Denis Peirce: Anglers hitting local waters as weather permits |

Denis Peirce: Anglers hitting local waters as weather permits

We keep getting spring-like days mixed in with winter, which is typical for March. The wild plum trees in Penn Valley are fully in bloom, which is a sign that there should be some stripers in the Feather River and sturgeon in the Sacramento. 

The farther down the hill you go, the better the weather. 

I called my contacts in Truckee on the chance that some of the lakes might be open but they are way behind us. At Donner Lake, you can launch a small boat but the water is in the 30s and the lake is still at low levels. Practical access to Stampede is weeks out.  The first week of April would be a good guess.

On good days, anglers are getting out to try some of the local waters. Mike Pumphery fished Rollins a week ago. He was on the water from noon until 4:30 p.m, launching at Greenhorn, and the water within sight of the creek mouth was chocolate milk. A couple of bends down the lake the visibility was 2 feet and in the main lake it increased to 6 feet.

Mike’s two good fish came on a rip bait. Lucky Craft makes a suspending rip bait known as a Pointer Minnow. After casting out, you pull it back with a long sweep of the rod, which causes the lure to wiggle and dive. When you stop the lure stays suspended in the water. During the pause, bass will come up for a closer look and they will hit on the pause or at the beginning of the next sweep. 

This is a spring pattern that can work near the end of winter as the water is warming and the food chain is coming to life.

The water temp peaked at 49.5 degrees late in the day, never quite breaking the 50 mark. The most productive structure was a steeply sloping bank with the fish tight to the wall. Mike did pick up small spotted bass jigging chrome spoons over structure.

The Lower Yuba continues to produce fish although your skill level has much to do with success. These fish are not suicidal. At the end of last week the river came up to 2,300 cubic feet per second. Coincidental with the rising water on the river, I received reports of chrome bright salmon above the Highway 20 Bridge. The Feather River has had modest flows and more water has been going down the Yuba. My speculation on these salmon is that the good flows coming down the Yuba attracted them. More anecdotal evidence for my theory that if you add water, you will get fish.

Bob Bouke, Johnson’s Bait & Tackle, reports the striper fishing has picked up a notch on the Feather River this past weekend. The rains muddied up the river last week and as the river cleared, the fish started to bite. The main source of the mud in the Feather comes from Jack Slough. This drains the rice fields around the Woodruff  Lane shortcut to Oroville. It dumps into the Feather just above Yuba City.

The stripers are below Shanghai Bend. The bite is by no means “wide open” although locals are picking them up on pile worms and anchovies for the bait guys. Live minnows are always a good bet and some anglers have scored with lures that imitate a juvenile steelhead. The low water levels limit prop boats to the area above Boyd’s Pump. The stripers have yet to show up on the Sacramento. Bob Boucke says most years the first schools show up at Verona in mid March.

Bob fished Sunday afternoon until 9 p.m. on the Sacramento looking for a sturgeon.  His patience was rewarded at 8:55 with a 65-inch sturgeon. He had called a 9 p.m. end of the trip and the fish hit a pile worm with 5 minutes left in the day. The Tisdale launch ramp is still not functional as of last weekend, due to silt and debris on the ramp.

March 1 was the beginning of the new year for DF&G regulations. Sturgeon anglers should note that sturgeon fishing and sturgeon specific tackle are no longer allowed up stream of the Highway 162 Bridge on the Sacramento River. 

The purpose of this new rule is to protect spawning green sturgeon. The new regs are available on line at

If you want to learn more about striper and sturgeon fishing, there will be a Saturday seminar at Johnson’s on March 20. It starts with a pancake breakfast and includes a hamburger lunch. Topics will range from using flies to fishing bait for stripers. Sturgeon info will include a fish cleaning demonstration if a slot limit fish can be caught the day before. There is no charge for the event.

In the Oroville area a 9-pound trout was caught on a minnow imitating crank bait in the Diversion Pool above town. A 3- and a 5-pound steelhead were caught in the low flow last week. There has been almost no angler pressure on the river. 

Up on Lake Oroville, a few of the cohos have reached the 14-inch mark, although the majority are still between 12 and 13 inches. The larger holdover fish seem to be coming to bass anglers casting to the bank rather than trollers targeting these silver salmon. The current water temp is 48 degrees. 

When the water temp moves up into the 50s, I am looking for the food chain to come alive and the coho growth rate to increase.

Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union 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 e-mail at

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