The Klamath River is quiet now. All of the salmon fishing boats have moved away from the river. It has become a peaceful and most beautiful setting. All natural things prepare for winter.
There are still many sore-tailed, spawned out salmon on the reds at the head and tail ends of the riffles. Many have died and their remains decompose near where they spawned and in most of the slack waters or quiet deep holes. In about 60 days their young will hatch out from the gravel will feed upon their parent flesh and then on to the abundant supply of aquatic insects the river provides. These are all the natural wild spawners that did not enter the Iron Gate Hatchery.
Keith Pomeroy, Manager of the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery, has advised me that the present count of spawning salmon climbing the fish ladder and entering the hatchery is 38,650. Another 34,000 entered the Shasta River on a previous count. The Shasta River enters the Klamath some 15 miles downstream from Iron Gate Hatchery. That run went all the way up the Shasta River to the Nature Conservancy near Big Springs.
There is no accurate count of the wild Klamath spawners. However,
the U.S. Fish & Wildlife crews are counting the dead salmon in the river each week several times, until they are certain the run is over. Today while writing this I have observed what appears to more fresh salmon showing up.
During the main run last month, the fish were slaughtered with limits of 4 fish per person. Some boats would come in with as many as 16 salmon. Many anglers I talked to maintained the two fish limit was enough. This run has been acclaimed as the second largest run ever since the hatchery began taking in fish in the early 60"s.
All of this activity on the upper Klamath below Iron Gate Dam has provided some great steelhead fishing behind the spawning salmon and in the holding riffles and holes. Larger fish by Klamath standards come in later as the weather becomes much colder. The pressure is light at the present time and conditions are just right for the best steelhead fishing. There will be steelhead in the river now through early spring when they spawn.
As I write this, outside temperatures are around 35 to 45 degrees with snow coming down in the higher elevations.
Usually colder weather and steelhead fishing become partners, so it is advisable to wear warm clothing under your waders, and some high tech under garments. What to use as an offering? Try bright flies, egg patterns, roe, and good old nightcrawlers.
One expert steelheader on the river dips his duffy fly or glo bug in sardine oil or similar attractant to encourage the fish to strike. It works.
It is still a one fish daily bag limit for steelhead (16 inches or larger) and make sure it is recorded on your steelhead report and restoration card. I know many anglers grumble about the limit and the card. Anglers are required by law to make entries on the card before you begin fishing, when you catch or retain a fish, when you move to another location, and when you finish fishing for the day. This is found in fine print upon the 2012 card.
Keywords: klamath river, salmon, Steelhead