Bring on the bass: Spring season arrives ahead of equinox
March 13, 2014
Spring officially is a week away, but springtime bass fishing has been coming on for a couple of weeks.
This winter has been unusually warm and dry. The recent storms have had high snow levels and modest temperatures.
This has brought the water temps in our lakes up a bit early, and the bass have gotten active.
In the past couple weeks, the water temps have risen from the high 40s into the 50s in the lower elevation, west slope waters.
An example is Rollins Lake, which last week reached surface temps of 55 degrees late in the day in the backs of sunny coves.
Early in the morning the lake can be as much as five degrees cooler, but the trend has the fish moving up shallower and looking for food.
Local angler Mike Pumphery has been on Rollins frequently this winter.
Last week his biggest fish was a 4-pound spotted bass. It was a 19-inch pre-spawn female.
This fish was caught in six feet of water adjacent to a submerged bush.
Mike also reports that the Greenhorn Creek arm has very poor visibility due to the recent rains.
The other areas of the lake have much better visibility and fishing.
There have been a number of notable catches in recent weeks.
Three weeks ago, a pending new world record spotted bass was caught at New Melones Reservoir east of Stockton.
The fish weighed 10.48 pounds and was part of a winning limit of fish in a bass tournament.
After weighing, the fish was released back into the lake.
New Melones warms earlier than more northern lakes and had reached 56 degrees.
The previous record "spot" was caught April 21, 2001, at Pine Flat Lake and weighed a quarter of a pound less.
Last week Bob Bouke, Johnson's Bait & Tackle, reported an angler landed two spotted bass, both over 9 pounds, at Bullard's Bar.
One of the fish was reported to have hit a spinner bait, which indicates it was caught in relatively shallow water.
The other big bass was said to have been caught on a swim bait. Bullard's has been a regular producer of good-sized spotted bass in recent years.
Spotted bass are the first bass species to spawn as we move from winter into spring.
The smallmouth and then the largemouth follow on when things warm up a bit more.
Spotted bass originally came from the river systems west of the Appalachian Mountains.
They spawn in deeper water and cooler temps than other bass. In reservoirs that can have rapidly falling water levels, spawning deeper and earlier can prove to be a distinct survival advantage.
This is why so many reservoirs have a preponderance of spotted bass.
Speculation among bass anglers is that the spots could spawn in some lakes with the upcoming full moon. I think it is more likely the farther south you go.
Farther north and at higher elevations, local bass anglers at Lake Almanor report catching their first smallmouth bass of the season.
The water temps had reached the high 40s, and the fish were hooked fishing rip baits off points.
Our most prolific smallmouth bass lake is Scott's Flat. I have not received reports from the lake recently.
The lake is reported to be at 80 percent of capacity and 15 feet below full pool. I consider it to be a good prospect for at least the next six weeks.
I have been fishing Tom Moreno's pond here in Penn Valley.
The water temp is now up to 56 degrees. We have been catching largemouth bass on spinner baits, plugs and soft plastics.
The water is stained from the rain run off.
Overall the bass bite is not yet in full swing. As storm fronts move through, the bass will drop back into deeper water and the bite may slow.
But each stretch of good weather will bring on a better bite than the previous run of nice days.
Moving into April, I expect the fastest bass action of the year.
The only way to be there when the spring bass fishing peaks is to spend more time on the water.
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 http://www.trollingflies.com.