August 19, 2014   Headlines

Lower Klamath Low and Warm

Salmon Action good at Blue Creek
There are a bunch of salmon and steelies "kegged up" at Blue Creek where the cold flows of this small tributary drops river temps by several degrees. We received a couple of reports on Tuesday 8-19 of good fishing in this one small area and some scattered fish being taken on the riffles and faster moving slots (Blakes, the Orchard, Brooks). Overall guides are seeing 5 to 10 salmon per boat (again mostly at Blue Creek) and lots of half pound steelies with many boats seeing 12 to 20 plus of these hard fighting 1 to 3 pound fish.
The word is that some of the salmon are (5%) are showing white and red legions in their gills a sign of gill rot and maybe the beginning of what we saw in 2002. Like 2002 with ultra low flows, HOT river temps and lots of fish pressured into one small area an outbreak of gill rot is a big concern. A couple of weeks back I wrote that it was unfair to target fish that were just trying to survive by holding at Blue Creek. Now I'm changing my tune to "maybe it would be better to thin these fish out so they are not so concentrated and we don't have a major outbreak of gill rot.
It would be nice to see Cal Fish and Wildlife weigh in and it would be even better for a release of cold water off the Trinity where the Feds have so far refused to release any additional flows. Releasing flows to salmon makes much for sense than pumping water to the Central Valley to irrigate almonds when 80% of the almonds are exported overseas.
At the mouth reports have been sporadic. There was good action last week with salmon  also pushing into the estuary and the lower river. Quota counts began last Friday August 15th and with just over a 600 fish quota at the mouth but just a one adult limit (the limit this season is three per day but only ONE can be an adult) we should see the mouth (spit) stay open for another week or two. We shoukd receive the latest counts on Wednesday evening.

Salmon at the Mouth/ River Low and Warm
There are decent to good numbers of salmon pushing in and back out with the tides at the mouth of the Klamath. Bankies are scoring some limits on some days and the action has been warm to hot depending on the day.
Speaking of hot; water temps in the lower
river from Klamath Glen to Blue Creek are in the mid 70s but guides are seeing 5 to 10 steelies and a few salmon working through the riffles from Blakes to Blue Creek. On Saturday 8-2 Wally Johnson worked from Blakes to Blue Creek section. They hooked roughly 20 fish a mix of adult and half pounder steelies and a handful of salmon. He got a couple at Blakes, a couple at the Orchard and then ran to Blue Creek where Wally said it was unprecedented for number of fish (trapped) in the small section where the colder flows of Blue Creek move into the Klamath. 
With river temps in the high 70s these fish are seeking cold water in the ONLY PLACE they can find it. Apparently some "sport anglers" are taking advantage of these literally trapped fish and hooking and releasing many that then just go belly up. Wally said that that he saw several floaters (recently hooked fish unable to take the stress of the warm flows after being hooked but this barely swimming) and tried to revive two without success.  With the current ultra low flows and high temps sport anglers should opt to NOT take advantage of these fish with literally no other place to go. They are just holding in the one place in the lower river where they awaiting cooler flows or rain.  It's NOT SPORTING to shoot fish in a barrel and sport anglers and guides should avoid this area until we see cooler or higher flows.
Wally Johnson has space available through August and will begin regular salmon and steelie combo trips in September.


Here on Saturday 7-26 there are reports of guides and private boaters seeing 2 to 10 adult steelies and 1 to 3 salmon. Most of the action has been around Blue Creek and in the faster riffles and flats from the Glen to Blue Creek.
There are also salmon staging at the mouth with fish moving in and back out with the tides. We have second hand reports of bankies landing a few very scattered salmon at the mouth and the gillnets taking a few in the estuary. If the mouth (spit) holds it's present location this allows the estuary to flush and each high tides brings an influx of cooler ocean water. If the mouth slides south (which is often the case in low flows years like this) a bar will form and the estuary warms up as the warmer river flows are not able to flush out. Last season with a long south facing mouth the estuary warmed to the high 70s and while fishing was great on the spit in August and September the salmon held in the ocean until late September when rivers water temps dropped. With flows even lower this year I would expect that we will see the mouth move south in the coming weeks.
Currently we have some springers moving through and adults caught before August 15th typically don't count towards the fall run quota until late in August. In the time being hope for early rain and an increase in flows that may cool the river. 

Challenging Summer and Fall Salmon Season Ahead
Low flows, low quotas and high water temps will result in tough fishing conditions for Klamath anglers this salmon season.
This summer and fall will bring some of the most challenging conditions on the Klamath river since the early 90s. With the current drought, the Klamath river is under a "critically dry" definition which means that releases off upstream dams will be cut to a bare minimum. As of Friday July 4th flows off Lewiston dam (Trinity lake) are at 450CFS.
On the upper Klamath at Iron gate flows are currently at 900cfs This is going to result in extremely low and warm conditions in the lower river. Water temps will likely climb to the high 70s in the estuary in August.  

The PFMC set the quota for the ENTIRE Klamath River Basin fall run of 4,184 adult Chinook salmon, with the lower river to get half that number. Spit anglers (Klamath mouth )will only receive 15% of the quota.
Quotas for the lower river are just over 2000 adult fish while the upper Klamath river is allowed just 711 fall Chinook salmon. Trinity anglers will be allowed to 1,380 fish between the lower and upper rivers. The  daily bag limit will be three (3) fish per day with of which only one can be over 22" (adult)  and two (2) jacks, and a total of 9 Chinook in possession, and no more than 3 adults.
One only has to look at the 2013 season when low flows and water temps in the estuary kept the bulk of the run holding outside the mouth.  While "spit' anglers saw great action and easy limits the salmon fishing inside the estuary and lower river was very slow. Estuary temps were running in the mid to high 70 degree range August through September (2013) and few salmon were willing or able to move into the lower river.
With river flows this season being even lower than last I expect we see even more challenging conditions this season. They include:
With low river flows the river will close repeatedly all summer especially during periods of high tides and higher swell. 
High temps in the estuary will act like a curtain that will kept fish in the ocean as they will be unwilling to push through the hot water temps in the estuary. Last season we saw temps in the mid to high 70s through late September. They could climb even higher this season with the low river flows.
Guides will be catching some fish in those spots that have cooler flows like the mouth of Blue Creek but warm river temps will likely have the salmon coming in spurts
With the low "spit" quota I would expect the quota will be reached before Labor day. If so anglers will NOT be able to fish the spit even for jacks. This will be devastating for the few last campgrounds and businesses still holding on. (There were so many infractions handed out at the spit last season both Fish and Wildlife and local guides proposed the closure after 15% of the total quota is reached not the quota on the entire river). With few accessible public areas to fish outside the mouth and the bars around Klamath Glen bank anglers will have little access to the lower river fishery. Guides of course will have the entire river to fish.
Despite all these challenges there will be better fishing late September. Like last year, as the nights get cooler and shorter water temps will drop and the fish will make their way in likely in a huge push. We saw some excellent scores for guides last October and the I would expect that after  slow August and early September that fishing will improve for those here later in the season.
Pictured above: the mouth of the Klamath on July 6th 2014 sent in by Gdm.

Major Step Forward For Klamath River Restoration
One of the nationís biggest dam removal and river restoration efforts got a major boost on Friday with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) announcing that he will introduce legislation to authorize the Klamath River restoration agreements.
Elected officials, Tribal leaders, and farming, ranching, and conservation representatives gathered Friday to celebrate the signing of the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement (UKBCA). The agreement resolves water rights disputes among the Klamath Tribes and upper basin irrigators, and permanently increases river flows, protects riverside lands, and provides $40 million to the Klamath Tribes for economic development.
Senator Wyden announced that he will introduce legislation that authorizes the UKBCA, as well as the two existing Klamath settlement agreements, the Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. Together the three agreements will resolve long-standing water rights disputes, increase water supply reliability for upper basin agricultural communities, improve river flows and water quality, restore wetlands, and allow for the removal of PacifiCorpís lower four Klamath River dams. The restoration agreements are necessary to restore struggling Klamath salmon runs.
The agreements, the first of which was finalized in 2010, are the product of years of negotiations among more than 40 stakeholder groups including American Rivers, with the goal of restoring the river, reviving ailing salmon and steelhead runs, and revitalizing fishing, tribal, and farming communities.
Removing the four dams will open access to more than 300 miles of habitat for salmon and steelhead. When dam removal begins on the Klamath Ėscheduled for 2020 Ė it will be one of the nationís largest dam removal projects. Before the settlement agreements can be fully implemented, Congress must pass Senator Wydenís legislation and appropriate funds, and California must contribute an estimated $80 million to augment the $200 million being collected from PacifiCorp ratepayers for dam removal and river restoration. No federal funds will be used for dam removal.
PacifiCorpís four dams, built between 1908 and 1962, cut off hundreds of miles of once-productive salmon spawning and rearing habitat in the Upper Klamath, which was once the third most productive salmon river on the West Coast. The dams also create toxic conditions in the reservoirs that threaten the health of fish and people.
The dams produce a nominal amount of power, which can be replaced using renewables and efficiency measures, without contributing to climate change. A study by the California Energy Commission and the Department of the Interior found that removing the dams and replacing their power would save PacifiCorp customers up to $285 million over 30 years.
Roughly 1,150 dams have been removed nationwide and 51 dams were removed in 2013.

Kamp Klamath
Our favorite campground Kamp Klamath "on the quite side of the river". They offer discounts for those anglers looking to park their RV for a month or more and enjoy a few weeks of this incredible fishery. They have full hookups and the entire campground has free Wi-Fi. Don't miss the Saturday night salmon and chicken B-Q with live music!
Kamp Klamath is a secure, quiet, forested campground surrounded by Redwood National Park and where we have set up our fish camp for over 25 years. Great people and a great place to stay. 707 482-0227
Motor Home Magazine has a feature article about Kamp Klamath and FunBus Tours.


Panther Creek vacation rental
For those of you booking a trip with one of our guides and not interested in camping and looking for something more than a hotel room check out this river front house. This vacation rental is located on the lower river at Panther Creek and sleeps up to 10. It's perfect for a family weekend getaway or larger groups. We know that a few of our readers have booked the home and have enjoyed its prime location.

Accommodations & Shops:
"Little Ray's Tackle" in Klamath Glen. For all your tackle needs stop by Little Rays. This is a must stop for anglers new to the river. The crew behind the counter will be more than happy to answer all your questions and point you in the right direction. Located just past the Steelhead Lodge. 707 482-7725

In Seiad Valley sits the Klamath River Side Park a quiet little RV park right on the banks of the Klamath for anglers looking for a quieter stretch of the river away from the crowds.

River Levels:

For river status (low flow closure) updates from Fish and Game please call +1.707.442.4502 for the North coast and +1.707.944.5533 for Central coast streams. Be sure to check out the California Fish and Game regulations before you go. Regulations vary on every river and you need to pay attention to bait and hook restrictions. Due to winter closures on HWYs 5, 101 & 299 we recommend you check Caltrans road conditions as well.

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