Last summer holiday weekend: A real hurrah, fish for free

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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It used to be that schools fired up after Labor Day weekend. That allowed families to have a full getaway weekend for the holiday.

Although it’s still a three-day weekend for most, many schools have been in operation for two or three weeks, and the holiday weekend isn’t the marker it used to be.

With hot weather setting in again, campgrounds throughout the state still are expected to be wall to wall. School or no school, it’s still the lash hurrah of the summer for many campers.

It will be the first time in many years that lakes and reservoirs in the north state are still high enough to host most recreational activities: fishing, water and jet skiing, swimming.

Campgrounds are expected to be full throughout the high country and coastal regions. It will still take reservations, for the most part, at many of the more popular campgrounds.

At Lake Camanche near Ione, you can have all the fun you want in day use, but forget camping. Only those with reservations are allowed to stay the night.

If you’re somewhere in the great out-of-doors, Saturday, Sept. 3, is the second day of the year you’re allowed to fish without a license. It’s a free fishing day in any water in the state — ocean, streams, lakes and reservoirs, canals, rivers.

However, all fishing rules and restrictions apply. Under the rules of free fishing, you’re allowed one rod. If you want to use two rods, you’ll have to purchase a license and the accompanying two-rod stamp.

If you’re unsure of any regulations, pick up the various booklets and check any restrictions that may apply as to where you might hope to fish.

Current fishing

Salmon fishing has been so sporadic along California’s north coast I thought I’d give a try to the Rogue River in Oregon, a region that is generally whacking and stacking salmon aboard many boats this time of year.

The mouth of the Rogue is at Gold Beach, about 25 miles north of Brookings, Ore., a short hop from the California-Oregon border.

I contracted guide Bill Divens, a Red Bluff transplant, of Salmon King Lodge at (530) 528-8727. He fishes the Rogue and other nearby rivers part of the year, and the upper Sacramento River region other parts of the year. He knows both areas well.

We fished about 15 miles upriver from the mouth in the National Forest area for a little more than three hours, netting one jack salmon about five pounds, losing one salmon in the 20s and releasing two squaw fish.

Once the sun hit the water, we moved down to the mouth of the river at Gold Beach and trolled there the rest of the day, along with 200 other boats. We saw perhaps 10 fish caught and netted. I was impressed with boater courtesy. When a boat did hook a fish, nearby boats immediately brought in their gear and hit high gear on the motor to get out of the way and give the angler room to chase and fight the fish.

While those fish were running 20-30 pounds, there just weren’t many. The major problem, Divens explained, is that in a normal year, the Rogue this time of year generally runs about 1,400 cubic feet per second. Like in California, an extremely wet spring has kept the river high, cold and fast, now running about 4,000 cfs.

The river is generally low and warm this time of year. The salmon stack up in the bay waiting for the river to rise, for rain to cool the water before they make a mad dash up the river.

Because it’s higher and colder than normal, the fish aren’t holding in the bay. They come in from the ocean and head right up the river. If you catch it just right and bounce your lure or anchovy right on their nose, you’ll get a big Chinook salmon.

It’s a fishery I’ll definitely participate in again, but I’ll wait until the river is more amenable to better catching.

American River: Stripers remain the top action, but with a holiday weekend, the whole system from Nimbus Dam downriver to the mouth is expected to be a literal zoo with rafters and other water recreationists. If you can catch it early in the morning or late in the afternoon with live bait, top-water gear, swim baits, etc., you can get into a pretty decent striper bite.

Folsom Lake: Trout and salmon fishing is virtually non-existent, bass fishing is tough, and the holiday weekend isn’t going to help. You’ll spend more time scoping, looking for structure and bait fish, than you will actually casting. At the crack of dawn and as the sun goes down, though, you could get hammered with noisy top-water gear.

Local salmon: When the fish aren’t there, it doesn’t much matter what you throw into the water. When a school moves in and through, then you just might. Can you predict when either is going to happen? If you can, you’ll be instantly rich. For the rest of us, it’s a waiting game. The mouths of the American and the Feather at Verona provide rod-bending action but only when a school moves in. Spinner, Flatfish, Kwikfish and just about any other salmon-type offering just might work if the fish are there when you are.

Stampede Reservoir: You’d think kokanee fishing would be red-hot, but it’s not. Expected to be slow would be the rainbow and brown trout fishery — and it is — but the kokanee are deep and not interested in the many offerings being dragged by them.

Contact George deVilbiss at