Published July 20, 2011
Wind, heavy runoff and minus tides make for lousy conditions for striped bass chasers. Trollers find very few bass and most of them are less than 18 inches. The only action seems to be on shallow-running lures fished below the West Bank on the main Sacramento River near Collinsville and farther West.
On the anchor, threadfin shad yield the occasional keeper, but mostly under-sized fish at the shoals, Big Break and West Island on the San Joaquin River side. Scattered reports indicate some bass inside Georgianna Slough. There appears to be very little action closer to Stockton.
Largemouth bass fishing is best early and late with topwater bits and frogs. Mid-day anglers switch to tossing jigs and Senkos, or drop-shotting plastics. Bass range from 1-4 pounds, occasionally to 7 pounds, in popular areas such as the mouth of the Calaveras River, Frank's Tract, Mildred Island and Disappointment Slough.
Saturday's opening of in-river salmon fishing season, the first in four years, was a dud. Boaters using jigs or pulling Kwikfish-style lures packed the mouth of the Old Sacramento River and a stretch past Long Island up to the Isleton Bridge, with little to show. Word of caution: The Mokelumne River is closed to salmon fishing.
Minus tides allowed diehard sturgeon anglers to hook some fish in Cache Slough and the main river below Rio Vista. Pesky under-sized striped bass posed problems.
Ocean - Salmon fishing bursts onto the scene, the first big shot of kings since the season opened in April. Golden Gate fleet found massive schools of krill about 16 miles outside Seal Rocks, where salmon and pods of whales were gorging themselves. The salmon are moving toward the Gulf of the Farallon Isands to stage before running in fall into the bay and up the Sacramento River. The salmon bite is good at Monterey Bay and Bodega Bay, too. Striped bass are congregating along the beaches in San Mateo County, just north of the gate. About 30 bass were hauled in off the Pacifica Pier over the weekend, plus three salmon. Rockcod fishing is good at Deep Reef and the Farallons for Bay Area charters, and Carmel Bay and Point Sur for Monterey boats. Bodega Bay anglers enjoy heavy limits of browns, coppers and vermilions, plus average one lingcod per rod to 18 pounds.
Bays - Charters sack upwards of 25 striped bass, 8 to 15 pounds, per trip fishing the rock piles between Alcatraz and the gate. Big six- and seven-gill sharks are on a rampage at Yellow Bluff. Halibut fishing is rated fair with flat fish to 12 pounds. Slower tides will improve the halibut scores, especially in Pablo Bay, where swift tides benefitted sturgeon fishers at the Pumphouse the past week. Sturgeon also cooperated in modest fashion in Suisun Bay at the ships, Benicia and below the Martinez Bridge.
Striped bass have moved into the lower reaches at the dredger holes and up to Paradise Beach on the American River. Shad are on the upper end, but only break into a wild bite the last 90 minutes of light. Salmon fishing opened Saturday on the Feather River, which posted the best results of any in-river fishery. Kings, 8-22 pounds, were claimed from the mouth of the Yuba River to 1,000 feet below the Afterbay Outlet. Remember, fishing is not allowed within 1,000 feet of the Afterbay Outlet and wardens are putting the hammer down on violators. Elsewhere on the Feather, 21- to 22-inch steelhead respond to nightcrawlers and Go Bugs along the Oroville Wildlife Area. A few stripers to 25 pounds hit topwater plugs, early and late, below Shanghai Bend. The Sacramento River boasts shad at Mill Creek County Park at Los Molinos and up to the diversion dam at Red Bluff. Wild rainbow trout hit flies, Glo Bugs and lures from Redding to Anderson. Some salmon to 19 pounds were caught at Knights Landing and the Chico Straits.
Every lake is at or near-spill, a most remarkable sight for mid-July. If nothing else, take a picnic and go for a hike. Lake Amador features bluegill on wax worms and red worms, and holdover trout at the deepest locations. Camanche Lake finds black bass deep, except early and late, and trout scattered 30-35 feet down in many locations. Water is still pouring in from upstream Pardee Dam. Don Pedro Lake is fluctuating and trollers find a tough bite. Hogan Lake offers 2- to 3-pound striped bass on slow-rolled shad or Zara Spooks, but the bite isn't wide open. Los Vaqueros Lake is 50-percent full, wind blown and generally slow for anglers. Most consistent catch is for striped bass, 5 to 15 pounds that get after swimbaits or minnow-imitations. New Melones Lake trollers fell on hard times last week with the low front and full moon, but kokanee should rebound with the upcoming hot weather. Some hook more trout than kokes. Pardee Lake is real slow for trollers. Water is murky by usual standards because of inflows. Trout stocked every weekend to the delight of marina anglers, who toss Power Bait or white crappie jigs. Tulloch Lake is turbulent with waves from recreational boaters and a disaster for trollers. Trout anglers avoid the conflicts by motoring up river to the buoy line and dunking bait for 18-inch rainbows.
Runoff causes rivers to flow high and create dangerous conditions for waders. The good news? Flows are dropping daily, but not quickly. Best spot is at Hope Valley, where the Carson River West Fork flows through the meadow. Elsewhere, anglers must resort to dunking salmon eggs very close to the bank, if not at their feet, to hook trout in the turbulent streams. A reported 8-pound trout was yanked from the Carson River East Fork in just 12 inches of water. Get the point?
Better lakes to try include Bear River, Alpine, Spicer, Union, Pinecrest, White Pines and Caples. Expect to buck snowdrifts, water oozing from the soil and hordes of mosquitoes, especially when walking through the forest to reach lakesides. Float tubers are doing exceptionally well at Alpine, Indian Creek and White Pines. For the high Sierra, it's spring in mid-July. Expect the best fishing later in August and September.
Ottesen's picks: 1. Ocean (king salmon). 2. San Francisco and San Pablo Bay (striped bass/halibut). 3. Alpine Lake (trout).