Ocean salmon fishing to open May 1 in north coast waters

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Horse Mountain to the Oregon border encompasses the mouth of the Klamath River region, Crescent City, Humboldt Bay and Shelter Cove.

While the rest of the state’s ocean waters opened to salmon fishing Easter weekend, the upper reach of the state remained closed.

For those who don’t mind the extra drive to the far north state, the California Fish and Game Commission recently adopted May 1 as the season-opening date for this region.

Big numbers of salmon are predicted this year, hence the earliest opening date for this region since the early 1990s. The higher numbers are expected to be reflected in catches and for those escaping hooks, making their spawning run to the various rivers.

The limit in this final stretch of California waters, as it is throughout all ocean waters, is two Chinook salmon. Coho, or silver salmon, aren’t allowed in the catch.

The minimum size in waters from Horse Mountain to the Oregon border is 20 inches. South of Point Arena, the minimum size is 24 inches.

Party boat operators are mandated to know all rules and regulations. If you have a boat and are unsure, consult the DFG website at

Inland salmon regulations are set

The CFGC also adopted the regulation package for inland-water salmon fishing.

If the ocean fishery is as good as the predictions, there will be a much more intense interest in fishing for salmon in local rivers than in recent years. The daily limit remains two Chinooks, except if you fish the Klamath or Trinity rivers, where the daily limit is four with eight total in possession. A Salmon Harvest Card also is required if you fish the Klamath or Trinity. Visit the DFG website at

Sacramento River: The season in the upper section of the river, from Anderson to the Red Bluff Diversion Dam, runs from Aug. 1 through Dec. 16. From the Lower Red Bluff boat ramp to the Highway 113 bridge near Knights Landing, season dates are July 16 through Dec. 16. From the Carquinez Bridge upriver to the Highway 113 bridge at Knights Landing, you can fish for salmon from July 16 through Dec. 16.

Feather River: From July 16 through Oct. 15 from the boat ramp above Thermalito Afterbay Outfall downstream to 200 yards above the Live Oak boat ramp; July 16 through Dec. 16 for the rest of the Feather River, from the mouth upriver to 200 yards above the Live Oak boat ramp.

American River: From July 16 through Dec. 31 from Nimbus Dam to the Hazel Avenue Bridge; from July 16 through Aug. 15 from the Hazel Avenue Bridge downriver to the gauging station near the Nimbus Hatchery; from July 16 through Oct. 31 from the gauging station near the Nimbus Hatchery downriver to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District power line crossing near Ancil Hoffman Park; and July 16 through Dec. 16 in the final stretch of the American River, from the Power Lines near Ancil Hoffman Park downriver to the mouth of the river.

Current fishing

It was a week of great weather. There’s a short glitch in that weather pattern this week, but the weather again turns good.

Ocean salmon: The fishing has been outstanding. Boats powering out of San Francisco Bay — Emeryville, Berkeley, Sausalito, etc. — are finding excellent numbers. Some boats limit out while others may get a fish a round for all. No real smokers in the catches, but keepers have been running eight to 15 pounds.

Local rivers: Stripers, stripers and stripers. Miller Park to Knights Landing on the Sacramento River and from the mouth of the Feather River upriver to the Bear River are experiencing great rod-bending action. Bait, trolling a variety of plugs and drifting big minnows, is working. Don’t be discouraged with the seemingly never-ending number of shakers working on your bait, especially those soaking bait at anchor. Keepers are in there, too.

Lake Pardee: Most trollers put the hammer down right out of the Rec Area Cove and head directly for the mouth of the river. Trolling here has been great for trout and kokanee. Others head upriver to Twin Coves, Deer Island or Columbia Gulch. Trout and kokes remain close to the surface so keep your rig in the top 25 feet.

It may not be limits for the shore bound, but trout catching has remained decent. Garlic-flavored Power Bait and eggs in yellow and chartreuse remain the top attractors. The cove behind the boathouse, the launch ramp, Porcupine Point and Stony Point Landing have produced.

Have you ever tried bass at Pardee? They have big bass in this water, evidenced by an 11.82-pound largemouth that was checked in at the marina shop and then released. Ultimate Bass, headed by Kent Brown, will be host to a large event April 29.

Lake Camanche: They’re still enhancing the fishery by planting truckloads of trout, 2,000 pounds at a time. That means shore fishing, those at anchor and trollers are getting into a decent bite. Those fishing off the points at North Shore have been putting five-pounders on stringers. Those anchoring around the dam, using Power Bait or even grubs, have been tallying good numbers, and those trolling the upper part around the Narrows, Hat Island and the deeper water around the dam, hauling a variety of hardware or even a threaded night crawler, are putting nice ’bows in the box.

Rancho Seco Lake: SMUD was host to its annual spring derby a few weeks ago. The lake was stocked, and certainly not all those trout were caught. Boats are allowed on the lake, but no gas motors. It’s a safe place to take the kids for day and weekend outings, as there is limited camping availability. Those casting from shore are soaking Power Bait, crawlers and even Power Eggs to get bit. If you have a boat, haul a set of small flashers with a fly or a crawler and you can troll to get bit. Take red worms. The kids can have a ball fishing for and catching the numerous bluegill.

Bullards Bar: While there was no word on the trout and kokanee bite, the lake also is known for its bass population. Spotted bass are in full spawning mode, and nice spots are being taken. Can’t complain when you flip worms or Senkos and tally four- to six- pounders. They’re being found from five to 25 feet down.

Contact George deVilbiss at