Peirce: Drought’s impact felt, but it’s not all bad news |

Peirce: Drought’s impact felt, but it’s not all bad news

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

It is late August, the dog days of summer. The water is as warm as it will get for the year and with the drought many of our rivers are low.

The fishing reports are a mix of good news and bad news.

First the bad news.

Many of the water storage reservoirs are very low. In the Truckee area Stampede, Boca and Prosser are as low as I have seen them. The flow from Boca into the Truckee River was halted in early August.

There is just not enough water left to ship downstream to Reno. The water is so low and warm that there is a major fish kill occurring in Stampede. Thousands of fish have died of oxygen deprivation and floated to the surface.

The pelicans are having a field day cleaning up the mess.

Locals anglers in Truckee are asking that those who fish the river restrict the hours of fishing to the morning hours when the river is the coolest. Catch and release angling can stress the fish in warm water and even if the fish swim away, many will not survive the experience. Go early — leave early.

The Bidwell launch ramp is closing on Lake Oroville. It was the last of four paved ramps open. The paved spillway ramp is not operational but and old service road is being graveled it keep it in operation for boater access.

The good news is that there are fish to be caught and water to boat on. Last weekend I went sailing on Lake Almanor. I estimated that Almanor was only down 15 feet

The water was 68 degrees, not the best for trout fishing but great for family water sports. As a general rule, the water agencies are storing water at the highest elevation possible to reduce evaporation losses.

The trout fishing at Almanor has been excellent at the Hamilton Branch. This is a cold water tributary on the east side of the lake.

A majority of the trout in the lake seem to be here. There are huge numbers of fish nosed into the cold water inflow. There is a “junk bite” going on with fish hitting hardware, bait and flies.

A good aspect of warm water is that it will concentrate the fish at the cold water locations. If you know where to look, you can do quite well.

In the Truckee area, Donner Lake is full and expected to remain that way until the normal fall draw down. You can catch rainbows and kokanee there.

Tahoe is low by Tahoe standards but is great for launching your boat. Jackson Meadows is low but you can still launch and it is the best area bet for rainbow trout. Bullard’s Bar and Little Grass Valley are also good bets for kokanee.

The most anticipated fishery is the salmon run in the valley. The full moon on Aug. 10 moved a few salmon into the valley rivers. The bite has been very slow.

There are hopeful signs. Repair workers on the Benicia Bridge have seen lots of salmon being chased by seals. Off the coast, the saltwater sport fishing boats bring in about a fish per rod on most days. The boats are concentrating on the Marin County coast. They are intercepting the schools moving toward the Golden Gate.

The river conditions at the top of the Feather River near Oroville are quite favorable for salmon angling. The Low Flow has 1,300 cubic feet per second of cool water near 60 degrees.

This flow is double what was standard in years past for this stretch of the Feather, making drift boating easier and shore access a bit tougher.

The additional 400 cfs entering from the Afterbay is not enough to overly warm the river throughout the wildlife area. The salmon coming up the Feather quickly move up into the closed Low Flow zone.

When a good run of fish move into the valley, the bite here will take off.

There are steelhead in the Low Flow mixed in with the salmon. Marysville guide Ray Barbieri netted an 8-pound steelhead last week for a client there. This particular fish was fooled by a San Juan Worm, but as the salmon get closer to their spawn, look for the Glo-Bug bite to take off.

On the Sacramento River, the water is a cool 61 degrees at Red Bluff. When the salmon do get into the valley, they will be in a traveling mood until they find water in the low 60s.

The summer steelhead run on the Lower Klamath River is very strong. Tommy Chew of Little Ray’s Tackle says he has not seen it this good in the 20 years he has lived at the mouth of the river.

Large numbers of the steelhead and some salmon are holed up in the cool water at the mouth of Blue Creek a few miles upriver from the mouth. The “combat fishing” scene associated with the river mouth is on up at Blue Creek with estimates of as many as 50 anglers fishing this stretch of river.

There are many adult fish in the mix in addition to the “half pounders.” This could portend an epic steelhead season on the Klamath/Trinity this fall.

Tom Page, Reel Angler’s Fly Shop, has been fishing the lower Yuba and guiding there. The trout/steelhead bite has been good throughout this summer. The sleeper bite is on the river below DaGuerre Dam for the stripers.

Last week, Tom floated this run with Dave Barbieri and reported excellent numbers of stripers. The majority were the smaller shakers but there were a few good sized adults in the mix.

They had their best success fishing the deep holes with olive/yellow Clouser-type flies.

Every year in August the striper action is good on the Sacramento River from the Chico Straits down through Knight’s Landing. It is not unusual for the Feather to also feature a striper bite if the water flows are adequate.

This report was the first time I have heard of the August bite on the Yuba.

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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