OFF THE HOOK: Bacher calls his shot
Every so often when fishing I get a strange feeling that a fish is going to bite — and I announce my prediction right before a fish grabs the bait or lure. However, I have never seen a fish "called" by myself or another angler twice on the same day — until Jan. 1, 2013.
Rodney Fagundes, Kenny Pamanian, Scotty Gomar, and I were fishing in Fagundes' boat on the American River above Sailor Bar on opening day of the river's upper section.
Rodney had dragged his boat upstream and then loaded Scotty and Kenny in the boat in the slack water above the Sailor Bar Riffle to fish the "steelhead highway" that we traditionally fish. I walked down to the river to join them in the boat.
Rodney has a theory that when 22 birds sit on the power lines crossing the river below Nimbus Fish Hatchery, the steelhead will start biting. We had been fishing with plugs and roe for about an hour when Rodney noticed that 22 birds were lined up on the power lines.
He told Cameron Beck of American River Charters, and his two clients, who were fishing in the drift boat next to us, "You're going to get bit now." Moments after he predicted that, one of the rods started bouncing and the woman fishing with Beck grabbed it. She lost that fish, but an even more amazing thing happened several minutes later in Rodney's boat.
Scott's line got tangled with mine and we began to untangle them. Presciently, I said as I was holding the line in my hand, "Watch, I'll get a bite now."
Sure enough, as soon as I said that, I felt some added weight on the line. "I got a fish on, Rodney!"
"No way, there's no fish there," he replied.
Rodney put his fingers on the line and said, amazed, "There is a fish there!"
After the lines were untangled, I began reeling in the line. Finally the fish, apparently very sluggish in the 48-degree water, started pumping the rod a little bit.
I got the fish just several feet from the boat. The big buck twisted its head and the hook on the green pirate Hot Shot came flying out. That was the last fish we "called" during the day.
About 10 minutes after I hooked that fish, a fish slammed Ken's rod. Ken had nodded off, so I grabbed the rod and handed it to him, "You got a fish on your rod! Grab it," I shouted.
Unfortunately, that fish got off within a minute. Meanwhile, anglers on both sides of the river began hooking up steelhead. Many were lost, but lucky anglers landed some quality steelhead, including fish in the 10-to-12-pound range.
"Let's move over toward the center of the river and see if we can get some fish," said Rodney.
Rodney reeled in and released a 12-inch wild steelhead while using a Hot Shot, but that was all of the action we had on plugs. We all switched over to throwing Little Cleos and Blue Fox spinners.
Rodney got bit right after he started casting a silver/blue 2⁄5-ounce Little Cleo. The fish put up a great fight. When he got it to the boat, it turned out to be a dark hatchery buck about 9 pounds and released it.
Finally, Scotty hooked a beautiful, chrome bright steelhead weighing over 10 pounds, a hatchery fish, that Rodney netted after the best fight of the day that we witnessed.
I briefly hooked one fish on a plug around 3:30 pm and that was it for the day. Our count was three steelhead for seven hook-ups.
"It was one of the best five of the openers I have fished," noted Rodney. "In one year, it was so slow that we hooked one of the only two fish that were reported below the hatchery that day."
On Saturday, Jan. 5, Rodney, Scotty Gomar and John Woo had a super day of fishing when they hooked 15 and landed seven steelhead ranging from 8 to 12 pounds, again while using lures.
Rodney and I fished together on Jan. 9 and had an epic day, hooking 14 and landing 9 steelhead to 12 pounds while using plugs and Little Cleos. We brought home two hatchery fish for the table.
Steelhead counts at Nimbus Fish Hatchery are exceptional this year, matching the fishing that anglers have experienced since the opener. The hatchery has trapped a total of 2,086 adult steelhead to date, compared to 822 adults at the same time last year.
"We have trapped almost three times as many fish as last year," said Gary Novak, Nimbus Fish Hatchery Manager. "We counted 801 steelhead in one day — the most we can ever remember seeing in one day. And we still have eight weeks to go in the run."