The storm this week is the first taste of the winter to come. The snow level was quite high but the message was clear — winter is only 30 days away. What is surprising is the amount of leaves still on the trees in late November.
The north state fishing scene has begun to slow down. The salmon spawn in the valley rivers peaked in the last days of October and has dropped off dramatically.
There will be a few straggler salmon through December, but the steelhead gorging on salmon eggs is over for the season on the Yuba and Feather Rivers. The steelhead are still in the rivers, but the fishing is tougher.
On the Sacramento Riverm, the late fall salmon run is on. The Sacramento River has four distinct runs of salmon and the late fall run is small in numbers, but the individual fish are among the largest salmon that return to the Sacramento.
Many of the 40-pounders and larger are caught this time of year.
Bob Bouke, owner of Johnson’s Bait & Tackle in Yuba City, has been fishing the Sacramento recently. He reports good numbers of salmon moving up-river as seen on his fish finder, but the angler success has been poor in the Verona to Colusa area. The Sacramento River salmon season runs through Dec. 16.
Eagle Lake north of Susanville is fishing well. The best catches prior to this week’s storm have been out over deeper water. The shore fishing has begun to improve as the fish are moving back to the shallows.
The water temps have dropped into the high 40s due to the nighttime temps going down into the teens some nights. Late November can be prime time on Eagle Lake.
Rollins Lake had been fishing well as of last weekend. The water temps have been in the high 50s, which is prime for trout and still in the range for bass.
Mike Pumphery has been on the lake frequently this fall. The spotted bass population is well fed. Mike says the individual fish are quite plump and are still feeding heavily.
On his most recent trips, the key locations have been points where the breeze is striking the point straight on. Alternatively, if the wind was blowing across the point, the action has been on the windward side.
The leeward side of the points did not produce fish for him. The best baits have been Texas rigged plastic worms or spoons. Slowly fished “drop-shot” worms also produced.
For the trout angler, Mike recommended boating back to where the river flows in. Once you get beyond the 5 mph buoy, there were visible schools of trout staging at the mouth of the Bear River.
Lake Englebright has been a disappointment recently. Three different trout anglers report very slow action on the lake. The water temps last week were in the low 50s.
The steelhead fishing on the upper Trinity River usually peaks in the month of November. The number of fish in the run is high, but the river conditions have made the results poor. Based on historic rainfall, the water releases from the dam are cut down to 300 cubic feet per second from 450 cfs by November.
Usually the local creeks have made up the difference, but the lack of rain has left the river very low.
Drift-boat anglers have to get out and pull the boats over many of the shallow riffles in the upper river. The effect of low water has been to confine the fish to the deeper holes and to prevent them from moving upstream.
Typically the Trinity steelhead spawn in the tributary streams rather than the main river channel. They arrive in the fall and wait in the main river close to the mouth of their creek of origin.
What success anglers have had prior to this week’s storm has come below the North Fork of the Trinity.
Vince Holson, local Weaverville guide, has been able to pick up a few fish on night crawlers drifted well below his boat.
This week’s storm dropped up to 2 inches of rain in the drainage. This only increased to flows in the upper river by 60 cfs.
It may take another storm to fully saturate the ground and get the river up to the 450 cfs range that fishes well.
In a “normal” year, November has the combination of adequate flows and moderate temperatures. Water temps in the 50- to 60-degree range keep the steelhead active. As we get into December, the temps will drop down into the 40s and this will slow the fishes’ metabolism.
In cold temps the fish will not move to a lure or fly; you have to bump them on the nose. I think that as the flows increase the fish will move to the upper river, but winter techniques will be required to catch them.
The water fowl season has had a typical California slow start. The geese and ducks are forced south based on ice forming the lakes and ponds. The birds are currently in the Klamath Basin in southern Oregon and north of Mount Shasta.
The weather forecast calls for cold temps to descend in this area over the Thanksgiving holidays. This bodes well for early December hunting in the Sacramento Valley as the birds should be moving in in good numbers.
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.