Denis Peirce: Fishing in late October
October 26, 2017
October is one of the prime fishing months of the year. It is the transition time from the summer heat to winter cold. Many years this transition is too brief. This year, despite shortening days, we have continued to have warm weather.
The storm that came through a week ago cooled things off and the fishing improved. This week many waters have actually warmed up as much as 3 degrees. That, combined with flat, calm lake conditions, have made things a bit tougher.
Many of the lakes in the mountains had been fishing well. The best reports have been coming from Lake Shasta. The drought ending winter filled the lake and even now at the end of the season it is only 50 feet down from full pool.
The baitfish populations are at levels that anglers have not seen in many years. The trout and bass are well fed.
Local guide Brett Brady won a trout fishing derby there two weeks ago. The water temps were in the low 60s. He picked up his largest fish 60 to 70 feet down. But throughout the day shad schools were being pushed to the surface by both bass and trout.
The tell tale signs were often birds working the bait balls from above. There were more shad schools visible at the surface than he had ever seen before.
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At one point during the tournament he just fished for bass because there were so many of them on the shad. He recommended fishing the area from the Interstate 5 bridge to the main body by the dam.
Fishing the lakes
Eagle Lake is traditionally at its best in the fall. Guide Bryan Roccucci has been on this lake and Lake Almanor frequently in the last couple of weeks. Eagle has been producing some large fish, up to 5 pounds, reminiscent of a decade ago before the low water years.
The numbers have not been great but the quality is good. He has been doing well in the boulder strewn shallows. He noted the navigation hazards on his GPS and can work the area safely. He commented that other boats closed in when he was landing fish and quickly left when they almost hit a rock pile.
Roccucci has been doing well trolling orange flies, a traditional fall lure on Eagle Lake.
Eagle Lake water temps are in the low 50s. Combine that with overnight lows in the high 20s and no wind you get dense fog on the water at sunrise.
There is blue sky over head and you can't see more than ten feet off the bow of your boat. The flat calm conditions recently have slowed the bite as the fish have moved out over deeper water.
Lake Almanor has been in a similar pattern. The lake "turned over" a few weeks ago. As the water mixed from top to bottom the water turns brown from decaying vegetation.
A week ago, with water cooling down to the mid 50s and a breeze on the surface, the fish were in the shallows on the west side eating pond smelt minnows. The warm weather this week brought the temps up 3 to 4 degrees. That and flat calm surface conditions slowed the bite.
Both Eagle and Almanor need cooling water, light winds and overcast skies to produce peak fall fishing. Watch the weather forecast.
Shawn Rainsbarger has been guiding on Donner Lake. The kokanee bite is done for the year. He has been focusing on mackinaw and trout.
Currently the mackinaw are concentrated in spawning mode on the bottom off China Cove. The water temps are 50 to 51 degrees. He has been spending some of his time trolling the shallows for the elusive "Big Browns".
Tom Page, Reel Anglers Fly Shop, has been on Englebright fishing for bass. He has been doing well concentrating on steep rocky banks at the 8 to 10 foot depths. He has been using the "Float & Fly" technique, where a minnow imitating fly is suspended below a float. This produces a slow presentation.
When there is wind chop on the water the bouncing float animates the fly and the bass have a hard time resisting.
The salmon action in the valley has shifted to the Delta. Fly anglers report catching salmon incidental to striper fishing. One of the hot spots has been the Mokelumne River.
Last Sunday I was by Wimpy's Marina and there was almost no place to put another truck and boat trailer. I spoke with the lady in the store and she said October is the salmon month on the Mokelumne River and this year has been very good. To get there head west toward Walnut Grove off I-5 near Galt.
The Lower Yuba has finally been getting some salmon on the spawning beds. There are reports of salmon digging redds down near Hammond Grove Park. The trout/steelhead bite is much better when the salmon are digging nymphs out of the gravel and losing a few eggs in the process.
The best steelheading this year is on the Feather River. Guide Brett Brady caught more steelhead this year during the salmon season than any year in memory. Brett fished mostly down river from the After Bay Hole.
When using roe he consistently picked up steelhead incidental to salmon fishing. When the river was high at the beginning of this month the salmon did not move up river from the Hole.
Once the river dropped mid month, they began to move up into the Low Flow. I have heard of good results from both the Low Flow and the river below the After Bay Hole.
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 http://www.trollingflies.com.