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Primetime nears for Klamath River salmon  

August 20, 2008 by Andy Martin, The Daily Triplicate

As expected, this year's fall Chinook season on the lower Klamath River is shaping up to be a good one.

"The Klamath looks like it's going to be on fire this year," says longtime Del Norte County guide Mick Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips. "The jacks are here and we are catching some adults. I've already caught fish around 20 pounds and I've heard of some over 30 pounds. It should get better each day forward."

Summer steelhead anglers began catching good numbers of jacks about a week ago and now local guides have switched over to boon-dogging the deeper pools for fall salmon.

"We are just at the beginning of the run," Thomas says. "Each day that goes by, more and more fish are entering the system. By mid-September and the third week of September, we are going to be at the peak of the run."

Aside from anglers from the Crescent City and Brookings areas flocking to the Klamath, the river is drawing fishermen from throughout the state because of the closure of the Sacramento River's usually popular August salmon season, as well as no ocean Chinook season in California.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook more than it ever has and I know it's due to the fact there are no other rivers in the state open to salmon fishing right now or offshore fishing," Thomas says. "Anybody who wants to go salmon fishing in the state of California this year really only has one option right now and that's the Klamath River."

Catching jacks

While there are a few large salmon in the river right now, most anglers are catching jacks, which are smaller salmon that return to the river after only one year in the ocean. Abundant jacks indicate next year's run could be big like this year's. Anglers can keep up to three salmon per day this year on the Klamath, two of which can be adults.

With jacks making up the bulk of the run right now, Thomas says anglers are quickly catching their three-fish limits.

"It doesn't take long," Thomas says. "Once you find where they are they can be quickly caught. It's not been tough if you are fishing three guys. It's not hard to get nine fish and go."

Thomas uses the same relatively light spinning gear he uses for winter steelhead on the Smith to catch salmon on the Klamath. Jacks give a great fight on the light rods with 10-pound-test line.

"The jacks have a tendency to hang out in some of the riffle water," Thomas says. "You might as well take a side-drift and look for steelhead. You may just find the glory hole of jacks. They are abundant in the faster water."

Small roe clusters have been working well this summer on the Klamath. Thomas is using salmon eggs cured in Pautzke's red Fire Cure.

"We are fishing 3/8- and half-ounce slinkies," Thomas says of rigging up. "I like about a three and a half-foot leader. We are using orange and pink Puff Balls. They seem to be working the best right now. Early mornings you can use clown if you fish at first light."

With clear water this summer, smaller baits are working better.

"The water is real clear this year so the baits we've been downsizing," Thomas says. "Instead of pretty good globs of eggs we are cutting them in half and it seems like the bite has been better."

While anglers fishing from jet boats are having the best success, bank anglers can get in on the action at Blake's Riffle casting spinners.

Outdoors writer Andy Martin, a former editor of Fishing & Hunting News, runs a halibut charter boat in the Gulf of Alaska during the summer and guides on America's Wild Rivers Coast during the winter. His Web site is www.wildrivers


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