Today is the last day of July, for salmon anglers in the Sacramento Valley we are headed into the prime season. The fall run fish will come on in increasing numbers as we move through August.
Off the coast the action is good with two fish limits many days on the party boats. The size of the salmon is also good. This is a testament to the last few year’s food supply. The salmon have been feeding on krill, a small two inch long shrimp. The salmon diet switches to bait fish about this time of the year. As the spawning urge grows, more and more salmon will congregate outside the Golden Gate, translation “Good salmon fishing ahead.”
In the Sacramento Valley the action to date has been focused on the Sacramento River. The determining factor is water, both volume and temperature. All of the waters I checked rise about five degrees from dawn until evening each day and drop back each night. The Sacramento River is flowing through Redding at 12,000 cfs. As it heads south it is giving up volume to agriculture, but it is still above 7500 cfs at Colusa on Highway 20. The best fishing water temps can be found north of Chico. The most popular launch sites are Woodson Bridge near Corning and up at Red Bluff.
In contrast, the flows on the Feather River near Oroville are much lower. For the last week the river has been in the 2600 cfs range, down from 3200 cfs when the season opened mid July. It is my guess that if the flows remain low the numbers of fish will be modest until later in the season. If for some reason the river gets more water the fishing will pick up.
I checked in with my source on the Trinity River. The spring salmon run was a bust. Very few fish came up. For some reason the salmon runs on the Trinity have been poor the last few years. The Trinity is a good place to fish salmon, for the shore based angler. Maybe the fall run might be a different story. The good news is that there are summer run steelhead in the middle river from Deloma down to Cedar Flat. This is not a huge run as measured by numbers but some of these fish are big by steelhead sizes. There are fish in the six to eight pound range.
The mouth of the Klamath River is very warm, with temps in the middle 70s. A friend went up the river a few miles to Blue Creek, the first cool water tributary. There were a few summer run steelhead there but not enough to justify the eight hour trip for us to go there.
Up in the Sierra, the most notable aspect of summer 2020, is the number of people. I can’t remember a year when this many people have chosen to head up to the high country. Campgrounds are full. Day trip locations are packed. I was headed up the Bowman Lake Road off Highway 20 a few weeks ago. A mile or so in, where the road crossed the South Yuba, there were cars parked on both sides of the road for a hundred yards in each direction.
The North Yuba is warming up. As a general rule, water temps above 70 will translate into poor trout fishing. Jim Johnston (Sierra Streamside Cabins) says he is seeing more people tubing on the river than fishing. If you are heading up to trout fish, look to higher elevations, especially the tributaries.
Lake Almanor has seen a lot of visitors this year also. The water has warmed up to the upper 70s. This has concentrated the trout into the few cool water areas in the lake. The prime spots are the mouth of the Hamilton Branch which has cool water and the springs on the bottom of the lake. The search for cool water is the key to finding fish.
Some of the best trout fishing can be found on the Lower Yuba River. Tom Page (Reel Angler’s Fly Shop) has been guiding there as well as fishing after he closes the shop in the evenings.
The water temps are in the 50s coming from the bottom of Englebright. Low light conditions early or late in the day are the best time to find fish actively feeding. A variety of dry flies are working. Tom mentioned Fat Alberts, Pinkies and various caddis patterns as his favorites.
These days are warm but the fish still have to eat. Very early in the morning will be your best bet on any water you choose to fish.
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 http://www.trollingflies.com.