Jan 29, 2013 Calling Two Fish In A Row On The American River Opener
Written By: Dan Bacher, January 29, 2013
Location: American River - Lower, American River- Middle Fork, American River- North Fork, American River- South Fork,
Every so often when I’ve been fishing I have a feeling that a fish is going to bite and I announce my prediction right before a fish takes the bait or lure. I have seen this happen several times in my angling journeys around California, Oregon, Nevada, British Columbia, Baja California and Costa Rica, but never have I witnessed it take place twice in a row – until now.
Rodney Fagundes and his friends, Kenny Pamanian and Scotty Gomar, and I were fishing in his boat on the American above Sailor Bar on the opener of upper section of river on January 1.
Rodney had dragged his boat upstream and then loaded Scotty and Kenny in the boat in the slack water above the Sailor Bar Riffle to fish the “steelhead highway” below the hatchery that we traditionally fish. I walked down to the river to join them in the boat.
Rodney has a theory that when 22 birds sit on the wire, the steelhead will start biting. We had been fishing with plugs and roe for about an hour when Rodney noticed that 22 birds were lined up on the wire.
He told Cameron Beck of American River Charters, and his two clients, who were fishing in the drift boat right next to us, “You’re going to get bit now.” Moments after he predicted that, one of the rods started bouncing and the woman fishing with Beck grabbed it. Unfortunately, she lost that fish, but an even more amazing thing happened several minutes later in Rodney’s boat.
Scott’s line got tangled with mine and we began to untangle them. Presciently, I said as I was holding the line in my hand, “Watch, I’ll get a bite now.”
Sure enough, as soon as I said that, I felt some added weight on the line. “I got a fish on, Rodney!”
“No way, there’s no fish there,” he replied.
Rodney put his fingers on the line and said, amazed, “There is a fish there!”
After the lines were untangled, I began reeling in the line. I felt the same mushy weight on the line. I kept reeling and finally the fish, apparently very sluggish in the 48-degree water, started pumping the rod a little bit.
I got the fish just several feet from the boat. It was a dark buck of about 9 pounds that I planned to release. The fish twisted its head and the hook on the green pirate Hot Shot came out.
Tbat was the last fish we “called” during the day – being the hardcore anglers we are, we fished from legal hour to 4 p.m, never even taking a lunch break.
About 10 minutes after I hooked that fish, a fish slammed Ken’s rod. Ken had nodded off, so I grabbed the rod and handed it to him, “You got a fish on your rod! Grab it,” I shouted.
Unfortunately, that fish, a very hard fighter, got off within a minute. Meanwhile, anglers on both sides of the river began hooking up steelhead. Many were lost, but lucky anglers landed some quality steelhead, including fish in the 10 to 12 pound range.
“Let’s move over to towards the center of the river and see if we can get some fish,” said Rodney.
We tried pulling plugs, but didn’t hook up any more fish. I saw a small steelhead come jumping out of the water, but didn’t pay much attention to it. Rodney realized something was on his rod and quickly reeled in and released a 12-inch wild steelhead.
We all switched over to throwing Little Cleos and Blue Fox spinners. Rodney got bit right after he started casting a silver/blue 2/5 oz. Little Cleo. The fish put up a great fight, but when he got it to the boat, it turned out to be a dark hatchery buck about 9 pounds and released it.
Finally, Scotty hooked a beautiful, chrome bright steelhead weighing over 10 pounds, a hatchery fish, that Rodney netted after the best fight of the day that we witnessed. He put it on a stringer.
Meanwhile, the bank fishing has tapered off and many anglers left in the afternoon, many without fish but a decent number with bright hatchery steelhead on their stringers.
I briefly hooked one fish on a plug around 3:30 pm and that was it for the day. Our count was 3 steelhead to 10 pounds for 7 hook-ups.
“It was one of the best five of the openers I have fished,” noted Rodney. “In one year, it was so slow that we hooked one of the only two fish that were reported below the hatchery that day.”
Other drift boaters reported success also. American River Fishing Outfitters ended up with 3 steelhead for 5 hook-ups – and other guides and anglers found similar success fishing plugs, roe, spoons and spinners. The lures definitely produced the best action – we never hooked any fish on roe.
Then on Saturday, January 5, Rodney, Scotty Gomar and John Woo had a super day of fishing when they hooked 15 and landed 7 steelhead ranging from 8 to 12 pounds, again while using lures.
This is probably one of the last times that I will fish with Rodney, since he is leaving for a construction job in Hawaii later this month. Since 2001, we have fished together many times from drift boat or bank on the river from below the hatchery to Rossmoor Bar.
We have had epic trips, including an adventure in January 2011 where the two of us hooked 9 and landed 6 steelhead ranging from 8 to 12.5 pounds while fishing plugs and Little Cleos. We have had many days where we have landed from 3 to 5 adult steelhead, along with some half pounders.
We have been spoiled by some of the best fishing that anglers have experienced for steelhead on the American, particularly in February, March and April. We have released the majority of fish, but we both like to take home an occasional steelhead to eat.
The flows on the American were reduced to 4,000 cfs at press time; the releases from Nimbus Dam were 5,000 cfs on opening day.
This could be an epic year on the American if the weather cooperates with anglers.
“It’s looking like a better than average year so far for steelhead,” reported Gary Novak, Nimbus Fish Hatchery Manager. “On Thursday, December 27, we counted 801 adult steelhead and 4 half pounders in our fish trap.”
That makes for a total of 1119 adult steelhead and 6 half pounders. “We’re over 600 fish over the same time last year,” said Evans. “Our largest steelhead weighed between 14 and 15 pounds.”
The promising steelhead action contrasts with the tough Chinook action that anglers saw on the American in fall 2012. Until right before the closure, fishing was very inconsistent. Hopefully, we will see improved salmon fishing on the American in the fall of 2012 on this unique urban river, located in a beautiful parkway surrounded by over 1.5 million people.
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