A large school of striped bass, sub-legal to 10 pounds in size, has moved into the Decker Island area on the Sacramento River and is moving slowly farther up the estuary. The anticipated fall run is underway, according to expert troller Mark Wilson of Sacramento.
"Stripers usually congregate around Decker Island early in the run," Wilson said. "They're in 14 to 16 feet of water on both sides of the river. Anglers cover plenty of water and use deep-diving lures with white plastic worm trailers."
The best bite occurs around the changes of the tides both incoming and outgoing.
On the San Joaquin River side, stripers in the 22-inch bracket are found at the mouth of Three Mile Slough, Seven Mile Slough and Santa Clara Shoals. Frozen shad or cut sardines are the preferred fodder.
The surface water temperature has dropped from 76 to 70 degrees. Increased numbers of fall-run king salmon are pushing through, as well, with a sparse number being hooked from the mouth of the Old Sacramento River through Isleton, Walnut Grove and Freeport. Silvertron spinners seem to have the edge over Wiggle Arts or Kwikfish. Salmon are big, 14 to 18 pounds.
Lower water temperatures have slowed the topwater bite for largemouth bass, though a recent frog-style, two-day tournament produced 28 pounds for 10 fish for the winning team.
Russo's Marina in Bethel Island is hosting two events on Saturday - the Delta Bass Club and Angler's Choice Pro-Am tournaments. Expect plenty of jigging, spooning and drop shotting in Frank's Tract, Mildred Island and Potato Slough.
Farther west, striped bass to 10 pounds are claimed off piers in Antioch and Pittsburg. Occasional king salmon grab lures flung from the shoreline at Benicia.
Ocean - Salmon anglers emphasize quality not quantity on either side of the Golden Gate along the Marin and San Mateo County coast. The best chances are at the shipping channel Buoys 1 and 3, and farther toward the Gulf of the Farallons. Typical charters average less than one salmon per rod but the kings are big, 18 to 30 pounds. Hampering the action are pods of squid that not only attract salmon but hordes of pesky rockfish - blues and blacks.
Rockfish are plentiful outside Pillar Point south to the Ritz Carleton, and below Bodega Bay between Bird and Elephant rocks, where the salmon bite has been pokey. Point Reyes is the spot to hook lingcod. Fort Bragg is zilch for salmon, but Monterey Bay picked up for a wide range of fish, from 20-inchers to 25-pounders. Some party boats sack more than 30 salmon an outing. Rockfish are excellent for Monterey and Santa Cruz boats.
Albacore tuna, 18 to 34 pounds, are located at the water break 35 miles southwest of Santa Cruz, with six-pack charters and private skiffs hauling in upwards of 30 albacore an outing, if the sea allows.
San Pablo Bay
The best option is for halibut to 18 pounds at Angel Island, Alcatraz Island and Paradise Cay, if the tides are slow and the wind allows. It has been a really tough summer for anglers. Dunking midshipmen for leopard shark is a sure thing. Live bait charters seeking striped bass find little action and generally run outside for mixed cod. The first salmon of the season was taken this week at the top of the tide in California City on a trolled anchovy. The pace will increase dramatically as kings move through the bay and into the Central Valley river system.
Feather - Finally, salmon have arrived, especially at the mouth at Verona, but also at Boyd Pump and Shanghai, up to the mouth of the Yuba River, where boats anchor and set spinners and Kwikfish, according to Johnson's Bait in Yuba City.
Sacramento - Water temperatues hover at 56 degrees from Hamilton City north to Anderson, providing ideal temperatures to attract migrating king salmon. A lack of flows is a major problem with most water being held behind dams because of the drought. The Barge Hole at the mouth of Battle Creek kicks out salmon to 27 pounds daily, but limits are scarce. The average salmon goes 14 to 17 pounds. Major fish-holding destinations such as Salt Creek, Woodson Ridge, Chico Straits, Hamilton City and Ord Bend yield salmon daily, mainly on roe.
Los Vaqueros - A major catfish plant last Friday is the third such effort this month. Total catfish plant: 2,000. As a bonus, striped bass, 6 to 28 inches, inhale the same baits intended for catfish. A good deal. Try frozen shad or anchovies and have a blast along the south shore.
McClure - This smallish impoundment on the Merced River drainage near Snelling is the most consistent in the Mother Lode, providing solid catches of koknaee at 60 feet and king salmon to 90 to 100 feet.
New Melones - Very low water but launching is just fine at Glory Hole. Kokanee seem to be tightly schooled and moving up the river arm, but the bite is real tough. An occasional trout to 2 1/2 pounds is in the take, generally about 40 feet deep. Spotted bass are dinks and holding deep. Fair chances for big channel catfish.
Pardee - More than 27,000 pounds of trout have been released into this impoundment, but they're not cooperating much for trollers. Better bet is to dunk Power Bait or a nightcrawler-marshmallow combination from an anchored boat. Kokanee are small and very deep. Saturday is a team Kokanee Power Derby.
Alpine - The Bear Valley Music Festival is over and calm is slowly returning. Try puling a flasher or dodger about 20 feet deep and trail a nightcrawler. Five-fish limits are likely in this small, relatively shallow impoundment. Fly casters should target Mosquito Lakes.
Caples - Because of low water in most creeks, impoundments such as Caples and nearby Silver are getting extra heavy loads of planted trout, some to 3 pounds. Attractor blades and a threaded nightcrawler are the ways to hook them. Start about 30 feet down.
Pinecrest - Heavily stocked with 12-inch trout. Fish early because of the prevailing west wind, either drifting Power Bait or trolling with flashers and garden hackle. Farther downhill, Lyons Reservoir is a good spot for kayaks, canoes or boats with electric motors. Gasoline motors not allowed, so the pressure is light and there are plenty of rainbows.
Twin - Both the Upper and Lower impoundments on the eastern slope near Bridgeport are suffering because of the drought. The bite is poor. The best option in Mono County is Big Virginia Lake, where traditional anglers and fly fishers are doing very well. Don't even consider Bridgeport Reservoir, there is so little water and so much vegetation.