Denis Peirce: Spring time conditions |

Denis Peirce: Spring time conditions

Denis Peirce

The apricots and almonds are in bloom at the 1500’ elevation. The air temps are near 70 in the afternoon. It feels like spring but the calendar has been stuck in February. The lack of rain can be seen as worrisome but it is not my fault. I have been spending time outdoors and enjoying this while it lasts.

As a general rule, the water temps have not left winter mode even while our afternoons have been spring like on land. The sun is still low in the sky and it has yet to really start warming the water. The other factor for anglers is that the lack of rain has most waters crystal clear. A little bit of stain to the water makes catching a bit easier.

On our local waters the Lower Yuba River continues to fish well. Tom Page, Reel Anglers Fly Shop, reports the skwala stone flies are still around but the fish seem to be more interested in the “Pinky” mayflies. The majority of the fish are being taken at the surface, on dry flies. But this is a very technical fishery and to get them on the surface you have to use the right size and color along with a very good presentation. It is tough but rewarding when you get it right.

Another of Tom’s customers has been on Scott’s Flat and getting some smallmouth bass to bite. The rig for the fly anglers has been the Float & Fly which suspends a bait fish imitation below a float. This is a slow, almost still, presentation of a pond smelt. A drop shot rig with a smelt colored worm works in the same manner. The fish are below the 10’ depth.

Collins Lake has water temps from 49 to 52 degrees. The trout are concentrated in the top 20’ for trollers. Ed Everhart was out last weekend and found slow presentations the ticket for catching bass. He started the day fishing in the shallows but the bass were not there. He found his fish in the 15 to 25 foot depths. Shakey head worms and drop shot rigs worked. He got the worm to move a bit then paused it. The bite was very subtle, as if they just hung on to it rather than swallowing. Ed found the best terrain for bass to be rock about softball size close to clay. Points were the most productive feature.

I received a similar report from Rollins Lake, water temps 51 to 52 degrees, bass at 20’ to 30’ and slowly worked soft plastics in purple or earth tone colors were a good place to start.

If you head south a few hours to New Melones Reservoir you can find water about five degrees warmer than our local lakes. The most recent temps have reached to the mid 50s. New Melones is above Stockton in the foothills and year round it is a consistent five degrees warmer than Oroville which is at a similar elevation. The bite at New Melones is on a finesse, slow presentation but it will precede our local lakes for the spring time faster paced fishing.

Sugar Pine reservoir above Forest Hill, south of I-80, was recently planted. The water is 47 degrees with the trout in the top 10’ of the water column. Cal Kellog fished it this week, trolling spoons from a kayak and caught quite a few fish.

This is the time of year to be planning a trip to Lake Almanor. March is prime time for the big trout to start following the pond smelt toward shore. The water has recently risen above the 30s and now is into the lowest 40s. The key to winter/early spring fishing on this lake is to locate the bait fish. The water is currently too cold to produce insects and the crawdads are hibernating. The smelt are out over deep water 10’ to 15’ below the surface. The clear water and glassy surface conditions will keep the bait down a bit. Some time in March they will head for the shallows to spawn and the big trout will follow them. This can be some of the best fishing of the year.

If you want to go, Quail Lodge ( is the place to stay. All of the guests are there to fish and willing to share what they did each day. I have made trips there in years past and the “Fish Camp” atmosphere is fun.

Pyramid Lake Nevada is heading toward the good spring fishing. The water is 44 degrees and slowly rising. The best fishing has been from shore. The fish are coming into the shallows to feed. Once the water adds another five degrees the fishing will get decidedly better. The fly fishing anglers have been getting some of their fish on the bugger & beetle rigs. The midge fishermen have also been landing some. The recent bluebird weather is tough for anglers. A wind chop on the surface or overcast skies are the best conditions. Recently early mornings and evenings with low light have produced the best fishing.

I am hoping for wet weather in the next month or more. The rivers need to rise to bring up the sturgeon and stripers. A bit of color to our lakes will get the fish closer to the surface. In the mean time, get out and enjoy what we have.

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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