Salmon and Steelhead Fishing on the Klamath River

Pam and I wanted a new fishing experience so we booked a trip on the Klamath River with Mike Coopman, a local fishing guide who was recommended to us. Mike turned out to be an excellent choice. He was very knowledgeable, friendly, and went out of his way to make us happy and comfortable. His boat and equipment were top drawer, too. We definitely recommend him if you’re interested in fishing around the Crescent City area. You can find him on the web at‎ or look for his business page on Facebook. We stayed at a local motel in Klamath where Mike picked us up each morning. The motel experience was interesting, and while it was convenient to the launch area, next time we’ll either book a place in Crescent City or maybe try out the new casino/hotel that’s being built there in Klamath.

The local scenery was outstanding, especially along the river. It’s a kick in the butt to shoot along the water close to the bank while you dodge snags and look for eagles, ospreys, and other local critters on shore or flying overhead. Heck, people pay just to do that, and we got to fish also. Great fun!

Our objective was to catch king salmon, which are usually present during late August, but alas that was not to be. The river was low, and because of a state water dispute, it stayed that way during our trip. There were no salmon except a few small jack salmon; all the adults were still out in the sea.

Even the local Yurok Tribe who had nets stretched across the mouth of the river weren’t catching fish. The powers that be were due to release water from the dam a couple of days after we left, so the salmon should start coming upriver soon. Too late for us — timing is everything, and on this trip our timing sucked.


Plan B: we fished for steelhead. We had two great days of fishing and reeled in lots of fish up to 5 pounds apiece. Unfortunately, we had to release all the wild steelhead, keeping only hatchery fish. And guess what, 90% of the ones we caught were wild steelhead.

We’re mostly catch-and-eat people, and we had a tear in our eye when we released some of those larger beauties. Still, we made it home with about 12 dinner-sized portions of jack salmon and steelhead, so we were happy. To tell the truth, we were more than happy. The steelhead bite was great fun and we had a blast catching and releasing fish throughout the day. The steelhead bite more than lived up to our expectations.

Final analysis, all-in-all, it was a very enjoyable and different experience, and we’ll do it again. But next time we’ll try and make sure there are a few adult salmon swimming around in the river. Then it’ll be double the fun, salmon and steelhead, oh boy. Mike taught us a couple of new techniques too, and we’re going to try them out fishing for trout on the Owens River next month. We’ll be shore fishing there, so if you’re in the area stop by and say ‘hi’.

About Otto

Otto Gasser grew up mostly in southern California and obtained his Doctorate In Educational Psychology from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He was hired as a professor to teach in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California, where he initiated a multilevel Scuba training curriculum on campus. Dr. Gasser spent 37 years at Cal Poly before recently retiring. During that time, he certified over 2,000 students in Scuba. He served as the University’s Diving Safety Officer and represented the campus on the California State College and Universities Diving Safety Committee. Off campus, Dr. Gasser spent ten years on the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles County Underwater Instructors Association, three of them as President. Over the years, he has volunteered time on a number of county Scuba training programs and has authored several articles about diver training. Otto is now an active recreational diver. In addition to the California coast, his more frequently visited dive locations include Hawaii’s Big Island, Indonesia, and the Caribbean islands.
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