Denis Peirce: Peak fishing season begins |

Denis Peirce: Peak fishing season begins

To many of us the fall equinox is just another day, although we have been noticing the shorter days.

In the natural world it marks a major change and heralds the beginning of one of the best fishing seasons of the year. The changes in the high country lakes are significant.

Eagle Lake near Susanville is known for its fall fishing. In the past week the water temperatures have fallen from 71 degrees down to 64 degrees. The overnight lows have dropped into the low 30s.

This, along with wind and some rain, have driven the water temperatures downward and the fish are now moving toward the top of the water column and closer to shore.

Other factors

Ten days ago the annual coot migration moved in. These water fowl root in the lake bottom breaking weeds loose that float to the surface. The weeds are a nuisance when trolling. The wind that accompanied the recent rains has cleared the surface of the weeds.

Currently the lake still has a green hue from the algae. With the current water temps falling the lake is only days away from turning shades of brown with the fall algae die off.

I spoke with Val Aubrey (, she mentioned the seasonal trout movement and that with the continuing cool weather the lake is only days away from the fall fishing taking off.

As part of our conversation she spoke about dissolved oxygen as a determinate of trout location. She has been monitoring the lake this year for water quality.

Thermometers are a common tool many anglers have but temperature is not the only factor. She found this year there was a layer in the lake at the 22 foot depth. The trout were concentrated at this depth despite the water temp of 72 degrees there.

She had a dissolved oxygen sensor that showed a dramatic falloff in oxygen level below that depth, which explained the trout holding in 72 degree water.

Below that layer there were many fish, but they were tui chub, not trout. She said occasionally a trout would drop down into the cooler water but not stay there for any length of time.

On her most recent fishing days, Aubrey has been catching trout at six to 12 foot depths consistently and expects them to be moving higher in the coming week.

I also checked in with John Crotty (, who guides Lake Almanor.

Temperature change

A week ago, Almanor was 76 degrees and is now at 69. The area had four tenths of an inch of rain in the past week. When combined with some wind, the temperature dropped 7 degrees.

What I found most interesting was the depth of the surface water temperature extending down to 25 feet. That is a considerable volume of water to shed 7 degrees of heat.

Crotty has been trolling at depths of 35 feet in 60 degree water to catch rainbows and browns. The ideal trout temperatures are in the high 50s. Almanor has had air temps dropping to freezing over night. Prime fishing is coming soon.

Closer to home the Donner Lake level has been dropped for the winter.

Shaun Rainsbarger ( reports water temps of 58-59 degrees on his trip yesterday, a drop of eight degrees in a week. Also, it snowed there Wednesday night.

When the lake is dropped, the water is taken off the top, which is the warmest water in the lake. Rainsbarger continues to catch kokanee at the lake but the emphasis is shifting toward mackinaw.

Thursday morning he had landed half a dozen macs by 10 a.m. Another angler on the lake recently landed a 12 pounder trolling a “Trophy Stick” lure.

Stampede Reservoir continues to produce kokanee also. The largest are 16 inches but a common size is 14 to 15 inches.

Early in the day, they are at 40 feet then they drop down to 65-70 by midday. Pink and orange are the most popular lure colors.

These lake reports are indicative of lakes throughout the state. There remains a thick layer of warm water on top which will continue to cool. The speed at which they cool is weather dependent. The high country weather has been wetter than we have had here in the foothills.

October is almost here, and with it, some of the best lake fishing of the year.

Salmon time?

Late September is normally the peak of the salmon run in the Sacramento Valley. The best results have been coming from the Feather River. The Sacramento River has been producing up above Red Bluff at the “Barge Hole,” but the run has not been very good.

On the Feather River, Bob Bouke, Johnson’s Bait & Tackle, has not been seeing good numbers of fish coming from the river in the Yuba City area.

There are a lot of fish being taken at the “After Bay Hole” which leads to the conclusion that the salmon are moving through at a fast pace and not holding in the deep holes.

Yes, you can catch a salmon near Yuba City, but you will have to work at it. Up at the After Bay, it is not like shooting fish in a barrel. If you are not familiar with the local techniques, I would suggest spending an hour or so to watch those that do catch fish and how they are fishing.

Sac River Fish

There has been much speculation that Sacramento River fish that were trucked to the salt water three years ago might return to the Feather in large numbers this year.

Guide Scott Feist ( has been fishing the upper Feather. He mentioned that biologists have been at the boat ramps daily collecting the heads from the salmon to retrieve the nose tags implanted by the hatcheries.

Hundreds of salmon heads have been examined and as of this week only two Sacramento River fish have been identified. It is possible that they could arrive later, but to date the Feather River fishery has been producing Feather River fish.

Tom Page (Reel Anglers Fly Shop) guided the Yuba last weekend. His clients did well on smaller rainbows/steelhead on both dry flies and nymphs. The “egg bite” has yet to turn on.

He floated from the Highway 20 Bridge down river and did not notice any salmon redds or traveling fish.

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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