Denis Peirce: A change in seasons brings shift in hot spots |

Denis Peirce: A change in seasons brings shift in hot spots

The Union photo/John Hart
John R. Hart | The Union

With the passing of the equinox, we are officially in spring. We have had spring-like conditions for most of the winter.

I cannot remember the last freezing night we have had here in Penn Valley. This beautiful weather has everything happening a bit early in 2015.

The reports from striper fishermen have shifted from the Feather River over to the Sacramento. I am not sure whether it is that the fish have moved over as much as boaters can launch on the Sacramento.

With all of the salmon smolts planted last week in the Feather, the incentive to leave the cafeteria line would not be that strong for the stripers.

With the low flows on the Feather shore, anglers have been more in evidence.

The flows near Colusa on the Sacramento are at 4,500 cubic feet per second. My sources say that the best access and fishing are below Colusa, down through Knight’s Landing to Verona.

Power drifting live minnows downstream has been an effective technique. The fish are not as large as the February fish on the Feather but the early part of the run is commonly smaller “schoolie” males.

My guess is that when the farmers need irrigation water, the flows will increase and so will the number of stripers.

The bass in our lakes and ponds definitely know that spring is here. Some of our local bass ponds have already warmed up into the mid-60s at the surface and in the shallows.

On a warm day, walking around a local pond, you will spook bass in the shallows looking for good nesting sites. The overcast and rain last weekend dropped the temps slightly but the warm temps at the end of the week will make this weekend a good bet.

The larger north state reservoirs, like Oroville, have reached the high 50s. Northside coves with full sun will have the warmest water and prespawn bass. New Melones in the foothills of the central Sierra is up into the low 60s. It is common for these lakes farther south to be five degrees warmer.

Higher elevation lakes like Almanor are at the top of the 40-degree range flirting with 50 in the down wind shallows. Almanor is predominantly a smallmouth bass lake.

These fish have moved into the shallow rocky areas and bass anglers have been doing well. The pond smelt in Almanor spawn during March in the shallows.

This adds to the incentive for prespawn smallies to be close to shore. The other species that can be caught close in are brown trout.

Tom Maumoynier, Almanor Fly Co., has been catching browns in water as shallow as knee-deep while standing on the shore. The conditions for this are low light and a good wind chop on the surface.

A stormy day like last weekend was perfect. These browns come in to trap the smelt against the bank. This is the only season when the browns will be this close in.

I have not been able to get as definitive a time frame for the smelt spawn on Scotts Flat Lake. But many of the same conditions exist as at Almanor. Scotts has smelt, smallmouth, browns and rainbows.

I was in the Reel Angler’s Fly Shop recently and spoke with Terry Reeve. He has been fly-fishing Scotts and he showed me a photo of a 16-inch smallie he took there. He had been casting a sinking line toward shore from a boat. He was pulling a marabou pond smelt fly down the sloping bank.

He was picking up bass from a few feet, down to the 10-foot depth. His best success came from rocky areas. If I was looking for largemouth, I would look to the shallow flats on the north side of the lake.

The water should be warmer there during the late afternoon. Both upper and lower Scotts Flat have been planted again with pan-size rainbow trout this past week.

Tom Page was guiding on the Lower Yuba this past weekend. He reported some of the best dry fly action of the year taking place now.

The advent of spring has the insect hatches coming on strong. This time of year, the bugs are out from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. The most prolific insect currently is the Pale Morning Dun, PMD.

The ones specific to the Yuba have a slight pink cast to the body, hence the name Pinkys. Tom’s client did very well during the midday hours.

There are also March Browns still hatching and the lead edge of the caddis hatch is starting to come on. April is traditionally one of the best months on the Lower Yuba.

Tomorrow, the last Saturday in March, is the opening of spring turkey hunting season. It will last through May 3. The Department of Fish and Wildlife has an excellent tutorial on these birds and hunting for them on their website.

Another opener is fast approaching — the saltwater salmon will begin April 4, south of Horse Mountain.

We will be using last year’s rules prior to the mid-April meeting of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, when the 2015 season will be finalized.

Based on the ocean abundance surveys, we are looking at another good year. The effects of the drought on salmon spawning will begin to show up in 2016.

With this winter’s lack of precipitation, ocean fishing will be a good option this summer.

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

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