Denis Peirce: Shad run ramping up on Lower Yuba River
Although Memorial Day weekend has arrived according to the calendar, the weather feels more like April.
That the snow-fed rivers are high is not unusual for Memorial Day, it is the amount of snow still in the high country that is impressive.
The recent storms are increasing the snowpack rather than warm weather melting it down. If you wanted to fish flowing water for trout your best bets will be low-elevation creeks that are not fed by the snowpack. There are a few of them running through our local area, most of which flow under Highway 49.
What is traditional for the holiday weekend in May is the tail end of the river striper bite and the shad run ramping up. Both of these fisheries are on schedule. The shad have been in the Lower Yuba for weeks but only recently have the numbers increased substantially. The problem is access and high water. Shore fishing is tough even if you can find access that is not trespassing. The high water is up into the stream side bushes in many locations. The best results have come to boaters who have come up from the Feather River. The other challenge is to get your tackle down through the high, fast water to the fish. A boat allows you to choose which side of the river to fish and to pick the most fishable runs. A guide who has a good boat and knows the Yuba would be my recommendation.
The stripers are still around in good numbers. The best local reports have been coming from the deeper holes in the Yuba, just above its junction with the Feather. Be aware that there are very different regulations regarding bait and barbed hooks between the Feather and Yuba Rivers. Another option for both shad or stripers would be to launch at Boyd’s Pump ramp and head upstream to the base of the Shanghai Rapids. This stretch traditionally fishes well for both species at this time of year.
Another event that comes on each year at this time is the carpenter ant hatch. These insects came out a week ago at the 4,000 feet elevation along the North Yuba. Trout are suckers for an ant imitating fly, especially this time of year when they come out of hibernation in good numbers. The winds associated with recent storms will put ants onto the surface of lakes.
Foothill bass fishing is one of the best bets for anglers in the spring. Tom and Andi Moreno have a pond at the 1,500 feet elevation. The fishing has been up and down with the weather. Warm and sunny weather brings on the bite while over cast and breezy slows things down. During the most recent warm stretch Tom mentioned fishing small trout sized spinners produced a lot of small bass. Switching over to large soft plastic baits, such as “Senkos” produced fewer but much larger fish. In the past two weeks the damsel flies have hatched and are flying around the pond. They are the bright blue miniature dragon flies.
My most recent report from Scotts Flat Lake, five miles up Highway 20 from Nevada City, rated the fishing as tough. In cold, rainy weather with dark skies, the bass bite has been slow. In previous sunny, warm weather, the bite was very good. The fact that the bass were skinny, in a post spawn condition, may be a contributing factor.
Local angler Ed Everhart found the surface temp on Scotts Flat at 60 degrees with the incoming flows from Deer Creek a chilly 47 degrees. He was on the water at first light with two fish coming from flooded bushes early in the day on a top water plug. He did have sporadic success throughout the day on white spinner baits, top water plugs and crank baits in hot colors. The most noticeable pattern was that when fishing crank bait plugs, he would cast the lure, let it pause for a moment and the bass would react in the first couple of cranks of the reel handle. The rest of the long retrieve produced few fish.
Ed also said he caught fish in multiple locations around the lake, even close to the cold incoming water near Deer Creek. The 3 to 4 foot depths were the most productive and all of the bass caught were smallmouth. He expects a better bite once we break out of this wet cold weather pattern.
Ed Fisk (Fish Tales Guide Service) recently returned from a multi-day guiding trip to Lake Davis and Stampede Reservoir. The weather was not balmy in the high country above the 5,000 feet. He frequently encountered rain and spitting snow. Ed did well trolling for trout at Lake Davis with good numbers of fish in the 20 inch range. The best results came from trolling small spoons and streamer flies in the 1.5 inch length. Copper and orange are the perennial productive colors at Davis. Ed fished the top 15 inches of the water for most of his client’s trout.
At Stampede Reservoir near Truckee, the target fish were kokanee. The fish were biting but scattered. Ed had to cover a lot of water but limits for his anglers were the rule. He is looking forward to a good season on Stampede.
The Department of Fish & Wildlife has a study going on at Stampede. The size of kokanee is a function of the number of the fish and the amount of food available. The DF&W plants these lakes but there is a natural spawn in the tributary streams. The natural spawn is a wild card that is difficult to quantify. For the last couple of seasons the planted fish have had their adipose fin clipped off, that small nub on the back between the dorsal and the tail. In cooperation with the guide community the department is collecting data on the percentage of planted fish versus naturally spawned fish. This data will allow the department to get an idea of how to adjust planting numbers to get an optimal balance between size and quantity of fish. Clipping fins on thousands of fish is an expensive undertaking but it may take some of the guess work out of planting decisions.
Another popular lake fishing area for local anglers is the Lakes Basin above Bassett’s Station on the North Yuba drainage. The road over the hill to Graeagle still has 6 feet or more of snow at the top. The only lake that is accessible and ice free is Sardine.
The weather will not be optimal for fishing this weekend but compared to what I expect in August, we can get outside and enjoy temperatures in the 60s.
Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section 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 his website at http://www.trollingflies.com.
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