Fall forecast not great for salmon action

By: George deVilbiss
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With only limited exceptions, all salmon fishing has been closed for a couple of years.


There was no commercial or recreational ocean salmon fishing and there was no river salmon fishing in those rivers that wound up at San Francisco Bay. When the salmon fishery was reinstituted, the north state angler rejoiced to no end. Anglers have been bouncing around on the open waters of the ocean for many weeks now.


The California Fish and Game Commission is again allowing a full-blown salmon fishery in all river waters that were closed. However, the initial joy about the reopening has been replaced by a realization that perhaps the salmon population has been reduced.


Part of the reason the season was reinstituted was the forecast for a huge, massive river run of salmon this year, but the offshore salmon fishing has been a pretty big disappointment for the most part. Boats in all the ports, from Monterey north to the Oregon border have been out trying for the prized Chinook salmon.


Party boat operators will be the first to tell you that the water conditions and water temperatures have been pretty much ideal. They have found bait preferred by salmon: both anchovy and krill, but have not found an abundance of salmon.


Some salmon have been caught, but it’s been tough to get even one fish for every person on board the boat. Limits have even been more rare.


For the length of time the season’s been open and the amount of open ocean waters boats have tried for salmon with little success, the current analysis is that there are just not great numbers of salmon there.


Where are they? That’s anybody’s guess. Millions have been raised and released by numerous hatcheries. They should be there, but they don’t seem to be. If there are not great numbers out there then there are not great numbers to find their way up into the local rivers systems.


While you will have a river fishery, and certainly there will be pretty fair number of boats working the Sacramento, American and Feather Rivers, just don’t expect a great rod-bending experience.



Folsom Lake: First of all, if it’s fishing you want to do, don’t go to this lake on weekends. Secondly, the fishing is tough even when there’s some open water to fish and nothing consistent seems to be regularly taking bass. If you get on the water at first light, you could get bit with top water gear. Otherwise, try dropshotting the shelves and drop-offs.


Lake Amador: This is a pay-to-play lake, and the good news is they’ve reduced the fees. It now costs $5 for day use, $5 to launch a boat, and $7 for just day use. While they quit planting trout some weeks ago, that certainly doesn’t mean they’re gone. You can still catch a trout now and then cruising looking for something to eat. Night catfishing is a good bet and bass action can be good.


Offshore: If it’s salmon, you can have a good boat ride. The temperatures are cooler. However, the salmon bite all up and down the coast, is essentially a scratch bite. Rock cod fishing, however, in all the ports, has been outstanding. You can easily fill up on the standard blues and blacks. Tossing jigs, some really hefty ling cod have been joined the sack counts. Big reds, like vermillion, have also been tallied out of Bodega.

Way up north, in what’s known as California’s Lost Coast, there’s Shelter Cove. They have the everyday rock cod fishing, like their other ports. Like the other ports, their salmon fishing is pretty much a scratch bite. What they do have that others don’t, though, is a big population of Pacific Halibut. That’s your big halibut and right now, top fish has been an Alaskan barn door-type “butt” that has tipped the scales at nearly 130 pounds. Look into it if you want to try for big halibut.


New Melones: It’s an awfully big lake, which means you can still find a great deal of fishing room even when the water recreationists are out in force. It will take down riggers to get down to the 50-foot level where many of the kokanee are schooled, but it’s easy limits on 16-inchers. A lot of different hardware is working so just keep changing until you get bit regularly. Just be sure to tip the hook with a couple kernels of the white, shoepeg corn. If you get on the water at the crack of dawn, bass will be found in the shallows and top water gear is the hot ticket item. However, once the sun gets on the water, the bass roam back out to the deeper water. Doesn’t mean the bite is off. Just switch over to plastics.


Stumpy Meadows: The lake is full to the brim and it’s been planted by the DFG a couple of times. Those on shore and those trolling are all catching fish running up to 12-inches. Trollers are hauling a crawler behind blades while those on shore are soaking PoswerBait, worms or eggs.


Any questions, comments or concerns, contact George at GeorgesColumn@AOL.COM.