Ocean salmon season to open Saturday, April 6

Fishing report: Lake Camanche remains filled with trout
By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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The opening of the ocean salmon fishery is something party boats owners and operators up and down the coast look forward to. There’s just not much ocean fishing during the winter months, and the big boats sit mostly idle.

The opening of the ocean salmon fishery also is anticipated for the recreational angler, whether they book a ride on a party boat or launch their own boat and head to the Pacific Ocean.

Following the near collapse of the salmon fishery and subsequent no fishing order two years ago, the fish and fishery rebounded with a vengeance. Last year’s ocean salmon fishery was nothing short of phenomenal.

Many anglers were hauling boats to ports like Bodega Bay, where long lines to launch awaited them at Westside Park and Bodega Dunes. On many days, it took longer to launch than it did to get into a red-hot salmon bite and limits for everybody. It was the same story up and down the coast. Private skiffs and party boats were limiting in nothing flat.

Will it be the same this year? Time will tell.

The season opens Saturday, April 6, from Horse Mountain in Humboldt County south to the Mexico border. The more popular ports in Northern California are Monterey and Santa Cruz; the San Francisco Bay Area fleet with numerous ports such as Sausalito, San Francisco proper, Berkeley and Emeryville; Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg.

On the plus side to taking your own boat is you can stay out as long as you want to score a limit for everybody on board. The downside is the clean-up on the boat and the fishing gear after you pull it out of saltwater.

On the plus side to riding a party boat is a party boat is equipped with gear for salmon fishing, including a rod. The downside is you’re in competition with several anglers, depending on the size of the boat. On the plus side again, once you’re back in port, you don’t have to do any clean-up.

So, there are plusses to both methods of offshore fishing. It’s your call.

Right now, nobody really knows where the fish are. Party boat operators will wait until Saturday, and out to sea they go. And when they do, they won’t be looking for salmon, specifically.

Salmon don’t really show up on a scope, and you have to know exactly what you’re seeing to know when a salmon makes a blip on the screen. Salmon follow and stay within easy eating range of their food source, mainly anchovy. They cruise around the school of anchovy, and when the munchies hit, munch they do.

Salmon don’t expend much energy feeding. They’ll grab whatever is available. That’s why when you troll for salmon, the bait usually spins, making the anchovy appear wounded. To the salmon, that anchovy is an easy target. If you mooch for salmon, the live anchovy on your hook can’t go far, so it, too, is an easy target for a hungry salmon.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is predicting a high number of Chinook salmon off the coast. Time will tell how fast the boats find the fish and how the fish bite.

Daily bag and possession limits remain the same: two salmon. Coho — silver salmon — are still a no-no. Get caught with a Coho and you’ll get a citation.

You can easily tell a Chinook from a Coho. The Chinook’s back will appear purple while a Coho will appear green. The inside of a Chinook’s mouth will be black while a Coho’s mouth will be mostly white.

The minimum size for salmon is 20 inches between Horse Mountain and Point Arena and 24 inches in all other regions.

If you fish north of Point Conception, which most in the north state will, no more than two single-point, single-shank barbless hooks may be used. Additionally, each angler is allowed no more than one rod. If you aren’t trolling — for example, mooching — you’re required to use barbless circle hooks.

An announcement as to when the salmon fishery will open from Horse Mountain north to the Oregon border, which includes ports such as Shelter Cove, is expected in May.

The season-ending dates also haven’t been determined. Fish and Wildlife will follow the recommendations of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which will be decided this month.


Current fishing


The latest snowpack survey was pretty dismal with the water content at about 55 percent of normal. Most reservoirs are looking good and will for a while. Once the snow is gone, and with a good warm spell, there just won’t be much water to run down the hills and replenish lakes and reservoirs in the north state. Rain this week and more predicted could add water to the lakes and reservoirs. Easter traditionally is a busy weekend for popular camping areas. The good news is that the wind didn’t howl too badly, but a fair amount of rain fell, mostly at night, and those who watched the sky were rewarded with a wonderful light snow with lightning and deafening thunder.

Lake Camanche: The lake is holding at just more than 80 percent, so you can cover a lot of water looking for fish. Lake management is still making weekly trout plants through the Mt. Lassen Trout Hatchery, and so far in 2013, more than 16,000 pounds have been added to the lake and South Shore Pond. Trolling and soaking bait off a sliding sinker rig from the many points and coves in the North Shore region are working. You can launch at North Shore and troll outside the buoy line, head up the lake to the Narrows and catch ’bows, or head down and fish the river channel around Hat Island and the dam and do well. Trout are everywhere. From shore, various Power Baits work, and so will eggs and crawlers with a marshmallow to float the crawler off the bottom a little.

Pardee Lake: Some of the best action is off the bank. The launch ramp and Rainbow Point have been successful areas to park your folding chair, but if it gets too crowded, head for the area behind the boathouse and around Blue Herron Point. Chartreuse and rainbow Power Bait — eggs and worms — with garlic and glitter have been the ticket for getting bit. Trollers are heading out of the Rec Area Cove and directly up the river. Around Columbia Gulch, good brown trout are being nailed along with some ’bows and early kokanee. Drop your rig down 10-18 feet. Working best has been a crawler threaded onto a hook behind either small blades or a medium-size dodger.

Contact George deVilbiss at