Compiled by Dave Hurley and edited by Roger George, a former Olympic-class decathlete at Fresno State and striper record-holder at Millerton Lake and who now guides in the greater Fresno area. Telephone numbers are in 559 calling area unless noted. Have a photo of a recent catch to share? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with “fish photo” in the subject line.
Lake Don Pedro
Bass fishing continues to be solid with plastics worms such as Pro Worms in 124p, 266, or 300 along with Berkserk Baits Purple Hornet or brown/purple jigs. The fish are feeding on the abundant shad in preparation for the spawn, and there is a reaction bite with River2Sea Swavers or River2 Sea umbrella rigs. For rainbow trout and king salmon, Monte Smith of Gold Country Sport Fishing is running a special trip for fast-trolling heavy spoons on April 21. The lake continues to release water in order to prepare for the upcoming snowmelt, and it is currently at 82 percent and 800.36 feet in elevation. Bond Flat Road remains closed indefinitely, but repairs to the road have begun. There has been more than 40 acres of debris coming out of the Tuolumne River arm, and Don Pedro Recreation Area staff are corralling and hauling the debris into a floating debris containment area. This area will remain closed through mid-May when the lake will rise once again through the month of June. The debris will then be relocated onto the banks. Caution while boating is necessary. Call: Monte Smith (209) 581-4734; Danny Layne-Fish’n Dan (209) 586- 2383; Gary Vella (209) 652-7550.
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After being so low in 2016 that launching a boat was a major challenge, Lake McClure has rebounded for Mother Lode bass fishermen. Rainbow trout and king salmon used to be a major draw for this lake, but neither species has recovered so trollers are avoiding the lake. In the meantime, bass fishermen are enjoying the action for both numbers and size. Mike Gomez of the Bait Barn in Waterford was on the lake with his older brother Henry on Saturday, and they caught and released quality largemouth and spotted bass to 5 pounds, weighing in a five-fish limit over 18 pounds. Gomez said, “My older brother was camping at Lake McSwain for the weekend, and since the trout bite has been very slow at this lake, he asked me to take him bass fishing at nearby McClure. We found fish in both the shallows and in deeper water. Henry was working a Pro Worm 124p in 30 to 35 feet of water, and he landed a 3.5-pound spot on a Berserk jig. The water temperature started off at 58 degrees, and once it rose one degree to 59 degrees, the reaction bite exploded. We found bait fish busting on the surface, and the River2Sea SWaver in a kokanee pattern worked for a 5.5-pound largemouth and a 4.5-pound spotted bass. The remainder of our 18-pound limit was in the 3- to 3.5-pound range, and the SWaver produced the larger fish. I was working the bait along flats with deep water access, and the bass were coming out of 15 to 20 feet in order to eat the bait. We were searching for fish on beds, but we didn’t see any beds although the water clarity was excellent, averaging from 10 to 15 feet.” McClure will be hosting three club bass tournaments over the next six weeks. The lake is at 65 percent and 807.07 feet in elevation, and water releases will no longer be directed by the US Army Corps of Engineers as the lake is at 67 percent of capacity or below. The launch ramps at Barrett’s Cove South and McClure Point are open.
There is minimal change at this impoundment with heavy flows running through the spillway of McSwain Dam from upstream Lake McClure. As a result, trout plants are currently on hold. The last plant was October 2016. There are small park-model rental cabins overlooking the lake that are currently under construction and slated to be open in the coming months. The Exchequer Bike Park will be opened with a constructed cross-country bike loop. Call: McSwain Marina (209) 378-2534.
New Melones is as full as it has been in several years, and a wide variety of species are available at California’s third largest reservoir. After a few weeks of slower trout fishing, experienced trollers are starting to get in on the action while bass fishing remains solid for both numbers and the occasional big largemouth or spotted bass. Gary Burns of ‘Take It To the Limit’ Guide Service said, “What can I say, if the fishing this year is as nice as the lake looks, we will have it made. We put in limits this week above the Parrott’s Ferry running either pink Wiggle Hoochies tipped with garlic corn behind a purple/pink Sling Blade, a cowbell/nightcrawler combination, or orange Gulp! Balls with yellow grubs at depths from 5 to 10 feet. The trout were nice and face, and we kept the speed around 1.6 MPH in order to keep an eye out for all of the floating debris on the surface and just below the surface. I plan are being on the lake quite a bit now in search of kokanee, and I hope they are as large as they were last year.” John Liechty of Glory Hole Sports in Angels Camp said, “As the lake warms, the trout will move into deeper water on the main lake and over the river channel. When the lake is this full, the rainbows will often bite throughout the summer months. The water does have some stain in certain areas. The river and stream trout season begins on April 29th , and bank anglers will have much better luck heading to the streams since Melones rainbows have moved into deeper water.” The kokanee action is right around the corner, and the first kokes should be coming out within the next few weeks. The top areas at the start of the season are in the deep water in the main lake from the dam to the spillway and to the mouth of Angels Cove. The ability to be flexible and adapt to the changing weather conditions is the key to bass fishing as the fish are pulling off into deeper water during period of unstable weather. Liechty said, “It is best to fish a presentation that will work both in deep or shallow water, and a Texas-rigged worm is a good option. I suggest enhancing the worm with a bead to make a ticking sound, dying the tail, or adding scent. The heavy grass along the shoreline is a hindrance, and fishing the worm weedless is important.” Crappie fishing remains outstanding with crappie jigs, small artificial minnows, or live minnows under a slip-float rig. Liechty said, “This has been an extremely exceptional year for crappie, and they absolutely thrive when the lake is lined with flooded grass. I would use artificials to find the schools before working live minnows under a slip-float rig.” Catfish are moving into the shallows and the pockets, searching for meals washing off of the shorelines. The catfish are holding near rock in the flats and finding running water is another key. Frozen shad, anchovies, sardines, or a ball of nightcrawlers are the top baits. New Melones continues to rise, and it has come up 4 feet this week to 1043.98 feet in elevation and 80 percent. The water is clearing up with good visibility. The Glory Hole, Angels Cove, and Tuttletown launch ramps are all in the water, but the Tuttletown ramp is still not on the main ramp. Courtesy docks are available at all ramps. Call: Glory Hole Sports (209) 736-4333; Monte Smith (209) 581-4734; Danny Layne-Fish’n Dan (209) 586-2383.
San Luis Reservoir
and O’Neill Forebay
Striper action continues to be up and down with the passing fronts for fishermen frequenting the main San Luis Reservoir. Roger George of Roger George Guide Service said that the bite for experienced anglers has been a day to day thing . “I have been keeping up with over 7 other regular anglers who are using a multitude of techniques from flat trolling , downrigging and casting -and the bite is going from decent at times to tough-between wind storms. There have been a few big fish and one regular angler caught and released a 29 pounder last Friday - then went back Saturday -and got a 32 pounder trolling minnow colored lures. Even though he got those 2 big fish he only got 5 fish total on Friday - and 4 that Saturday - showing how tough it can be. The water temps fell to 58 degrees and the water clarity is good right now but the fish are spooky. I guided Flint Epps of Fresno and his brother Mike on Saturday and it was not easy but we ended up with 18 fish-with 2 at 25 inches-all released-after fishing hard all day from sunrise to closing. Most anglers told me they were getting about 3 to 6 fish for the day . The Lucky Craft 128’s in Ghost and Chartreuse shad have been consistent producers trolled at the 40 to 60 foot range. The fish seem to be settling down into more normal lake patterns and I expect the bite to improve to solid soon” George said. The winds have been a limiting factor for trollers in the main lake and the level has been dropping slowly to 96 percent. Mooching anchovies are working as well as drifting jumbo minnows, and the stripers are actively chasing shad schools throughout the lake, even in open water in the middle of the lake when it’s calm. Trollers are scoring at depths to 80 feet with P-Line Predator Minnows or Lucky Craft Pointers. Wind condition information is available at (800) 805-4805, but there are reports that the information has been inaccurate. In the forebay, Small striped bass are available with the occasional larger lineside taken on jerkbaits or ripbaits. Check 12 remains the top area for numbers, and pile worms, blood worms, and anchovies are the top baits. Most anglers are heading for the main lake for a larger grade of striped bass. Call: Coyote Bait and Tackle (408) 463-0711, Roger George of rogergeorgeguideservice.com (559) 905-2954 San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay Wind Conditions: 1 (800) 805-4805.