When I received word from Captain Manuel Saldana Jr. of MSJ Guide Service that he was catching salmon on the Feather River, I was eager to join him and try my luck. I met up with Captain Manuel and his long time fishing partner Brian Crittendon at the Yuba City Boat Ramp.
With me was my fishing buddy Ian Rigler of Sacramento. Now that cooler weather has finally arrived in Northern California, water temps have fallen and are more in line with traditional seasonal norms, a welcome relief to salmon anglers. As previously noted, low water levels in the state’s primary water supply reservoirs have limited the amount of water available for downstream release.
Saldana warned me that I would be amazed at how skinny the river would be and that it would make for one exciting boat ride. The water levels were so low that he used his kicker motor to safely maneuver through several extremely shallow sections of the river.
“This is the lowest I have ever seen the river,” explained Saldana. “In a matter of a ten day period I know of at least three boats that ran aground. Any angler trying to navigate the Feather needs to exercise good judgment and extreme caution.”
Following a short run, Saldana carefully positioned his Fish Rite jet near the Fifth Street Bridge. Just the day before, the area had played host to a nice group of fish. Saldana informed us that our plan of attack would be to up troll plugs to compensate for the lack of current.
After several drifts through the hole and no takers, it was evident that a move was in order. Captain Manuel started up the jet and made a short run upriver to a new location where he skillfully positioned the boat into place with his kicker motor. Within minutes of dropping my sardine wrapped Brad’s Killer Fish plug into the hole, I had a quick strike and then nothing. “Drive by,” quipped Saldana.
Again I let my plug work its way into position. Watching the tip of my Cousins Tackle 7’9” RAZE RHS 792-1T carefully, I could feel the familiar constant rhythmic wiggle telling me that my plug was swimming correctly. Suddenly I detected the tell tale strike of a salmon.
Remembering Saldana’s instruction, I waited for the second pump of the rod before slamming the hooks home. What followed was a spirited battle as the salmon lead me around the boat before Crittendon carefully netted the 15lb fish.
The flurry of bites continued as Ian Rigler was soon hooked up and engaged in battle with a nice fish. Again Crittendon skillfully netted the fish, much to Ian’s delight. Next it was Crittendon’s turn, his 20lb hen turned out to be big fish of the trip. The action continued and by the end of the morning, we were able to turn eight bites into five salmon.
Saldana is meticulous with his tackle and preparation. He likes to switch out plugs every 30 minutes to ensure each angler always has fresh bait. Before each trip, he prepares up to 5 wrapped baits for each angler. In addition he likes to reapply Pro-Cure scent to his clients baits on a consistent basis.
He is a firm believer in Yozuri HD fluorocarbon and its ability to generate more strikes. “In low shallow clear water we need every advantage,” said Saldana. “Every small detail counts.”
Saldana modifies his KF16s by removing the front treble.” I believe my hookup ratio has increased since I started using only a rear treble,” explained Saldana. “Two hooks can create opposing pivot points which can give the fish leverage to shake the hook, it also makes it much easier to wrap the sardine on the plug and it is a lot easier to remove the plug from the net. But most importantly my hook ratio has gone up.”
As long as the fish are biting and the water levels in the Feather allow for safe travel, Saldana will continue to pursue salmon until the season ends in early December.
To learn more about MSJ Guide Service or to book a trip, please visit: http://msjguideservice.com or you can contact Captain Manuel at 530-301-7455.