This holiday weekend marks the start of the summer season but we are still enjoying spring fishing conditions. The current cool temps are a far cry from triple digits I can remember on this date in the valley a number of years ago. There are a great number of possibilities for this weekend.
Down in the valley shad are present in all of the rivers. The problem is access for the shore based angler. Anglers with river capable boats have an easier time finding uncrowded water. For the shore based angler, your best bets will be the Oroville Wildlife Area below Oroville. Since the falls at the base of Shanghai Bend have eroded down, the shad numbers heading up the Yuba and to Oroville have increased. Shanghai Bend below Yuba City still holds good numbers of fish above and below the rapids, and it is a public access point.
The foothill reservoirs continue to be a good bet for bass fishermen. The holiday usually brings out the water skiers but early and late anglers can have the water to themselves. The top water bite has been good in the mornings and evenings with the bass moving deeper when there is full sun on the water. The conditions are not uniform throughout any given lake. Depending on inflows, wind and sun exposure you can see a considerable variation in water temps and fishing conditions. Water temps at Rollins Lake varied from 71 degrees in the Greenhorn arm to 63 degrees near the dam this past week.
Up at Lake Almanor the smallmouth bass were still on their spawning beds last weekend and the bite was good. This weekend the tributary streams to this lake will reopen.
Lake Oroville cohos are getting larger. These fast growing salmon are now up to 17 inches. Dan Grass has been fishing for them and on his most recent trip last weekend he found them 30 to 50 feet below the surface. The bite was tough, he put nine fish in the boat during six hours on the water. He described it as a “junk bite” with no consistent pattern to lure type or color. Dan fished using downriggers so that he could target specific depths. Other anglers long line tolling with lead-core and in-line sinkers were fishless.
If a bit of a hike is your thing, the trout fishing in the Grouse Ridge Area is on. Rick Aeschliman of Nevada City hiked in with a float tube last week. He described conditions as what he would expect in mid-June. Rick said the only places he could find snow were shady north facing slopes and then there were very few small patches. The catching was excellent. He attributed this to no aquatic insect activity. The fish were hungry and his wooly bugger flies might have been the only meal available. The one insect type he did see was lady bugs. Rick recommends heading up there before the aerial fish stocking of fingerlings by the Department of Fish and Game. Once that takes place in mid-summer, the larger fish are much harder to catch.
The North Yuba River is in prime shape. The flows have dropped below 400 cubic feet per second this week. This is the flow one could expect in late June or early July. The temps are still cool but the insects are out and the fish are looking up for food. Jim Johnston (http://sierrastreamsidecabins.com) has been fly fishing with Stimulators and doing well fishing the runs and riffles.
Jim said that the stone flies are out and the trout will hit big dry flies. Tom Page fished the lower river Sunday evening and reported good action on nymphs.
For an impromptu fishing trip this weekend, the North Yuba would be my pick. Even on a holiday weekend, there are so many miles of river along the highway that there is always a spot to pull over and fish by yourself.
Third-hand reports from Jackson Meadows are good. Both bait anglers fishing from shore and boaters report good trout fishing.
Lake Davis has also been fishing well. The limiting factor for float tubers has been the wind. Fly anglers on the west shore have been blown off during whitecap conditions some afternoons. Early in the day, nymphs in size No. 16 have been producing when fished on a slow sinking fly line or suspended under a float.
Ed Fisk (Fish Tales Guide Service) and Rick Kennedy (Tight Lines Guide Service) teamed up last week to guide a large group of anglers. Ed fished over the creek channel north if the island and had one of his best days on that lake. The water temps ranged from 56 to 60 degrees which is ideal. Early in the day there were insects hatching in deep water with trout rising to them. The fish he cleaned at the end of the day were full of nymphs.
He had his best success on Needle Fish spoons in copper/red or the red dot frog, fished at various depths over 20 to 40 feet of water. These rainbows are in excellent condition. The sizes ranged from 16 to 21 inches.
If big brown trout are your target, Lower Twin Lake near Bridgeport on Highway 395 should be on your agenda. There have been numerous 10-plus pound fish caught here since opening day in late April. The mild spring has warmed the top 15 feet of the lake into the low 50 degree range. This has resulted in the forage fish scattered across the top of the lake. The large browns this lake is noted for are suspending below these schools.
Normally at this time of year it is only the shallows around the lake that are beginning to warm. The browns will be on the bottom adjacent to the shallows and more difficult to target. This year they are out over open water and feeding. A 14 pound brown was caught a week ago at 7 p.m. I do not know how long this will last but it is a phenomenon that locals have not seen before. Once the forage fish go deep in the warm weather this pattern will change.
The snow melt in the Central Sierra peaked a week ago and is in decline. The rains last week dirtied the water but did not significantly increase the flows. Look for the east slope rivers south of Lake Tahoe to fish well by the first week of June.
Hunters: The deadline to apply for fall big game hunts is June 2. You can apply online at http://dfg.ca.gov.
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.