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The Fishing Report: Crappie, sturgeon plentiful in local waters

Bill Ryan at
Nov 23, 2017

The Day After Thanksgiving … is a good day to hide out and plan some fishing adventures. As easy and close as some crappie catching at Hennessey and Berryessa. In close, too, is the budding sturgeon bite as the Napa River muddies up. Next up, crab/rockfish combo trip out of Bodega Bay – or big stripers in the Delta.

Over the hills, Clear Lake has gone dark on us. The bass bite stinks – it has for weeks now. No one knows why. Fall and winter fishing there has been really good for us over the years. Cal Knickerbocker had a trophy day on Dec. 9 a few years ago fishing with guide Bob Myskey. Cal caught and released TWO 10-pounders, two 8’s and two 6’s. Hand to God – I was there. Stan Press and I are going up to give it a go the first week of December. You can call Bob at 274-0373 to find out if the bite is back.

Up next, get ready for the steelhead bite on the Smith River from late December through February. Wild, silver bullet steelhead return home after three years in the salt, where they had to learn to get big, strong and mean to survive. So, they are the ultimate challenge on light line. Why light line? They are line shy and can be scared off by line they can see.

Catching a big one is the thrill of a lifetime. Stan Press caught and released a 20-pound silver moose fishing with river guide Kevin Brock (800-995-5543). It takes perfect partnership to boat a big one. First they have all the advantages – skinny little line, and thousands-of-cubic-feet-per-second river flows that they play like a symphony orchestra. Then, Kevin has to find some slow water where he can stop the boat to net the beast. All the while, the angler has to manage the fish on the line as the boat runs through some fast water. Yep, it’s a workout – and a thrill. You oughta try it.

If I haven’t (ahem) “hooked” you yet, here’s the capper: fly fishing for trophy-size peacock bass on the Amazon in Brazil. I’d call Fly Fishing Adventure expert Don Muelrath right here in Napa. He’s at 888-347-4896.

Now Let’s Look … at recent local action. Starting up north at Shelter Cove, Captain Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing told the Hot Sheet that he had a great weekend with crab limits and great rock fishing. Out of Bodega Bay, with flat ocean conditions, Captain Rick Powers on the New Sea Angler (875-3344) motored south to Point Reyes with 48 clients for an “off the hook” ling cod bite with limits of lings, Dungeness crab and rockfish. The total count was 1,056 fish – a fresh, nutritious, sustainable protein source to help us feed our families.

Look At These Ling Cod … numbers. In addition to Rick Powers’ 96, Captain Chris Smith on the Happy Hooker (510-223-5388) scored 75 in two Farallon Islands trips last weekend. I have not seen these number of lings in all the years of writing about local fishing. Time to go get yours – they are delicious.

And, the Dungeness Crab Are Big … Listen to Captain Trent Slate of Bite Me Charters out of Loch Lomond: “… the pots were so heavy and loaded with big crab that we had a hard time lifting them over the rail.” You can contact Trent at 415-307-8582; better hustle before the commercial fleet action scoops up a bunch of the big ones.

California Delta … The word is that you can put your salmon gear away till next year. Meanwhile, colored water will help improve the sturgeon and striper bite here. I’m told that there have been a good string of boats limiting out on sturgeon. You may only keep three per year and they must measure between 40 and 60 inches, fork to nose. Action was good near the Middle Grounds and the Pittsburg PG&E plant. Uncured roe was the top bait.

And big stripers are also on the menu near Chain Island, with live splittails or bullheads doing the heavy lifting. For you dedicated “bankies,” crappie are falling to live minnows or minijigs in the back sloughs of the South Delta. While you are there, bring some large red worms on a drop-shot rig to target big bluegill.

Dan Mathisen at Dan’s Delta Outdoors in Oakley (925-234-4694) had this to say about the largemouth bass bite: “… a vastly improved bite with swim baits as the water temperature has dropped into the high 60’s.” Thanks again to Dave Hurley’s Hot Sheet for some key updates this week.

Boaters 20 Years Of Age … or younger: you will be required to carry a California Boater Card if you operate a boat in 2018. See when you will be required to complete your exam by visiting That website has all the other information you will need.

FYI – only 35 days left in 2017; time to hustle if you are 20 – or will be in 2018.

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