Compiled by Dave Hurley and edited by local fishing expert Roger George, a former Olympic-class decathlete at Fresno State and striper record-holder at Millerton Lake.
Telephone numbers are in 559 calling area unless noted.
New Melones kicking out huge bass limits, Melanie Lewis reported. Don Pedro bass fishing on fire and McClure bass and trout also active, Manny Basi said. Lake Success crappie, bass and trout all hitting, Larry Kerns reported. Delta bass on the prowl, Randy Pringle reported.
Jimi Morales said the afternoon Caddis (#16) hatch is starting on the lower Merced river and splashy rises signal the fish are taking the rising pupa. The Merced and Kings are starting to see spring hatches also. Watch for Golden Stoneflies (#12) and March Brown (#12) Mayflies in the afternoons. Our beginning fly-tying classes start in April at Fresno REI. Sierra Fly Fisher Guide Service (559) 683-7664; Yosemite Rivers Fly Shop, (559)641-7788.
It feels like "Back to the Future" for me with the reopening of the closed zone at Eastman Lake in August and Ball Ranch again letting anglers in on weekends. Both locations were fishing staples a few years ago.
When I heard that Ball Ranch was opening, I thought of all the times when I was growing up that my Dad and I would go bass fishing there. It was a magical place, just big enough to explore without getting lost and intimate enough to have all kinds of nooks and crannies that held fish.
It was an real adventure for us to park at what we called the "Bathtub," then walk to all the small ponds and the gurgling, shallow river in the back. I caught a lot of bass after wading in and casting a top-water plug to the other bank. I think the biggest I got was about 5 pounds, and I caught it in a back eddy off the river -- one that I carefully snuck up on. I was about 16 and it was a big victory.
The setting of huge oak trees, bushes and grasses laid out between the bodies of water, along with the mix of big dragonflies, bumblebees and all kinds of birds and other wildlife, made it feel like my own little "30-acre wood." It's one of the few places I just enjoyed exploring -- almost more than I cared if I ever caught a fish there. It was perfect for an adventurous, growing kid to dream and fish.
Over the years, it pained me to see the place shuttered as I drove by. I thought about how many great days I and others had spent there and how its magic might be lost for future generations. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that it was open again on weekends. I'll make a special trip soon to see how it has changed, but from the road it looks like the place I so fondly remember -- and I hear they are catching some nice fish.
The Eastman Lakes upper-river reopening also is long overdue in the minds of many anglers. I think we've all heard stories of the huge bass that guys have taken in the closed zone, slipping in under cover of darkness or fog. Many are convinced there are fish in the upper reaches that would approach world-record weights and are just waiting to inhale a well-placed lure. All I know is that it could be real messy the first day the area opens up, as every able-bodied angler heads for the river. It's a great area, with loads of structure, that most of us fished a lot before the closure. Opening it up should make the lake just that much more exciting to fish.
I'm glad officials decided that between the eagles nesting and the hydrilla infestation, it was time to get the lake back on track. It's a lesson that once something is in place, it's hard to undo. But in some ways I think having a closed zone, like some lakes do during the spawn, has the effect of protecting big bass in a lake. We'll find out what's up in the area soon.