Outdoors: California's only silver salmon fishery

By: J.D. Richey
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I?ve been hearing lots of my sea-faring buddies grousing lately about the fact that the Pacific Ocean off San Francisco and Bodega Bay is suddenly loaded with coho (silver) salmon. At first glance, it seems like an odd thing ? to be griping about too many salmon. But, alas, the coho is a threatened species in California and all must be released unharmed. So, that got me thinking about how much I like silver salmon and how I wish we could fish for them here ? then, duh, it hit me. We can fish for them in one spot: Lake Oroville. Before we get too far along, let?s clear things up as the landlocked salmon thing in California can get a little confusing. In this state, we have three varieties of landlocks ? kings, kokanee and coho. For decades, Oroville was known for its king population but the Department of Fish & Game had to discontinue planting them when they became infected with IHN virus. The story could have ended there, but as part of the licensing agreement to operate Oroville Dam, the Department of Water Resources has to plant coldwater fish species in the lake. Well, it was found that rainbows, browns, kokanee, cutthroat and several other fish were all susceptible to IHN and couldn?t be stocked. Coho salmon, as it turns out, are much more resistant to the virus and the DFG approved them for planting in Oroville. Coho have been planted in the lake now for about 8 years if memory serves. They are of the Domsea Strain and those salmon are mostly on a two-year life cycle. However, a certain percent of them ? maybe 10 percent ? won?t die and will live to three or four years of age. Those are the ones that are going to get really good size ? fish in the 9- to 11-pound range have been taken from Oroville. So, what this all boils down to is Lake Oroville should be high on your list of fishing destinations later this year. If you can?t wait, you can head up there right now and get into some nice fish. Lately, I?ve been getting some good reports of hot coho bites under the Bidwell Bar bridge and in front of Lime Saddle Marina. The fish have been 40-60 feet down and have been chomping Uncle Larry?s Spinnners, Koke-A-Nuts, Needlefish, Hootchies and white grubs behind dodgers. The fish have been ranging up to just a bit over 2 pounds, but that size will go up as the summer moves along. Plus, there?s always the chance for one of those ocean-size lunkers out there ? which you can keep here! There are times also when you can mooch small chunks of anchovy as well, but you?ll have to find the densely-packed schools before you go that route. Unlike kokanee fishing, which typically peters out in California lakes in the early fall, coho fishing should run well into November or December this year for the mature 2-year-olds. So, if you?ve got a jones for some silver salmon ? head to Lake Oroville for some summer fun! J.D. Richey is a 1986 Placer High graduate whose outdoors pieces have been published nationally. Find him online at