We have arrived at the shortest day of the year and we are in a winter fishing pattern. Often we get our most severe cold temperatures in early December but that has not materialized this year. Water temps in most places are up to five degrees above what I would expect for the date on the calendar.
The extreme cold weather did arrive on the east slope of the Sierra last week. The air temps in the Reno area were down into the mid-teens. The unusual thing was that Pyramid Lake air temps were 10 degrees higher due to the warm lake temps in the middle 40s.
My fishing sources said the anglers stayed home and there has been little fishing pressure. For those who care to go, the trout are in the shallows.
Fishing Lake Oroville
On our side of the Sierra the best fishing has been in the foothill reservoirs. There have been a number anglers fishing at Lake Oroville. The water is 53 degrees which is five degrees above normal. The lake is 200 feet below full pool leaving Bidwell launch ramp as the primary option.
Ed Everhart has been fishing at Oroville in preparation for the start of the bass tournament season in January. He has been marking three different groups of fish. At the 60 to 70 foot depths he has been seeing the largest fish, but these fish are not biting.
He has targeted them with a number of baits but they are unresponsive. At the 45 foot level there lots of the small spotted bass in the nine to 11 inch size range. These are feeding but they will not win a bass tournament. The third group of fish are at the 20 foot level. These fish are over a foot long with the maximum size at 14 inches.
The pond smelt schools are at the 45 foot depths both along the bottom structure and suspended over deep water. The bass at this depth have been hitting drop shot rigs which presents a smelt imitation close to the bottom and can be fished very slowly.
The other food source in the lake is crawdads. Ed has been more successful fishing crawdad imitating tube baits and jigs at the 20 foot depth.
Another feature bass anglers look for is the bottom structure. At Oroville there is decomposed granite, red clay, large granite formations and loose rock. Often the feeding fish will be on a particular bottom type. Recently Ed has had his best results fishing red clay with some rock in the soft ball to basketball size.
This past weekend Ed was fishing high up on the north fork arm of the lake. The incoming river water is 42 degrees. The cold river water dives below the warmer lake water at a point where the original river canyon opens into the larger lake.
When fishing there, all he could find was land locked salmon. There was a large school of them at the 12 to 18 foot depth. The salmon in Lake Oroville are found quite deep during the warm weather months. It is this time of year when their preferred water temp can be found close to the top.
Tom Page, Reel Angler's Fly Shop, has been at Oroville also. He has been fishing the "Float & Fly" technique, where he suspends a baitfish fly at depth. This allows for a slow to stopped presentation at selected depths. Tom also had success at the 20 foot depth. He was fishing the middle fork arm.
Tom and a companion landed 22 fish starting near dawn and staying until 3 p.m.
Incidental to his spotted bass, he landed 2 salmon in the 14 to 16 inch range on his baitfish imitation.
Other lakes that have been fishing well for bass have been Folsom, Comanche and New Melones. The common denominators for these lakes are low elevation and above average water temps.
River fishing in the valley has been fair. The lower Yuba has produced a few good trout/steelhead recently. Tom Page reports the better fish have been caught "swinging" streamer flies above the Highway 20 bridge.
Standard fare on the lower Yuba is to fish insect imitations. Below the bridge there have been smaller fish feeding during the insect hatches.
If you are looking for a place to go steelhead fishing, there are fish in the upper end of the Trinity River west of Redding. The fishing has been tough due to river conditions.
The water is flowing at 300 cubic feet per second but with no recent rain, the water is gin clear. Low clear water makes steelhead quite spooky. The first anglers to try a spot have the best chance at hooking a fish. If we get some weather and the water gets some color, catching will improve.
If you want to fish for trout, Englebright, Scott's Flat, Collins and Fuller Lakes were planted at the end of last month. With our recent warm days, some fishing during the holidays is not out of the question.
Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union's Outdoors section and is host of "The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report," which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at http://www.trollingflies.com.