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Last call for salmon

Kokanee season is winding down on Stampede Reservoir. Kokanee are land-locked sockeye salmon and they are getting ready for their spawning run up the Little Truckee River.Prior to spawning, these fish begin to change color from chrome-bright to a reddish salmon hue. The males will also develop the classic hooked jaw of spawning salmon. Salmon are the best table fare when they are silver sided. More than half the adult kokanee in Stampede have begun to turn. They are still edible, but they degrade as they get closer to the spawn.Some years, the kokanee will gather into very tight schools off the face of Stampede Dam. When this happens, the schools of fish respond well to vertical jigging with spoons. This year, the dense-school phenomena has not materialized. There are a lot of fish off the dam but they are not grouped tightly enough for the jig bite to take off.My source for the Truckee area kokanee report is Keith Kerrigan (582-5689) of the Sierra Anglers Guide Service. He has switched his kokanee trips to Donner Lake. Keith has noticed that every year the fish in Donner will not begin to turn until a month after the Stampede fish start changing. He has no explanation but he consistently catches bright fish in Donner for weeks after Stampede fish turn. If you want to go for kokanee at Donner Lake, Keith recommends the east end of the lake between Loch Leven Lodge and China Cove.The up-and-coming fall fishery in Donner Lake is the mackinaw bite. These fish are gathering into loose schools off of China Cove preparing to spawn. Unlike the salmon species, macks do not deteriorate and die with the spawn. During the summer, the macks follow the schools of kokanee, staying close to their food source. Right now, the macks are congregating off China Cove near the drop off in 70 to 90 feet of water. They are difficult if not impossible to catch during this gathering stage, but by the middle of September, they will be in dense schools preparing to spawn. At this time, the fish are very aggressive and will attack a jigged spoon presented close to them. If you have an electronic fish finder, these tightly packed schools will appear as a single mass not as individual fish. The jigging season at Donner lasts well into the winter months and China Cove at the southeast corner of the lake is the best place to look for them.The salmon news in the valley has not changed much since last week, except that the numbers have gone up dramatically at the Red Bluff fish ladder. Last weeks numbers were 6,040 so far this year and this weeks total is 8,829 salmon for an increase of 2,789 in seven days. This is almost a 400-per-day average. Last years total to date was 4,878 and last year was a good year for salmon on the Sacramento River.The hottest bite is above Red Bluff where the fish are holding in the deep holes. Roe is far and away the best bait to catch them. The fish below Red Bluff are more interested in traveling and are less willing to bite. The best catching is with a flat fish and sardine wrap early in the day. The roe bite comes on after the sun hits the water. Weekly, I check in with Gary Manies (241-4665) who guides the river daily during the salmon run. I asked him why he was fishing below Red Bluff if the hottest bite was above. His answer was the river is shallower below Red Bluff. It only takes one or two ounces of lead to get the bait down to the fish. Upriver, at the deeper holes, you may need 6 to 8 ounces to get down to the fish. The heavier tackle and the lower percentage of bright fish up river keep him downstream.I will be holding a steelhead fishing class through the Sierra College Community Education program. The class will be held this Saturday and Sunday. For more info, go online to http://www.sccommed.org or look in the Kaleidoscope catalog in the mail.Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union and is host of The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report, which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. He may be reached via e-mail at denisp@theunion.com.


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