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I arrived at the Yuba City Boat ramp at 4 am and got in the boat with Rob Reimer of Rustic Rob’s Guide Service and Jimmy Downs. We sped through the boat in the darkness to the hole on the Feather River above Shanghai Rapids where Reimers had put his anchor, attached to a red buoy.
Rob had spent the night sleeping in the boat in anticipation of the opener. “I saw fish rolling yesterday around here when I got on the river in the afternoon,” said Reimers.
Reimers had already outfitted the rods with his trademark Brad’s Killer Fish/spinner blade combos, as well as his Silvertron spinners/Speedy Shiner combos in a variety of colors that he found a lot of success on last year.
At legal fishing time, we put the rods out and set them in the rod holders, waiting for the hard strike of a salmon. As the sun rose over the water, we could see other boats around us anchored up trying for a salmon on opening day.
We told stories ate some great smoked salmon and got ready for a battle with a salmon, but we never got a hit or hooked up. We didn’t see any other anglers in boat from shore hook up salmon either.
We stopped fishing about noon without hooking a fish. As we went down river, we didn’t talk to a single angler who reported hooking and or landing a salmon.
The only good bite we heard of, via Facebook, was experienced by several guides, including Raith Heryford, as well as the current state landlocked coho record holder, Josh Giordano. They were fishing in a slot below the Thermalito Aferbay outlet that was holding fish.
Heryford, of RH Guide Service, said the five people in his boat hooked 16 and landed 8 salmon ranging from 13 to 27 pounds while anchored up using Brad’s Killer Fish with a sardine wrapper coated with Pro- Cure Sardine Gel.
“You had to be in the right spot, and a few of us guides anchored up for an all-night stay to assure getting the best locations. It was the best river opener ever for us, with three double hookups during the morning,” stated Heryford.
Lisa Portocarrero of SacRiverGuide.com reported a “great opening day for Pro Guide Kirk Portocarrero and clients.”
“Morgan, a 26 year dedicated client, and the crew brought in 7 kings, the most fish of any boat today on the Sacramento River targeting salmon,” said Portocarrero. “They hooked fish #7 at around noon. That was the smallest salmon of the day and they released it. The largest salmon weighed 24 pounds. They hooked all of the kings on Flatfish below Red Bluff.”
With the exception of the few promising reports like these, the opener was very tough on both the Sacramento River from Rio Vista to Red Bluff and on the Feather from the mouth to below the outlet.
Fortunately, the fishing has picked up on the Feather below Shanghai Rapids since the opener, with Captain Reimers reporting 1 to 2 fish per day. “The fishing hasn't been off the hook, but I have been boating salmon every day,” said Reimers.
Reimers had the best salmon story on the river of the year to date about a “crazy fish” he had to chase downriver on Friday, July 25.
“Today I had a crazy salmon on,” said Reimers. “This fish hit like a ton of bricks then turned and headed over the falls at Shanghai. His mind was made up, stripping line, and I thought he was going to spool me. With the top up on my boat, I knew following him over the falls wasn't an option, so I found a spot to drop Ron Kelly off at the bank. He jumped out of the boat and down the slippery clay banks he went. I grabbed the net.”
“ I told Dale Wilder to hold the boat before the current took it down the falls. After Ron I went, catching up with him a couple hundred yards down river. The line had hung around a big clay chunk. Getting down to it, Ron handed me the rod. and I got it off,” said Reimers.
“He was already about another hundred yards down river,” Reimers continued. “It was my turn and I took off after him. We finally corralled him at the outlet of the run about, 1/4 mile from where we started. I think the fish was as tired as we were because at that point he gave up pretty easily. Ron got down to the water, netted him and the crazy salmon was ours. The craziest part of all was he was only 18 lbs!”
On a previous trip, Reimers noted, “The salmon opener was tough to say the least! But Ron Gaston and I did manage to pull out some nice fish today in the Shanghai area on my Speedy-spinner.”
On Monday, July 28, a school of fresh salmon had moved into the outlet area, “Two of us have caught 3 salmon, ranging from 10 to 22 pounds, so far this morning,” said Raith Heryford. “We’re fishing Pro-Cure roe in the middle of the outlet hole.”
Fishing in the Sacramento area has also been slow, with the majority of guides and private boaters hooking zero.
On even the slowest openers, there’s always somebody that hits the salmon jackpot. Uncle Larry Barnes of Sacramento Pro Tackle landed an amazing 3 salmon to 13 pounds while trolling from Discovery Park to the I Street Bridge.
“He kept one fish and released the other two,” said Dennis Pfanner, the shop’s owner. “Barnes trolled with M-2 glow in the dark Flatfish with sardine wrappers for his salmon.”
The National Marine Fisheries Service’s ocean abundance forecast estimate for Sacramento River salmon, released in March, is 634,650 Chinook salmon. This is less than last year’s forecast of 865,525, but still a promising number.
“The abundance forecast is large,” said Michael O’Farrell of the National Marine Fisheries Service at a CDFW meeting in Santa Rosa. “Our preliminary prediction is 328,567 spawners that would return to the Sacramento River and tributaries if the 2013 regulations were in place this year.”
However, the salmon fishing from Bodega Bay to Monterey has been inconsistent, with spurts of hot action followed by tough fishing. Hopefully, Sacramento River fish will soon come from the Fort Bragg and Shelter Cove areas, where fishing has been great at times, to the Bay Area coast. The river fishing will then perk up as they ascend the Sacramento, Feather and American rivers to spawn.
In 2013, a total of 424,914 combined hatchery and naturally spawinng fall run Chinooks, including 404,666 adults and 20,248 jacks (two-year-olds) returned to the Sacramento River. This total included 164,213 salmon from the Upper Sacramento River, 193,391 from the Feather River Basin and 64,310 from the American River Basin.
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