Sacramento River closure - bad or good?

Sacramento River - Lower - Redding, CA (Shasta County)

Sacramento River fishing offers bountiful hookups. Photos submitted by author.

by Jeff Goodwin

The permanent annual closure of the Sacramento River tail water trout fishery recommended by CDFW is now in effect.  The recommended seasonal closure of the 5.5 mile section of the Sacramento River below Keswick Dam down to the SR 44 bridge in Redding has made its way from CDFW to the Office of Administrative Law and is now a permanent fishing regulation.  

This section of the Sacramento River will now be closed every year from April 1st thru July 31st in a somewhat controversial attempt to protect the winter run King salmon that spawn in this section of the Sacramento River during the closure timeframes.  Three years ago, a claim was made by CDFW managers that winter run salmon were being caught incidentally by anglers who were pursuing the rainbow trout that have a prolific presence in this section of the river.  This closure remains somewhat controversial among local anglers due to the fact that CDFW has failed to provide or present any scientific evidence that closing this section of the river to catch and release trout fishing will help the winter run salmon rebound to appreciable numbers.

There are anglers, guides, and local fishing businesses that do support the closure and I think everyone agrees that the winter run salmon population just can't afford to lose even one fish due to an incidental catch.  Warm water temp's in this section of the Sacramento River due to poor flow management and faulty temperature sensing equipment at Shasta Dam have proven to be detrimental to the survival of the winter run salmon, but at this point in time, no one seems to have an answer for these issues.  Winter run salmon egg, fry, and smolt predation has also proven to be a serious problem, but are also falling short on solutions.  There are lots of factors contributing to the demise of the winter run salmon, but closing down all fishing in the winter run spawning areas is clearly the fastest and easiest attempt to protect these declining winter run salmon populations.

Many local anglers are distressed over losing access to one of the best wild rainbow trout and steelhead fishing areas on the Sacramento River for four months, but some of the anglers and fishing guides on the river have found the closure to enhance this fishery beyond initial expectation.  What I'm talking about is a world class rainbow trout and steelhead fishery that is further enhanced by taking all of the angling pressure off of these fish from April 1st to July 31st.  When this section of the Sacramento River opens on August 1st, anglers can experience some of the best catch and release trout and steelhead fishing they will ever experience in their lifetime.

Now while I still fish clients down river of the closed waters successfully, I find that the fishing from August 1st into late fall has no comparison.  The fishing is so good that I have adjusted my seasonal fishing schedule so I can offer my clients access to this incredible fishery.  No longer do I focus on salmon fishing in August, it's all about the trout and steelhead fishing in downtown Redding.  Every trip I had last year was absolutely epic, I only wish I could have introduced more of my clients to this great fishery.  Fortunately, most everyone who fished with me last year are coming back for more this year and my schedule is filling fast.

Hopefully I have managed to communicate the controversy which surrounds this new permanent annual closure on the Sacramento River, but have also outlined the potential benefits the winter run salmon will see in the name of conservation.  I also hope I have provided enough information to peak reader interest in this phenomenal fishery and would encourage everyone who may be looking to put together a great trip with friends or better yet, a trip for the whole family where everyone is likely to catch numerous wild rainbow trout and steelhead.  I still have some open dates in August so give me a call and let me show you what you've been missing since these closures began three years ago.  You'll be glad you called!

Jeff Goodwin is a full time Northern California fishing guide.  He guides year round for salmon, trout, steelhead, Kokanee, and bass on Northern California rivers and lakes. He fishes many bodies of water in the Redding area, but also guides the Sacramento River and Feather River during certain times of the year. Jeff can also be found on the California coast chasing ocean fresh King salmon and steelhead each year. To learn more about the fishing trips Jeff has to offer, please visit Jeff Goodwin's Guide Service.  You can also find him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or please feel free to call him anytime at (707) 616-1905.

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