Denis Peirce: Spring fishing in the Sierra |

Denis Peirce: Spring fishing in the Sierra

Denis Peirce

The calendar says spring but the thermometer says summer. Water temps are rising but we can still find cooler water by going up into the Sierra.

Colin and I went up to Lake Almanor last weekend. The boat launch at the dam is open with quite a few empty trailers in the parking lot. Saturday was windy with a front passing through to the north. There was a sprinkle overnight but Sunday dawned clear and calm.

There is a progression to Sierra lake food chains. In the dead of winter with water in the high 30s and low 40s the insects and plankton are dormant, leaving minnows as the most available food source for trout. As the water warms, the food chain comes alive and the fish begin heavily feeding. Currently the water temp over the course of the day ranges from 56 to 59 degrees on the surface.

Almanor gets rough when the wind is up. By midday on Saturday the white caps were on the lake as the wind increased. A pilot once told me that white caps appear once the wind hits 11 to 12 mph. This lake is large and the waves have a chance to build height as they are pushed for a mile or more across the surface. We got off the lake early not wanting to fight the wind and waves.

Sunday was a different story with glassy conditions to start the day. In the spring Almanor is known for its midge hatches. On this lake these insects are large, size #14 or bigger, mostly in shades of olive but with quite a few “blood midges” in a rusty brown color. When we fished within 100 yards of shore these insects could be seen coming off the water in every direction over acres and acres of lake surface. It can be a frustrating situation with individual bugs hatching yards apart with fish rising at random separated by 100 feet or more. The fish are everywhere but nowhere. We were trolling flies to cover water but our minnow imitations were not on the trout’s current menu. It was not until we left the shore line and moved out over deeper water that we were able to find trout willing to chase minnow patterns. It also helped that a slight breeze put a ripple on the surface. The broken surface gives the trout cover from the eagles and osprey.

As an aside the Almanor Fishing Association opens their fish raising pens once the prolific midge hatch begins on the lake. This provides an easy-to-find food source for fish used to room service in their pens. It also explains all of the trout eating midges around the Hamilton Branch area.

There are lakes throughout the Sierra with similar conditions. Lake Davis fished very well last weekend for Buck Smith from Nevada. He posted photos of an impressive trout catch trolling hootchies behind spinners. Stampede Reservoir near Truckee has the boat launch in operation. The word is the kokanee are at the surface feeding. Good numbers are being caught, but they will put on more length and weight as the season progresses.

Closer to home Collins Lake reopened on Monday. They have their camp grounds available as well as boat and shore fishing.

Justin Leonard fished it twice this week. He found most of the bass are post spawn and moved out from the bank a bit. The water temp is 69 to 71 degrees. The trout pens were released weeks ago. The trout are from the top down to 35 feet, with down riggers being an effective tool for trolling.

Rumor has it that Scott’s Flat and Rollins will reopen the boat ramps in a week or so.

Bullard’s Bar has been open for launching all along. Recently the bathrooms have been opened, which is a nice convenience.

As of Wednesday the Englebright launch ramps were still gated off.

The striper bite in the valley is well passed its peak. There are a few fish on the Sacramento River but nothing like it was at the peak two weeks ago.

Finally I think the politicians and bureaucrats are beginning to get the message that sunshine and fresh air are healthy. This is the prime time to be on the water. I hope to see you out there.

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

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