The Fish Sniffer - Salmon Season Ended With Catches Of Big, Beautiful Late Fall Kings
Salmon Season Ended With Catches Of Big, Beautiful Late Fall Kings

Written By: Dan Bacher, December 29, 2013
Species: River Salmon
Location: American River - Lower, Sacramento River- Delta, Sacramento River- Middle, Feather River- Lower, San Joaquin Delta, Klamath River, Consumnes River,

Salmon Season Ended With Catches Of Big, Beautiful Late Fall Kings
Salmon Season Ended With Catches Of Big, Beautiful Late Fall Kings Salmon Season Ended With Catches Of Big, Beautiful Late Fall Kings

When the Sacramento River salmon season ended on December 16, most anglers had already stopped fishing the river for the prized kings, moving on to fishing for trout and bass in the foothill and urban lakes, striped bass and sturgeon on the Delta and Suisun and San Pablo bays and crab/rockfish combos on the ocean.

However, a dedicated few, including James Netzel of Fishing James Guide Service, fished until the very end for the bright late fall run Chinook right in the heart of the Sacramento metropolitan area.

On the final day, Pastor Dan Wade landed a 19 lb. Chinook while fishing with Netzel. “We got skunked on the previous day, but on the day before the exchange student staying with us landed a 14 lb. salmon,” he stated.

During the final weeks of the season, the bite changed over from plugs to spinners, Netzel noted. All in all , in was a good salmon year in the Sacramento metropolitan area, although by no means a record one.

“November was my best month this year," said Netzel. “We caught limits and near-limits of salmon most days. We had a number of double hook-ups. The water was a 53 to 58 degrees, perfect for salmon fishing.”

While the first two weeks of December and the last week of November produced slower fishing, particularly after the unusual cold weather snap that brought night temperatures into the mid twenties, he still averaged 1 to 2 fish per day. “We landed two fish over 40 pounds and a half dozen over 3 pounds,” he noted.

I went down to the river at the Sacramento Marina to get a photo of one of the fish, a 32 pounder caught by Steve Chapa, after I called Netzel on the phone to get a report. The fish was a gorgeous, bright king – and when Netzel filleted it had a vibrant orange color, with heavy layers of fat in it.

Over a month before that day, I experienced superb salmon fishing with Netzel. After he had caught his limit of salmon going 8 and 18 pounds by 8:30 am, he called me and invited me down the river to fish.

I always know that it is better to drop everything when the fish are biting than to plan a trip in advance, when they may or may not be biting, so I said, “Yes!,” and met him down the river about an hour later.

By 1 pm, I had caught two beautiful salmon, including one late fall Chinook over 20 pounds. We trolled glow nose/silver Brad’s Killer Fish, 75 to 100 feet behind the boat, below Miller Park and worked our way down to the Brickyard.

Netzel explained his philosophy of fishing: “Catching fish is nice, but it is really about the experience. I like people to go home with some good memories.”

I not only caught my limit of fish, but also went home with some great memories. What made catching these fish special, as well as the many fish that Netzel and others caught over the past season, was that they were hooked right in downtown Sacramento within blocks of the State Capitol.

Now that salmon season is over, Netzel’s boat is in the shop for annual maintenance, but he will be available for fishing for kings and rainbow trout at Folsom through March. When the kokanee action starts at New Melones and Berryessa lakes, he will be heading there over for trolling adventures.

“I will be targeting trout while trolling Speedy Shiners and HumDingers from the surface to 40 feet and will also put down some deeper lines for landlocked kings at Folsom,” he noted.

For more information, contact James Netzel of Fishin' James Guide at (916) 459-1346,

Rob Reimers of Rustic Rob’s Guide Service, another late fall Chinook salmon diehard, also fished the final weeks of the season, finding some of the most fun fishing of 2013 in the final stretch.

On December 8, eight days before closing day, he reported, “We had another nice day at Knights Landing. A couple of brothers, Josh and Jimmy Purwal, caught bright kings weighing16 and 20 pounds while fishing Brad's Killer Fish with my spinner in front,” said Reimers.

Other anglers who nailed salmon on trips with Reimers include Michael O'Donoghue, Dale Bergerson and Ron Gaston.

Amazingly, the final day of the season was the one of the best at Knights Landing. "Michael Reimers caught two fish weighing 16 and 18 pounds while anchor fishing with me,” Reimers noted. “Another angler got one between 40 and 45 pounds. Of the five boats around me, every one got fish. These late fall fish were the freshest of the year.”

Reimers will now be booking sturgeon fishing trips on the Sacramento and steelhead trips on the Feather River until the striped bass fishing begins in the spring.

For more information, contact Rob Reimers of Rustic Rob’s Guide Service at 530-632-0051,

Late fall-run Chinook migrate into the rivers from mid-October through December and spawn from January through mid-April. The majority of young salmon of these races migrate to the ocean during the first few months following emergence, although some may remain in freshwater and migrate as yearlings according to the Department of Wildlife.

In the coming month, federal and state biologists will be compiling the data on returns of adult and jack salmon to the Central Valley fish hatcheries and naturally spawning areas. The data will be used to estimate the ocean abundance in order to craft the ocean and river salmon seasons for 2014. Stay tuned for the most comprehensive and up to date information on 2013 salmon returns and the 2014 seasons in upcoming editions of the Fish Sniffer.

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