Feather is place to be
The Feather River has had the best striper bite in California for the last month.
On a typical year, the stripers arrive in the Feather in late February as the juvenile steelhead are migrating down river. By late March or April, the majority of these fish move back down to Verona and go up the Sacramento River to spawn. The traditional spawning grounds are above Colusa near the Chico Straits. This year the fish have not left the Feather and there is evidence that more are coming.
Yesterday, I checked in with Bob Boucke at Johnson’s Bait & Tackle in Yuba City. This year on the Feather is the best he can remember for stripers. The weather in February and March kept the anglers off the river. By early April, cabin fever put the fishermen on the water even in the rain. The bite has been good for those on the water. As the sun came out in late April, so did the anglers and the number of fish caught is continuing to climb.
The hot spot has been the mouth of the Yuba River. This past week, the temps on the Feather have moved up to the mid 50s. The Feather is clearer than the Yuba and the seam where the two rivers converge has been holding a lot of fish. Some anglers have been moving up the Yuba. They have done well but the rules change when you move from the Feather into the Yuba. The Yuba is a no-bait, barbless hook river. The warden has been out enforcing the no-bait provisions. Jigging with Gibbs Minnows and trolling have been working.
Anglers fishing below Shanghai Bend have been doing well all the way down to Verona. But the number of boats on the water have increased over last weeks numbers.
The best bait continues to be pile worms. During the past week, other techniques have gained popularity. The trolling bite has been getting better on the Feather. The most popular trolling lures are Rebels and Bombers with soft plastic “Twin Tails” added. White with red ends has been favored. The one caveat to adding soft plastic to hard bodied plugs is to make sure the tail is in line with the plug and does not make the lure run crooked. Live minnows and large rubber worms have also been effective.
The bonus to the striper fishing is the other fish species that are being taken. Mostly it is the pile worm anglers that have taken sturgeon and steelhead this past week. Anglers using anchovies and sardines are taking spring run salmon occasionally. Up at the Afterbay Hole near Oroville there were four salmon taken over the weekend by striper anglers fishing anchovies.
I have spoken to many guides and shop owners and no one has an explanation as to why the stripers are in the Feather and not on the Sacramento. Both rivers have high water and similar temps. Last weekend, the Pioneer Striper Derby was held based at Lovey’s Landing on the Sacramento. There were only 54 fish weighed in for a couple hundred entrants. This is a males-only derby with no female stripers allowed in the bag. This rule is to reduce the impact on the fishery and it contributed to the low derby fish count.
An interesting speculation I heard stated that “at $3.00+/gallon no one went far enough up river to get to the spawning area where most of the stripers would be. Everyone fished close to Lovey’s and the results were a comment on the river close to the launch not the river as a whole.” Regardless, the action is on the Feather so far this year, not on the Sacramento.
Another interesting twist has been the flows on the Feather and the Yuba. The water agencies have more water than storage and they seem to be alternating dumping water from the Feather then the Yuba. Currently, the Yuba is up and the Low Flow of the Feather has been brought back to its 600 cfs. Bullard’s Bar has come down a foot in the past 24 hours and Lake Oroville has risen over one foot in this time frame. I expect this to be reversed more than once as the snow pack melts off. An interesting report came in yesterday, on Sunday the steelhead fishing on the low Flow area of the Feather was excellent. The spring run is in and on the bite, when the flows are low enough to fish. Both wooly buggers and crawlers were well received by the fish.
Anglers with electronic fish finders have been graphing large schools of fish moving up the Feather. The assumption is that these are shad. The water is high and the shad tend to travel and not hold in these conditions. Look for shad to bunch up at the Afterbay Hole on the Feather and below Daguerra Dam on the Yuba in coming weeks.
Denis Peirce writes a weekly 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. He may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com
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