Savor the exception to salmon fishing ban |

Savor the exception to salmon fishing ban

The “other shoe” finally dropped on the 2008 salmon season. The fresh water salmon fishing for 2008 in the Sacramento River and its tributaries such as the Yuba and Feather rivers will be closed for the 2008 season.

There will be one exception and that will be November and December in a limited stretch of river from Knight’s Landing up to Red Bluff.

This fall season will be limited to one fish per day.

I agree with the decision. The objective is to maintain as large a genetic base as possible, to provide the foundation for the recovery of these fish. I am also pleased that there will be some fishing allowed. The tendency is for fisheries once closed, not to be reopened. That the Sacramento River is not completely closed gives me more hope for future angling.

There will be a salmon season on the Klamath/Trinity River system this year. The Klamath salmon numbers have rebounded in the last couple years.

On the brighter side of the news, I had been informed that the kokanee salmon in Stampede Reservoir, near Truckee, were up at the surface. This is a phenomenon that occurs each spring when the water temps get into the mid 40s. Below this temp the food chain is dormant and the kokanee are not actively feeding. But as the water climbs through the 40s the fish move up to feed on the newly emerging plankton. As the waters warm these fish move progressively deeper going as deep as 100 feet in the early fall. I have wanted to catch a kokanee on a fly, cast with a fly rod and last Wednesday I got the opportunity.

I traveled to Stampede with Wilfried Wietstock, arriving on the water about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. The day was stormy with a stiff breeze and white caps, when the rain squalls were close by. Water temp was in the mid 40s. It is the cloud cover that kept kokanee up near the surface during midday. Kokanee are seldom up at the surface under clear skies and a calm glassy surface. On clear days the bite is from dawn until 9 a.m.

We spent most of our day in the vicinity of the mid lake island. The kokanee were evident at the surface breaking water randomly. Some anglers say they are feeding and others speculate that they jump when chased by the mackinaw. The plankton is at the surface in the warmest water and I believe that is what keeps the fish near the top of the water column as long as the light is low and the temps are below the low 50s.

Eventually we connected with the kokanee near the west end of the island. Wilfried caught his casting a “Super Duper” in gold and red. I fished a slow-sinking fly line and a No. 8 “Comet” steelhead fly. My best guess was to choose a fly color similar to the conventional lures that catch kokanee.

The Comet is a fly series that features bead chain eyes, braided tinsel body, hair tail and hackle collar. The one that worked was red and orange. Other prospective colors would be pink or chartreuse. Fluorescent colors also seem to be attractive to salmon.

The one piece of equipment I purchased specifically for this trip was a “drift sock” or sea anchor. When the wind is up and the surface is whitecapped, controlling the boat is a full time endeavor. By putting out the drift sock, I was able to fish instead of work the motor. We motored upwind and set out the drift sock to achieve a slow drift parallel to the island shore while casting. The bonus fish of the day was a 4-pound smallmouth bass that hit the Super Duper in 3 feet of water on a rocky shore on the west end of the island.

The day ended with a good rainbow trout bite near the launch ramp. The tip off to this was the birds diving and flying off with fish.

The midweek fishing was so good that I returned with my son on Saturday. But an instant replay was not what we found.

We arrived Saturday about 7:30 a.m. with fog over the lake and a few fish breaking the surface. Within a half hour the fog burned off and the sun was bright on a calm lake.

Saturday we got skunked.

We came equipped to fish shallow and the kokanee went deep. At least that is my excuse. Based on what other anglers said, the best time is the crack of dawn until the sun is fully on the water. By mid-day they had gone down the 28 foot depth.

I contacted Gary Gordon about the kokanee bite at Bullard’s Bar. The kokanee are still down below the 50 foot depth in very cold water. They have yet to begin serious feeding on the plankton up near the surface. What fish he has been able to entice are up to 14 inches long. Until they move up to their food source they will continue to be very thin. Gary estimates that it will be another couple weeks before the bite really turns on.


The best kokanee fishing in the state is currently at New Melones near Angels Camp. The fish are as long as 16.5 inches with weights up to 2 pounds. For this early in the season this is shaping up to be a great kokanee year at New Melones.


For those of you who intend to apply for big game hunting tags, the DF&G has set June 2 as the date your application need to be in. Go to for details.

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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