River junkie checking in from NoCal

Posted: October 19, 2012 by Hellcat in Fish Reports, Gear Fishing, Out of Area, Salmon, Trout & Steelhead
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I’m proud to feature another comprehensive and infromative piece by my NoCal connection, Michael McNeilly aka Mr. Sockeye. Enjoy. I always do.

Hey AAA Readers,
This has been a salmon season for the record books in Northern California, or at least it was projected to be. However, we are midway through our season, and the big question is, “has it lived up to all the hype?”

Frankly, the jury is still out. The bite has been good at times; but not consistently. There’s a pod of fish here today; but not tomorrow. The fish were biting like piranahas in the early morning; but not as soon as the sun hit the water. That has been the story of this season so far. With the abnormally warm fall conditions in the Sacramento Valley, the rivers have stayed warmer longer, and it took a long time for the lower river trolling bite to build momentum. Usually, there is a good trolling bite to be had on the Lower Sac sometime in early September when the bulk of the fish headed for the Feather River make their way through the system This year, the lower river was very warm, and the fish blasted right through. They didn’t linger at all, and fishing was sporadic at best. However, if you were lucky enough to connect with one of these migrants, they were super clean fish. On the flip side, if you had a jet boat during August and September, you could really bang away at fish on the Upper Feather in the Thermalito area, and on the Sacramento around Chico. Most of the fish were very bright until recently when they started showing their age. Now, the Feather is done for the season, and the bulk of the fish around Chico are very dark.

Currently, the long awaited Lower Sac trolling bite is going strong on a day to day basis. Some days its hot if schools are moving through, and other days it is a scratch bite to say the least. The other day ago, a friend of mine and his clients went 8 for 11 on big chrome kings while downstream trolling k-14 Kwikfish by 10:00a a.m. Later in the week, he put in an all day performance for a big fat skunk. Of course, trolling spinners and Kwikfish is about as mindless as it gets in the salmon world, and many would be fishermen have came out of the woodworks to capitalize on this very easy fishery. News of a hot bite in the downtown Sacramento area spreads fast, and it has been a madhouse in some of the popular areas. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought to myself this season, “Damn, I wish this hot bite would die down so all these kokanee fishermen can go back to what they normally would be doing.” Not to mention the randomness of drawing strikes while pulling spinners. Undoubtedly, as a good fishermen, you will be humbled by the guy in the “hope she floats boat” with the 6′ sturgeon rod loaded with 100Lb mono trolling a Kwikfish at 2 MPH upstream. You can bet, that a few guys like that have put themselves in the right spot at the right time this season, and they have bested some the best rods on the river. That is the “luck” factor of trolling the Lower Sacramento River ditch.

Oh, and then there was the Klamath, with its expected ocean abundance of 1.6 million fall kings in 2012. Of course, how many of those fish actually made it into the river is anybody’s guess. Commerical and sport anglers absolutely pulverized them from Brookings to Eureka all summer long. Undoubtedly, there were a lot of kings, but after the Yurok Indians took their 120,000 allotment in their gillnet fishery, and the big summer on the ocean, that number was widdled down significantly. For the record, there were some hot days posted on the Klamath this fall, and in general the fish were bigger than average, but the Lower Klamath did not live up to the hype. Most guys I know reported good fishing slightly better than average, but that was all. Personally, I caught more big fish on the Klamath this year in 3 days than in the last 5 years combined, so I can’t complain.

Soon to come, we should get some rain and the big bad coastal rivers will open up. The renowned Smith River will undoubtedly cough up a few behemoths in the 60Lb class, and the might Eel hopefully will conitue its remarkable comeback. In the meantime, I will be heading to the Upper Klamath to pull on some dark fish, and then back to the Lower Sac to yank spinners around in search of fresh chrome that was chilling under the Golden Gate a few days prior to me intercepting them. By late November, the hordes of anlgers will leave the river, and it will be back to fishing all day for 1 or two strikes from our big late fall run kings that invade the river around Thanksgiving and provide a shot at monsters over 50Lbs until mid December when DFG arbitrarily closes the season.

Best of luck, Mike

  1. Oneshot says:

    great write up and fish!!

  2. Strick says:

    Great report! Been loving hearing these same testimonials about the NorCal fisheries!

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