Fisherman Bill: NorCal fires thwart fishing trips

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Dottie and I were supposed to be steelhead fishing on the Rogue River with Jim Andras today, but the Delta fire that swept over route I-5 last week, closing it to all traffic north and south for several days, thwarted our plans.

We were set to fish for three days on the Upper Sacramento River in Castella, a little village a few miles south of Dunsmuir, then continue north to Ashland, take in a play and fish with Jim Andras today.

That all started to unravel last Thursday, when the fire, which started near the northern end of Lake Shasta, burned fiercely and rapidly, terrifying motorists and truckers heading north and south on I5.

Many had to abandon their cars and trucks and flee for their lives.

Several large trucks were completely incinerated, and the interstate was badly damaged.

Many tall trees along the route were also killed and now present a hazard.

And that’s why we were very worried about our friends Ken and Mona Carr, who live in Castella and whose extra stream-side cabin we rent when we fish up there.

Their whole area, up to and including Dunsmuir, was under an evacuation advisory, but even so, only heavy smoke has reached them. The last we spoke the fire was still eight miles away from Castella, and they hadn’t been force to flee.

On Monday, I-5 was opened with one-lane traffic each way, but there were still fires burning on both sides of the highway, and the air was foul with smoke, too much to be outdoors fishing. We canceled our trip.

The fires were reported to be about 15 percent contained as of Wednesday.

Smoke from the Carr fire, the Delta Fire and others are still fouling the air all over the northern part of the state. But some people are venturing onto the lower Sacramento south of Anderson.

I got one fairly good report from guide Kirk Portocarrero who is finding lots of king salmon for his clients on the Sac, downstream from Anderson all the way to Colusa. He says that current conditions offer a mixed bag of fish from five-pound jacks to 30-pound bucks, and the fish are spread out all over the river. Call Kirk at (800) 670-4448 or check out his website at

Those thinking of trying Lake Berryessa were also unable to do so because of a big fire near there.

Looking around for alternatives, all I can suggest now is the ocean off our Sonoma County Coastline, or San Francisco Bay.

Capt. Rick Powers of Bodega Bay Sportsfishing continues to have great action on rock and lingcod with limits and near limits of king salmon on most trips. It is the one place you can find cool, clean air, and catch lots of fish. Call Rick at 875-3344 to book a trip.

You have a couple of choices for the Bay, including just fishing off the shore at China Camp, or the McNear Park Pier in Marin County. Or, you can book a bay fishing party boat and go out for striped bass, salmon and maybe some halibut.

Your best connection for Bay fishing is Keith Fraser at the Loch Lomond Bait Shop in San Rafael. Call Keith at (415) 456-0321.

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