Denis Peirce: Peak fishing season begins |

Denis Peirce: Peak fishing season begins

Tomorrow is the last Saturday in April, the traditional opening of the Sierra stream trout season. The advent of catch & release winter fishing on many Sierra rivers has taken a bit of the enthusiasm out of “The Opener.” But in many mountain towns it remains a rite of spring.

The enthusiasm is most evident in the Eastern Sierra where the lakes as well as the streams reopen this weekend.

I don’t know a meteorological explanation but the annual pattern in the Sierra is to have a cool cloudy opening day with modest river flows. The following weekend the heat comes on and the snow really begins to melt. This year is shaping up that way again.

As a data point the North Yuba is at 45 degrees. Jim Johnston, “Sierra Streamside Cabins” saw the first stone flies of the season flying this week.

The best fishing opportunities are down here in the valley and foothills where we shook off winter weeks ago. We are approaching the peak spring bass fishing in our local lakes. The stripers are running in the valley rivers and trout fishing in the foothill reservoirs is very good.

Out on Collins Lake

This past weekend I was the weigh master for the Riebe’s Fishing Derby at Collins Lake. It is an annual event for Riebe’s repair shop customers. All three of the top rainbows were over 5 pounds. There were 98 trout weighed in.

The majority of the trout were caught trolling at depths from 5 down to 20 feet. There was no distinct pattern to what they hit. Anglers were trolling plugs, spoons and flies. Bright colors were the common denominator with the water still stained from the heavy rains in the past weeks.

The bass results were not as impressive. There were fewer angler hours spent bass fishing. The total was 28 bass weighed in with the largest fish at 2.55 pounds.

James Everhart, local bass angler not associated with the derby, fished Collins on Friday. The pattern he discerned was a separation between the small males shallow and the larger fish still holding at depths of 15 to 20 feet.

He started fishing the shoreline on the east side of the lake. He was hooking only small fish and began working farther out. Once he got out to the 18 foot depth he consistently connected with bigger fish up to 3.5 pounds tight to the base of submerged trees.

His explanation was that the smaller fish were the males and many of the larger bass were females holding deeper in a pre-spawn mode.

What I learned from James’ report was his reaction to landing only small fish in the shallows. I would have continued moving along the bank looking for better fish.

In spring I have done well close to shore so, “do more of the same.” Instead James reacted by moving out from the bank until he located the big ones holding at 18 feet.

He then continued moving parallel to the shore at that depth and was quite successful. His best baits were crawdad imitating jigs, in dark colors, fished around the base of trees. He also did well with “drop shot” soft plastics a few feet above the bottom in lighter colors in the same locations.

Full moon bass

If you are going bass fishing this weekend don’t expect this pattern to still be in place. Sunday is the full moon and that normally triggers the bass to actively spawn. I am expecting the larger fish to have moved up over the course of the week and be on the beds this weekend.

The bass are most likely to spawn on full moons and the dark of the moon. Water temperatures and storms can delay this event on any given lake. But an excellent bet is this weekend to be the main bass spawn of the spring.

James also fished Scott’s Flat on Sunday. He did well on both smallmouth bass as well as trout. The smallies were already on the beds.

If you find stumps or bushes on the shallow flats, each of these will hold at least one good bass. The trout were scattered throughout the lake, with lots of surface feeding activity. Anglers throwing small lures for the bass are also catching trout incidental to the bass.

Collins and Scott’s Flat had surface temps of 58 to 61 degrees last weekend. This week warm weather surely brought these up. These two lakes are typical of what you will find throughout the foothill lakes around the Sacramento Valley.

You will find similar patterns at Folsom, Oroville, Berryessa and all the bass waters in the north state.

Prime time weekend

An interesting side note on pond panfish. Tom Moreno has seen the bluegill on beds at his pond in Penn Valley. This is about a month early compared to most years.

The time frame for this has been late May or early June in past years. Tom speculates that the warm dry weather in January or February might have played a role. It’s difficult to explain.

This weekend is expected to be cool with cloudy skies, a recipe for excellent fishing. We are in the prime spring fishing at our elevation.

When our local fishing begins to taper off, the prime time will be coming on at the upper elevations. I hope to see you out there.

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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