More coho in Oroville?
Last week, I spoke with Dennis Lee, senior fisheries biologist for the Department of Fish & Game. I was inquiring about further silver salmon plants in Lake Oroville. There have been none for the past two seasons due to a lack of disease-free eggs from commercial salmon growers in Washington state.
California had placed an egg order for this year. When tested, the eggs had problems and could not be imported. The Feather River drainage above Oroville is plagued with a naturally occurring disease that affects trout species.
The warm water bass, catfish and sunfish are not affected. Rainbow trout in the lake environment are particularly susceptible to this problem. Trout species have not been stocked in Oroville for years because of concerns that an infected population in the lake may affect the steelhead in the hatchery below.
In order to take advantage of the cold water habitat in Oroville and its abundant baitfish populations, the DF&G have tested various salmon and trout species trying to fill this niche. Coho (silver salmon) proved immune from this disease. Silver salmon planted a few years back flourished. They provided good sport and fast growth rates. The silvers are a threatened species in California and at this time we do not have enough of our own eggs to stock Oroville. Lee said that the DF&G is committed to maintaining this coho fishery into the future. Currently, the DF&G is looking at a number of alternatives for getting future stocks of coho eggs for Lake Oroville.
The holdover stock of silver salmon in Oroville is nearing the end of its life cycle. The numbers of fish have been declining with fishing pressure but the size of the individual fish has been rising. Throughout this winter, it has been hard to locate the salmon schools, but recently the fishing for them has been good near the face of the dam.
A condition that can affect fishing in Lake Oroville is the generating of hydroelectric power. From the information I am able to gather, a disparity exists in wholesale electric rates between peak and off-peak hours at certain times of the year. It is economically feasible to generate power by releasing water from Oroville during peak demand times and store the water in the forebay and afterbay system below the dam. During off-peak hours, the water stored below is pumped back up to the lake using cheaper electricity.
This is a common practice in Arizona as a way to store power for peak usage times. The point of this is that nutrient enhanced water is being pumped back into the lake near the dam. This attracts both bait fish and predators to the dam. This is why at certain times of the year the salmon fishing along the buoy line is excellent and other times there are no fish. I have yet to find out how to find this information on the Web.
The Feather River in and below Oroville has a fresh run of steelhead. Normally this month of the year is associated with spawning steelhead and post spawn “down streamers.” These are chrome bright fish that might be a spring run rather than a winter spawning fish. They have been seen rising to insects occasionally, but the most effective technique has been using bait. Night crawlers are doing better than roe. The water is a cold 46 degrees and you need to hit these fish right on the nose, they will not swim far to grab something to eat.
Sturgeon fishing is also showing signs of spring. Sturgeon are beginning to stir in Suisun Bay, south of Fairfield and east of Hwy 680. Water temps were down to the low 40s in late January. The temps are now on the verge of hitting 50 degrees. Prior to these most recent storms the temp was rising 1 degree per day in good weather. Sturgeon fishing picks up as the water moves into the low 50s. The bite is at it’s best between 54 and 58 degrees. Warm storms from the south will keep water temps stable. Warm sunny days will raise temps rapidly. Get your sturgeon gear ready.
Closer to home the sturgeon have been active in the Sacramento River from Knight’s Landing on up as far as Woodson Bridge.
Collins Lake received two plants of trout last week. One of these was the trophy sized rainbows that Collins is known for. Look for good trolling near the surface for the next couple months.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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