Denis Peirce: Good winter fishing conditions |

Denis Peirce: Good winter fishing conditions

Denis Peirce

We are nearing the end of January when we typically see the lowest water temperatures of the year. Lake water temps are a couple of degrees warmer than I would have guessed six months ago. Lake Oroville is 50 degrees on the surface, I recall the upper 40s this season in years past. The other thing that has not developed is muddy water. Although we have had rain, it has not come down heavily enough to put a lot of silt into the foothill reservoirs.

Tournament bass angler Ed Everhart fished an event on Lake Shasta two weeks ago. The surface temps were 50 to 52 degrees over the course of the day rather than the high 40’s typical for mid January. What was notable about the temps was the incoming creeks around the lake. The smaller tributaries were in the high 40s chilling down the backs of the coves and pushing the fish out toward the points. Ed did not catch any bass in the rear half of coves with a creek flowing in. Water clarity was very good.

What Ed and most of the tournament field found to be effective were slow presentations of soft plastic baits. Dart headed worms in shad colors produced fish when slowly fished down the sides of the lake. Another popular bait used early in the day or under low light conditions was the “Alabama Rig.” This is a wire spreader system that presents five soft plastic bait fish imitations to resemble a small school of minnows. This pulled slowly along the bottom produced early in the day.

Most of the bass landed in this event came from the 25 to 40 foot depths. There were some bass biting at the 10 to 12 foot level also.

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On a non-bass note, some of the tournament anglers were throwing suspending “Rip-Baits” along the shore in the main body of the lake. These hard body plugs dive eight to 10 feet when ripped through the water. When stopped they neither rise nor fall, they just suspend in the water. These anglers were catching land-locked king salmon in sizes up to eight pounds. If you want to try this in Shasta, look for rip baits in shad colors and sizes

On Lake Oroville the land locked salmon bite continues. Most of the action is at the 25 to 55 foot zone. Points on the down wind shore are prime spots to try. When the smelt spawn occurs in March look for the salmon to be close to the bank and shallow. At that time, a rip bait in pond smelt colors and size would be worth a try.

On other bass lakes, Clear Lake is 48 to 50 degrees with the bass holding tight to the bottom in 30 feet of water. The water here is stained brown, with poor visibility. Berryessa has been fishing well for bass as well as trout. The Alabama rig pulled slowly along the bottom is producing early in the day on both of these waters.

Pyramid Lake Nevada is at 45 degrees. It is not unusual for it to be in the high 30s in late January. Many of the fish are being caught close to shore. The numbers of fish hooked up are modest but when you get one, it is big. Eight to ten pound fish are common with a few up into the high teens coming in. The best fishing of the year will come when the water gets back up into the 50s in late February or early March.

There is good fishing news coming from the Lower Yuba River. The annual winter “Skwala” stone fly hatch is on. Tom Page, Reel Anglers Fly Shop, reports this week there was a noticeable increase in the number of these insects. They hatch by crawling out along the bank and up into the stream side brush. Ultimately the females lay their eggs while riding the current on the surface of the river. They are among the largest bugs on the Yuba at 1” to 1.25” long. These bugs get the trout looking up.

There are still Blue Wing Olives, Pinkies and an occasional March Brown on the river to keep the trout well fed.

The far north coast and Southern Oregon has been getting rain and the high dirty water that comes with it. A friend wintering at Gold Beach has been fishing the Rogue River. This week a good run of steelhead came through. As a fly angler he did not do well in the high dirty water but he watched a series of guide boats land over 20 steelhead one morning in the run he was fishing. Hopefully the run on the Rogue is being repeated on other area rivers.

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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