Compiled by Dave Hurley and edited by Roger George, a central San Joaquin Valley native and local fishing expert.
Monterey squid are swarming, Todd Arcaleo said. New Melones trout bite continues and big bass are crushing swim baits, Melanie Lewis said. Millerton and Pine Flat bass are on a roll, James Mize said. Pine Flat and Kings River trout are still hitting, Doyals Store reported. Don Pedro rainbows are available for the catching, Monte Smith said.
Over the years, many anglers have asked me about certain fishing places and why we don't include them -- while others have begged us not to talk about "their secret holes." So I thought I might just open it up and list a couple of these "lost" fishing hot spots.
No 1: Los Banos reservoir is nestled in the foothills not far from the San Luis reservoir and has been a prolific lake for big bass, crappie and trout for a long time. This is probably the one lake I'm asked to keep quiet about more than any other, due to the terrific fishing and minimal traffic. I've heard plenty about terrific catches of big bass from 8 pounds to as much as 12 pounds, and I think the lake record is more than 13 pounds now.
No. 2: The Kings River below Lemoore has been a real sleeper for big bass for decades, with most locals taking advantage of the slough-like backwaters filled with stumps and trees. I grew up in this area and fished it back in the '70s with my grandfather in his aluminum boat for some nice fish. I have had friends show me pictures of bass in the 4- to over 8-pound range taken in the past few years. Lots of anglers fish out of their bass boats in this water, but shore anglers do well also -- especially with live bait.
No. 3: The San Joaquin River runs right through the middle of Fresno, and the gravel pits as well as the main river are havens for lots of fish species -- even some small stripers. Obviously, access to the river is a sore topic with most anglers, but there are still places where a small aluminum boat can be launched. Also, the lack of wardens has led to lots of poaching. Another sore spot on the river is the heavy pressure anglers are exerting in the Milburn wildlife area -- taking advantage of the levy break to float into the closed area. Besides these issues, there can be some surprisingly good trout fishing in addition to the many lunker bass that anglers quietly hook in the backwaters.
No. 4: The Delta Mendota area is actually well known, but most anglers think of it as a place to just soak bait for a catfish or striper. I consider it a nursery for all of the species of fish that swim in it, with tons of little fish always showing up in the murky waters. I think this is due to the constant supply of water in the ponding areas, as well as the seasonal inflows that create vital currents. This not only promotes the spawning patterns of some fish species, it also brings in huge amounts of nutrient-rich food -- which is why I think the fishery has continually kicked out huge numbers of crappie, catfish, bass and stripers. You'll just about always catch something here, especially on bait.
I heard there were several big stripers taken out on 152, so I decided to try it out, and as luck would have it, I hooked into a fish that thought she was a runaway freight train for 15 minutes! The 40-inch, 26-pounder was a beautiful fish and a great way to start the year. Better yet, it was Chong Yang -- who broke my Millerton striper record -- who landed the fish. Chong responded a few days later with a nice 15-pounder.
Yes, I know you want to know what we caught them on and where -- but being skeptical anglers, you wouldn't believe me anyway!
- Roger George
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New Melones Reservoir
***Bass **Crappie **Catfish ***Trout *Kokanee
Melanie Lewis of Glory Hole Sporting Goods in Angels Camp reported continued good trout fishing from the banks at Glory Hole or Tuttletown Launch Ramps with Berkley chartreuse or green glitter Power Bait, Power Eggs or a crawler/marshmallow combination. Boaters are still fishing on the anchor with similar baits in the same areas, as well as Carson or Mormon coves. Trolling has been improving with quality brown trout to 6 pounds landed by Marty Morfey of Lodi on a rainbow trout Rapala in Coyote Creek. There have been some huge bass landed, as evidenced by the 31.54-pound limit taken by John Chiarpotti of Bassin 1A Guide Service -- including a 13.3-pound largemouth and a 6.15-pound spotted bass. There were several spots landed in the 6-pound range, primarily on swimbaits such as the Huddleston ROF 12 in trout patterns when the wind is blowing. The spots are oriented to wood near steep flats or drop-offs. Try brown/purple jigs with a trailer, watermelon/redflake or green pumpkin Zoom Baby Brush Hogs or other creature baits on a Carolina-rig or shaky head. The best numbers of smaller fish are taken on 4-inch shad-colored plastics. A few quality crappie continue to be landed on small or medium minnows or crappie jigs at 30-45 feet deep around submerged trees or structure. The lake rose to 50% capacity.
Call: (209) 736-4333; Monte Smith (209) 581-4734; Danny Layne -- Fishn' Dan (209) 586 2383; Sierra Sport Fishing (209) 599-2023.
Lake Isabella/Bakersfield area
**Bass **Trout **Crappie ***Catfish **Bluegill
Registration forms for the Lake Isabella Derby in March are available at derby.kernrivervalley.com. The derby will feature eleven trout worth $10,000 and one trout at $21,000. A second delivery of Alpers trout was trucked to the lake this week, and there are two more truckloads to arrive prior to the derby. These fish are being fed in pens. The Forest Service removed the dock at Launch 19 on the west side of Engineer Point for repairs to be completed by March 1. Pete Cormier at Bob's Bait in Bakersfield said catfish from the banks with frozen shad is still the most consistent bite at the lake, but some are pulling out quality bass with brown jigs with a large trailer at 15-20 feet deep. The lake came up to 22% capacity. In the Bakersfield area, the lakes of Truxton, Ming, the River Walk and Hart Park were planted last week, and anglers have been scoring limits with live minnows, night crawlers, or Power Bait in Chunky Cheese, garlic or Spring Green Power Bait. The Buena Vista Trout Derby was won with a 13.5-pound rainbow landed by Jose Rodriquez on a swimbait.
Call: Big Ed's Bait and Tackle (760) 379-4170; Bob's Bait (661) 833-8657; North Fork Marina (760) 376-1812.
San Luis Reservoir and O'Neill Forebay
**Stripers **Catfish **Bass *Crappie
Ly Tu of Ly's Fishing Goods in San Jose said heavy inflow from surface creeks and pumping from the Delta, causing the lake levels to rise, have contributed to a slower striper bite in both the main lake and the Forebay. The top-water bite has slowed with the cold water, and the only fish on lures are coming on swimbaits or something tossed under the surface. Tu said there have been a few boats trolling in the Forebay with chrome/blue or chrome/black P-Line Predators or Rapalas for stripers to 3 pounds. The lake rose another 9 vertical feet. Wind conditions: (800) 805-4805.
Call: Ly's Fishing Goods (408) 629-9644; Coyote Bait and Tackle (408) 463-0711.
**Bass **Trout **Bluegill **Catfish **Crappie
Bob Scharton of Herb Bauer's fished the lake and reported a very slow bass bite despite trying all sorts of techniques, including jigs. He observed trout trollers netting fish on blade/crawlers or Wedding Rings tipped with a night crawler. Bank fishing for planted trout with Power Bait remains strong, but interest is minimal. Ranger Keith Willis said the water temperatures will need to rise another six degrees before the bass bite gets going. The lake rose to 17% capacity.
Delta Mendota Canal and sloughs
James Mize said 18- to 28-inch stripers have been landed on Lucky Craft 128's in ghost minnow, American shad or royal blue in the Delta-Mendota and California Aqueduct. In the south aqueduct, Pete Cormier of Bob's Bait said a few school-sized stripers have been taken on Gitzits, shad-patterned swimbaits such as Sexy Shad in chartreuse or top-water lures. Carp to 10 pounds have been landed on dough baits with catfish on frozen shad or mackerel.
Millerton Lake/San Joaquin River
***Bass *Stripers *Shad **Trout
James Mize said the bass bite has been good for experienced anglers, as evidenced by a pair of 13.03-pound limits during Sunday's Fresno Bass tournament. Drop-shotting shad-imitation plastics up to 50 feet has been the top technique. Eric Kaai of Fisherman's Warehouse said some anglers have been dropping plastics to 75 feet. There is a small window for crankbaits early in the morning. The water temperature is rising. The lower San Joaquin is scheduled to receive another trout plant this week, but fishing has slowed in the Lost Lake area. Bob Scharton touted Avocado Lake as a good shore option for limits of planters on Power Bait. Another plant is scheduled for Avocado this week.
Call: 225-1838; 292-3474.
Bank anglers continue to have the advantage over trollers in the stained water conditions. The lake is scheduled to be planted again this month. Various colors of Power Bait and Power Eggs have been working for near limits from the Handicapped Docks or Brush Pile access areas.
Call: (209) 378-2534.
Pine Flat Reservoir/Kings River
***Bass ***Trout *King salmon **Catfish
James Mize reported a good bass bite, with a limit of more than 12 pounds winning Saturday's Western Outdoor News tournament. The fish can be found on jigs in shallow water and drop-shotting depths to 70 feet. There is a small window for reaction baits in the early morning, but the window closes quickly. Larry Kerns weighed in a 7.5-pound four-fish limit on drop-shotting or jigs at depths to 45 feet, with the area around Windy Gap being discolored from the run off. The trout bite is going strong with shad-imitation spoons such as bikini or Cop Car Needlefish, Shasta Tackle Humdingers or Cripplures, or Vance's Slim Fins from the surface to 20 feet, and as deep as 80 feet on the downrigger. The key continues to be finding the bait balls, and there will be trout in the vicinity of the bait gorging themselves. The fish are holding from the Second Power Lines to Windy Gap and in front of the Deer Creek Marina. The lake rose five feet to 829.02 feet in elevation and 42% capacity. Doyal's Store reported seven of the large brooder trout (6-8 pounds) were landed with gold Kastmasters, Super Dupers or Power Bait. Bob Scharton said the water has cleared, and fly fishermen are scoring with streamers. Another trout plant is scheduled this week.
Call: 787-2387; 225-1838; 292-3474.
*Bass ***Trout **Catfish **Bluegill
Bob Scharton of Herb Bauer's Sporting Goods said limits of planted trout continue to be taken from the banks with chartreuse Power Bait, although interest is minimal. Bass fishing continues to be nonexistent. The lake rose to 32% capacity.
Call: 225-1838; 292-3474; 673-5151.
**Bass **Crappie **Trout **Catfish
Larry Kerns of the Visalia Bass Club said the bass bite has been "hit or miss" with the fluctuating water levels and full moon last week. The Visalia Bass Club fun tournament is this weekend. The residents at the Houseboats continue to land crappie on small minnows, and trout are found at the river inlet near the motel. Water releases from the lake caused the lake level to drop an seven feet to 586.19 feet in elevation and 7% capacity.
**Bass **Trout **Catfish
Trout fishing is still the top option with various colors of Power Bait along the Rocky Hill side of the lake. The Rocky Hill and Tule Point launch ramps are both open. The lake dropped to 11% capacity.
**Bass **Trout **King salmon *Kokanee **Crappie **Catfish
Manny Basi of the Bait Barn said things haven't changed much with tough bass fishing throughout the lake. The best action has been on drop-shotting Pro Worms in 300 small redflake at depths from the surface to 40 feet or small profile jigs. Trout trollers have been scoring with small spinners tipped with a night crawler on the surface. The only two launches available for large boats are Barrett's Cove or McClure Point, with small aluminums able to be launched at the Horseshoe. The water temperature ranges from 53 in the main lake to 46 degrees in the river canyons with the water stained in the river canyons. The lake rose to 44% of capacity.
Call: A-1 Bait (209) 563-6505, Bub Tosh (209) 404-0053.
Lake Don Pedro
**Bass ***Trout *Kokanee **King salmon
Monte Smith of Gold Country Sport Fishing had a great day Friday with 19 rainbows to 2.5 pounds, losing only 2 fish in the process. He has been trolling shad-imitation spoons such as Chucker T's, Vance's Slim Fins, ExCels, large Humdingers or Needlefish on lead core line or on the downriggers from the surface to 17 feet at speeds from 2 to 3 mph. He said the water conditions are perfect with at least 8 feet in visibility and a steady water temperature in the 54-degree range. There have been only a few trailers in the parking lot, so fishing pressure has been minimal. Bobby Muhlbier of Sonora landed a limit of quality rainbows and a 5-pound king salmon trolling Speedy Shiners at speeds to 3 mph. Manny Basi of the Bait Barn reported a continued tough bass bite with the only action on drop-shotting in deep water to 40 feet with the Pro Worm in 300 small redflake in leech pattern to 5-inch plastics or small profile brown jigs. There is no reaction bite. Trout fishing from the banks has been fair with rainbow glitter Power Bait or gold Kastmasters. Basi touted nearby Turlock Reservoir for easy limits of planted trout with Power Bait. Call: Monte Smith (209) 581-4734, Danny Layne -Fishn' Dan (209) 586-2383, Bait Barn (209) 874-301.
**Bass **Trout *Kokanee
James Mize of Valley Rod and Gun in Clovis said a few bass are being caught, but fishermen are keeping their techniques very quiet. The trout bite has slowed down with the last plant taking place a few weeks ago. There is still some snow around the edges of the lake. Anglers can check on launch conditions on the Webcam at basslakeca.com.
Call: 642-3141, Todd Wittwer 288-8100, 642-3633, 642-3737; Mike Bieghy 642-3748.
Shaver Lake/Huntington Lake
**Kokanee **Trout ***Smallmouth bass
Dick Nichols of Dick's Fishing Charters reported Shaver Lake is still snowed in after the recent storms, but Sheldon Sandstrom of the Sierra Marina plowed the main ramp over the weekend. There have been no anglers out in the past week, but Nichols thought the bite would be good if you could get out on the water. Fishermen can get a view of the ramp at sierramarina.com. Huntington Lake is still blanketed with snow.
Call: 841-2522, 841-2740, Dinkey Creek Inn 841-3435, Rancheria Marina 893-3234, Young's Sporting Goods 841-8271, Dick's Fishing Charters 841-5331.
San Francisco Bay
*Halibut **Stripers **Leopard shark **Sturgeon
Few boats have been making the long run out the Gate for crab, so most of the fishing action has been inside the bay for sturgeon or perch. One visitor from Jackson, Wyoming had a career day on Friday with a 56-inch keeper sturgeon and a 25-pound striper on ghost shrimp near the Pumphouse. Oyster Point Bait, Tackle and Deli reported a halibut was landed out in front of the pier on a sailboat. There were three legal sturgeon taken from the Oakland Airport over the weekend, with other legal fish landed near the Dunbarton Bridge. Herring and ghost shrimp have been the top baits. The Captain Hook out of Emeryville Sport Fishing was near the Oakland Airport on Sunday for a legal sturgeon at 80 pounds, two leopard sharks and five bat rays. There was some success in the south bay over the weekend with private boaters reporting hooking several sturgeon, including oversized to 80 inches and legal fish to 63 inches. Ghost/herring or grass/herring combinations were the top offerings with the best bite in the early morning at depths from 12 to 15 feet.
Half Moon Bay
Private boaters took advantage of the break in the weather to search for their crab pots, and many boaters found their pots were both sanded in and a bit worse for the weather. Those pulling pots picked up easy limits after the long soak of quality crab at depths from 190 to 200 feet.
Call: Happy Hooker (510) 223-5388; Huck Finn Sport Fishing Center (650) 726-7133, Emeryville Sport Fishing (510) 654-6040, Don Franklin, Soleman (510) 703-4148.
Todd Arcaleo of Chris's Landing in Monterey reported a continued squid massacre, with over 100 cephalopods dragged out of the canyon Sunday by a light load of eight anglers. They pulled the crab pots today for the first time since they were reset during the week, and they were rewarded with full limits. Mackerel and sand dab filled out their catch, as the white sea bass have taken a vacation from the bay, departing the calm waters in search of the small, market-grade squid which were the first to leave. Ly Tu of Ly's Fishing Goods said barred perch in the 1.5- to 2-pound range have been taken from Sunset Beach on grass shrimp.
Call: Chris' Landing (831) 375-5951, Bayside Marine (831) 475-2173, usafishing.com
Lake Nacimiento/San Antonio/Santa Margarita/Lopez
**Bass *Stripers **Catfish *Crappie
Matt Short of Jim's Pro Bass Tackle in Paso Robles said the bite at Nacimiento continues to be very tough with only two limits weighed in during the weekend's Ambushers tournament with a winning weight of 8.20 pounds. The docks at the Marina have been moved across the lake to another location with the water still loaded with debris. Dark-colored plastics worked at 20 to 25 feet in depth have been the top producers. San Antonio continues to produce few reports, but the smallmouth bass should be moving in to spawn in March. A few striper fishermen have been trying, but there are no reports. The best area bass bite is at Lopez with swimming jigs with a 5.5-inch swim bait in dark colors for fish to 6-pounds. Short added that crankbaits worked along the shorelines in 8 to 10 feet of water are also working. Santa Margarita has been slow for bass, and the Narrows is closed for the bass spawn. San Antonio rose to 43% of capacity. Nacimiento rose to 38% and Santa Margarita is holding at 48.6%. There is a Webcam at Nacimiento at dragonlakerentals.com/webcam.htm
Call: (805) 238-1056 ext. 3, (805) 472-2818; Central Coast Bass Fishing.com (805) 466-6557.
**Bass **Stripers **Sturgeon
The heavy concentrations of sturgeon have dispersed with the inflow, and boaters will have to rely on their electronics to find the scattered pods of fish. The Original Sturgeon Derby on Super Bowl weekend will fill the Delta with boats from San Pablo Bay up into the Rio Vista area. Captain Jim Smith of the Happy Hooker out of Martinez was in the area of Buoy 9 at the top of the Mothball Fleet on Saturday for three legal sturgeon at 63, 56 and 50 inches landed in addition to a couple of shakers. As always on a large party boat, there were numerous missed opportunities with some vicious hits left wanting for a hook-set throughout the day. All of the fish came on the incoming tide on some combination of eel and either grass or ghost shrimp. The successful anglers were Ron Reaves of Watsonville with a huge 63-inch sturgeon; Nick Crispen of Vallejo with a 56-inch and Art Fabela of Modesto who was able to fight and land his 50-incher. Son James Smith of the California Dawn was anchored up in lower Suisun Bay on Saturday for five keepers at 48, 49, 51, 55 and 64 inches. Jay Lopes of Right Hook Sport Fishing put in four keepers over the weekend to match a similar number of shakers in Suisun Bay. As on all of the other boats, grass shrimp combined with eel was the only thing going. James Nguyen at Dockside Bait in Pittsburg said things were slow today with heavy debris making things difficult to keep a line in the water. Allison Shawnego of Hap's Bait in Rio Vista said Cache Slough and the Sherman Island Power Lines have been the top areas over the weekend. There was a boat with two legal sturgeon to be weighed today that were up in Cache Slough. The big tides and inflow have left the river muddy. Jay Sorensen of Jolly Jay's Guide Service said the San Joaquin River is still slow for both stripers and sturgeon with limited action on a weekend trip. Randy Pringle, the Fishing Instructor, has been on a "search and seek" mode for stripers in the San Joaquin River system, which are scattered in small groupings since the water turned cold and muddy. Subsurface baits with noise such as Roadrunners or three-quarters-ounce Diamond Shad have been the top lures with the added vibration. The fish will stay scattered until the water clears. On the largemouth front, keeping the bait in the strike zone with a slow presentation is a must. He said the fish aren't used to the muddy water, and scent and vibration are key factors in getting bit. He has been picking up a few fish with the Persuader E-Chip jig or 10-inch Berkley Power Worm on a Zappu Head in deep colors such as black/blue, brown/orange, or green pumpkin. The darker colors stand out in the dirty water. With the extra-large full moon over the weekend, the fish came in tight to the shoreline, and they are moving up onto rocky structure to take advantage of the warmer water near the rocks. The bass are starting to eat the larger baits in preparation for the spawn.
Call: Randy Pringle (209) 543-6260; Mark Wilson Sport Fishing (916) 682-1630, Fin Addict Sport Fishing (209) 367-4665, Jolly Jay's Guide Service (209) 478-6645.
Western Outdoor News at Delta/Russo's on Jan, 30: 1, Mark Daniels Jr./Jamond Andrews, 22.41--pounds (big fish, 7.73) ; 2, Robert Jones/Bill Spence Jr., 7.81; 3, Jack Farage/Eric Smith, 7.46.
Fresno Bass Club at Millerton on Jan. 31: 1, Rod and Scott Burns, 13.03 pounds (big fish, 4.75); 2, Denny and Duane Bowlin, 13.03; 3, David Compolongo/Brett Collins, 10.76.
Tracy Bass Club at Delta/Tracy Oasis on Jan. 31: 1, Travis and Ray Huckaby, 13.83 pounds; 2, Claudio Silva/Carlos Velasquez, 12.30; 3, Chuck Dyer/Bret Cary, 11.08.
Thursday: Jake Flor, Kokanee Power, 6:15 p.m. at Fresno Fisherman's Warehouse; John Asher, Sturgeon Fishing, 6 p.m. at Manteca Fisherman's Warehouse.
Saturday: McClure, Kerman Bass/Manteca Bassin'Buddies; Don Pedro, Western Outdoor News; McAvoy's Harbor in Bay Point, Super Bowl Sturgeon Derby, originalsturgeonderby.org or (925) 458-0647; Delta/Russo's, Western Outdoor News; Kaweah, Visalia Bass Club New Melones, Sonora Bass Anglers; Millerton, Angler's Choice.
Sunday: Millerton, California Bass Federation; McClure, Kings VIII Bass Club; Delta/Tracy Oasis, Tracy Bass Club Oc
Fresno County: Avocado Lake; Kings River below the Pine Flat Reservoir; San Joaquin River below the Friant Dam