Denis Peirce: Lake levels, fishing tournaments rising |

Denis Peirce: Lake levels, fishing tournaments rising

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

The most active anglers this time of the year are the bass fishermen.

The tournament anglers pay their entry fees and commit to a schedule regardless of the weather.

And it is not just tournament day that they are on the water; they pre-fish the lakes to figure out how to spend their fishing hours most efficiently.

Even the non-tournament anglers are occasionally on the water.

The foothill lakes are all on the rise with water temps from 48 to 53 degrees. Oroville has risen 50 vertical feet in the past month.

There are now two concrete ramps available, one at the dam and the other at Bidwell Marina. The water temperature is 50 degrees.

Two weeks ago, there was a tournament that was won with a two-day, 10-fish limit of 22 pounds.

The big fish of the tournament was just under 4 pounds.

The pattern for larger fish is to go deep (20’ to 40’) and fish slow moving baits.

These fish are sluggish at these cold temps and will not race after some thing to eat.

You have to make it easy for them, slowly move it past their mouth and they will bite.

The commonly fished baits are jigs that imitate crawdads and drop shot worms that mimic a pond smelt.

We are at the coldest time of the year and water temps are an important factor.

Any condition that will raise the temps even one degree will attract fish. North shorelines that get full sun are a good place to check.

Conversely, check the temps on incoming streams. If these are colder than the lake, the bass might move away from them.

Another close-by lake is Bullard’s Bar.

It has been producing record spotted bass for a number of years.

Bullard’s has risen 43 feet in the past month and the most recent temperature I have is 49 degrees.

Kayak angler Adam Koons is in a year-long competition for “Kayak Angler of the Year.”

He is fishing for 20 species of fish during the year and is looking for the biggest specimen in each category. Recently, he was on Bullard’s twice to get his spotted bass.

On Jan. 21, he found water up to 54 degrees under partly cloudy skies and a falling barometer. Last Sunday, under cloudy skies and a rising barometer after the storm last Saturday, the water temp had dropped to 49 degrees.

Thursday’s fishing was good for fish size.

The action was not fast like you can find in the Spring. The best fishing was on points in depths from 20 to 40 feet.

Koons and another kayak angler caught a number of spots in the 5 pound class. The biggest fish of the day was a spot well more than 10 pounds.

Koons does catch and release fishing.

He uses a spring scale — and with the bouncing of the kayak, the scale was reading between 10 pound 8 ounces and 11 pounds 2 ounces.

This is larger than the current official record, but less than the pending lake record.

The tournament Koons fishes relies on photos to document the catch.

He forwarded his photos on to a fisheries biologist and fellow bass angler who fishes Bullard’s Bar. There is a high likelihood that this same bass was caught last winter by the biologist.

In comparing notes, both fish were caught off the same point based on GPS coordinates.

Last year’s fish weighed in at 9.5 pounds.

What I did not know was that fish, like people, are unique and recognizable.

Based on the marking pattern of the bass, it looks like this is the same individual.

There now exists a computer application comparing photos of fish to determine if the photos are of the same fish. The photos have been submitted and they are awaiting the results.

Assuming that these are the same fish, it is interesting to see the growth rate and that the bass has a home base — or else spends its winters in the same location — both good things to know.

Koons’s second day on the lake was not as successful as his first. There were more small bass. The one good fish was a 6-pound spot.

Maybe the rising barometer might have had something to do with it.

The heavy rains predicted for this weekend will likely add silt to the reservoirs, cutting down on visibility and raising the water a few feet higher.

When the results of the fish photo comparison are available, I will put them in my column.

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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