The Fish Sniffer - Angler Catches New Landlocked King Salmon Record At Trinity Lake
Angler Catches New Landlocked King Salmon Record At Trinity Lake

Written By: Dan Bacher, January 19, 2011
Location: Trinity Lake,

Shasta, Don Pedro, Folsom and McClure reservoirs are known for the big landlocked chinook salmon that they produce for anglers every year, but the capture of a new state record inland chinook salmon at Trinity Lake by Mike Elster of Douglas City on September 6 highlights the sleeper king fishery found at Trinity.

Elster’s chinook, weighing 7.69 lbs with a 14.5” girth and 26” overall length, will more than likely become the first state record Inland chinook. Inland chinook and coho are new record categories created this year by the Department of Fish and Game.

“My wife and I had of those days where all the stars lined up and the fish gods were with us,” said Elster. “We were fishing out in front of the dam, having picked up kokes to 13”, 1 rainbow at 16” and one king at 15”. All of the fish hit UV Sling Blades, Wiggle Hoochies, Apexes and Captain America Hum Dingers between 40 and 50 feet deep.”

Elster could see the kings holding in depths of 80 to 120 feet and decided to run gear down there for over an hour, but didn’t get any bites. Then he brought his Sling Blade and Apex up to 60’ and within a few minutes he had a fish on.

Several minutes later his wife netted the nice 4.5 lb king, the largest he had caught at any lake in California. His previous largest king was a 3-1/2 pounder taken at Lake Shasta.

“I got everything reloaded and dropped it back down to 60’ and within 10 minutes we had another take down,” he explained. “As soon as I pulled it out of the rod holder I could tell it was bigger than the one we just caught. I told my wife to get all of the other rods out of the way as I kept pressure on the fish.”

This one stayed deep and made several major runs, but after about 10 minutes Elster got the salmon to the surface and was shocked by the size of the fish.

“The fish made a couple more runs, but we finally wore him out, got him netted and in the boat,” noted Elster. “ We fished for about another half hour, and caught and released several small rainbows.”

Elster’s theory about why the chinooks decided to bite after he brought the lures up to 60 feet was that they were in spawning mode and not eating, as evidenced by the lack of food in their bellies “Their sperm sacks were huge – they were getting ready to spawn,” said Elster, “so I think they hit to attack the lures, not eat them.”

On the way home, Elster called Gary Miralles of Shasta Tackle Company about the big kings he caught. Miralles suggested contacting the DFG to find out if there is a lake record for kings.

In the process of calling Monte Courrier, the DFG biologist for the Redding region, he found out that the DFG has created a new state category for inland king salmon this year and no one has yet to enter a fish.

Elster iced the fish down and drove to the Redding DFG office. Elster filled out the official paperwork and weighed the fish on a certified scale while Courrier did all the measurements and documentation.

The DFG has not yet documented successful chinook salmon spawning in the tributaries of Trinity Lake, although it is possible that some of the fish are the progeny of natural spawning fish.

In an attempt to reduce the numbers of kokanee salmon that spawn in the lake, the DFG began planting brown trout and king salmon in Trinity Lake. The agency last stocked the reservoir with 50,000 fingerling browns and 50,000 chinook fingerlings in 2009, according to Courrier,

However, the DFG decided to stop the brown plants, due to concerns about the brown’s impact on the Trinity River salmon and steelhead fishery, and to reduce the chinook plants from 50,000 to a smaller number that Courrier couldn’t’ disclose, due to the current DFG policy of not releasing yearly fish allotments.

“We were afraid the browns would impact the coho and other ESA listed species on the river,” said Courrier. “We also decided to stop the chinook plants because they weren’t returning to the creel.”

However, once the word go out that chinooks weren’t going to be stocked, anglers protested and said they were indeed catching chinooks at Trinity. They decided to reduce the chinook plants, shifting some of them to Shasta.

Based on the big chinooks and larger than normal kokaee appearing this year, the reduction in the amount of chinooks may be allowing the chinooks being to grow larger, since they are faced with less competition for forage.

“The big kings and large kokanee showing this year are really exciting news,” emphasized Courrier.

While Elster’s fish is likely to become a new state inland chinook record, it is also likely to be broken soon when others enter fish from Don Pedro and other lakes noted for their big kings.

For example, an angler fishing with guide Bruce Hamby landed a 10 lb. chinook in 2007 at Don Pedro. I landed an 8.5 lb. king while trolling at Don Pedro in April 2008. In addition, two 11 pound landlocked chinooks were reported out of Don Pedro this year, according to Courrier.

The landlocked chinook fishery is one of the most exciting fisheries in California – and the setting of a new state record is likely to generate increasing interest by anglers in pursuing inland salmon.

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