September 26, 2023


A father and son fishing for kokanee salmon at Whiskeytown Lake near Redding, CA

Passionate about sustainability and armed with in-depth knowledge of Northern California’s waters, Trinity Guide founder Alex Ross utilizes 20+ years of expertise to lead exceptional, client-focused fishing trips tailored to all levels and ensure memorable local adventures.

Welcome to the Trinity Guide’s Comprehensive Guide to Sustainable Fishing Methods in Shasta County, where we dive deep into the heart of the matter, exploring our love for outdoor activities and the need for sustainable fishing practices.

As Californians with an innate connection to our natural surroundings, we’re passionate about activities like hunting, fishing, and backpacking. In this article, Alex Ross focuses on the art of salmon fishing and shares a little-known secret within our local lakes: the Kokanee salmon.

Discover how this sustainable, delicious, and challenging-to-catch fish could help shape the future of fishing in Shasta County while preserving our environment for generations to come. Join us on this journey to redefine what it means to be a responsible angler and embrace a sustainable culture for our beloved outdoor pursuits.

Trinity Guide Kokanee

Alex Ross guiding a fishing boat at Whiskeytown Lake | Photo by Brent Van Auken

What is Sustainable Recreation?

First, let’s define what sustainable recreation is and why it is important to us as it pertains to individuals, communities, and cultures. I will not bore you with Webster’s definition, but I will give you the Trinity Guide version.

Sustainable recreation is a form of recreation we can continue to do for generations without depleting current resources.

How do we continue to extract resources for our personal fulfillment or business sustainably for the long haul? In simple terms, how do we continue to enjoy the wonders of California without running out of the things we love so much? Consider our water, fish, and mammals, for example.

I think it’s safe to say the Shasta County community takes great pride in our ability in the outdoors. If you grew up in Redding, or Northern California for that matter, there is an inexplicable drive to be successful in activities such as hunting, fishing, backpacking, or spending time in all the wild and beautiful places Redding and surrounding areas have to offer.

The Salmon Fishing Dilemma

For this article, I will focus on fishing—salmon fishing, to be specific. The salmon fishing closure on the Sacramento River hits home here in Redding. Generations of locals have spent their lives learning the art of pulling plugs or back-bouncing bait down the Barge Hole, one of the most popular fishing spots in the Redding area.

(For those new to salmon fishing, pulling plugs and back-bouncing bait are standard local techniques.)

People have relied on this fishery as far back as we can remember. Countless years and millions of dollars have been spent refining a craft that seems to be slipping away in real-time.

The question lingers: how did this happen? And what next?

Often, fingers are pointed at who may be at fault, but the answer is simple: We all are! Me, you, them, all of us.

The California Water Crisis

We humans built the Shasta Dam, which effectively stopped wild salmon in their tracks. Our solution was to create hatcheries to produce fish so the species could continue.

Unfortunately, politics and water have a toxic relationship. The more fish we produce, the more water we need to sustain their lifespans.

As populations grow in cities that do not have water, and commercial farming continues to be a multibillion-dollar industry, the need for the same water our salmon rely on becomes more than our rivers can sustain. The salmon lose in this battle.

We have run this course and find that salmon fishing, as we’ve known it, has become unsustainable.

Moving Away From Single Resource Extraction

Single resource extraction without management is not sustainable—we can’t keep catching salmon without producing more and providing the water they need to thrive.

How do we move forward? Where do we catch salmon to fill our freezer? Where do we launch our jet boats? And how do we continue to pursue the passion of fishing we’ve identified with for so many years?

As with so many of life’s problems, the answers we seek are often nearer than we realize, just waiting for our eyes to open to what is right before us.

Since their existence, the dams and lakes have held water. Whether the levels are high or low, they still have water. Our lakes are simply holding tanks for large-scale agriculture.

If you’re betting on cities growing and large-scale farming continuing for the foreseeable future, your money is safe. Those dams will continue to hold water and be recreationally accessible for people near and far.

RELATED: Learn more about fishing in Redding, CA

The Sustainable Seafood Solution

A species of salmon has yet to be widely known or talked about by the residents of Shasta County. The Kokanee salmon is a landlocked sockeye salmon; the same fish found swimming in the oceans is also right here in the lakes surrounding our homes.

These elusive fish create a significant draw for out-of-the-area anglers. Although they are smaller when living in freshwater, they are incredibly delicious and challenging to catch.

The best part of the Kokanee salmon’s existence is sustainability. Kokanee spawn in these lakes just as they would in the wild, creating a self-sufficient, sustainable resource in our own backyard.

The question keeps repeating in my mind: why do these delicious, sustainable, and abundant fish go largely ignored by local fishermen?

The answer I have come up with is this: fishing culture.

Without a doubt, nothing comes close to the excitement of pulling on a 35-pound Sacramento River king salmon. But is it worth the price?

Kokanee Salmon

Kokanee salmon fishing at Whiskeytown Lake | Photo Brent Van Auken

The Benefits of Kokanee Salmon Fishing

Kokanee salmon fishing:

  • is a sustainable recreation
  • makes for an excellent food source
  • brings commerce to the area.

The Kokanee is a much better meal than the river’s king salmon. It is also highly challenging to catch and can spark the same passion to be the best fisherman you can be.

The best part of Kokanee fishing is it’s not in competition with water intended for agriculture. In fact, the Kokanee salmon makes its home in the water set aside for farming. So, all the water king salmon don’t get, the Kokanee do, which makes it completely sustainable for the future.

Though Kokanee salmon are small, and bobbing up and down in a fishing boat on Whiskeytown Lake is a far cry from ripping a jet boat up a shallow riffle on the Sacramento River early in the morning, fishing is what I love.

Fishing for the Future

Working as a professional guide, I have found a sustainable way to stock salmon in my freezer and put smiles on the faces of hundreds of happy clients.

This invaluable resource is not just mine; it’s all of ours. The days of peeling drag on the river may be gone, but the salmon live on; it might just look a little smaller.

The Kokanee salmon provides one example of what sustainable recreation looks like for the long term. Changing our minds about what matters most is the key to what comes next. As the people, we must accept what is coming, and we are all responsible for why.

The Kokanee salmon is one example of the many sustainable options our Northern California home offers.


For more information about The Trinity Guide or to contact Alex Ross, visit


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