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Denis Peirce: Get on the water for peak fishing

For all of you who did not waste your sick days on the swine flu last winter, now is the time to invest them on quality fishing experiences. 

Just the number of boats you see on Highways 49 and 20 will give you an idea where we are on the fishing calendar. Last week’s warm days moved the water temps up into the lower end of the prime range.

As a general rule, the food chain comes out of dormancy near the 45-degree mark. All the aquatic creatures get the message that summer is on the way. Once the temps break through the 50-degree mark, we are into primetime that will last until we get to 60 degrees.  Beyond 60, things are still good but those 10 degrees between 50 and 60 are the peak.



I fished last Thursday with Mike Pumphery on Scott’s Flat Lake. We were on the water by 3 p.m. and fished until dark. Thursday was the heavy wind day, as a front was moving down the east side of the Sierra. A pilot friend of mine told me that white caps form on lakes at 11 mph. For most of the afternoon, there were a few white caps visible down the center of the lake. 

We started out crossing to the south shore to fish over the submerged rock piles and to try to find some places where boat control was not too much of a problem. 




The water temps ranged from 48 to 50 degrees, which was just a bit on the chilly side for bass. Mike landed the two best bass of the day. They were both plump smallmouth with good-sized bellies leading to the speculation that they were both pre-spawn females. 

The largest fish measured 16.5 inches and the second was a bit over 15. Each of them was hooked near the bottom in water 10 to 15 feet deep. Both of them fell for a 3-inch soft plastic “Power Minnow” that was a close imitation of the pond smelt in the lake. Mike fishes these on a lightweight jig head to get a slow fall.  One fish came from the south shore and one from the north shore.

We ended the day fishing for trout. Word at the lake office was that there have been two plants so far this season with more to follow. We caught our trout from the north shore launch ramp over to the dam. There was a little bit of surface activity. Our fish were mostly caught near the top of the water column. 

Scott’s Flat is full.

On Friday, I got word that the silver salmon bite was quite good at Lake Oroville. Even though my lawn (weed field) was growing by the day I did not let myself get distracted by pride of ownership and planned a trip to Oroville. 

A common thread to the reports I have been getting has been that on sunny days the trout and salmon have been moving down to the 25-foot depth when the sun is high in the sky.  In lower light conditions they will be up near the surface. 

This has been the case at Collins, Oroville as well as Shasta and New Melones.  Sunday was predicted to be cloudy with occasional sprinkles north of I-80.

We arrived at Bidwell launch ramp Lake Oroville by 7:30 a.m. to see a full parking lot. Upon closer inspection all of the trailers were for bass boats and we figured out there was a bass tournament headquartered here. 

We launched and headed right through the moored house boat fleet and hooked up our first coho of the day before we cleared the mooring area. We were long-line trolling with flies in the top 10 feet of the water column. The coho were not very selective and I believe they anything that has good movement can work.

The overcast skies opened up with a little rain by mid morning. We got out of the rain by tying up to an unused covered dock, stored mid-lake on the Bidwell arm and tried to find fish under the docks. We were not successful and moved on after the rain stopped.

We tried fishing beyond the green bridge into the south fork arm and did not do well. By mid afternoon, we were back in the Bidwell arm and again into the cohos. This time we found another concentration of fish, west of the house boats about 25 yards off shore. 

The typical coho is measuring about 13 to 14 inches. They are more than a pound and a good eating size for one person. The ones we kept had orange flesh and a good girth to them. Over the course of the day, we had water temps of 50 to 53 degrees. A stretch of warm sunny days could raise this rapidly.

The bass tournament had 95 boats entered. The speed and courtesy with which they took their boats out was a pleasure to see. The bass anglers I spoke to did well. Fifty fish for two anglers was not uncommon. Shaking 4-inch dart head worms from the bank down to 10 feet was a productive technique.

It is my opinion that watching the weather forecast for overcast days in the next month or so will be a good way to predict when you might be too sick to make it in to work.

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 dpeirce@theunion.com.


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