Denis Peirce: Sure signs of spring
We have three more weeks before spring formally arrives but there are signs of the upcoming season if you look. It is still light after 6 p.m. and the sun is much higher in the sky. The most obvious for me is my almond tree started to bloom this week.
Water temps in our lakes are definitely on the rise. Clear Lake in the coast range is a case in point. Three weeks ago the water was 46 degrees, two weeks ago 48, last week you could find water as warm as 52. Clear Lake is a shallow lake that changes more rapidly than deep reservoirs. The bass bite has been tough through this time frame. You have been able to pick up a fish or two on crawdad imitating baits but you have had to work all day for a couple of fish. Add a few more degrees of water temp and this will change dramatically.
The Delta has seen a similar temperature rise from the high 40s into the low 50s. Recently the Delta below Rio Vista was 53 degrees, the flooded islands in the mid Delta were 55 and the north Delta, influenced by the Sacramento River was 51 degrees. The striper bite in the lower Delta has been getting better. Both trollers and minnow anglers have been doing well. In spring, there is not the dying weeds breaking off and clogging the water ways.
I mentioned in a recent article the steelhead plant on the Feather River below Yuba City. Some years the stripers are on scene and there is a great slaughter of the juvenile steelhead. That was not the case this year or last. The Feather River has been running chocolate milk brown. The cause is said to be the draining of rice fields up river. Good news if you are a six inch steelhead.
Another fish migration that comes on in March is adult steelhead on the Feather River. It is known as one of the best “swing fly” opportunities in the valley.
At Lake Oroville the water is also warming but not as quickly as Clear Lake. Tournament bass angler Ed Everhart, has been fishing Oroville with better results than his trips to Clear Lake. At Oroville the bass will hit reaction baits pulled through the water whereas clear Lake he had to fish baits very slowly along the bottom.
The Oroville bass can either be on crawdads or pond smelt for a food source. One of the indicators of a crawdad bite is red mouths and noses on the bass from flipping over rocks to get at the crawdads. Another clue comes from bass in a live well, burping up crawdad parts like claws or shell pieces.
Coming out of winter anglers should be looking for the warmest water they can find. Ed noted that the South Fork arm of the lake consistently has water one to three degrees warmer than the Middle Fork. In effect the south arm is a week or so ahead of the middle with respect to the upcoming bass spawn. For whatever reason, on Ed’s most recent trip all the bass action was up the river arms with no bass boats on the main body of the lake. His best fish of the day was a three pound spotted bass.
Currently the bass can be from the surface down to 40 feet. There is three to four feet of visibility which makes the bass less spooky. As the lake level has risen, the access has improved with the spillway launch ramp now open. There is a longer uphill hike here than at the Bidwell ramp.
Locally, Tom Moreno has seen the first good size bass cruising the shallows in his Penn Valley pond at the 1500′ elevation this week. Tom walks his dog around the pond daily. He noted that in the first two weeks of March he will see numbers of smaller bass in the shallows.
For the trout angler our local lakes are being planted this month. Last week Lake Englebright was planted for the second time this year. This week Rollins was on the schedule and next week both Fuller and Scott’s Flat are to be planted.
The best trout action for lake anglers is up at Lake Almanor. The water is still cold, down in the high 30s. The main food source is the pond smelt minnow. These bait fish are suspended out over deep water. Trolling for trout near the surface has been consistently good all winter. Early morning low light conditions has been the best bite but during overcast weather the bite can last all day.
March is the month when this changes. The smelt will move into the shallows for spawning and the trout will follow. The water temps will rise through the 40 degree range and the best trout angling of the year will be at hand.
I spoke with Tom Page, Reel Anglers Fly Shop, who has been guiding frequently on the Lower Yuba. The skwala stoneflies continue to get the fish looking up. This has been a good year for skwalas but not great. There are good hatches of mayflies. Tom has seen PMD’s, BWO’s and the first March browns. March is an excellent month on the Yuba. The Lower Yuba is the best dry fly river in the Sacramento Valley.
The weather this week has been beautiful, although I would prefer more precipitation. Spring is just ahead with some of the best fishing of the year.
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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