Much anticipation had been building for the the opening of the upper Sacramento River from the Red Bluff diversion dam to the Deschutes Bridge in Anderson, Ca. With a disastrous start to the down river season opener on the Sacramento River below the Red Bluff diversion dam. Where literaly a half a dozen Sacramento River king salmon were retained by anglers over a 50 mile stretch of the Sacramento River from Ord Bend, Ca to the Red Bluff diversion dam in Red Bluff, Ca. Much similar to the previous 2015 Sacramento River season opener down river of the Red Bluff diversion dam. Although the lower river opener in 2015 was considered by most the worst on record. The up river king salmon season opener on August 1, 2015 was action packed and considered a very good opening day, with Sacramento River king salmon being caught by most anglers. The "Barge Hole" where a good majority of the up river action takes place, was loaded with Sacramento River king salmon. SalmonSacRiver.com Sacramento River salmon fishing guide Mike Rasmussen said, "there were times 10 to 15 boats were hooked up at one time in the hole." So as the opening day of the August 1, 2016 Sacramento River season opener grew closer, anticipation of a possible good day of salmon fishing grew as well. With most salmon fishing anglers and salmon fishing guides alike having not landed a Sacramento River king salmon in the previous two weeks of the open down river section, most salmon fishing enthusiast and the full time salmon fishing guides in Northern California converged on the "Barge Hole" for their hopes in finding some success catching the Sacramento River king salmon. The moment of truth would truth was here at last on this previous Monday August 1, 2016 at 5:07 am. Legal fish time for opening day.
5:07 am on August 1, 2016 came with the Barge Hole being littered with white anchor lights and red and green navigation lights scattered through the hole from top to bottom. The early morning light allowed the view of what was expected to be complete chaos with a dozen of the 50+ boats hooking up a king Salmon as the lures from the anglers hit the bottom at 5:07. Mike Rasmussen of SalmonSacRiver.com was at the Barge Hole opening morning and when asked how the salmon fishing went, Mike replied. " All the familiar faces, friends, and boats showed up ready to rock and roll with high expectations and anticipation at a climax. At 5:15am when 10 boats should be fighting Sacramento River king salmon at the same time, the guides closest to me gave me the same blank stare and shoulder shrug I was giving them. We all knew what was going to transpire in the hours to come. Not much. The salmon just weren't there." Over all on opening day at around 3:30 when fish and game research fish counters stationed at all the boat ramps on the upper Sacramento River and the boat crew reported that only 16 salmon had been caught through out the upper river section. One of the worst opening days most angers reported ever seeing at the Barge Hole. Mike Rasmussen with SalmonSacRiver.com reported landing some nice bright fish and loosing a couple as well after the lack of action and the 107 degree daytime air temps drove everybody but a few dedicated and stubborn anglers off the water around 3:00 pm. "I never got my first bite until around 2:30 pm when the hole started to empty out as people simply lost hope and interest. With the boats nearly gone most of the hole was open for fishing where ever you wanted instead of having to fish big lead close to your boat to prevent tangling up with other anglers only feet away. Once it got quiet I was simply able to put my kwikfish in several places that had not had a single line in all day because the condition don't allow this type of fishing with too many boats in a close proximity. I was able to pick off a few salmon that had run and hid in places they were not being harassed in." Explained Mike Rasmussen of SalmonSacRiver.com when asked how he had done.
The overall consensus for the early part of the Sacramento River salmon fishing season is that the Sacramento River fall run chinook salmon are yet to arrive in any fishable numbers. With Colman National Fish Hatchery basically eliminating the early strain of fall run chinooks that showed up in the Sacramento River in July and August, deeming them as hybrids made of late to arrive Spring Run Chinook Salmon and early to arrive Fall Run Chinook Salmon. The answer to this so called "crisis" was to eliminate the gene pool of early arriving fall run chinook salmon, as to cause what they now say are four distinct runs, separated by run timing to distinguish the salmons species. All this to save the barely existent winter run chinook salmon, and the very threatened spring run chinook salmon, which studies have clearly shown water conditions, predation, and migration issues through the delta along with the building of the Red Bluff diversion dam which completely stopped migration timing and changed Sacramento River water temperatures until its gates were ordered lifted for good three years ago. The bottom line is our Sacramento River Fall Run Chinook Salmon season openers may continue to be slow and the "old days" is how good opening day salmon fishing on the Sacramento River will be referred to in the future. The only good news is that the fleets out of the Golden Gate continue to catch great limits of salmon to 30 pounds as new waves of mature chinook salmon prepare to enter the river system, and a big group of fish that have moved up river to the downtown Sacramento, Ca area provided very easy fishing for angler all last week with some boats reporting 10 fish days. Those fish who have been migrating up the Sacramento River since the last full moon should be arriving this week and into next week, as they reach the river condition they like for staging before they continue their migration to the hatchery later this fall.