Folsom Lake the exception |

Folsom Lake the exception

When I am deciding on a location to go fishing, a general rule of thumb I follow is to head away from population centers rather than drive toward them. When it comes to bass fishing in reservoirs, Folsom Lake is a good candidate to be an exception.

Last weekend, some local anglers spent a day bassing on Folsom. Ed Everhart fished with R.J. Bennett and Jeff Boundy fished with his dad, Bill, in another boat. R.J. is a young man from Grass Valley who has gone from a youngster fishing local bass ponds to a professional angler on a nationwide bass fishing circuit. He recently moved to Roseville and has been fishing frequently on Folsom Lake.

In a phone conversation yesterday, R.J. commented that ” five years ago, a winning limit of fish for a bass tournament at Folsom would have been eight or nine pounds. To win a Folsom tournament today, you need at least 16 pounds for a five-fish limit. Twenty-pound limits are not unheard of and a 30-pound limit is achievable under ideal circumstances.”

The dry years in the 1990s kept lake levels low for many years and the bass populations did not thrive. Since the turn of the century, Folsom water levels have been consistently much higher and the entire food chain has bounced back. There are two bait fish in the lake that are the main forage for predators, shad and pond smelt. R.J. fishes bait fish imitations of these minnows 75 percent of the time. The other 25 percent of his fishing time is spent using crawdad imitations.

This weekend was typical of the recent winter pattern on Folsom. Under overcast skies the bass react to crankbaits worked from the bank back out toward deeper water early in the day. Ed and R.J. combined, took four spotted bass from 2 to 3.5 pounds by 7 a.m., but after that, the bite died for them. The water is 48 degrees, stained with two feet of visibility.

Jeff and Bill Boundy were pre-fishing for a tournament. Jeff caught the best fish of the day, a 9.20-pound largemouth. His fish was taken mid-morning in 25 feet of water, dart heading a “Mean Green” plastic worm in a creek channel.

R.J. says that as the water warms this spring he would be fishing rip baits in the early morning and switch to small plastic worms by mid-morning. Folsom bass respond better to smaller three to four inch plastics than bass at other lakes in the north state. During the heat of summer drop-shotting as deep as 40 feet would be his most used technique. And in the fall, spinner baits would be the most productive.

Folsom trout and landlocked salmon have also benefited from the increased water volume in the lake. Currently these cold water fish are high in the water column and are being caught trolling minnow imitations. For many anglers Folsom is the closest option for large lake fishing. As a fishery it ranks very high when considering the entire north end of the state.

The sturgeon fishing season has arrived in the Sacramento and Feather rivers. There were a few sturgeon caught this last weekend in the Colusa area. Sturgeon have been sighted rolling in the Afterbay Hole near Oroville. I have yet to hear of any taken on the Feather although there have been a few anglers putting in their time soaking ghost shrimp from the bank. I did hear that a 20-pound bright salmon was taken on a sturgeon rig on Sunday morning.

There is a serious problem with sturgeon numbers in the Bay Delta system. The problem is so serious that on Thursday, the Fish & Game Commission will consider changing the limit and sizes for sturgeon. I expect that new rules will be in place by March. For times and locations look under Fish and Game Commission at

Note: Your steelhead cards need to be returned to the DF&G today.

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. He may be reached via e-mail at

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