I truly believe that the best king salmon bite on this blue marble wasn’t in Alaskan or British Columbian waters this July. Oh, you’d need to go way south to find the best salmon bite on earth. Go right on past Washington and Oregon and head about 70 miles into California to the epicenter of a huge biomass of purple backed chrome sided slabs.
The most impressive story of the bounty of the ocean could be from Bodega Bay in northern California early this July. Rick Powers, of the New Sea Angler, put his 44 clients onto 44 limits of king salmon to 36lbs (2 a piece with no restrictions involving adipose fins), and he did it in such a hurry that they had time to add 44 limits of rockfish (ten a person), and a handful of lings. He said that they must have hooked at least 200 fish to land 88 for limits.
That is pure carnage.
Our coastline has just been overrun with life. There is so much bait out there that the fish are just gorged, and it can be frustrating to mark them on sonar and not have them bite. Guys switched over from trolling to mooching because the fish were so lazy they wouldn’t eat a trolled bait. We have had an explosion of krill, herring, anchovies, and shortbelly rockfish over the last two years, and coupled with increased efforts by the state of California to have our down migrating smolts survive, the fishing has become world class.
How does this bode for river fisheries this fall? Well, we have an expected abundance on the Sacramento higher than that of the Columbia. Not only that, we have a lot less tributaries for all of those fish to disperse into. Judging from the slaughter on the ocean, the projections look to be correct. Better yet, the makeup of the run this season has a high percentage of 4 and 5 year old hogs.
The season just began on the central valley rivers in mid July, and impressive counts are being posted for this early in the season. By mid September the fishing is going to be lights out on the Sacramento and Feather Rivers. The hot window should be from about the second week of September through the third week of October, but there will be good fishing beginning as early as mid August.
The fall run dies out around Veteran’s Day in November (that’s when I will be headed for the Clearwater and its big B-Run steelhead), and if the weather cooperates will get very good again for huge late fall run pigs until the season closes in mid December. Our late fall run fish are a different breed from the standard early fall run fish. They remain brighter longer and typically migrate with a purpose. Timing is everything for success, and the fishing is usually slow, but when the rod loads up it may be the biggest fish of the year. Every season 50-60lb fish are taken during the late fall run. Our state record is a whopping 88lbs, and there have been bigger fish found dead in the tributaries. No, this isn’t the Kenai, but big fish are possible.
For once, it may be prudent to travel south for hot salmon fishing instead of north. The best thing of all is the absolute wide range of sizes of fish we’ve caught in the ocean this year. We’ve had fish from 6” to 38” and everywhere in between. It looks like our fishery has finally recovered after an unprecedented collapse of never before seen proportions in 2008 and 2009. It’s the “good old days” again in California.