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Brrraving cold temps to get a bite

If this column was being written in the Great Lakes region, the January fishing news would be all about ice fishing.

Most Northern California anglers, myself included, consider the words “ice” and “fishing” as mutually exclusive. But if you go up to the high country, there are some hearty souls who do get out and fish through the ice.

The best ice conditions currently are found on Sardine and Upper Salmon lakes in the Lakes Basin, between Basset’s Station and Graeagle. Gold Lake, the largest in the area, has very little ice at all. My reports have the ice at Upper Salmon at 2 to 3 feet thick. Most of the fish are holdover rainbows from 14 to 18 inches.



This past week air temps have briefly hit the low 50s in the early afternoons with night time lows in the 20s. Yesterday’s hole in the ice will have 6 inches of ice reformed over night. The most common methods are to fish night crawlers or power bait, starting at the lake bottom and gradually working your way up through the water column.

The tough part is access this time of year.




The Gold Lakes Road is snowed in for the winter, but it is now a groomed snowmobile/cross country ski track. The trip up to Sardine Lake is a 6-mile round trip. The Lakes Basin is heavily used by snowmobiles and cross country skiers.

Usually, some of the lakes around Truckee offer safe ice by late January. This year only Boca offers stable ice. It is at an unusually low pool this winter, at only 25 percent of its normal size. Prosser has thin, unsafe ice, around the edge.

Closer to home, I have been getting reports that the “Skwala” stone flies are hatching on the lower Yuba River.

This hatch is an annual event. The insects are over an inch in length and the fish are rising to them. These skwalas crawl from the water to hatch on the stream-side rocks. They shed their exoskeletons on top of rocks and fly into the bushes. Ultimately, the females fly to the river surface to lay their eggs and at that point they are vulnerable to the fish.

Oftentimes I have seen the insects riding on the current and watched as the trout came up to take them. Surface-feeding trout in mid winter is a rare occurrence. There are also sporadic Blue Wing Olives and Pale Morning Dun hatches when the weather cooperates.

Lake Oroville continues to be the most consistent fishing.

I have reports from anglers catching large numbers of silver salmon up the north fork arm of the lake. If you go, look for any incoming water, these fish are attracted to food chain around stream mouths. The water temps are in the high 40s. Bass fishing is also good. Best bets are 30 to 50 feet deep with crawdad imitating jigs.

Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union and is also host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. He may be reached via e-mail at denisp@theunion.com.


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