Fishermen hit the water for opening of salmon season

OROVILLE, Calif. - On Tuesday the Feather River was full of fishermen out celebrating the opening of the 2013 salmon fishing season.

And for some, there is no better place to drop a line than where the Thermalito Afterbay spills into the Feather River near Oroville.

"This is a great spot, it's probably the best salmon fishing in California," says Michael O'Rourke, who drove all the way up from Long Beach in Southern California to spend a few days in the water.

"My friends think I'm crazy for coming up here," O'Rourke says. "They don't get it."

But for four years prior to 2012, fishermen like O'Rourke were forced to leave their fishing gear at home because salmon fishing season was cancelled due to low salmon runs.

Before that, the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet into the Feather River was known at least nationwide, and likely beyond.

Jeff Reid, a fisheries technician with Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, remembers how big it used to be.

"At one point I remember hearing stories of ESPN coming down and actually filming people fishing at the outlet because it was just craziness," Reid says.

While the heart of the day didn't produce many fish, the early morning hours were fruitful for O'Rourke and other fisherman that braved the cool start to the day.

But no matter the yield, to fisherman like O'Rourke the chance to even fish for salmon is a treat.

"Salmon are just special fish," says O'Rourke, "They migrate from the ocean up the rivers and you get a short window of opportunity to see them and catch them and experience their life cycle. It's something you look forward to, it doesn't happen all of the time."

And the salmon fishing season doesn't happen all of the time, and it doesn't last long either.

The official end of the season is October 15, so there are only three months to try and make a catch.

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