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