Salmon action is heating up, so make sure your equipment is ready

By: J.D. Richey Journal Outdoors Columnist
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Well, salmon season in the Valley rivers isn’t exactly on fire yet, but there are some beautiful chrome kings being taken. It’s too early yet for the American to really turn on and the flows are way down on the Feather, so the bulk of the fish have been coming from the Sacramento River.
Guys have been getting fish down around Freeport Bridge and the Minnow Hole off the bank with spinners and trollers in that same general area up to the mouth of the American have also been seeing some fish on Silvertron Spinners and K14 and K15 Kwikfish.
Anchoring on the color line with FlatFish and Kwikfish has produced some decent action for the gang fishing at the confluence of the Feather and Sacramento rivers and backtrollers and boondoggers are seeing fish between Hamilton City and Woodson Bridge.
The action will only improve as we go along, too. The runs should build over the next few months and then taper off in November. With that in mind, I think it’s time to help ya shake the rust off and get ready to catch some salmon. This week, let’s take a look at some of the basic stuff you’re going to need to catch some kings this season.
We’ll look at it from a boater’s point of view and then, when the fish are more accessible to bankies later in the season, we’ll talk about bank gear and tactics.
A working boat
Since salmon season closed a few years back, a lot of folks lost interest in fishing, put the covers on their boats and kinda forgot about them. If you want to get in on the fun this summer and fall, now is a great time to make sure your vessel is in tiptop condition. Get all your maintenance work done now… before the bite gets hot.
A lot of the simple stuff you can do yourself: change the oil, lube your motor’s lower unit, grease the trailer’s wheel bearings, inflate the tires and charge the batteries. If you’ve got issues above and beyond the basics, Buck’s Outboard ((916) 428-3917) is the place to go. The quality of the work and the integrity are second to none.
A quality rod
One of the biggest mistakes I see guys making out on the river is using rods that aren’t really well suited to river salmon fishing. When you’re out trolling, backtrolling or sitting on anchor with plugs or spinners, you want a rod that has a nice soft tip. The flex in such a rod’s upper third has a few important functions.
First off, wobbling lures like FlatFish and Kwikfish enjoy a better range of motion (they have better action) when they are fished on a rod with a slow tip. And when a fish bites, the rod has some give to it so that the fish feels less resistance — and is thus more likely to hang on to the lure.
If you fish with a really stout stick, you will miss a lot of the bites that you get. Having some flex in the upper portion of the rod also acts like a shock absorber when you’re fighting a fish – which helps you put more salmon in the boat.
But the ideal salmon rod will also have some beef in its lower end, too. You’ll need that power to work a big king up off the bottom and away from snags and anchor lines. There are plenty of good rods out there and one that I am partial to is Lamiglas’ G1330 T, which is an 8-footer rated for 10- to 20-pound line. See it at:
A Powerful Reel
King salmon can dish out all sorts of abuse and can burn up a reel in short order. One summer when I was guiding in Alaska, a major tackle company brought some of their new musky reels out for us to test. They assured us they had powerful drag systems and they could hold up to any punishment we wanted to subject them to.
Well, we blew ‘em all up the first day on big kings. The point being, this is one area where you don’t want to skimp.
I have used just about every reel out there and the one I can’t seem to destroy is the Calcutta series by Shimano. They’re a no-frills type of reel that are virtually indestructible. Diawa’s Luna is pretty slick, too, and Penn makes some good smaller stuff these days. Okuma is also getting into the quality tackle game. And then, of course, there’s the classic ol’ Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 6500 that has probably caught more salmon than all of ‘em combined.
The best bet? Well, drop by a local shop like WillFish in Auburn ((530) 887-0839) and see what feels comfortable to you.
Good Lures
While you could go a little crazy with all the choices of salmon lures out there, you can keep it simple in the beginning and buy a handful of the basics. For trolling in the lower Sacramento from Verona down to Rio Vista, I like K14 and K15 Kwikfish in silver/chartreuse. If spinners are your bag, silver and red Silvertrons are good.
All the above work well when you’re fishing on anchor, too, though I might add the K16 Kwikfish to the arsenal if the water you’re in is on the slow side.
If you’re backtrolling at places like Colusa, Hamilton City, Road 48, Woodson Bridge and Red Bluff, I’d start with a chartreuse/chrome K16 and then switch to a K15 or T-50 FlatFish in the same color scheme if you’re not getting bit.
Well, that’s a good start. Keep an eye on my website for more tips and techniques in the upcoming weeks.
J.D. Richey is a 1986 Placer High graduate whose outdoors pieces have been published nationally. His column runs Fridays in the Journal.