Courtesy of the Auburn Journal
Thursday Jan 04 2018
Did you hear that? Yeah, that dull thud? That was the sound of the American River Steelhead opener falling flat on its face on New Year’s Day.
Dozens of boats and maybe 100 or so bank anglers crowded into the section of river that reopens to fishing every year on Jan. 1.
The river looked very nice — it was flowing at 3,400 cfs and had a perfect twinge of green to it. And based on the fact that I have been seeing some pretty decent action on small adult steelies and chrome halfpounders in the lower (open year-round section) the past week, I was pretty surprised at how poor the fishing was on Monday.
How bad was it? Well, the one main stat that really says it all is I saw more sea lions (3) than steelhead (1). The water wolves were all the way upriver, too.
One was spotted at Sailor Bar, jut below the hatchery, and then I saw one (maybe the same animal) just below the San Juan Rapids. I saw two more aggressively chasing fish in the riffle at Gristmill at the end of the day too.
Marauding pinnipeds definitely didn’t help the situation, and their presence that far up the river is a bad sign that maybe there isn’t enough food in the ocean.
Anyway, I think a general lack of fish was also to blame for the bleak results. I knew several guides and recreational anglers who were out on the opener, and they all reported seeing nothing but a few suckers and moldy salmon caught.
My group landed one chrome but small adult hatchery steelhead (we released her) and that turned out to be the only fish I heard of caught on the river. Somebody up near the hatchery may have caught a fish or two off the bank, but everybody I talked to reported seeing exactly zero steelhead.
Some of the texts I got from buddies were kinda funny: One was a photo of a sucker in a net and read: “All we caught was some American River gold.” I sent a picture of our fish to friend and fellow Placer High grad, Ron Milam, and he wrote this back: “Go buy a lottery ticket! That may be the only one. I didn’t see any caught and walked a total of 4 miles of shoreline.”
Again, I had been catching fish at a pretty respectable clip before the upper river opened, so the lack of fish was surprising. Especially when you consider that the Feather River hatchery has about three times the usual number of fish right now and the Sac has a pretty good showing as well.
I suppose you could say that the fish have been holding off, waiting for a rain that hasn’t come in over a month. That is certainly a possibility, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for the river to suddenly start teeming with fish the next time we get some weather.
But Mother Nature does work sometimes in strange and mysterious ways, so who knows? It’s still plenty early yet, so there is time for the fish to show up.
Keep your fingers crossed.