Modesto-area fish report for Jan. 20

Lake Don Pedro,

Bass fishing continues to be the top draw, but the action remains tough with only 14 of the 24 teams fishing the Sonora Bass Club tournament weighing in limits, with the winning five fish at 12.98 pounds. The lake rose 3 feet to 691.15 in elevation and 37 percent capacity. Trout trolling in the main lake remained slow. Call: Monte Smith (209) 581-4734; Danny Layne-Fish’n Dan (209) 586-2383; Gary Vella (209) 652-7550; Bait Barn (209) 874-3011

McClure Reservoir

The lake rose 4 feet to 618.06 feet in elevation and 10% of capacity, and the launch ramp at Barrett Cove North is finally opened. Merritt Gilbert of Valley Rod and Gun in Clovis said, “The water is stained the color of the red clay banks from the recent inflow, and a pair of Fresno bass fishermen who were anticipating success, found a tough bite in the stained water on a recent trip. Launching a boat wasn’t a problem, but the bite was very tough.” Barrett Cove South Ramp, as well as Lake McClure ramps at Bagby, Horseshoe Bend, and McClure Point remain closed until further notice - there is no access for boats into or out of Lake McClure at these locations. Call: A-1 Bait (209) 563-6505

McSwain Reservoir

The Department of Fish and Wildlife planted the lake for the first time in several months with a heavy plant of 2000 pounds last Monday. The McSwain Marina reported that several boats have been launching into the lake and the shoreline is lined with bank fishermen in response to the news of the plant. The action has been slow as the main lake is stained from the inflow. The lake level is 8 feet down, due to maintenance work on the dam, but the lake should be back to normal soon. Call: McSwain Marina (209) 378-2534

New Melones Reservoir/Tulloch

At New Melones, despite recent plants from both sides of the lake, trout fishing remains very slow for trollers and bank anglers. Bass fishing is still the top draw, but the action is limited to a slow presentation with a wintertime mode. The lake continues to rise, coming up 4 feet to 820.31 in elevation and 14 percent capacity. John Liechty, of Glory Hole Sporting Goods in Angels Camp, said, “New Melones continues to offer some of the best bass fishing in the Mother Lode as the lake has a great population of healthy 2-pound spotted bass, and it is not uncommon to catch 3- to 4-pound spots. Spotted bass will feed three times more often than a largemouth bass, which make them a good species to target during the colder months.” The spots are found at depths from 15-65 feet with jigs on a three-eighths to three-quarters-ounce football head on a slow presentation. Plastics on the drop-shot are another option, and anglers need to focus on their electronics in order to find a concentration of fish. Vertical jigging with spoons is a solid option if you are able to locate an abundance of shad. Glory Hole Sporting Goods recommends practicing catch and release, and when a fish is hooked in deep water, it is best to bring them in on a slow retrieve as if they are brought in too fast, they will not be able to adjust to the pressure, resulting in an expanded air bladder. Lietchy said, “During the winter months, be sure to bring a fizzing needle to deflate their bladder for a safe release.” The lake is rising rapidly, and brush, twigs, and debris is floating off of the banks into the main lake. The upper lake in the river arm has the greatest concentration of debris. Catfishing has slowed as a result of the cold water, but there are always some huge whiskerfish taken in winter by anglers targeting rainbows with dough bait or a nightcrawler/marshmallow combination loaded with scent. The lake has turned over, but there are minimal signs of trout, as has been the case with most Mother Lode lakes. Downstream Tulloch is a good option for trout fishermen with the lake at 83 percent capacity and 500.05 feet in elevation. 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


Sturgeon are the story in the Sacramento side of the Delta with diamondbacks found from Freeport to the Carquinez Bridge. The upcoming series of minus tides are expected to bring out a bigger bite during the current week. There are three big sturgeon derbies planned within the next two months. Captain Steve Talmadge of Flash Sport Fishing out of Martinez is the organizer for the 10th annual Diamond Classic Catch and Release Sturgeon Derby on January 30 out of Martinez Marina, with a pre-derby seminar at La Tapatia Restaurant on Main Street in Martinez from 6-9 p.m. Jan. 29. Talmadge is planning for 150 youth participants and is working with sponsors to provide a prize for every child registered, including rod/reel combinations from Shakespeare. Registration is free for children and $25 for adults, with 100 percent payback in cash prizes from first through seventh place. Information is available at, with official registration locations at Martinez Bait and Tackle and Castro Valley Sportsmen Center. In the upper Delta, Alan Fong of Fisherman’s Warehouse in Sacramento reported solid sturgeon action from Clarksburg to Hood with lamprey eel. Johnny Tran of New Romeo’s Bait in Freeport said, “The Sacramento River is running high and muddy, but bank anglers are finding good sturgeon action from the shorelines at the Clarksburg boat launch, Hood, and in Freeport with eel/nightcrawler combinations, pile worms, or cured ghost shrimp.” Dan Mathisen of Dan’s Delta Outdoors in Oakley reported fair sturgeon action, with very little pressure from fishermen on the river this week. He touted the upcoming series of tides and current weather conditions, stating, “Great tides combined with showery days ahead are setting up for the best winter bite we have had in years.” Captain Steve Mitchell of Hook’d Up Sport Fishing, currently out of Pittsburg Marina, confirmed the slower action in upper Suisun Bay “We are marking fish, but they have been reluctant to bite.” Pam Hayes of Benicia Bait reported sturgeon have been the top draw, as stripers have been on the small side and the flounder have yet to show up. Mathisen said, “Where we were catching and releasing 50-60 stripers on 5-inch Bubba Shad swimbaits a few months ago, we are limited to a fish per hour at the present time.” Live ghost shrimp has been difficult to obtain, and grass shrimp is nearly impossible to obtain. Reserving bait well in advance of upcoming derbies is essential in order to allow local bait shops to prepare. The San Joaquin River side of the Delta is receiving far less pressure than the Sacramento side, and the recent stormy weather has limited the number of fishermen trying at the present time. Water hyacinth is sinking to the bottom, but the relatively warm weather will create conditions for the vegetation to rebound during the spring. Federal wildlife officials required a reduction in the amount of water pumped out of the south Delta for the first mandatory cuts in two years in response to protection for the endangered Delta smelt. Most striped bass and largemouth fishermen are heading into the south Delta in search of clear water in order to entice striped and largemouth bass. Dan Mathisen of Dan’s Delta Outdoors said, “Discovery Bay remains the best location for striped bass, big bluegill, and crappie, but a slow presentation is necessary in the cold water. Largemouth bass also require a slow presentation with Sweet Beavers or jigs in black/blue with the fish targeting crayfish.” Randy Pringle, the Fishing Instructor, said, “The water is very muddy in both the San Joaquin and the Sacramento Rivers, and an absolute dead-stick presentation is necessary in order to entice a strike. You have to fish so slow that the hooks rust, and when you can’t stand it any longer, only move the bait 3-4 inches at a time as the fish are very picky and aren’t willing to chase at this time of year. Now is the time to use as much scent as possible, so much that the scent permeates the water. Plastics on the drop-shot, weightless, or on a wacky rig work best, especially in earth tones such as green pumpkin or black/blue flake.” Steve Santucci of Steve Santucci’s Fly Fishing Guide Service said, “Delta striper fishing is improving, and good numbers of fish are possible as the water temps are hovering between 47 and 49 degrees. The fish are eating in both clear and off-colored water, and I am using a 6-inch Clouser Minnow in bluegill colors with rattles.” Call: Randy Pringle (209) 543-6260; Captain Stan Koenigsberger – Quetzal Adventures (925) 570-5303; Intimidator Sport Fishing (916) 806-3030