Stripers spike in spring
The storm track of the last few weeks has moved to the north and we are on the verge of the best spring fishing of the year.
Early in March we had, what I would call, a “false spring.” Water temperatures in some lakes had risen into the 60-degree range, down at Spenceville Wildlife Area the hen turkeys nested up three weeks early and the cherry tree in my yard bloomed 15 days ahead of schedule.
Then we returned to a winter pattern, which apparently has ended.
The striper run has burst into full stride from the delta up to Colusa. The final wave of moisture that came through late last week dropped enough rain in the upper Sacramento Valley and the surrounding foothills to raise the river level more than 3 feet.
It is these flushes of water that move schools of stripers up river. Combine this with the rising water temps, the fact that it is mid-April and you have the recipe for the best river striper fishing of the year.
The No. 1 bait of choice is live minnows drifted near the bottom. This is a high-maintenance style of fishing, finding and then keeping minnows alive. The second choice is cut bait (sardines or anchovies) or pile worms. Lures will work better with warmer water.
Trolling is effective if there is not too much boat traffic on the river. Too many boats trolling within the confines of a river puts the fish off the bite and makes for frayed nerves with some anglers. As traffic increases, drifting with the current, down various runs, allows more boats to fish an area. This works well with minnows but it also is conducive to throwing plastic worms.
In April of each year, there are large black leeches that are active in the Sacramento. Once the stripers “get on to these,” dark rubber worms are effective. Most anglers will “Texas rig” black or black with red flake, 7-inch long worms. The most common technique is to drift along rip rap banks and cast toward shore. Low light conditions early and late in the day or overcast skies are the best times to do this.
The Sacramento River is not the only area for good striper fishing. There have been juvenile salmon and steelhead washed down the Mokelumne River to the hungry stripers waiting on the edge of the delta. The hot area has been where the north and south forks of the Mokelumne split. Anglers had been reporting high numbers taken per day. As these juvenile fish move downstream so will the stripers.
Save a salmon – catch a striper!
Brad Klein-Schmidt from Penn Valley fished the Feather River during the weekend and reported no striper action. The Feather River has had the flows cut back to 1,000 cubic feet per second. A likely scenario is that the bulk of the stripers have moved over to the Sac.
Up in the high country, a lot of snow has fallen. But the number of daylight hours has kept temps moderate. Davis Lake, above Portola, was 50 percent open water last Friday. I expect to hear that all of the ice has gone this week. The east side road has been plowed to Lightning Tree turn off. None of the lateral roads to the lake have been plowed. I had reports of locals walking to the lake shore over the snow and catching large trout with night crawlers.
Over in Nevada, I received reports from multiple sources that the fishing was horrible during the stormy period at Pyramid Lake.
An anglers truism states that “the worse the weather, the better the fishing at Pyramid.” This did not prove out during the last couple weeks.
Jim Drew, a teacher at Nevada Union High School, spent one day of spring break at Pyramid. The waves and white caps were the worst he had experienced. He spent most of his time keeping his boat on track, rather than fishing. Calm weather will turn things around.
April is the prime month for cutthroat trout at Pyramid.
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 at firstname.lastname@example.org via e-mail.
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