With top water temperatures dipping to 69 degrees and migratory runs of striped bass and Chinook salmon in full force, recreational fishing is on the uptick.
Woodbridge Irrigation District has pulled the boards on Lodi Lake, allowing a flush of fresh water to entice salmon to enter the Mokelumne River and swim unimpeded to the hatchery below Camanche Dam. Chinook to 32 pounds have been hooked in both the north and south forks of the Mokelumne, and locations east of New Hope Landing. The bite isn’t quick but trollers pulling Flatfish or drifters that prefer jigging are scoring the occasional salmon. Some are fairly bright. Others are dark.
The salmon bite really took a nosedive this week between Walnut Grove and Freeport on the Old Sacramento River, especially after flows were increased in the Mokelumne. Pods of fresh salmon move through and it’s a matter of being on the water when a school suddenly appears. More salmon than in most years may enter the Delta this autumn because fewer are being hooked by charter boats just outside the Golden Gate. Why? Because an unusually warm ocean is attracting dense schools of mackerel that devour anchovy baits before salmon can get to them. Thus, there is more escapement.
Tons of striped bass are entering the estuary, too, but most run just 18 to 21 inches. A big fish goes 5 pounds. The San Joaquin River is loaded with stripers in many locations including the Port of Stockton, San Andreas Shoals, Old River Flats, mouth of the Mokelumne, Broad Slough and Mildred Island. The Sacramento River is holding bass from Collinsville to Rio Vista, and points north into Steamboat Slough.
Guide Barry Canevaro is berthed in Pittsburg and working bass at Seal Island and Big Cut. He said, “More and more fish are appearing daily.”
Stripers eagerly inhale shad and sardines, as well as trolled lures, such as P-Line Predator and Rat-L Trap. Fly fishers use Clouser minnows with sparkling tinsel.
Last weekend’s Rio Vista Bass Derby measured 30 stripers that came close to the 29.5-inch target size and issued checks ranging from $2,500 to $500 for the five top places. The derby — oldest in the western states — was operated by the California Striped Bass Association’s Isleton Chapter and included anglers from San Francisco Bay to Sacramento.
Largemouth bass to 4 pounds and smallmouth bass in the 2-pound bracket appear to be more active as the cooler weather sets in.
Ocean — Only salmon action is north and south of the Golden Gated. There are plenty of Chinook but trollers are frustrated by mackerel — a species normally found off Southern California — that have followed warm water currents and devour anchovies intended for salmon. “I went through a whole case of anchovies and netted only three salmon,” said Roger Thomas, skipper of Sausalito’s Salty Lady. “Couldn’t keep the mackerel off our lines.” Bay Area charters take up to five salmon per boatload, with top scores going 12 salmon to 22 pounds for 24 anglers. Rockfish and lingcod scores are off the charts the fishing is so good. Recreational crab pot pulling opens Nov. 7.
Many marinas will offer combination rockfish-crab combination trips. The El Nino warm water has attracted bluefin tuna to coastal waters between Monterey and Bodega Bay with fish going 40 to 90 pounds. On Monday, six bluefin were tagged by private boaters outside the whistle buoy at Bodega Bay. Forty pounders were caught at Pigeon Point below Half Moon Bay and near the canyon at Moss Landing, where Stockton’s Doug Bennett hooked and lost a “monster tuna” within 25 feet of the boat.
San Pablo Bay — Very good halibut and, for the record, there never have been any halibut in the bay in October. Until this year. On Sunday, the Morning Star managed six halibut for 14 anglers. The previous three trips, the boat posted 49 halibut for 23 people. Unprecedented. A couple of the prized flatfish weighed more than 20 pounds. “There are million bass here and we could hook a 100 fish and four or five might be 18 inches,” sad Keith Fraser at Loch Lomond Live Bait in San Rafael. “We did hear of a 15-pound bass caught at Red Rock on Monday."
American — Usually salmon return to this tributary to the Sacramento River in October, but flows are so low, the fish haven’t shown in great numbers. If the Bureau of Reclamation makes a sudden release of water, the fish will arrive en masse.
Klamath — Between Happy Camp and Iron Gate, half-pound steelhead in the 14- to 16-inch class, mingle with adult-sized fish in the 3- to 5-pound bracket. Bouncing roe or nightcrawlers is the ticket. Some try flies. Salmon are dark and spawning.
Sacramento — There are two consistent spots to catch Chinook salmon, 12 to 20 pounds, occasionally larger. The first is between Hamilton City and Woodson Bridge. The second is above Red Bluff through the canyon and up to the Barge Hole at Balls Ferry. Limits aren’t the rule but most guides that back troll with Flatfish or Kwikfish, or bounce roe, will take five to nine salmon per trip.
Lake Berryessa — The best black bass fishing imaginable is happening right now for those who meter a school and then jig. Bass are tightly concentrated gorging on shad.
Eagle Lake — In spite of low water, a 17-foot boat can launch at Eagle Lake Marina. Fishing for 2- to 3-pound trout is good and improving. Action is in the top 6 to 10 feet for topliners who pull Needlefish, whole nightcrawlers and flies.
Heenan Lake — Final call to fish this impoundment (season ends Sunday) for broodstock Lahontan cutthroat trout, 20 to 28 inches. Zero limit. Catch-and-release fishing permitted with artificial lures and flies only and barbless hooks on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Set off Highway 89, canoes, kayaks and float tubes are allowed but no motors.
Los Vaqueros Reservoir — The only close-to-home impoundment to continue to stock rainbow trout most every week, many in the 1½- to 2-pound class, with 10 percent going 5 to 8 pounds. Good fishing from the south bank. Striped bass, 18 to 24 inches, is improving. The reservoir is set between Byron and Livermore off Vasco Road.
New Melones Lake — It requires a four-wheel drive vehicle to launch off a dirt ramp at Glory Hole Recreation Area, but black bass fishing is worth the effort. Bass are schooled and working over balls of shad minnows, making them susceptible to jigs, spoons and drop-shot plastics. Kokanee salmon fishing is over for the season. Channel catfish by day or crappie by night are good alternatives.
Pyramid Lake — The word from Crosby’s Lodge is the quantity of 10-pound and larger Lahontan cutthroat trout being pulled from this high plateau water north of Reno. Folks are spooning, towing Flatfish or casting flies to enjoy non-stop action. Pyramid is set on Indian-owned land, so a Nevada fishing license isn’t required, but you’ll need a tribal permit. It’s worth the drive.