A never-ceasing wind dirties the main stem of the Sacramento River and breaks loose vegetation to clog trolling lanes. Even pros such as guide Mark Wilson of Sacramento come up with just a keeper striped bass or two per outing, working the West Bank, Sandy Beach, Collinsville and Broad Slough.
Bait dunkers using anchovies, threadfin shad and crawdads don't fare any better, but the occasional 25-incher is pulled from just above the Rio Vista bridge and even the municipal pier, and off the bank along Highway 160.
The problem? The fall striped bass run hasn't begun and, if the anadromous species follows suit with salmon and halibut, you can expect a later-than-usual migration. This week, stripers still are outside the Golden Gate along the beaches and congregating over rock piles in San Francisco and San Pablo bays.
There are scattered stripers in the Mokelumne River and tributaries such as Hog and Sycamore sloughs. Trollers find undersized linesides, less than 18 inches, and a few keepers to 24 inches on the San Joaquin River at Three Mile Slough, Peacocks and the shoals.
Wilson's summation: "They aren't here yet."
Black bass aren't jumping into nets, either. Topwater frogs, jigs and Senkos will yield some 1- to 2-pound bass. But locating and hooking larger ones, 4 to 5 pounds, is a chore. Bluegill, redear and catfish are prolific.
Ocean - The San Francisco Bay fleet finds sporadic salmon action at the Light Bucket, Muir Beach, Point Reyes, Duxbury and Double Point. The take varies from full limits to one salmon per rod. On windy days, the charters struggle. Kings go up to 28 pounds, averaging 8 to 10 pounds. Rockcod fishing is wide open with a mix of lingcod to 12 pounds. Both salmon and striped bass are claimed off San Mateo County beaches when anchovies are present. Monterey Bay and Bodega Bay charters also find rockfish and salmon, though many kings measure less than the minimum 24 inches. Albacore range from 60 to 80 miles outside Half Moon Bay as they follow the warm water break.
Bays - Striped bass hold over rock piles (Harding, Shag and Alcatraz) in San Francisco Bay and at Red Rock, Paradise and The Brothers in San Pablo Bay, all for live bait drifters, reported Keith Fraser at Loch Lomond Live Bait in San Rafael. Bass go 7 to 12 pounds, occasionally larger. Tommy Glasser and two pals hooked and released an "honest count" of 116 stripers one day last week, casting worm-tailed jigs at San Quentin, Marin Islands and the Brickyards. The trio kept six bright 10-pounders by the end of the session. Some halibut are in the take, but the summer has been disappointing for flatfish. King salmon hit anchovies or lures at California City, but only at the top and change of the tide. Fish go to 30 pounds this week, but the window of opportunity is short and you've got to hit a school of passing fish to be successful. The same holds true for lure tossers at the state beach at Benicia, where salmon occasionally are hooked.
Guide Bill Quinn of Shingletown fished the Aug. 1 salmon opener above Red Bluff on the Sacramento River and is "encouraged" by the number of king claimed during the first week of the season in that area. "I personally saw 10 salmon netted and believe the signs are real good for the season," Quinn said. Farther downriver there were salmon taken at the mouth of the American River, Verona, Colusa and Chico, though it's really a crapshoot this early in the migration. The lower Feather River is better for striped bass, early and late, than salmon above the mouth of the Yuba.
Every lake is nearly full and gorgeous. Amador boasts holdover trout and bluegill, with largemouth at night under a full moon. Camanche has topwater black bass biting early and late, trolling for trout or bait dunking for catfish. Don Pedro has only fair results for kokanee, 80 to 120 feet deep and salmon at 80-foot depths. The best bite is for trout, 30 to 50 feet down, with dodgers and nightcrawlers, reported guide Danny Layne of Twain Harte. Hogan yields about six striped bass, 3 to 7 pounds, per trip for guide Bruce Hamby of Ripon. Melanie Lewis at Glory Hole Sports in Angels Camp rates catfish "fabulous," with channels to 81/2 pounds inhaling anchovies. She calls kokanee and trout fishing "fair." Black bass seems best early and late on topwater baits, and better at mid-day with spinnerbaits and buzzbaits. Field scout William Heinselman of Valley Springs touts 25-inch catfish and 41/2-pound trout at Pardee Lake, on nightcrawlers. It's a quality, not quantity scene.
The best trolling impoundment for trout seems to be Bear Valley Reservoir east of Pioneer. The road to Blue Lakes and the PG&E campgrounds is open. Caples, Red, and Alpine are stocked almost weekly, but the bite is spotty. Field scout Bill Schwartz is limiting daily on catchable-sized trout at Silver Lake, using a float tube and fly rod with an intermediate sink line. Trollers and shoreline anglers also are scoring rainbows at Silver Lake. The Alpine County Fish and Game Commission made two major plants of trophy-sized rainbows to 10 pounds last week in both the west and east fork of the Carson River. The county agency, along with the state Department of Fish and Game, has a surplus of trout to be released because of the high runoff that didn't allow stocking earlier in the summer. Now is the time. On the eastern slope, the West Walker River along Highway 395 finally has rounded into shape, though flows still are high, to allow decent fishing from the community of Walker to the junction of Highway 120. Brook trout enthusiasts hike to Kirman Lake via the trailhead off Highway 120, near the junction of Highway 395. On the Stanislaus River, stocked trout keep campers happy at Clark Fork. At Kennedy Meadows, the middle fork finally is running slowly enough to allow quality action for bait dunkers, lure tossers and even fly casters.