Fed sets final season dates for offshore salmon fishery

Current fishing: Bass are everywhere
By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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All fishing in offshore waters is totally controlled by the federal government, specifically, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council. This agency sets, for example, the season dates, limits and allowable fishing waters.

The offshore salmon fishery opened a couple of weeks ago with its blessing, although the PFMC hadn’t finalized season dates. Early biological reports indicate a banner year in ocean waters and, later, the river systems.

It appears everybody who wants to fish for salmon is going to have a wide-open fishery — recreationally and commercially.

There are different zones that have different restrictions. The PFMC will set date ranges, bag and size limits, etc., and the California Department of Fish and Game generally will mirror those.

The ever-popular Klamath Management Zone, which ranges from the Oregon border to Horse Mountain and covers the port in Eureka, doesn’t open to salmon fishing until May 14, and the fishery will close Sept. 5.

The area from Horse Mountain south to Pigeon Point, which essentially covers offshore waters from Fort Bragg to well below Santa Cruz and Monterey, is open now and isn’t slated for closure until Oct. 30.

As is and has been the case for many years, coho salmon — or “silvers” — aren’t allowed in the bag. A keeper Chinook — or “king” — must be 24 inches. The bag limit is two per day.

A number of anglers are cited throughout each season for having a coho in their bag. Party boat operators and their deckhands readily know the difference, so those being cited are mooching or trolling in their own boats.

You can generally tell what kind of salmon you have when the fish is still in the water. The back of a Chinook as it nears the boat will appear almost purple. Silver salmon don’t have that coloration. The inside of a silver salmon’s mouth is nearly all white while a Chinook’s mouth and gums are mostly black.

Don’t get ticketed. If it’s a silver salmon, let it go. Just re-bait and get back in the water.

Current fishing
You’re looking at Easter weekend, when families enjoy outings, and if the weather remains sunny, look for most lakes to be well attended.

Offshore salmon: Really a variety in the catches. The Half Moon Bay fleet found a few fish but a number of shakers. The Bay Area fleet sneaked under the Golden Gate and did some trolling. Many shakers were caught and released, and keeper kings were found, up to an eight-pounder.

At Bodega Bay, the bite has appeared better. One boat, with only four anglers, trolled only three miles out and limited on kings. More northern waters, such as around Fort Bragg, have been rougher and has minimized boats going out and trying for salmon, though pots are still yielding nice crab for the boats that run combo trips.

Sacramento River: The local sections of the river are dropping, and boaters are venturing out in bigger numbers. Ramps at Tisdale and Knight’s Landing remain closed, but most others are in full operation. If you want to fish the upper Sacramento, launch at Verona or Colusa.

The striper bite is getting good. While most anglers will drop anchor and soak bait such as pile or blood worms, and cut bait such as anchovy, you can do well by trolling a minnow imitator such as a Rebel or Rapala near the bottom, or drifting a jumbo minnow.

Lake Oroville: There already are post-spawn bass. Others are in the spawning process. Fish the shallows with Senkos and jigs. There have been spots hauled in that have hit four pounds. Coho salmon is hot around the spillway ramp across the front of the dam, and you can topline the top five feet and come away with a 50-fish day with some salmon more than two pounds.

Folsom Lake: With a great deal of water coming down the hill, the lake keeps rising, and bass keep following that rising shoreline for the foodstuffs the rising water level brings and the warmer water for spawning. Get around trees and flooded brush or grassy areas in the backs of coves. Bass are all over. You may have to change patterns until you find one to their liking, but you can hammer bass right now. Cranks, spinnerbaits and plastics all work, and you have to work them slow, make them mad to snap at it.

Camp Far West: Considerable water is coming down the Bear River so the lake is full and going over the spillway. Water isn’t the most clear, but you can find a decent bass bite. Believe it or not, work a bright yellow Roostertail around the rocks of the dam and spillway and you’ll be well bit. As everywhere, bass are in spawning mode, so get around the trees with plastics. Drifting minnows is always good for a bite and could also attract the occasional striped bass that still call the lake home.

Rollins Lake: It’s a popular recreational lake, and Long Ravine is now open for camping, so look for more traffic. Water skiers and other water types won’t take over the lake for a while, so the fishing can still be a worthwhile trip. DFG was supposed to have planted the region so the fishery, from shore and trolling, should be productive.

Clear Lake: Most purist bass anglers will snub using live bait, but those willing to soak a live minnow are whacking and stacking the bigger bass. On the other hand, there are dyed-in-the-wool bass anglers who will pick up a bucketload of minnows. It’s springtime, and bass everywhere are either on their beds or moving that direction. Clear Lake is no different. The artificial bite is picking up, however, and a variety of lures work — jigs, swimbaits, worms. Crawdad color has been the most popular.

Contact George deVilbiss at