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Outdoors: Banner steelie season continues on the American River

By: J.D. Richey
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I’m not totally sure what’s gotten into the American River this year, but she’s been pumping out steelhead like crazy. 

We American regulars have sadly referred to the river as the “Ameri-Can’t” all too often in recent years due to low steelhead numbers and tough fishing. But that’s all changed in 2013 and we’re seeing the best action here since I was a senior at Placer High in the mid 1980s. 
 
Some years, you can go a week without catching an adult steelhead on the American but I’ve hooked at least one large winter run steelhead (which have been averaging 28-30 inches) every trip out so far this season and have had days in which we’ve landed as many as six. Last week, I averaged 3.5 adult steelies per trip … which is good steelhead fishing on any river, let alone this one! 
 
Last weekend, things felt like they were winding down a bit as I had a couple days in which we fought hard to hook a couple fish, but then, amazingly, things cranked back up again this week. My clients had two fish a day all week long and then we ended up hooking five and landing three on Friday! 
 
What’s so cool is you don’t have to drive all the way up north to the Smith, Eel, Trinity or Chetco rivers to get in on some quality steelheading! I recently had a couple guys fish with me who hooked five steelies on the American – a week after they had driven 14 hours round-trip to fish the Smith River for one steelhead. Instead of taking three days off to go fishing one day up north (two travel days), they were stoked that they could be back home the same night after fishing locally here. 
 
Add to that that there’s hardly anybody fishing the river and you can see why I’m so excited!
 
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I will say that we’re still working for out fish each day, covering ground and making lots of casts. And not everybody is experiencing such good fishing, either. But, you have to remember I have been fishing the American since I was 9 years old – that combined with the fact that I’ve been fishing every day and am therefore privy to many subtleties that a once a week angler would miss, gives me the advantage over the average Joe. 
 
How long will it last?
 
Everybody keeps asking me how long I think this dream season will go on. It’s tough to predict such things, but we just got a nice shot of fresh winter run fish on Friday and things look like they’ll keep on for a while. I’m also seeing more and more spring-run “greenback” steelhead, and in fact, March has been better than January and February the past couple years. So, look for solid fishing for another month plus!
 
What Happened?
 
It’s hard to say what has contributed to the upswing in the run, but I’m sure some of the gravel restoration they’ve been doing in the river has been helping – along with the same healthy ocean conditions that have been helping salmon runs rebound in recent seasons. There’s also been an effort to run cooler water down the river in the summer months, which is also a great benefit to juvenile steelhead, which spend their first year in freshwater. Anadramous fish runs are also naturally cyclic, so that probably has something to do with it as well. 
 
Go Fishing!
 
As I noted earlier, there is plenty of good steelie fishing yet to come…get out there and enjoy it! If you’d rather go the guided route, I’ll be on the river until late March when the stripers start showing up. You can reach me at (916) 388-1956 or www.thesportfisher.com