The theme for this fishing year is that everything is early. The warm dry winter has the water world ahead of the actual calender date.
A good example of this is the shad run in the Sacramento Valley.
Typically these fish come up from the ocean in early May and peak fishing is on by Memorial Day weekend,lasting well through June. Their spawn is dependent on water temps and with a good snowpack, they can be in the valley well into July. A nice feature to this fish is that they are available during the spring snowmelt that gives us an alternative to the Sierra rivers.
This year is quite different. There is no significant snowpack run off. The first signs of the shad run were in late March. I have been hearing reports of good fishing during April.
Both the Feather and the Yuba can have good runs depending on the year. One feature of shad is that they do not move up river if there is a drop off to climb.
Shanghai Bend, below Yuba City on the Feather River, had one of these waterfall drop-offs. If there was high water, the shad could navigate up through the rapids but not if there was low water and a jump was involved.
In the last few years, the drop-off at the base of the Shanghai rapids eroded away and the fish have a passage up the river in the current low water.
The Yuba has a barrier at DaGuerre dam. The shad are confined to the river below this point. Up the Feather River the fish can swim all the way to the After Bay Hole and beyond.
Typically the Feather above the After Bay has cold water and the shad stay in the hole and below.
This week I decided to seriously look for shad in our area. Initially the word on Shanhai Bend was that the fish were there in good numbers and it was a good bet.
When the fish could not navigate the rapids they were concentrated in area below and the fishing could be great. Now it is a transit spot where they will pause above and below but they do move on.
I was there Tuesday evening and not a fish was caught by the few anglers present. The word on the Lower Yuba was shad were there but they would not bite. The speculation was the water was too cold.
The next option for me was a drive down the Feather River to Verona, which is the confluence of the Feather and Sacramento Rivers. It is not too far north of the Sacramento Airport as the crow flies. If you think of the Sacramento River system as a highway network for migrating fish, this is one of the major intersections and it features a rest stop for fish.
All species tend to pause here before choosing which path to take. This is what makes it such a good fishing location.
I arrived Wednesday evening with the sun low in the sky and the bite was on. I have never seen the river this low, especially in early May.
\The shore anglers had to hike a hundred yards of dry river bottom to reach the water. They formed a line below the mouth of the Feather to fish a deep trench in the river which held the fish.
There was never more than 10 minutes without someone with a fish on. There were a number of boats anchored up but they did not seem to be doing as well as the aggregate of the shore anglers. The fishing is best early and late in the lower light, but there is action throughout the day.
I spoke with one angler who regularly fishes at Verona. He said the shad bite had been on for a month. He was throwing plugs for striped bass that evening but did not hook up. He has done quite well shore fishing for stripers in the low water this year.
The shad are currently biting on the American River, up the Sacramento as far as Colusa and probably above. Look for the Yuba to fish well below Daguerre Dam and the Feather River near Oroville. But my current recommendation for an evening of good shad fishing is Verona. That we got an early start to the season probably means it will end early. Get out in the near future.
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.trollingflies.com.