Guess what? It’s raining again and the wind is coming in stiff gusts. I can see the pines and oaks swaying against the dawn sky from my office window as yet another Pacific storm pushes through northern California….I’m not fishing, again!
High, often-muddy water conditions and unstable weather have been the hallmark of the 2017 spring season so far, but things have gradually gotten better. The periods of dry weather between storms have gotten longer and the days have grown longer and warmer.
The result has been improved fishing at many locations. And while it’s true that in the broad perspective the fishing isn’t up to its usual par for the first week of April, we can now see the light at the end of a long rainy tunnel. Shortly the fishing is going to red line across the northern half of the Golden State and anglers are going to have multiple top notch destinations to choose from whether they want to target trout, black bass or stripers…I can’t wait!
I’m planning to produce a comprehensive trout fishing DVD this spring, so I’ve been closely monitoring trout fishing opportunities as they develop across our region and I’ve been in close contact with a couple of the state’s most prominent trout guides, Monte Smith of Gold Country Sportfishing and Bryan Roccucci of Big Daddy’s Guide Service.
Monte has been doing his fishing way down south at Lake Don Pedro in the heart of the Mother Lode region, while Bryan has been working Lake Almanor up in the northern mountains.
“Don Pedro has been on and off. The variable weather hasn’t been helping, but the biggest challenge has been the up and down water level,” Monte told me. “The lake is going to go off big time once the weather and water level stabilize.”
“I’ve been fishing a fair amount recently. We’ve been hooking rainbows every day. Some days we have to work pretty hard for our bites, but other days the action has been really good. One day not too long ago we brought 12 rainbows to the boat including an incredible 22 inch fish,” Monte disclosed.
“The rainbows are feeding on shad and they are in great shape. The fish are still scattered and we’ve yet to see any kings, but they should start showing up in the next several weeks. You never know what to expect from the kings. Some years we see solid numbers of them, some years we get big kings and some years we get both. Only time will tell. I’ve been focusing on trolling fast and keeping my lures near the surface. My lures of choice are my homemade Chuker-T spoons, but I’ve been mixing in Rapalas too. As the trout get more aggressive we’ll rely more and more on the spoons. Right now, I’ve been trolling from 2.5 to 3 miles an hour. The clarity is holding at about 5 feet. As clarity increases so will my trolling speeds,” Monte exclaimed.
I’ll be on Lake Don Pedro with Monte and a group of Fish Sniffer readers on April 21. Monte and I have our fingers cross that the trout fishing will have moved from good to great by then. Things look pretty promising!
Up at Almanor, Bryan Roccucci has been putting his clients on trout up to 7 pounds, but he still isn’t getting as many hookups as he’d like.
“We are dealing with the same challenges up here that Monte is facing down south, namely unsettled weather,” Bryan related on March 30. “Up here at we are over 4,000 feet in elevation and the water is still in the lower to middle 40’s. At this point in the season we are typically seeing water temperatures in the upper 40’s rising into the low 50’s at the warmest time of the day.”
“The biggest stumbling block recently has been the wind. We’ve been getting small storms pushing through our region and those areas of low pressure have featured big winds that are gusting up to and beyond 30 miles per hour.”
“Despite the challenging conditions, we’ve been seeing periods of brilliance in terms of the fishing. Today was a good example. We started off with 3 fish right away and they were mainly over 4 pounds. Then we lost the action and it took us a long time to get back on the trout. When we did find them again we quickly boated 9 more fish. Most of them were over 4 pounds and the biggest one went 7. Almost all the trout we are catching now are browns. The rainbows are wrapping up their spawning season, but they haven’t really started showing in the catches yet. I haven’t seen any smallmouth bass yet either. I don’t typically start hitting bass until the temperature climbs into the lower 50’s,” Bryan disclosed.
“Over the past couple weeks the trout had been fairly sluggish and I’d been relying on Arctic Fox trolling flies almost exclusively. I’m still running flies these days, but Rapalas have really started to come on strong, especially in terms of hooking big fish,” Bryan tipped.
“You can see the conditions improving up here almost daily. While the wind has been a pain, the temperatures are inching up and the storms are getting weaker. Looking into my crystal ball, I see smooth sailing and lots of big trout right around the corner,” Bryan laughed.
Coming up, Monte is planning to continue chasing trout at Lake Don Pedro, but he is going to start mixing in some trolling for Delta stripers.
Bryan is going to ride the big trout action at Almanor into late spring. He is hoping to start fishing Bucks Lake too, but since the lake is still covered with ice and there is about 6 feet of snow on the shoreline, it’s going to be several weeks before anything gets going at Bucks.