Our plugs bristled with big keenly sharp treble hooks, so it seemed counter intuitive to think that you had to “let the fish eat” in order to get a decent hookset, but that’s exactly what you had to do.
Doing it the wrong way had already cost us a handful of fish and the stakes were high. It was late in the season and monsters lurked beneath the water’s surface.
“We’ve landed fish to 37 pounds in this run over the past few days. It’s a great spot. The river is wide here, but most of it is shallow, except that slot next to the bank where it’s 12 to 20 feet deep. Anything coming up river is going to stay in that deep water and best of all I haven’t seen any other guides fishing this spot,” Capt. Mike Bogue laughed as he eased the boat into to top end of the slot.
Spooling out my line with my thumb on the spool I felt the thump of the sinker on the rocks. Engaging the reel, the line tightened against the current and the huge Flatfish at the end of the leader wiggled to life.
I was focused on the presentation. Lift the sinker, lower the sinker, feel the tap of the bottom and repeat. Walk that plug backward right into the face of a fish. Force feed it to him…
A third of the way down the slot something slashed at my plug hard two or three times. Then I felt steady weight and some light headshakes.
I did nothing. I didn’t rear back with the rod tip or give the fish slack. It wasn’t easy. Every molecule in my body was screaming, “SET THE HOOK!”
I resisted, waiting for long micro seconds as the headshaking escalated into hard tugs. The flexible part of the rod’s tip doubled over and then the backbone part of the rod started to load…It was time!
I rotated my torso against the weight, sweeping back on the rod while reeling hard. The fish reacted by surging away downstream and I knew the hooks hand sunk home.
“I’ve got one,” I exclaimed as braided line started pulling off the Abu Garcia baitcaster.
Mike and Fish Sniffer publisher Paul Kneeland reacted immediately. They both reeled in their gear and Paul passed the net back to Mike. I moved to the back of the boat.
The fish was strong and determined to stay down among the rocks as it shook and darted to free itself of the Flatfish.
I kept the Lamiglas rod bent against the bulk of the unseen king and worked the reel in a steady grind.
This tactic paid dividends and I could feel the salmon starting to weaken. It broke free of the bottom, came to the surface and we got our first glimpse before it plunged back into the current. It’s wasn’t a monster, but it was pretty big.
When the king came to the top again seconds later, Mike made the scoop and the 15 pound chinook joined the jack that Paul had caught earlier in the fish box. And that’s how Paul and I wrapped up the 2017 river salmon season.
The trip took place on December 12 just prior to general river closure on December 15. Mike and I had talked about hitting the Sacramento River for late fall run kings a couple months before and I was happy that we were able to make the trip happen.
In addition to being one of the best river salmon guides in the game, Mike is a true gentleman and lots of fun to fish with!
Overall the 2017 river salmon season had been an up and down affair on the Sacramento. At times the action was hot and at other times things got pretty slow. The early and middle part of the season, saw decent numbers of medium size fish caught.
Late in the season, fishing pressure fell off significantly, but that’s when some of the biggest fish of the season showed up. The monsters Mike is showing off on the cover of the Fish Sniffer this week are an example of the impressive kings that anglers where chasing during the final weeks of the season.
With the salmon season now closed, most Sacramento River guides are taking some time off for the holidays. Mike is spending some time chasing ducks and geese, but he’s available for rainbow trout and steelhead trips on the Sac. With salmon actively spawning, the trout fishing has been excellent for ‘bows to 5 pounds and there are decent numbers of steelhead in the system too. These fish range up to 8 pounds and fight like wildcats!
If you’d like to spend a day landing and releasing wild winter rainbows, give Mike Bogue a call at (530) 246-8457.
If you’d like to try your hand at chasing steelhead on your own, do a little research and find an access point. Any of the gravel bars between Woodson Bridge and Anderson can be good. The steelhead will grab roe, beads, yarn, worms flies and sometimes spoons and spinners. It takes patience to hook up. If you go, use caution.
The water is cold and there are few other anglers out there to help pull you out if you slip and fall in. Having said that, this is a great time to hit the river. There is ample solitude, the scenery is outstanding and there is lots of wildlife to be seen!