Denis Peirce: Change is in the air |

Denis Peirce: Change is in the air

Denis Peirce


Saturday is a “Free Fishing Day” with no license required, a good opportunity to take someone fishing. Specialty tags are still required for certain species.

September 1 is the traditional opening of dove season which falls on a Saturday this year. California has increased the restrictions on the use of lead ammunition and be aware that lead is no longer legal to hunt with, the exception being private game clubs.

The days are getting shorter by a few minutes per day as well as the angle of the sun dropping in the sky. The change will accelerate as we approach the equinox in three weeks. Already there are notable changes occurring.

Back during the prolonged heat wave, Tom Moreno’s pond in Penn Valley lost about a foot and a half of water. The high sun angle, 100 degree days and the nighttime lows in the 60s evaporated multiple acre feet of water. This despite the Nevada Irrigation District water inflow.

Now that the temps have cooled off and the sun is not so high the pond is refilling by up to a half inch per day.

Similar scenarios are playing out in the high country. A number of years ago I interviewed Ann Carlson, fisheries biologist for the Tahoe National Forest.

She explained that the trees along creek beds transpire large volumes of water in hot weather. As the weather cools off in the fall, stream flows can increase without rain fall, due to decreased evaporation.

Yes, we will get more hot days in September, but the number of very hot hours will be fewer and the overnight lows will be declining. We are heading into fall.

The temperature changes everything

The change of season is evident at Eagle Lake, near Susanville. I spoke with Val Aubrey, ( and she noted that late in July the lake temp peaked in the upper 70s. By the second week of August it dropped to 72 and this week the lake temps were 67-68 degrees, with the figure declining half a degree every other day.

“The main determinate of water temperature is the over night low rather than the daytime high,” Val said.

Recent lows have been 37 degrees and she anticipates a freeze of her garden not too far into the future.

In the lake the fish have been moving up. She has caught trout as shallow as 13 feet this week, with most of the action at 18 to 25 feet. It has a lot to do with where the schools of bait fish are located.

There is a critical temp of 65 degrees for trout at Eagle Lake. Once the lake drops to 64 the trout will feed regularly in the shallows. Most years this change comes on in mid September.

The major change is the temps falling into the high 50s in late October. Due to over night lows in October the drop through the 50 degree range is very rapid. Eagle Lake has a unique high desert climate but the trend is the same throughout the state.

Where the fish are biting

At Bullards Bar, Justin Leonard of Out Cast Guide Service has been chasing kokanee. This week he has been finding smaller fish off Garden Point where a lot of the action has been recently. He went down to the dam and found 13 to 14 inches at depths of 40 to 90 feet.

There is also a concentration of fish heading toward the North Yuba. These fish are “half way” up the lake where the fish can be found in cooler water at the 20 to 40 foot depths. These up-lake fish are the largest with a few over 14 inches. These pre-spawn fish are turning red with their flesh turning white.

The salmon run in the valley continues. On the Feather River the best action continues to be in the upper river. Last year at this time there were vast numbers of fish milling in the Afterbay Hole and the boats were concentrated there.

Limits of two fish per rod were easy if you knew the routine. This year the salmon are on the move headed through the Hole and moving up river toward the hatchery. Near the hatchery there are stretches where the water is dark with fish. Even with a single fish limit this year, guides are working longer hours to limit out a boat.

The most consistent action is from the Afterbay Hole down towards Gridley. The two techniques are drifting roe and running plugs. The water is shallower in the upper river allowing for long lining Flatfish plugs. In water 6 to 8 feet the plugs are fished a 100 feet or more below the boat without any weight and they are just off the bottom.

Incidental to salmon, the guides have been picking up steelhead on roe. This is a good sign for the steelhead anglers this fall. Prop boats are not recommended for the upper Feather River.

There have been some salmon anglers working the Yuba City area on the Feather. I have not heard of any results from them.

Tom Page, Reel Anglers Fly Shop, reports a school of salmon staging below DaGuerre Dam on the Lower Yuba a week ago. This is a promising sign for steelhead fishing on the Yuba. Salmon eggs will attract the steelhead.

Shaun Rainsbarger has been fishing Donner Lake this year for kokanee and mackinaw. Recently, he had a client ask to target brown trout.

Browns are usually targeted in the cold weather months. Shaun reluctantly agreed saying October and November would be a better bet.

Last week they were on the water in the early morning darkness. At first light they were fishing and by 6:30 a.m. the client hooked up a 7 pound 9 ounce brown.

The fish was hooked fast trolling a Rapala plug 35 feet down. Shaun was targeting the thermocline (30 to 40 feet) as it intersected the bottom. Congratulations Shaun, that was a tough request to fill in August.

Upcoming meeting

Next Tuesday, Sept. 4, evening I will be the guest speaker for the September Gold Country Fly Fishers meeting. I will be presenting a program on “Fly Trolling Lakes in the Fall.”

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. with the program at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, at the Ponderosa Room at the Fair Grounds, gate #3.

All interested persons are welcome.

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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