By Matt Freeman
The year 2020 has been one to remember for the Kern River Valley, both good and bad! As we wait out the last of the hot days of summer and get ready for what is always a nice fall and the re-opening of our lake and river and National Forests after the fire danger subsides, I wanted to share a bit of good news.
In years past, CALDFW has stocked landlocked Chinook salmon in Lake Isabella, but it is not a frequent occurrence. We got them this year, though! This spring, DFG had a surplus of Chinook salmon fry that are normally stocked in the colder waters up north, and Lake Isabella was the beneficiary!
These fish are known for their fighting abilities and table fare; and although they do not attain the large sizes they achieve in saltwater, they still grow fast in California’s reservoirs, feasting on shad and insects and fish fry. By this fall and into next year we will really see these fish starting to show in angler’s creels in the area.
The best way to target this infrequent but welcome visitor to the KRV is to fish deep and use standard trout trolling tactics. Though sometimes caught on bait, these Chinook are fish eaters by nature and prefer a trolled presentation. Fall through spring will be the best time to target this species as they require cold waters. Lead core line and downriggers are the way to go, and don’t be afraid to break out the Kokanee salmon gear, either — like wedding rings and flashers.
These salmon will hit them along with your normal favorite trout lures. Start shallow at sunrise and fish deeper as the sun rises, concentrating on your sonar. Find that thermocline if you can and troll through the bait that you see. You’ll be rewarded with plenty of trout and just a few of these beautiful salmon. Send us pictures when you catch one too — this is a rare and tasty find in Lake Isabella!