Nov. 29, 2012 Target Feather River For Early Season Steelhead

Written By: Bill Adelman, November 30, 2012

Last time we took our first look at the upcoming steelhead season, and now it’s here. Of course, the coastal rivers are completely rain dependent, but we are extremely fortunate to have the Feather River within just a few hours drive. So’s, why is this important? 

Well, it gives us the first shot at steelhead, weather notwithstanding.  For some unknown reason, steelies move into the Feather every year, just like clockwork. 

They do not, however, venture up the Sacramento above the mouth this early. In order to get to the Feather, they must fin up the Sacramento prior to making a right turn at Verona. It is possible to catch a few fish below Verona with just a bit of patience and a lot of good luck. One of the most obvious techniques is fishing moving water over edges, just like sandbars or rock walls. Let’s start with lures. 

The old time favorite is the Hot Shot. Depending on water depth, the dropper style presentation that we use for salmon is the best approach. The dropper leader should be no more than 15 inches long and the 8 pound test leader to the Hot Shot no more than 2-½ feet in length. The sinker should be ½ to 1 ounce, just heavy enough to hold the bottom. 

Where to fish this? Just on the outside of the break created by a sand bar will often produce fish. Placing your rod in a holder will ease the pressure on your wrist. Another spot to check out is a channel up to about 8 feet deep. These are best located up the Feather from the mouth for the first mile or so. 

If the Hot Shot isn’t your personal choice, other lures will work as well. My second application was always the Wee Wart. Small silver spinners placed on the longer leader in place of a plastic lure is a solid choice as long as the current is strong enough to keep it spinning and off the bottom.

As the Feather has different regulations in different areas, the bag and possession limit is one hatchery trout or steelhead from 1000 feet below the Thermalito Afterbay to the mouth. And yes, possession includes the steelhead or Feather River trout you still have at home in your freezer. 

You’ll also need to check the regulations in order to determine where barbless hooks or single barbless hooks are required. As I understand it, having illegal hooks in your possession, but not using them is sorta a gray area. It kind of depends on a warden and his/her interpretation of the law. 

And don’t forget the steelhead report card. This too is set up so that the warden can determine the law. If fishing in water that may contain a steelhead, and you happen to be fishing for shad, smallies, salmon, or whatever, is a steelhead report card required? 

The DF&W says no, but many citations have been written. Of course, if a steelhead is hooked, it must be released, unharmed, immediately. 

Now…bait. These early run fish can be taken with fresh roe, nightcrawlers, salmon eggs, crawdad tails and who knows what else. Tie your short shank hook directly on the end of your terminal line. About 3 feet above the hook, tie a double overhand knot that leaves a 3 inch tail. 

 Attach your sinker to this tail, so that if the sinker gets hung up, you can simply point the tip of the rod towards the hang up and apply steady pressure. The shot will simply slide off the tail and you’re ready to just re-apply a sinker without having to tie the rigging again. 

Try anchoring up on the upper edge of a sandbar so that your cast and drift will be beyond the edge of the bar, yet end up right on the break of the bar. As your bait bounces across the bottom, with added action by slightly twitching the rod tip, the grab will be subtle, yet very distinguishable. Start closer to the boat, or where you’re wading, and increase the distance of each cast while trying to locate fish. Keep the bait fresh and if it’s your choice to utilize scent, go for it. The regulations might be different in the Sacramento.

From below the 113 bridge in Knights Landing down to the Carquinez Bridge this is the news. From January 1 to July 31 the limit is 2 hatchery trout or steelhead and 4 in possession. The balance of the year is up in the air, as regs haven’t been locked in stone as of yet. Check the website for updated info, that is the website for our new and revised DF&W. 

It’s soapbox time. The DF&W? Our recycled governor signs the name change into law with one hand, causing millions of dollars be spent to activate this move, while holding out the other hand moaning that we don’t got no money in California. And just a couple of months ago, how much did he take from the department for other uses? OK…nuff. 

Next time we’ll run around checking what’s happening in our area. Maybe stripers and sturgeon, maybe more steelhead, maybe not. Seeya then and Tight Lines!

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