As part of our 2016 April trout opener preview coverage, we profiled the Central Valley’s Mokelumne River, a rather underrated fishery that produces some good trout catches and an improving Chinook run based on last fall’s count.
Now as winter steelhead gets going – usually most popular along the Northern Coast’s river systems, the “Moke” as locals call it has been emerging as a steelhead river on the rise again.
For decades after Camanche Dam was completed in 1964, the steelhead run at the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery, operated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), averaged only 100 fish and no steelhead returned to spawn many years.
This has all changed in recent years. The hatchery staff reports one of the best steelhead runs on record, with 983 fish, including 489 adults 18 inches or over, trapped as of Monday.
Fishing success for the river’s steelhead and resident trout since the river reopened to fishing on Jan. 1 depends on who you talk to.
“Some experienced anglers report doing well while others aren’t catching anything,” said William Smith, hatchery manager. “Most fish being hooked are in the 18 to 20-inch class.”
Bank anglers and boaters are employing salmon eggs, spinners, spoons and flies. The top fly patterns are those that imitate salmon fry emerging from the gravel.
The two major public fishing accesses are at the hatchery and Stillman Magee Park in Clements.
The all-time record for steelhead at the facility was set last year with 1,121 steelhead, including 719 adults. This number could be exceeded this season, Smith said.
Time will tell if more fish are recorded in the Mokelumne going forward, but any promising news in fire- and mudslide-ravaged California should be welcomed.