Denis Peirce: Getting ready for 2020 fishing |

Denis Peirce: Getting ready for 2020 fishing


Your 2019 fishing license expires in a few days. I don’t expect the price to go down. I am reminded of an older friend with whom I fished many years ago. He was born in 1913. His first fishing license cost 25 cents and the limit at the time was 75 trout. He often complained that as the price went up the limit went down, “Pretty soon the price will be out of reach and you won’t be able to keep any fish.” We have not reached his predicted outcome yet, but he certainly had the trend correct.

If you are going to get a license, do so now and get the maximum number of days on the water. Happy New Year!

— Denis Peirce

This is the final fishing column for 2019. Looking back on the year, the most significant event was the wet winter of ‘19. Not quite a record for rain fall, but the storms just kept coming well into May. Our area had an extra 10 inches.

This kept the Sierra rivers running high with snow melt well into the summer. On some rivers good fly fishing for trout started in July. There were similar high water conditions on the controlled rivers in the valley as the fall salmon run got underway in August. I recall an early September trip on the Feather River near Oroville. A normal flow would have been 3,000 cfs, but the river was running at 8,000 cfs. The water level was up a couple of feet in the river bed flooding into the stream side brush preventing shore access. Boat fishing was the only option. The run was good but it started weeks later than expected.

I have an axiom, “If you add water, you will get fish.” The high water delayed the good fishing but it turned out to be a good year. The lakes were high but the food chain was abundant. In Lake Shasta there was a second shad spawn which made a remarkable volume of minnows for the bass and trout to feed on. There was so much food that it was tough fishing at times. Stampede Reservoir near Truckee produced a bumper crop of kokanee. There were similar results on many waters.

Our current rain fall is about average and I am waiting to see what Mother Nature has in store for 2020.

Our current rain fall is about average and I am waiting to see what Mother Nature has in store for 2020.

Despite the winter conditions we have been seeing this week, there are some good fishing opportunities for those individuals with sufficient motivation. The lower Yuba River, 20 minutes west of Grass Valley, is possibly the best winter dry fly fishery in the state. Other valley rivers can fish well but the Yuba is the spot to catch trout/steelhead feeding at the surface. This river has insect hatches all winter.

Tom Page, Reel Angler’s Fly Shop, guided the river last Sunday and did well. The flows are up a bit above normal with the recent rains. But the rains have put a touch of color in the water creating the ideal 3 to 4 feet of visibility. On cloudy days the Blue Wing Olive mayflies hatch, and in better weather the “Pinky” mayflies and caddis are on the water. All of these will bring the fish to the top to feed.

For the bass anglers, Bullard’s Bar Reservoir is our best winter fishery. The world record for spotted bass has been broken here at least three times in the last few years. These record fish have all been caught between Thanksgiving and late February. Typically these fish are caught deep, 30 to 60 feet, on soft plastics. Bullard’s Bar, during the wet season, is known to give up some of its bass to red/brown colored plastics.

Bullard’s Bar is also a decent kokanee fishery this time of year. The fish are not big in this season but they are plentiful. Bullard’s is not known for its trout fishing but this time of the year there can be good trout fishing below the mouths of incoming streams.

As a general rule this is the season for trout to be near the surface on the foothill lakes surrounding the Sacramento Valley. The farther north and higher in elevation you go, the colder the water will be. Oroville at 900’ elevation is 52 degrees. Comanche Lake south of Sacramento at 200’ elevation is 59 degrees.

Water temps above the high 40’s and below 60 degrees are ideal for fishing trout near the surface. If you dress right and are on the water from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. you will do alright.

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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