When you aren’t getting bit while salmon fishing with roe, it could be that you have bad eggs…but maybe not! There are some things you can try before you toss your bait into the garbage!
Can’t fish? Well, you might as well read about it! Since you are probably stuck at home these days, now’s a great time to catch up on your fishing techniques.
Here’s my catalog of how-to titles, available through Amazon.
The Ultimate Guide to Steelhead Bank Fishing: (263 pages, $11.99 Digital Copy)
Jam packed with all the how-to info you need become a proficient bank angler: reading the water, curing bait rigging diagrams and tons of other stuff — it’s all in here
Light Tackle Surf Perch: (52 pages, $2.99 Digital Copy)
Thanks to detailed diagrams, photos and descriptive text, you’ll learn how to identify likely looking perch hang outs like troughs, holes, rips and more. Richey also shares secrets he’s learned from commercial perch anglers and other top beach fishermen and passes them on to you so you can be successful.
Plug Fishing For River Fishing: (69 pages, $2.99 Digital Copy)
In this, the most comprehensive guide of its kind ever assembled, JD covers everything you need to know to consistently catch river salmon on wobbling plugs like FlatFish and Kwikfish.
Packed with full color photographs and diagrams, the book covers everything from the basics to sophisticated tricks used by pro guides.
Light Tackle Delta Striper Secrets: (58 pages, $2.99 Digital Copy)
In this book, JD shares the pro tips you need to catch striped bass in the Delta. Packed with photos and insightful diagrams, Richey shows you how to locate stripers, what to look for in a spot, how to work the tide to you advantage… and how to get bit using light tackle techniques like topwater, swimbaits and jigging.
Side Drifting for Steelhead: (Paperback, $14.53 Digital Copy)
In this book, JD shares everything you need to know to become a successful side-drifter. Best describe ed as a family of techniques, side-drifting includes three methods–freedrifting, side gliding, boondogging. Each method is explained in depth and includes the basic gear you’ll need.
A peek at one part of what is causing California’s salmon collapse…
Can you tell if the steelhead you just caught is a wild fish or of hatchery origin?
It’s a question I get asked all the time…”How can I tell the difference?”
It’s important information because in many places, it’s legal to only to keep hatchery steelhead. In other words, wild fish must be released.
And, honestly, even in the handful of places where a wild steelhead can be retained, they should be released voluntarily anyway. There simply aren’t that many of them left and they are of much greater value on the spawning gravels than on a grill.
Hatchery steelhead will be missing their adipose fin, which is the small fleshy one on the back between the dorsal fin and tail.
Prior to release from the hatchery, the fin is removed from juvenile steelhead (via scissors or automated machine).
Since it never grows back, the lack of the adipose fin on an adult fish makes it easy to identify as of hatchery origin…and, therefore, in many rivers, legal to keep (check the regs before you go to make sure!).
You’ll sometimes encounter a fish that’s a “tweener” — one that has a partial adipose fin. While this can occur in the wild (rare), it is more often the byproduct of a “miss-clip” by the person doing the fin removal.
Where done by hand, you can imagine that there are going to be some imperfect cuts when people are trying to get through tens of thousands of baby Steelhead.
One other clue to look for, however, is sign of an eroded dorsal fin. When jammed together in fish hatcheries, baby steelies often rub against each other and the concrete walls, resulting in worn down fins.
And here’s another example…
These two examples are pretty obviously hatchery steelhead but what about this one below….?
The dorsal in the above fish is pretty intact and there’s more than a just nub of an adipose but I’m still sure this one is a hatchery steelie (we let it go anyway). If you have any doubt whatsoever my advice is to let the fish go!
Now, before you get any ideas about bringing a pair of scissors with ya to the river, note that most regulations read something along these lines: The adipose fin must be missing and the wound must be healed…
Unfortunately, there are some pea-brained “anglers” out there who fish in the spring when the smolts are out-migrating and clip the fins off wild ones so they can be kept upon return as adults. Lame lame lame!
Of course, wild steelhead will be proudly sporting a fully-intact adipose fin and should always be released carefully with minimal handling.
When you see that your fish has an adipose, it’s best to refrain from netting it, unless you have one of those fish-friendly knotless nets. Also try to avoid dragging it up in the rocks.
Whenever possible, I’ll gently beach them in the shallows, where I can quickly unhook it and snap a photo. Be advised that in places like Washington State, it is illegal to lift a wild steelhead out of the water for a photo.
That doesn’t mean, however, you can’t get a pic. Simply kneel down in the water with the fish. That way, if it squirms and you loose your grip, you’re not dropping it from altitude down onto the rocks.
Of course, if you catch a hatchery fish and it’s legal to keep it, by all means take good care of it and enjoy fresh fish on the grill. Many hatchery managers encourage you to keep clipped fish so don’t feel guilty if you want to take one for dinner…
Want to take your steelhead game to new heights? Check out my huge, 300-page “users manual” jam packed with all the stuff you need to know to become one if the top 10% of steelhead anglers. It’s available through Amazon. Click HERE
So just what is it about steelhead trout that makes people nutty…and do crazy things?
I was once doing a phone interview with a writer from a big East Coast magazine. From his cozy office in New York City, he asked me that very question.
It was hard for me to answer. I mean, with steelhead…you either get it or you don’t.
There are so many deep-seeded feelings and emotions for me that are tied to these fish that it’s almost impossible to articulate in a way that somebody on the outside can understand.
So, I spat out the first thing to come to mind:
“I fish for steelhead so I can see them up close…”
And then, I just got on a roll and rattled off a total unabated stream of consciousness…
I fish for steelhead because I want to get as close to them as I can. I feel that they are like fine art, each one to be viewed quietly, taken in and remembered.
I told him that I have never felt more alive and in touch with the world – and myself – as when I’m standing in a misty canyon, with a ribbon of emerald flowing in front of me.
Steelhead haunt my dreams and run through my veins.
They have taken me to the top of the mountain and they have broken my heart. I’ve bled for them; I’ve frozen for them and I’ve driven, flown, hiked and floated thousands and thousands of miles for them…and there’s not a single day of the year that I don’t think about them.
Steelhead make me straight up crazy. Even on dry land, I can close my eyes and literally feel what that moment of first contact is like, that initial tight line surge. And I can make my heart rate jump by simply imagining a float going under or a plug rod going off. Oh man…the plug takedown of a steelhead…wow…if that doesn’t get your juices flowing, you’d better check your pulse because you’re probably dead.
Steelhead make me want to follow every single anadramous river from the mouth to the source – and then float back down them again. They make me think irrational thoughts like maybe I should just sell the house and get a toy hauler that fits a drift boat and hit the open road…and never come back!
They drive me to drink; they drive me to the limits –mentally, physically, emotionally. Steelhead make me wear the numbers off my credit cards and sometimes pull the hairs off my head.
They give me this insatiable desire to fix all the damage that has been done to the rivers they call home. They drive me to pick up trash, fight for flows, plant trees and dump spawning gravel by the truckload into the water.
Steelhead are the fish I’d miss Christmas for and the reason I got married during the offseason. They give me sweaty palms and weak knees. Though I’ve probably shaved at least a year off my life expectancy due to all the junk food consumed on steelie road trips, I also believe that every day you fish for steelhead is one you get to tack onto the end.
And speaking of the end, if I had a choice, I’d go steelhead fishing on my last day on the planet. I’ve informed my family what to do when my time is about up: Take me to the top of some whitewater gorge with a drift boat and a couple rods. No need for a life jacket or a shuttle…it will be my last ride. Hopefully, there will be a couple biters along the way!
Steelhead are responsible for all the drift and float and plug and fly and center pin rods…the jigs and stacks of Pip’s and boxes of plugs; the BC Steels and the spinner boxes; the Slinkies and pink worms; the two deflated pontoon boats; the Fish Pills all over the floor; the nets and waders and boots and pink stained fridge – that all make my garage useless to terrestrial vehicles.
They’ve also ruined many a potentially productive day in the office…all it takes is a photo or a text from somebody on the river and I’m worthless the rest of the afternoon.
Steelhead are why my favorite color is green — because it reminds me of the perfect hue of a river just coming into shape and the giant redwoods that stand on its banks. And because of the dorsal color of one of those awesome looking bucks that’s transitioning from ocean chrome to river camo – olive back and a faint pink cheek and stripe peeking out from silver flanks.
In short, steelhead are epic, nearly indescribable critters that make me tick and dream and feel alive. I’m not at all sure the interviewer ever really got the message but I bet you all do…