We are in the warmest season of the year and the quest for good fishing will be focused on water temps to a large degree. Finding cold water is the key to getting into a good bite.
The storm front that passed through on Monday produced sprinkles in Penn Valley, but up in Truckee, there were bands of heavy rain that lasted for an hour or more. The heavy rain was not area-wide and produced little runoff to affect the river.
The valley salmon season has been open for 10 days and there have been a wide variety of results. Opening day on the Feather near Oroville produced good fishing below the Afterbay Hole. Craig Bentley (Golden State Guide Service) reported that there was a good school of fish in and around "The Hole." Based on the way they fought, color of their meat and their propensity to hit spinners, he presumed them to be the end of the spring run. There were quite good numbers of salmon taken that day.
In that time frame, there was a strong wind that stirred up the shallow Afterbay and put a lot of mud in the water. Bentley credits the heavy fishing pressure and muddy conditions with the salmon moving up river into the "low flow," which is closed to salmon angling. The second day of the season produced only a few fish.
Since then there has been a problem with water temps. My most recent report puts the low flow at 1,500 cubic feet per second (cfs), up from the normal 600. This is in an effort to keep the water temps cool. This continues to be a problem with the low flow temps breaking up to the upper 60s late in the day.
There continues to be daily catches of salmon on the Feather. Early in the morning is prime time. I heard rumors of a deep hole below the Gridley Bridge that holds some "biters." Below the mouth of the Yuba is another possible place to try.
A better bet is the Sacramento River near Woodson Bridge. Water temps there are in the mid 50s and experienced anglers are doing well. Chrome bright salmon more than 20 pounds have been reported. Typically this area fishes well with the "Flatfish/sardine" combination. My sources say that roe has been a better producer in the recent past.
For the shore-based angler, you might consider the Trinity River. The spring run salmon have occupied all of the deep holes from the middle of the river at Burnt Ranch up to the dam near Lewiston. These fish are still in bright condition and will hit a diving plug at the top of a hole or a drifted bait of tuna balls or roe presented deep in a hole.
If you want to plan a river salmon trip, I would suggest four to seven days after either of the full moons in August on the 2nd and the 31st. It is common for numbers of salmon to move out of the salt and into the rivers on the full-moon tides. Four to seven days is a good guess for the travel time to reach our area.
By far the best salmon action has been in salt water. Party boats going out the Golden Gate are having an excellent season with good numbers of fish as well as many over the 20-pound mark. Bodega Bay has also been producing lots of salmon.
An alternative to salmon fishing is high-altitude trout. In the central Sierra north of Yosemite the lakes at 8,000 feet and above are at their peak. This is the height of the season for trout to feed on insects. A report from Gaylor Lake near the back entrance to Yosemite says the action is throughout the day. The same report came from Kennedy Lake west of Sonora Pass. On the east side of Sonora Pass near the Marine Base, Kirman Lake has been giving up 14 to 15 inch brook trout to fly anglers using pink San Juan Worms. I can't explain this, I just accept it from a credible source.
At more modest elevations such as Stampede near Truckee the kokanee bite is good on small 13 inch fish. There are rumors of a few schools of fish that will hit the 15 inch mark. With the Kokanee Power tournament coming up soon, the locations of these better fish are a closely held secret. For more tournament information see: www.kokaneepower.org. Stampede water surface temps are in the 70s.
At Donner Lake the kokanee which had been close to structure have moved out over deep (120 feet to 140 feet) water. They are suspended in the 65- to 80-foot depth range. At Jackson Meadows the trout can still be caught if you get down below 45 feet.
The out flow of Lake Almanor flows through the Butt Lake power house and then into Butt Lake. With the valley heat, the flows are up and the fish have moved in to feed below the power house. There are still the remnants of a hex hatch at Almanor's west shore.
The lower Yuba water comes from the depths of Englebright and runs cold year around. Fishing is fair for experienced anglers. A "Fat Albert" cast close to the bank has been producing trout. The "Fat Albert" is a foam body hopper with rubber legs.
Bass anglers on Oroville have found a good top water bite from the sun going off the water until 10 p.m. During the day the small bass can be caught along the banks and the larger fish have moved down to the 25 to 35 foot depths.
Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union's Outdoors section and is host of "The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report," which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at www.fineflies.com.