River salmon opener looking bleak

By: J.D. Richey Journal Outdoors Columnist
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After several long years, Chinook salmon fishing returns on a full-blown basis to the Sacramento, American and Feather Rivers on Saturday. That’s the exciting news. Much less thrilling is prospects look fairly grim across the board for the opener. The Feather River was looking really promising up until about two weeks ago when the high, cold flows were reduced from as high as 12,000 cfs to just over 2,000 cfs. Additionally, water temps have skyrocketed to a near lethal 70 degrees! I hate to play the conspiracy theory game, but when you look at how the Department of Water Resources has managed the Feather and its salmon runs, you almost have to think that the crash in the population has been intentionally orchestrated. You could hardly draw up a better model on how to manage a fishery into the ground. But I digress. Unless flows come up dramatically, the Feather in the Oroville Wildlife Area will be no place for jet boats at its current level. Sure, you can still get around, but the riffles get really skinny – combine that with the fact that bank anglers will likely be standing on every available gravel bar and safety becomes an issue as well. A better bet is to head down with the masses fishing out of Marysville/Yuba City below the mouth of the Yuba River. The Yuba has colder water in it and kings will likely hold below the mouth to take advantage of the more hospitable conditions. Down there, it’s pretty much an anchor fishing show in which you have to grab a spot very early and then wait for the fish to come to you. I’d bet a few fish will also come from the mouth down at Verona by the legions of anglers anchoring up with FlatFish along the color line. Overall, however, I would expect really good fishing out of the Feather until sometime in August. The Sac isn’t looking super prime for opening day, either. There are some fish scattered around but guides I have talked to report seeing very few rollers lately. There are some groups of kings in the Barge Hole, so that opener may be pretty decent on Aug. 1. The mouth of the American typically produces a decent number of kings on July 16, so that may be a decent option as well. You may also consider fishing up around Nimbus Dam where there are sure to be a few kings lurking about. In between, however, there probably won’t be any fish caught until much later in the season. Speaking of that, don’t get too bummed out if the early part of the season is relatively unfishy. It’s still early yet and even in the glory years, fishing could be sporadic in July. Just this week, I received some pretty good reports of kings being caught offshore in Monterey, Half Moon Bay, Bodega Shelter Cove. In fact, up there the bite was crazy good on big spawner fish over the past several days, so there are definitely some salmon out in the ocean. If we are still seeing slow action in August and September…well…that’s when we can start worrying about things. Until then, just go out there amd enjoy the fact that we can fish for salmon again…who knows, you just might be lucky! To get back into the swing of things, check out my website for some salmon technique articles and videos: J.D. Richey is a 1986 Placer High graduate whose outdoors pieces have been published nationally. His column runs Fridays in the Journal.