Big Push Over, But Klamath River Pigs Have Arrived

By Mick Thomas | 10/22/2012

It’s been a challenging year on the Lower Klamath River. There’s been a massive amount of salmon in the river, meanwhile the bite wasn’t indicative of the numbers. I’ve noticed a few differences between this year and the last few.

First off, I’ve seen less biters in this year’s crop. We’ve had to work tougher for, but the guys putting in long hours still are getting them and hooking up some big ones, too. Surprisingly, crowds were the largest I’ve seen in decades. Some days you had to park what felt like a mile from the launch ramp.


Fortunately, those crowds fled at the end of September. The river has been left to the few locals that have been guiding and fishing it for decades. This is my favorite time to salmon fish here. The leaves are changing colors, there’s little boat traffic and the bigger fish are in.

Last fall, we boated several fish to the mid 50s. Thus far this season I’ve seen fewer numbers of those larger fish. This year, nevertheless, our biggest has been 46 pounds. We had one fish on that pushed 60, but weren’t able to land it.

(Below) One of the larger fish Thomas’ clients caught in fall of 2011


Honestly, I think those big fish are here right now, but they are just starting to come in. But, as we all know we don’t control Mother Nature. These bigger fish are later than they normally are by a few weeks. Could be because the rains came later this fall.


(Above: Thomas and a client from fall 2011)
To recap the last three months, I think it was an enormous run, but the fish wouldn’t bite for several reasons. Most notably, we had an extreme large fry out-push. It’s been difficult to get the big fish to bite because the fry are grabbing the roe before the adults see it. Good god, there’s millions of fry this year. In three years look the hell out. It’s going to be a heck of a run.

Fry aren’t the only culprit. Water releases made the fish move faster. They moved out of this area much faster than normal. In year’s past they held longer in the lower river before bolting up.

On the other hand, our toughest hurdle has been moss. In this warm water moss is always a factor, but some years are worse than others. This one is pretty bad. The fish don’t want to open their mouths as much because they don’t want to inhale all that moss.

In short, even with larger limits, the bite hasn’t been good, well compared to what we are used to. It’s completely different this year because of the above-mentioned reasons. There’s always hundreds of fish around us, but we can’t get them to bite. I haven’t seen moss like this and the number of juveniles in ions.

However, I’m excited for these last few weeks. We’ve seen some big fish come through since mid October and it’s improving daily. Fortunately, there aren’t many guys around to see them.


There will be fish here through November. But, people leave because the other rivers open and it can be tougher to fish because the water rises a lot and muddies up. Realistically, we have a few weeks left of good fishing.

One common mistake I notice on the Klamath is anglers using pieces of roe that are too big. I’m using smaller baits. The Klamath is a softer river with a lot of moss. If you use a heavier, bigger bait it’d be mossed up in no time.

On the Smith or Chetco when you are back-bouncing you have a cleaner system so you can use bigger baits. The Klamath wouldn’t harbor them because the moss would cover them up. And, this is a wider, flatter river so you have to have bait that’s presentable to this water.

Think about it: if you use a big bait in the swimming pool it’s going to go to the bottom and sit. If not like you have the narrower slots and runs like we have on the Smith. Big isn’t good on this system. I’m staying around the size of a quarter, maybe a little larger.


I cure my eggs differently, too. I like a drier egg and use FireCure and BorX O Fire to achieve the consistency I’m looking for. The reason I like it a little drier on the Klamath is because the water is a lot warmer than the Smith or Chetco so you want a drier bait so it doesn’t fall apart and bleach out as quick. The warmer water will do that to you. Sometimes I mix the cures and others I have some cured in BorX OFire and others in FireCure.