OFF THE HOOK: Wide-open bite at Red Bluff Salmon Derby
Most anglers experienced superb salmon action during the Second Red Bluff Sacramento River Salmon Derby on Sept. 29, sponsored by the NorCal Guides and Sportsmens Association and the Durango RV Resort.
Silas Holloway won first place in the event with a 22.3-pound king, taking home $1,000. He was fishing roe with friends Wayne and William Kenderes of Red Bluff and John at the old mouth of Battle Creek when he hooked the fish.
"We caught a total of eight fish, our limits," said Holloway. "We had a great day of fishing."
Ron Stone Sr. of Cottonwood placed second with a 21.12-pound king, winning $500. He was back trolling a Kwikfish in the Two Rock area with guide Seth Mitchell when he hooked the big fish.
"The two of us fishing with Mitchell landed 13 salmon, releasing most of them," Stone said. "We landed all but four while back bouncing with roe."
Henry Vales of Dixon placed third with a 21.8-pound salmon, winning $250. He caught the hefty king on roe while fishing with guide Guy A. Martin in the Barge Hole.
I fished with Henry, Dave Eisenauer of Minden, his 6-year-old son, Kasch, Guy A. and his dad, Guy C., on derby day. We launched out of the Jellys Ferry launch facility, the first time I've fished out of there in over a decade.
Before we started, Guy A. gave everybody in the boat a rundown of what we would doing, how to recognize a bite, and how and when to set the hook. We would be mooching roe in the Barge Hole and then would switch to back bouncing roe and back trolling Kwikfish downriver.
"We've been getting early limits every day," said Martin, a Reno, Nev., resident who guides salmon for several weeks during his vacation every fall.
When we arrived upriver at the Barge Hole, the hole was jammed with boats ranging from large guide boats to small jon boats and prams. As Guy A. moved the boat into position for the drift, we saw several people in boats hook up as the first rays of the morning sun peaked over the horizon.
The Barge Hole is the last major hole below the mouth of Battle Creek, so it is the spot is where the fish hold in big numbers before they move into the creek and swim up to Coleman National Fish Hatchery to be spawned or to spawn naturally in the creek.
Young Kasch was the first angler of the day to battle a fish. After a great fight by the young fisherman, Guy C. netted the fish and put the hefty, copper-colored chinook in the boat. The fish, like nearly all of the fish we caught, was around 20 pounds.
After that fish was put in the fish box, I was next to hook up as a king grabbed the bait. The fish fought hard, ripping off a lot of line off the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur reel, as Guy A. maneuvered the boat downriver to get out of the way of other anglers. I finally got the fish in the boat, a female about 20 pounds.
I soon hooked up another fish, landing my second salmon of the day, about the same size as my previous fish. For the next two hours, everybody hooked and landed salmon, with the largest one put in the boat by Henry Vales weighing 21.8 pounds
We were getting close to limits for the seven anglers, so Guy A. decided to try at the Old Mouth Hole, hopefully to get out of the crowd that appeared to be growing. Here we back trolled Kwikfish and back bounced roe.
The anglers missed a few fish here, but by 12:30 everybody had their limits of salmon, a total of 12 fish. The smallest was 16 pounds and most were in the 19- to 21-pound range, almost like clones.
The five anglers fishing with Robert Weese of Northern California Guide Service — Scott Gemette, Jason Di Laura, Jon Daniels, Justin Hernandez and Christian Valenti — also bagged early limits of hard-fighting kings.
Ken Donaldson, co-manager of the Durango RV Resort, emphasized, "The fish were all hogs this year. The smallest fish we weighed in was 14 pounds. The fishing was much better this derby than last year."
Twenty-seven anglers participated in the derby, nearly twice the number that entered last year, said Durango co-manager Pam Cappello.
The entry fee was $50. The weigh in, barbecue, raffle and awards ceremony took place at the Durango RV Resort, on the Sacramento River at 100 Lake Avenue in Red Bluff.
This year's event sponsors include Rolling Hills Casino, Corning Ford, Strictly Fishin', Red Bluff Sporting Goods, Hatfields, AnimalDentalCare.Info, Luigi's Pizza, sacriverguide.com, River Bend Store, Red Bank Outfitters, Northern California Guide Service, Worden's Lures, Copy Center, Yakima Bait and Tackle, the Fish Sniffer Newspaper and Dana Park Veterinary Hospital.
For more information, contact Pam Cappello or Ken Donaldson at 866-770-7001 or Robert Weese at 755-7196.