With Christmas behind us and the new year on the horizon, anglers might consider the Jan. 1 opener on the Feather River in Oroville.
The river from the Highway 70 bridge up through town to the Table Mountain Bicycle Bridge has not been open to fishing since mid-July.
This zone is the prime spawning area for both salmon and steelhead. The salmon spawn peaked at Halloween, and since the big freeze just after Thanksgiving, there have been no salmon to be seen here. The opener is a steelhead event.
I would venture to say that there are more steelhead caught on the January opener in a good year than any other place in California.
Fishing starts an hour before sunrise and quite a few anglers are sure to show up. I have experienced freezing fog at dawn there in years past. With the flows at 1,000 cubic feet per second wading will be a must to access the prime locations.
This year’s excellent salmon return has supplied the biomass to boost the insect population on the Feather. Craig Bentley, local guide recommends using No. 14 and No. 16 nymphs and egg imitations for fly anglers.
Specifically, he suggests B.H. Pheasant Tails, Olive Bird’s Nests and Prince nymphs. For egg imitations his preference is for a shade of orange that reflect the steelhead eggs.
Conventional tackle anglers will do well with night crawlers, roe and small spinners. Another good bet will be a small chrome Kastmaster that imitates a pond smelt.
The “Alevins” or salmon fry will begin emerging from the river gravel in big numbers by the middle of January. This will ignite another surge in steelhead fishing on all the valley rivers.
The staff at the Feather River Hatchery have been sorting through good numbers of steelhead. As the steelhead arrive at the hatchery, those less than 16 inches and wild fish are returned to the river via a pipe from the hatchery.
As of a week ago, the hatchery has put 730 spawners into the holding pond to be spawned in the new year. The 1987 season set a record with the return of 3,578 hatchery steelhead.
Last year’s count was slightly above that number and this year the staff expects more than 4,000 fish to set a new record.
Each female produces an average of 5,000 eggs and 90 females can supply the 450,000 eggs that is the minimum target. This continues to be a good steelhead season on the Feather.
The lower elevation lakes have had some decent fishing recently. Brett Brady tried to launch his boat at Bullard’s Bar but the low water level precluded his getting his boat on the water at either the Dark Day or Emerald Cove ramps.
Consequently, he went to Englebright and did quite well. A recent plant of rainbows was providing action for shore anglers between the two boat ramps. Brett chose to go to the back of the lake and fish for holdover trout.
He found trout surface feeding on hatching insects over the weed beds. He was able to get his fish with soft plastics and spoons fished over the submerged weeds.
Mike Pumphery has been on Rollins. Most of his fish have been bass caught at depth off steep banks. He has been jigging with small chrome Kastmasters.
He has been targeting pond smelt schools which are the prey of the bass. This winter there are few smelt.
In recent years he has spotted huge schools on his electronics but this season he can only find faint indications of smelt schools on his screen.
The other lure which has been producing is suspending rip baits. The hits come on the pause after the plug has made its fast dive and is suspended. The “Staycee Ghost Minnow” is one of Mike’s favorites.
Collins Lake has had seven trout plants since mid October. This has made trout fishing there quite good. They have also filled their pen project in the recent past. These trout will be released in early spring.
Be sure to pick up a 2014 fishing license before you head out for your next fishing trip.
The International Sportsman’s Expo is coming to Sacramento from Jan. 9-12. I will have a booth there on aisle 3000, “Trollingflies.com.” Please drop by if you go to the show.
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.