Missing Modesto man presumed drowned in San Joaquin River

GRAYSON — Stanislaus County sheriff’s officials on Wednesday released the name of a missing Modesto man presumed to have drowned Monday afternoon in the San Joaquin River after he was swept away by the current and disappeared under the water.

Mike Gouker, 46, was fishing with a friend, Jeffery Bargas, 27, in the river near West Grayson and River roads.

Sheriff’s officials said Gouker, using some sort of device to keep himself afloat, got into the water to retrieve a snagged fishing line.

Bargas then heard Gouker shout for help and looked to see him being swept away by the river’s swift current in a northerly direction, said deputy Andrew Winter, a sheriff’s spokesman.

Winter said Bargas did not have a cell phone and decided to drive to his west Modesto home to call authorities.

He said Bargas called 911 to report the incident at 4:23 p.m., which officials estimated was about 45 minutes after Gouker was last seen.

Deputies, firefighters, fish and game officials and a helicopter searched for Gouker along the river’s shore, and in a boat Monday evening.

The search was called off after sunset. Sheriff’s officials described Gouker as a white man with brown hair and blue eyes, and he was wearing dark clothing.

Sheriff’s officials ask anyone with information about this missing person case to call Detective Jon McQueary at 525-7099 or Crime Stoppers at 521-4636. Tipsters can e-mail tips through the Crime Stoppers Web site, or text tips to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" and a message. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at or 578-2394.