Berryessa Kings On Fire Now!

By Rick Kennedy | 05/13/2012

Winters, CA – Over the last year I’ve expanded my boundaries when it comes to the lakes I fish for rainbows, kokanee, Coho and kings. For more than a decade I stayed close to home, focusing on the Truckee area lakes, Collins, Bullards Bar, Englebright, Eagle and a others. However, in search of larger salmon opportunities in reservoirs I started to make the five-hour drive from my door to Trinity Lake an also the three-hour jaunt to Shasta.

Through this journey I’ve caught some nice fish, but recently Berryessa seems to be standing taller than all of them. The king salmon bite has caught fire. In fact, in my last outing while enjoying a little R&R with my wife we caught 18 kings in 3 hours; the majority weighed three-to-four pounds. A few breached four. Consequently, I won’t be driving to Trinity anytime soon.

Whereas Trinity and Don Pedro have stolen the spotlight in recent years, Berryessa’s kings are putting up a fight. Credit should go towards the planting program, improved management and an abundance of shad. In the fall there were enormous amounts of shad here. The kings obviously found them.


Earlier this year anglers were catching kings on Hootchies and Apex. It’s transitioned to a rolling bait bite. I’ve been rolling shad, small anchovies and small herring and pounding the kings. It hasn’t been by accident. I learned long ago that you are only as good as your bait. And, I’ve used Pautzke’s new Fire Brine as my ally to drum up the perfect bait.

Prior to this year (before Fire Brine came out) I used a homemade brine consisting of sea salts, brown sugar, Mrs Stewarts, powders milk, rock salt and other elements. It was a lengthy process that required time and care.

With Fire Brine the hassle is gone. Basically, now all I have to do is pour the Fire Brine in a container, add my bait and it’s ready to fish the next day. While there’s several perks the biggest thing for me is that Fire Brine saves me time and a bunch of mess. I’m no longer mixing stuff and making a big mess. I pour the Fire Brine in the container and come back the next day to perfectly brined bait.

Fire Brine makes your bait tough, shiny, colorful, long lasting and brings a scent to the bait (if you add Fire Power like I do). It enhances and makes the bait more durable, which is important when you are trolling for inland Chinook, Coho, browns, rainbows and kokanee here in Northern California.


Let’s face it. Bait can be expensive. By using Fire Brine I’m spending less money on bait because these bait lasts longer. When fishing, the bait you are trolling is only as good as you make it. And, this foolproof process gets the job done quicker, easier and more efficiently than any method or product I’ve used before.

Prior to using brining baits try and find the freshest bait possible. With shad, it’s important to search for smaller shad. Normally, shad sold at bait shops are three-to-four inches. For trolling our lakes, however, 1.5-to-2.5-inch stuff is best. You want the shad that striper guys don’t want because it’s too small. In addition to shad, I also use herring and anchovies. I like herring more than anchovies because it’s tougher and holds up better.


Regardless of what baits you opt to troll, brining them properly with a pre-mixed formula like Fire Brine is vital because of the consistency. The mixture is always the same. My homemade mixtures, which most guides and I have used for more than a decade, don’t come with this kind of consistency.

While I’ve noticed guys in the Great Lakes turning their baits purple, red and chartreuse, I’ve only tried blue and natural. In fact, I’ve been using ½ a bottle of natural and ½ a bottle of blue just to give the bait a shine. It’s been the boost I’ve needed to increase strikes from all cold water species.

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