Here we are at the summer solstice/Fourth of July, which I consider peak summer season. The high country offers some good fishing, but there are some valley opportunities, as well.
The trout fishing currently can be quite good in the mountain lakes. In part, this is due to the situation at the American River hatcheries.
Last winter, as the drought came more into focus, the Department of Fish and Wildlife began planning for warm water conditions at the two fish hatcheries on the American River.
The water from Folsom Dam during low water years gets too warm for the maintenance of trout and salmon. Once the temps reach 65 degrees, these fish begin to stress, and at 78 degrees they begin to die.
Therefore, the decision was made to plant all of the fish from the hatcheries early in the season. The hatcheries along the American River are the only ones in the state where this has been necessary.
The Feather River Hatchery, for example, has a cool deep water source from Lake Oroville. Folsom Lake is not deep enough this year to provide the cool water required.
Nimbus Hatchery raises salmon and steelhead. The steelhead, numbering 430,000, are going into the river six months early.
They will be a much smaller size and vulnerable, but it is the best available option.
The American River Hatchery is in the process of trucking its one million trout to numerous Sierra locations. This includes the regular planting size trout, as well as the brood stock.
The primary target for the heavy fish plants have been the cold water lakes that have not been subject to early season draw downs.
Not all lakes have been equally affected by the dry conditions. There are some lakes that will have more normal conditions.
Fuller Lake, up Highway 20 above Nevada City, is a good example. It in effect is just a wide spot on the canal between Bowman and Spaulding lakes. The water is typically cold, coming from the bottom of Bowman. You do not see too many kids swimming in Fuller.
Donner Lake is predicted to remain near full for the summer season. It is a deep lake with cold water year round, not too far below the surface. Donner will remain one of the better fishing bets through this summer.
Close to home, Englebright is not a water storage lake as much as a metering reservoir that provides constant flows for the lower river. It will remain “full” this summer.
It has a cold water source, Bullard’s Bar, and will have a cold water fishery at the upper lake throughout the season. Lower Scotts Flat has similar characteristics.
Jackson Meadows, Boca and Stampede are being planted but they are well into the draw down process. It remains to be seen how low they get and how much cold water will remain in their depths.
Last weekend I went camping at Lake Almanor. I was surprised to see how high it is. I estimated that it was down less than 10 feet, and the water remained in the low 60s. The hex hatch was coming off at sundown and the bass and trout were feeding at the surface. I fished just south of the public launch ramp on the west side of the lake.
There are a pair of jetties there that allow shore-based anglers access to the fish. The bugs and the fish were there on the surface, but the catching was tough. Only two of the dozen or more anglers hooked up as it got dark.
I spent most of my time sailing this weekend. What I did notice was a wide variety of insects on the water. There were damsels, blood midges, caddis and mayflies.
Even during midday, there was an occasional fish feeding at the surface in the middle of the lake.
Almanor can be a tough water to figure out, but the quantity and size of the fish are impressive. In my opinion, it is the best lake fishery in our state.
Craig Bentley fished Bucks Lake near Quincy, as well as Davis Lake this past weekend. Davis was very warm, with water temps near 70. The trout would come into the warm water to feed on the damsel hatch, but they were extremely selective and the results were poor.
He moved on to Bucks and did very well. Many of the trout were small — prematurely planted from the hatchery. He fished pheasant tail nymphs with a long leader on his fly rod. This is an excellent option for a Sierra lake fishing trip.
Down in the valley, the stripers are again on the bite on the Sacramento River. The striper run in the valley has come in waves this year. The first two waves of fish contained very few “shakers” or small juveniles.
This was a cause for concern regarding next year’s prospects.
The most recent push of fish are primarily the shakers that did not come up before. They are scattered from Tisdale all the way up through the Chico area. I have had reports from more than one source of more than two dozen fish caught per day.
The best locations are along rocky levies and where irrigation water is flowing back into the river.
The salmon season opens in the valley rivers July 16. If you want to learn how to fish this run, there is a free seminar tomorrow at Johnson’s Bait & Tackle in Yuba City. It starts at 9 a.m. and goes until noon. There will be guides explaining how to fish for salmon on the Feather and Sacramento Rivers.
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.