The second salmon season opening day on the Sacramento River is a wrap! The upper Sacramento River opened to the take of Fall Run Chinook Salmon this past week (August 1, 2019). With great expectations I might add. Rumors circulating of a “stacked” (a large number of salmon holding together) Barge Hole ( famous salmon fishing hole ), had hundreds of salmon enthusiasts chomping at the bit for opening morning and all it’s chaos. Salmon fishing guides and recreational anglers all eager to drop in at the 5:07am legal start time. The long wait had finally come to a end. This past Thursday morning on August 1, 2019 at 5:00am 30 to 40 fishing vessels converged on the Barge Hole. All jockeying for their starting positions. Rods in hand and anglers waiting for their captains signals the time had finally arrived. 5:07am…”DROP THEM”!
It had started. Instantly several hundred fishermen and women worked their lures to the bottom of the 50+ foot Barge Hole. Waiting for that unforgettable yank of a King Salmon when it strikes your lure. Only a couple of minutes passed before the first “fish on” was yelled through the background of kicker engine noises. And the first net could be seen being waved around as the fight with the first salmon ensued. Moments later another net, then another…and another… It wasn’t like the old days where dozens of boats would hook up on the drop, but it was steady action none the less. Entertaining for sure. Watching through the dozens and dozens of boats for familiar faces and expert salmon fishing guides who are known to be in the center of attention. The chaos of the overly packed Barge Hole seemed to become a blur when you or someone in your boat hooks up. The early morning daylight gave way to a hastily sunrise as action continued. Boats off to the side of the hole dealing with netted salmon, pictures being taken and tangle ups being fixed. While the swarm of fishing boats swirled around only feet from one and other. Still engaged in salmon fishing action. Waiting for that yank!
Sunrise gave through to day break and the sun peeked through on the surrounding oaks trees and started spreading daylight on the Barge Hole. Like most opening mornings the primary technique for targeting the salmon is by the use of kwikfish rapala.com wrapped with sardine. Until the sun comes up, then the majority of boaters turn to “hanging eggs” ( using cured salmon roe https://www.pautzke.com/ ). Typically this is when the show gets startered and fast action is to be had by the anglers. Bait wars! The salmon run to the edges of the hole as the boats start piling into the hole before the legal start time. So most of the lure fishing action is had in the back, the sides, and the top of the hole. As salmon try to hide from the majority of boats centered in the deepest part of the hole, fearing the suns exposure more than the motors of boats and rattling of lures. The salmon head to the safety of near darkness. Hiding behind the “ledge”(drop off) of the Barge Hole when the sun lights up the Sacramento River water. Typically this is when the slaughter ensues. This years lure bite kept things interesting as almost nonstop action was witnessed for the first hour of the morning. But the disappointment of realizing that there weren’t as many salmon in the hole as previously thought, set in. As the egg lords of the Barge Hole switched into their comfort zones and prepaired to fill their fish boxes with limits of king salmon. Watching the boats in the hole fish without the chaos of multiple hook ups happening within the fleet at the same time. Even minutes between any hook ups at all. It was clear that expectations exceeded the reality of the actual abundance of salmon swimming in the hole. There was enough salmon being hooked to keep anglers interest. Although it became crystal clear that the majority of anglers hoping to get limits in their boats was not going to be easily accomplished, or accomplished at all in most cases.
There was enough salmon to bring at least some success to the masses. Most boats ending up their opening day at the Barge Hole with at least a salmon or two on board. Keeping spirits up and stories being told, and personal experiences shared between anglers. The past five years have seen some salmon openers at the Barge Hole leaving anglers listening to the sound of crickets instead of the commotion of anglers fighting salmon. No more then a hundred fish were caught this 2019 opening day. That’s much better then the less then a dozen brought in on opening day just a couple years back. And is far from a traditional opening day where 300 to 500 salmon are caught by anglers in the Barge Hole. It does leave great optimism that a very bountiful season of salmon fishing on the Sacramento River lays ahead. Very positive news for Sacramento River Salmon Fishing Guides and all recreational salmon anglers.
ATTENTION SALMON ANGLERS!! CDFW https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Explore/Organization/FB research crews will be out in their boats and posted at certain primary locations. To collect harvest report information from salmon anglers who are fishing for salmon durring this years season. It is urged by myself and the CDFW to participate honestly and help the research crew out when approached by department researchers. For those who do not know. The CDFW researchers gather information and statistics on the health of the salmon run. As well as many other things. This is how we get funding for our salmon here in Northern California. Please let me say that helping out the research crews helps us in the long run. So if approached by researchers while fishing. Take the time to answer their questions and show them your fish. If you love and enjoy salmon fishing here in Northern California. I would highly suggest to start being proactive on your salmon fishing adventurers!
Mike's Fishing Guide Service for Sacramento River fishing targeting King Salmon, Striped Bass, White Sturgeon, American Shad and Rainbow Trout. The Best Sacramento River Salmon Fishing Guide and Striped Bass Fishing Guide on the Sacramento River.