Lake Don Pedro
The 26th annual Lake Isabella Fishing Derby brought out campers and RVs for a weekend of fishing, and 10 cash prizes ranging from $5,000 to $500 were distributed. The crappie bite that was so hot two weeks ago has slowed considerably, but the best action remains around Piney Point or French Gulch with Crappie Nibbles or small to medium minnows. Most of the interest was for planted trout, and Jacob Rutledge of Bob’s Bait in Bakersfield said, “The participants caught plenty of fish, but the event is less popular than in past years, perhaps due to the extremely low lake levels.” High winds are expected during the middle of the week, and this will further slow the crappie action. Bass fishing remains minimal, but there are a few bass tournaments scheduled for the lake in April. Rutledge thought bass fishing would become more popular now that the trout derby is over. Catfishing remained fair with garlic shrimp, frozen shad, jumbo minnows, anchovies or sardines. With the low lake levels, it’s necessary to use a four-wheel drive vehicle to launch your vessel from the dirt ramp near Red’s Marina. There are no marinas or courtesy docks currently in the lake. The lake is at 8 percent of capacity. In the Kern River, trout fishing has been slow despite recent plants in the upper and lower sections of the river. A recent trout plant also occurred at Buena Vista. Crappie action is fair at night under lights while catfishing is best with Catnip Beef Bait. The local lakes are transitioning to warm water species such as bluegill and largemouth bass. Call: Bob’s Bait, (661) 833-8657; North Fork Marina, (760) 376-1812.
Trout plants have been occurring every six weeks, and a big plant is anticipated before the April 11-12 Merced Irrigation Trout Derby. There are still spots available. The McSwain Marina reported the best trout action has been coming from trollers working at depths from 25 to 30 feet with hootchies behind a flasher in the 60-degree water. Trout action from the bank has been slow. The lake is stained due to inflow of warm and off-color water from Lake McClure. Registration for the trout derby is available at http://www.lakemcclure.com/index.cfm/events/spring-trout-fishing-derby. Call: McSwain Marina, (209) 378-2534.
New Melones Reservoir/Tulloch
The Glory Hole Point launch ramp is open with a two-lane concrete ramp, but a long walk is necessary to reach the parking area. John Lietchy of Glory Hole Sporting Goods in Angels Camp reported fair trout fishing with the best action over the deepest portions of the main lake. He said, “As the surface temperature continues to warm, the trout will head for deeper water. Trollers are finding the best action with spoons such as Speedy Shiners, Excels or Needlefish in color patterns matching the water clarity.” Gary Burns of Take it to the Limit Guide Service said, “This week with the weather getting warmer and the water getting warmer, things are about to change. The bigger ’bows have been in the trees hunting for the shad, and who knows what the kokanee have been doing, but with the warmer conditions, the plankton will start to bloom and we will start putting kokanee in the boat. With the low water conditions, it will be hard to know what the kokanee season will be like. The trout are leaving the trees and starting to go deeper where the water is cooler. This week, we have been getting the ’bows down to 25 feet in depth, and with the warm weather, we will start fishing the dam, spillway and the main lake.” Bank fishing has slowed, as the trout have pulled off the shorelines. Kokanee should be showing up soon, and a few local guides are picking up kokanee at depths from 40 to 60 feet with small hootchies behind a small blade. Bass fishing provides the highlight at the lake, leading Lietchy to state, “The spring bass bite has been exceptionally good, as we have seen a bunch of huge fish and some impressive limits. The fish are starting to spawn, and it is very important to practice catch and release.” Senkos, Brush Hogs, lizards and plastics such as Robo Worms are working near the shoreline, as the fish have moved into the shallows. The swimbait bite has slowed down, but anglers can still pick up a larger fish on a swimbait. Catfishing has been fair, but the crappie is good in the abundant submerged trees with minijigs or live minnows. New Melones dropped 5 feet to 869.63 feet in elevation and 22 percent of capacity. At Lake Tulloch, plans have been announced to drain the lake in September to meet agricultural and environmental obligations, but it appears the lake will be open for the summer months. This didn’t stop Danny Layne of Fish’n Dan’s from finding quality rainbow and brown trout to 3.5 pounds on a recent trip trolling the open water near the dam and in the Green Springs Arm with scented grubs, Uncle Larry’s spinners, watermelon Apex lures and 6-inch plastic worms at depths from the surface to 15 feet. Call: Glory Hole Sports, (209) 736-4333; Monte Smith, (209) 581-4734; Danny Layne-Fish’n Dan, (209) 586-2383; Sierra Sport Fishing, (209) 599-2023.
San Luis Reservoir/O’Neill Forebay
San Luis Reservoir is starting to release water after several weeks of heavy pumping out of the Delta, and it is currently at 67 percent of capacity despite several thousand acre-feet of water rushing out of the lake. Striped bass in the 5- to 10-pound range have been taken on ripbaits, lipless crankbaits and white flukes cast from a boat while trollers are working deep water from 60 to 80 feet near the Trash Racks or the dam with 6-inch white swimbaits or ripbaits such as Lucky Craft Pointers 100’s or 128’s in chartreuse shad or Aurora Black. Roger George of Roger’s Guide Service said the overall bite last Thursday through Saturday was tough for most anglers, according to the lake Rangers. “The scattered fish are hard to find, and the average count was from zero to two fish from all the boats I talked to struggling in the heat. We got 10 fish Friday, fishing with Dr. Clyde Curry of Fresno, then on Saturday, the morning bite faded early, but I finally found some active fish after lunch and we released over 20, with three from 24 to 26 inches. It’s been an early bite that turns off quickly, with fish spread from 40 to 90 feet on YoZuris and Pointers,” George said. Shore fishing is fair with jumbo minnows, frozen shad, blood worms or pile worms near the Romero Visitor Center, Goosehead Point or Dinosaur Point. The lake is already releasing water, although pumping from the Delta continues to be high. The launch ramp is open with boaters scoring school-sized striped bass with ripbaits, lipless crankbaits and swimbaits in chrome or shad pattern. Trollers are pulling Lucky Craft Pointer 100’s or 128’s in chartreuse shad or ghost minnow. Shore fishermen are scoring near Check 12 and underneath the Highway 152 Bridge with frozen shad, pile worms or blood worms. Heavy pumping through the reservoir continued throughout the week, and the stripers become active when the water is moving. Call: Coyote Bait and Tackle, (408) 463-0711.
San Francisco Bay
There have been few boats outside the Golden Gate since the close of the coastal rockfish season Dec. 31, but that will change, weather permitting, Saturday with the opening of ocean salmon season along the coast. The ocean waters have been unusually warm for several months, but the northwest wind which has been absent for days on end have finally arrived in advance of the opener. Mike Aughney of USAFishing.com said, “The northwest wind has risen to 13 knots, bringing down the water temperatures to 53.5 degrees at the San Francisco Buoy, dropping the temperature 3 degrees within the past week. The high winds will create upwelling, bringing nutrient-rich water to the surface, creating conditions for plankton and krill.” The weather is expected to blow throughout the week, and it’s possible salmon boats will be tied to the harbor on opening day. If the weather permits, the Bay Area salmon fleet will spread out from the Farallon Islands to the Deep Reef along the 50 Fathom Curve. Captain Jerad Davis on the Salty Lady out of Sausalito has been running whale watching trips out of Half Moon Bay, and he reported heavy concentrations of anchovies from Mussel Rock north to the San Francisco Pilot Station in 20 to 30 fathoms a few weeks back. The coming wind should spread out the bait fish, perhaps even bringing them inside the bay. There is plenty of room on party boats for the opener with the Salty Lady, the New Huck Finn, New Seeker, New Salmon Queen, C Gull II and Tigerfish out of Emeryville Sport Fishing, and several party boats running out of Berkeley Marina. The draw of halibut and the anticipation of live bait season in a few weeks have drawn six-pack and party boats out of the Delta toward the bay ports of Berkeley, Emeryville and Richmond. Combined with outstanding striped bass action throughout the winter months, Northern California anglers have several upcoming options with halibut and stripers in the bay, ocean salmon and the earlier-than-normal rockfish season on the near horizon. Captain Jim Smith of the Happy Hooker out of Berkeley has been posting impressive scores of striped bass and halibut drifting live shiners – from Loch Lomond Bait and Tackle in San Rafael – in San Pablo Bay with 23 limits of striped bass to 15 pounds along with six halibut to 17 pounds, with a number of striped bass in the 8- to 12-pound range near the Pinole Pier. He said, “We had five to six bass on every time we see the fish on the meter. We would have a lull and then hit another spot holding fish with several more hookups.”
Stripers have been the focus in the Rio Vista area, and Captain Jay Lopes of Right Hook Sport Fishing has been trolling above and below the Rio Vista Bridge, finding success for early limits of linesides in the school-sized range. He said, “There are fish everywhere, but most of them are males in the 16- to 22-inch range, and you have to go through a number of undersized fish to put together limits. These fish are hitting and fighting hard, and we have been running shallow-diving Yozuris exclusively. The Department of Fish and Wildlife started releasing salmon smolts at Sandy Beach Park south of Rio Vista on Thursday, and the stained water will help the smolts escape toward the bay. Sea lions have moved in, but the birds have been basically absent from predating on the baby salmon. Four-hundred-thousand salmon smolts were released for four consecutive days, and striper trollers and plug casters moved into the area in droves. Trollers along the West Bank are finding action in deeper water from 15 to 20 feet along the outside edge of the bank, as opposed to the tradition troll in 6 to 8 feet of water on the inside track. In the San Joaquin River, the topwater bite has been solid for experienced fishermen, while the largemouth bass bite has also accelerated with the warming and clearing waters of the river and back sloughs. Most of the stripers on the San Joaquin are in the 3- to 10-pound range.” For largemouth bass, Call: Randy Pringle, (209) 543-6260; Captain Stan Koenigsberger – Quetzal Adventures, (925) 570-5303; Intimidator Sport Fishing, (916) 806-3030.