Get ready for early peak in spring fishing |

Get ready for early peak in spring fishing

Denis Peirce
Special to The Union

The Union photo/John Hart

Tomorrow is the last Saturday in April, the traditional date for the opening of the stream-trout fishing in the Sierra.

The conditions this year are quite different than years past. The standard scenario for this date is cold weather with modest stream flows, followed by warm weather the first weekend in May and high stream flows due to melting snow.

Beyond stream flows, the other variable is access. The lack of snow this year provides access to many areas of the Sierra that would normally be weeks away.

The road over Henness Pass from the east side to Jackson Meadows was open early this month, received two feet of snow and is now open again. The snow melting off this road is normally late May or into June.

The good news is we will have our best stream fishing in May. The bad news will come later in the summer.

It is a similar story for the Bowman Lake Road. Many years the road is snow covered beyond Fuller Lake, but not this year. The entire west slope at mid-elevations has no snow.

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The good news is we will have our best stream fishing in May. The bad news will come later in the summer.

Current flows on the North Yuba are in the range of 600 cubic feet per second. Five hundred and lower is prime for fishing this river. Today's rain will chill the water a bit but May will provide the best conditions of the year.

The lowest flows recorded for this time of year date back to 1977 when the river was below 300 cfs.

On the east side, the Truckee River has been fishing well during the winter catch-and-release season and should continue for the regular trout season. Farther to the south, the west Carson River is clear with fishable flows. The east Carson is muddy with high water.

The best trout fishing close to home is currently on the Lower Yuba River. The flows have been increasing during the last week, going from 700 up to 1,100 cfs. I am assuming this is for farm irrigation.

For the last few weeks, the Pale Morning Dun (PMD) hatch has been exceptional. Low water years tend to produce prolific insect hatches. The PMDs on our local river are known as "pinkies" due to the slight pink cast to their bodies. This hatch will continue through June. The local fly shop has the right pattern.

If Sierra stream trout fishing is what you enjoy doing, May could be the best month in 2014 for rivers and creeks without reservoirs above them to maintain flows.

What I most dislike about the Sierra stream season peaking early is the conflict with other fisheries. In a normal year, while the Sierra snowpack floods the mountain rivers, we have the peak of the striper run in the valley and excellent bass fishing in our low-elevation lakes. This year it may all coincide.

The striper run on the Sacramento River exploded on the full moon two weeks ago. Prior to that event, there were fish in the system, but the speculation was that the majority of the spawning would take place in the lower river or in the delta.

During the week of April 7 to 14, the fish surged up the Sacramento to the area between Knight's Landing and Grimes. As is often the case, the word got out quickly and that weekend it was hard to find a parking place at boat ramps in the area.

Some of the fish moved well above Colusa but the boats could not navigate some of the shallow bars on the river. Even with the numbers of boats on the river, the catching was excellent. Drifting with minnows was the top-producing technique, but if you could find quiet water flies, trolling and casting plugs were all producing fish.

After that spawn, the stripers moved down river rapidly. Just a couple of days past the full moon, there were few post-spawn fish. The river has been running low and warm.

The pattern that has developed is for a school of fish to move up river, spawn and head right back down the river. The water temps have been up into the low 70s on warm sunny days.

Cool days drop down into the mid-60s. Ideal conditions for river anglers are temps in the high 50s, good water flows and multitudes of juvenile salmon to feed on. All of these conditions are absent this year.

There are fish in the river but the action is slow. Hopefully, on the next full moon, we will get another surge of fish. In the meantime, your best bet for stripers will be in the delta.

Local bass fishing has been good at Rollins and Scotts Flat. There was quite a bit of spawning activity with the full moon.

Mike Pumphery reports lots of small bass tight to the bank with the more substantial ones in deeper water. Slow rolling spinner baits has been productive for him. A lure with combined chartreuse and white out fished lures with only one of these colors.

He mentioned an interesting observation a week ago at Scotts Flat.

The water is clearer than at Rollins and he was able to observe spawning beds on the lake bottom. The beds were often in close proximity to submerged tree stumps.

If there was only one or two beds, they were always on the south side of the stump. If there were numerous beds, they would surround the stump.

As the spring progresses, the bass will begin to look toward the surface for food and the top water bite will come on. During the most recent warm weather, the bass were hitting top water baits on Comanche and New Hogan reservoirs south of Sacramento.

I believe that it is a good bet that when this cool pattern ends the top water bite will commence on our local lakes.

On Rollins, there have been hatching insects with trout feeding at the surface. This has been most frequent in shaded areas of the lake.

Mike has also caught his first crappie of the season from the flooded brush around the lake. Recently the lake level has been declining, and if the brush piles are out of the water, the crappie will be much harder to locate.

Pyramid Lake in Nevada has continued to fish well. The lake is close to 50 degrees and the big trout are close to shore.

The best fishing has been when there is a chop on the lake surface. In calm conditions, the fish tend to move out.

Springtime is some of our best angling of the year. Get to it now because this summer might be a disappointment.

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

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