salmon returns to the Sacramento River system have been disappointing. I have wondered, are they late or are the numbers low this year? This past week, good numbers of salmon were finally counted going over the Red Bluff Diversion Dam.

The dam at Red Bluff is seasonal, meaning that the gates are lowered into place to raise the river level to put water into the irrigation system during the summer. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service runs a fish counting station at the dam and those are the numbers I have been reporting.

The counting season ended last Thursday just as the salmon numbers were getting impressive. As of Sunday Sept. 5, 4999 salmon had been counted. Last Thursday, there were 2,415 salmon in a 24-hour period. Total through the end of the counting season is 9,518, a total of 4,519 in the last week.

This is roughly half of the 2003 total for the same time period.

I spoke with Gary Manies of “Strictly Fishin” guide service and he reported the bite had gotten very good during the past week. Previously, he had to work hard to get fish for his clients and roe was the only way to put fish in the boat.

Now that the fish numbers are up, the flat fish with a sardine wrap is again a good option , especially early in the morning before the sun hits the water. The best areas are downstream from the Woodson Bridge launch ramp for 10 miles or more. Water temps are in the high 50-degree range in this area. There are good holding holes in this stretch. Woodson to Red Bluff is “traveling” water the salmon do not hold in. Above Red Bluff the “Barge Hole” is producing well.

The Feather River has seen a definite upturn in salmon results but not as dramatic as the Sacramento River. Fishing was mediocre on the Labor Day weekend. The following week results improved but it is not a “wide-open bite.” The fish are a 50/50 mix of bright fish and colored fish. The water flows on the Feather decreased from 5,000 to 3,000 cubic feet per second.

This is still a good flow and it concentrates the fish into the more predictable holes and traveling lanes. The fishing has improved in the Yuba City area. Frank at Johnson’s Bait & Tackle reported customers doing well between the mouth of the Yuba and Shanghai Bend.

The Trinity River is probably the best river in the north state for the non-boat angler. The high flows are receding and there are salmon and adult steelhead all the way up to the Lewiston area. The flushing flows of 1,650 cfs will be back down to 450 cfs by next weekend.

The half-pounder steelhead are confined to the lower half of the river below Grays Falls. A Fish & Wildlife fish survey team reported up to 200 adult steelhead staging just below the falls getting ready for the climb. Best steelhead results are early and late when the sun is off the water.

The best Sierra lake fishing report I have had in a month or more came from Frenchman Lake. This is the lake close to the Nevada border east of Lake Davis off Highway 70.

John Kusanovich and Ed Stember fished it last Friday and had an excellent day. They were fly-fishing with the best results coming from cinnamon-brown wooly buggers and snail patterns.

The most interesting comment was how well the trout fought.

They landed fish up to 20 inches in length. Another comment was how many times their flies were hit with out the fish being hooked. Locals on the lake confirmed that hits and no hook up is a common phenomena on the lake.


Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union 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. He may be reached via e-mail at

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