With the equinox behind us, fall has arrived. We are a few days away from the best fishing month of the year, October.
The warm weather will continue through this weekend but the shortening days are allowing the north state waters to continue a slow cooling trend. A cold front with rain will turn the bite on. It has been my experience that “Indian Summer” lasts until Oct. 15 and then the weather changes.
What I find remarkable is the consistent water temps in so many of the Sierra Lakes. Lakes widely separated north and south as well as by altitude, have morning surface temps of 63 to 64 and afternoon highs of 67 to 68 degrees. Among the waters with these temp readings are Eagle Lake, Almanor, Davis and Crowley.
The most interesting trout fishing report from these lakes comes from Crowley near Mammoth Lakes. Due to the dry winter the lake has been dramatically drawn down in the last month. The weed beds that are the focus of fall fishing are now out of the water. The weed beds are the refuge for the bait fish. With these gone, the perch fry and small rainbows have scattered throughout the lake. The results are that covering more water is required to find good fishing. The perch fry have grown from a bit over 1 inch in early September to 1.5 inches currently.
Guide Don Meier has been trolling the 18 foot depth contour with good success. He has been running his lures 4 to 6 feet off the bottom and connecting with brown trout on a regular basis. The best area for browns currently is near the inlet of the Owens River. Brown trout are fall spawners and they will be staging off the mouths of spawning waters through the fall months. If the browns are not cooperating, planter rainbows are easy to pick up in shallower water.
This pattern is repeated on many Sierra Lakes that have brown trout populations such as Stampede in the Truckee area. The targeted depth contour will vary by lake. An example is Lake Almanor where the target depth is 30 feet. This is the thermocline layer. Reports from the Lake Almanor Fly Co. note that the thermocline layer is getting thinner as we head toward the fall turnover.
Donner Lake has been receiving most of the angling pressure in the Truckee area. This is late in the kokanee season with fish continuing to provide action. Ed Fisk (Fish Tales Guide Service) has been doing good on Donner in the recent past. He went up to Little Grass Valley last weekend and reported the kokanee were very small, indicating that these were next seasons adult fish.
Bass anglers have been successful fishing many of the reservoirs around the north state. At Oroville and Almanor the reports are very similar. You can catch good numbers of smaller fish working the shallows. If you want larger fish you need to go down to the 25 foot depth and below.
The salmon fishing in our valley rivers continues to be good. I checked in with Johnson’s in Yuba City and they confirmed what I have been hearing from other sources. The salmon are moving up river in waves. From one day to the next results can swing from hot to cold. The guides who produce consistent limits know their waters very well and concentrate on the deeper holding water. Much of the rivers are traveling lanes with deep resting holes scattered intermittently in the river. The best advice for connecting with salmon is to go with a guide or spend more days fishing or both.
Guide Wayne Syn, Orland Outfitters, has been fishing the Sacramento River all season in the Hamilton City area. The recent water temp has been 59 degrees. He has been producing consistent limits for his clients fishing a couple of good holes, rather than searching up and down the river. He has been running second trips launching in the late afternoon. he results he sees from most boats coming off the river at that time is a fish per rod. Another comment from Wayne was that, season to date, he has only landed three jack salmon. The most common fish size is 15 pounds with a 26 pound fish his largest last week.
Tomorrow night is the full moon for September. Look for large numbers of salmon moving up the valley rivers next week. This next push of fish may be the last best chance for a bright salmon. The majority of river salmon at this time are turning color.
The mouth of the Klamath River continues to have big numbers of salmon move in from the salt water. Tommy form Little Ray’s Tackle Box says there are fish rolling on the surface consistently. The water is in the upper 60s and the bite is tough. The most consistent results come from guides boating up river and drifting roe. Tommy fished three hours one morning last week and caught three salmon on roe. He commented that the bite was extremely light and that if you could not tell the difference between a bottom tap and a fish gently picking up your bait you would get skunked. This is not “shooting fish in a barrel” despite the numbers of salmon present.
On the dark of the moon, Sept. 15, a large school of silver salmon moved into the Klamath system. These are most likely headed up the Trinity. Silvers are protected and you may not keep them. See the Department of Fish and Game regs to learn how to identify them.
The Trinity River is fishing well for salmon down river from Weaverville. Upriver the salmon are dark. The farther down you go the higher the probability of a quality fish. There are steelhead mixed in with the salmon. The best month on the Trinity for steelhead is November.
The reports from the Lower Yuba are getting better. Last week Frank Rinella said the egg bite has started. He did well fishing egg imitations in the morning. The egg bite dropped off mid-morning and the trout went back on the hopper bite for the balance of the day. Below the Hwy 20 Bridge there are not a lot of salmon in evidence yet. I look for this to change a week past the full moon.
Next Tuesday is the October meeting of the Gold Country Fly Fishers. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Ponderosa Building. Park inside gate No. 2.
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.fineflies.com.