Transition to fall is prime time for fishing |

Transition to fall is prime time for fishing

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

This past week, we passed the fall equinox and now there are more hours of darkness than light for the next six months.

The rain last Saturday put a chill in the air as well as in the water. It is these times of transition that present the best fishing opportunities of the year.

Up in the high country, Lake Davis is fishing well. I spoke with Ed Dillard ( Wednesday evening while it was snowing in Portola.

The water temps had dropped to the 59-61 degree range early this week.

The fall transition of water temps from the “too warm of summer” to the “too cold of winter” presents one of the two best fishing seasons of the year. Most of this change occurs in October.

He had his best day of this season Monday casting light jigs from a boat toward shore.

His partner on the trip had similar results fishing “bugger”-style flies on a fly rod. The trout were close to the shore in the Fairview area. Ed also did well trolling bugger-style flies that were in the 1- to 2-inch range.

Ed commented that the next six weeks will be some of the best fishing on the lake this year.

Farther north, Val Aubrey ( has seen a decline of angling results on Eagle Lake. Each year as the water drops into the upper 60s, there is an algae die-off.

This stains the lake brown and the water has poor visibility. This condition lasts for a couple weeks as the water cools through the low 60s. The weather systems that have passed through the north state have cooled the lake to the 57- to 60-degree range.

The worst of the brown stain has passed and the water is showing shades of green.

Val is looking for good fishing to resume in the near future.

At Lake Almanor, the water is in the high 50s. The fall fishing is based in large part on the pond smelt forage fish.

The schools of pond smelt that have been in the cool depths of the lake during summer have now moved towards the shallows and the trout have been following them.

The key to good fishing is locating the forage fish, and the best indicator is water fowl. If the birds are lounging on the surface, the pond smelt will be in the area.

If the birds are actively diving, the trout are most likely feeding there, as well.

Down in the Sacramento Valley, the drop in water flows on the Feather River has pushed most of the boat fishing pressure over to the Sacramento.

The launch ramps in the Yuba City area are marginal at best.

Rick Kennedy ( has been fishing near Chico. He noted that the rain put the fish into traveling mode and many of the salmon have moved up river.

Since the rain last weekend, he has noticed a 4- to 5-degree drop in the river temps, down to 61 degrees Wednesday.

His results have been good but he has seen a shift, with more fish being caught on roe rather than plugs. His catches have included salmon fresh from the salt with their scales intact to fish with the meat turning white. Rick also landed a 4-pound wild steelhead this week while fishing roe for salmon.

Brett Brady ( has been fishing the river farther north, near Corning. He noted the fish moving north with increased speed but his successful technique is the opposite of Rick Kennedy. Brady had been having his best luck with roe, but during the recent past, the roe bite dropped off and plugs have been much more productive for him.

Both guides have noted a decrease in boat traffic this past week, and they have heard that the majority of the boat anglers fishing for salmon have moved up above Red Bluff.

I expect the salmon bite to increase near Sacramento below the confluence of the American River later in October. As the river cools, the fishing gets better and the salmon run on the American is generally later than the main run on the Feather and the Sacramento River.

On the Feather River, the salmon in the low flow section are digging redds and beginning their spawn.

The low flow is a good bet for steelhead fishing currently.

Egg and nymph imitations are definitely on the menu.

The water flows below the Afterbay hole are at 1,750 cubic feet per second but the flows decrease as you head down river due to agricultural diversions.

In the Yuba City area, there are many exposed sand bars and large shallow flats. There are channels that the fish follow to reach the spawning grounds near Oroville.

With the river this low, I think a wading angler could reach these traveling lanes and pick up a few salmon on spinners or roe.

I do not know of anyone fishing this way except at the Shanghai Bend rapids.

Tom Page ( has been getting reports from his customers that the Lower Yuba has been fishing well.

The egg bite has yet to materialize in a major way.

The best flies have been San Juan worms and small (No. 16 and No, 18) mayfly nymphs such as Pheasant Tails and Copper Johns.

Now that the Feather River egg bite has turned on, it won’t be too long before the Yuba River does the same.

The fall transition of water temps from the “too warm of summer” to the “too cold of winter” presents one of the two best fishing seasons of the year. Most of this change occurs in October.

It has been my experience that before Oct. 15 you can count on “Indian Summer” to dominate the weather and after that time you should expect much cooler and wetter weather.

The time to get out on the water is upon us.

Use your time wisely.

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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