Salmon Munching Nectar Soaked Tuna Balls On The Upper Klamath

By Steven Theel | 10/23/2012

On the Rogue we call it hunting. When we are salmon fishing here in Southern Oregon we’re looking for one-to-three fish a day. If you catch five consider it an accomplishment; you are sitting in one of the best boats out there.

However, crossing south into the Golden State on the Upper Klamath River a 15-fish day is average. In fact, some guides are getting double hookups and seeing up to 50 fish days. The place is loaded with fish. And, while we’ve seen an incredible fall, you’d better get here soon because it’s winding down.

The Upper Klamath River, just below Irongate Dam, is still kicking out a lot of fish. We didn’t tally exact numbers of our trip this past Wednesday, but ended up getting something in the neighborhood of 15 for 25, not bad for driving across the border for a few hours, launching our drift boat and dropping in lines.

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Meanwhile, most of the top guides are getting 20-30 fish a day with a couple days of 50 fish per boat. Being on the water daily puts them in the best holes and gives an advantage. The fish are mostly three-year-olds in the 10-15 pound range. The run should continue until the end of the month.

It’s true fresh fish are still coming in at the mouth, however, most of the ones they are getting down low I’m guessing are going back to the tributaries, whereas these fish are hatchery fish. Even with the numbers of fish we are still seeing I’m betting the run will be over here in a week or so. People normally start giving up around Halloween.

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While some use roe and other pull plugs our hot bait has still been tuna balls soaked in red and orange Pautzke Nectar. It’s my favorite way to fish the system.

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Here’s how to make them:

1. Purchase canned tuna, the kind packed in oil, rather than water and roll up quarter-size pieces of tuna.

2. Cut mesh spawn netting into squares. I use either 3×3 or 4×4.

3. Place the tuna on top of the mesh, add two Puff Ball, grab the corners and twist it into a ball. Then, use Magic Thread and tie. I’ll wrap 15-20 times and break it off.

4. Place tied spawn bags into quart jar and dump in the extra oils from the canned tuna. Once full of balls top off with red and orange Pautzke Nectar. Normally, I’ll mix it 50-50. The Nectar gives the tuna balls nice, bright colors and tremendous scent. If I want a purplish color I’ll add a splash of blue Nectar.

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While most boats are bouncing eggs tuna balls are extremely durable baits that can endure multiple fish. When fishing I ask my guys dunk them back in the Nectar for a few seconds to recharge every 5 to 10 minutes.

Why do I use tuna balls? Part of it is that it’s something different. Everyone is bouncing eggs. The tuna balls give the salmon a different smell and taste. Also, you can use tuna balls for multiple fish. You are fishing a lot more because of it. With roe you’ll lose your bait often, whereas the tuna balls keep you fishing and in the strike zone more frequently.

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Editor’s Note: Steven Theel owns Southern Oregon Fishing Reports. For more info please visit