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River salmon opener preview

WON Staff Writer
Published: Jul 13, 2017
Anglers optimistic about July 16 river salmon opener

As charter boats continue to score big numbers of king salmon out of the Golden Gate, anglers on the Sacramento, Feather and American rivers are anxious to get on the water for what is shaping up to be a promising run this year in the Central Valley.

Salmon season opens on the Sacramento River downstream from Red Bluff on Sunday, July 16, as well as in the Feather and American rivers. It opens between Red Bluff and Anderson on Aug. 1.

“Around San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, Bodega Bay, it has been the best they have seen in the last five years,” said longtime Sacramento River guide Robert Weese of Northern California Guide Service. “I would anticipate we are going to see a pretty good run. Those guys are having their best year in five years on the ocean. I would expect the same thing on the inland water.”

Most anglers are unsure how the fishing will be for the July 16 opener, as the last few years have produced poor fishing, but agree there should be good numbers of kings during the mid-August to October peak season.

Weese is optimistic about the opener. “I have seen a few fish jumping up here on the last few trout trips,” he said. He plans to fish below Red Bluff, running T55 and T50 FlatFish, or 5.0 MagLips on opening morning before switching to roe later in the day. “I am going to start right below the Red Bluff Diversion Dam and go downriver about three miles to Salt Creek. It’s a nice, long hole where fish hold in the morning. I will start out with plugs in the morning and will fish those until I stop getting bit and then will start dragging roe. I might do a little back-bouncing in deeper pockets.”

Tim Boggs of Elkhorn Outdoor Sports said he expects a better season than the last few years, as well as a better opener. “We are realty excited,” Boggs said. “I think we are going to have a good season. Nobody expected the number of fish to be caught at the Golden Gate like they are now. So far, with the numbers I am hearing about, it is starting to be a good run. I think we are going to have a better opener this year than we did last year, and I think it is going to be a better opener than we’ve had the last four years. Last year’s opener was horrible. The year before wasn’t much better. We had real warm water and real shallow water.”

Boggs is suggesting anglers start opening day near Verona. “I think we are going to have a good opener from Rio Vista on up,” he said. “I would stick around the Verona area. You have the confluence of the Feather River and the Sacramento River. I would start with plugs early in the morning and switch to Silvertrons and do some trolling from Verona to Rio Ramaza.”

Guide James Stone of Elite Sportsman Guide Service said flows look good for the opener on the Sacramento, while conditions are not looking good for opening day on the Feather. “River flows on the Feather are low, so we aren’t sure if many fish are pushing in yet,” Stone said. “The Sacramento looks good for flow. We will start scouting this week.”

Guide Kirk Portocarrero of SacRiverGuide said he is optimistic about the season because of the good reports from the ocean, but hasn’t decided on his opening day strategy. “I don’t know where I am going to fish. I might be trolling spinners on the lower end of the river,” he said.

With good flows and cooler water temperatures this year, Portocarrero said he expects quality fish throughout the season. “Aug. 15 is usually when it kicks in pretty good,” he said. “That is usually when we get our biggest schools of fish. Aug. 15 through Oct. 15 is peak season. This year with the higher water I would suspect we will get brighter fish later into the season.”

Portocarrero plans to run T50 FlatFish and 5.0 MagLip plugs with sardine wraps. “MagLips are going to be the ticket on the lure end,” Portocarrero said, adding he likes the chrome lures with chartreuse bills.

Guide Scott Feist of Feisty Fish Guide Service said The Sacramento will be a better bet than the Feather because of flows early in the season. He also points to excellent reports from the San Francisco charter fleet and anticipates a good river salmon run this year.

“We haven’t had a year like this since 2012,” Feist said. “There are a lot of salmon off the Marin Coast. The party boats are crushing limits. The size of the fish and the quality of the fish are good. Things are looking really good.”

Feist said he expects to find salmon between Chico and Red Bluff. “It’s a plug and roe game,” he said. “I’m starting the morning off with T55 and T60 FlatFish and switching over to roe later in the morning to search more water,” he said. Feist said the early, fresh fish will respond better to fresh baits, and recommend switching the sardine wraps on FlatFish plugs every 20 minutes.

Guide Dave Jacobs of Professional Guide Service said the good reports from the ocean will likely lead to good fishing at some point on the river this year. “Salmon fishing reports out of the Golden Gate continue to come in with spectacular fishing happening for most,” Jacobs said. “Many limits of large king salmon have come in over the past two weeks, setting the stage for the opening on the Sacramento River. The Sacramento River salmon fishing traditionally opens and builds in mid-July through Mid-August. The salmon fishing peak season is usually mid- to late August, all of September and early October.”

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