Compiled by Dave Hurley and edited by Roger George, a central San Joaquin Valley native and local fishing expert.
Never miss a local story.
Big bass at Santa Margarita highlight bite, Will Hesch said. New Melones spotted bass action on the upswing, Melanie Lewis reported. Delta Mendota stripers pick up the pace, Patrick Movey said. McClure bass hitting live bait and lures, Manny Basi said. Delta sturgeon action picks up, Curtis Hayes reported.
Lately I've been cleaning out my dad's 18 1/2-foot Seaswirl as well as all the stuff stored in the garage. Unpacking old plugs, poles and reels we had relied on as far back as the 1960s, as well as stuff we had saved from my grandfather's era going back into the 1940s, made me relive a lot of great trips, catches, fishing buddies and memories.
I opened a sealed box of some very old rubber worms. Incredibly, they still had the powerful smell of a new Crème worm! Every angler who threw a worm in the 1960s and '70s will remember that smell. It meant catching lots of nice bass – and melting away the surface of any lures or plastic baits that happened to be near them for long!
There were at least 40 reels, including all models of Ambassadeurs, Mitchell 300s, Shimanos and Daiwas.
Looking over about 1,500 lures, it became evident that just like other anglers, we had certain favorites that we couldn't get enough of. Thin Fins, Heddon Sonics, Crazy Crawlers, Creek Chubs, Hawaiian Wigglers, Hellcats, Rapalas, Poe's, Vivifs and Hula Poppers were big back then.
One particular treasure was an original Rapala topwater minnow with tiny propellers at each end from the early 1960s. The layers of hand-applied lacquer were coming apart, but on the belly it had a small, hand-painted "Made in Finland."
If all the tackle you accumulate could talk, what would it say about you? They may not be the crown jewels to anyone else, but it's clear that this "stuff" embodies the enduring spirit and values of a dedicated angler who lives on in his tackle – showing us the way to go, too.
On a funny note: Joan Selland, who lives several houses down the street, was having an evening get-together in her front yard with a few friends. Noticing my boat parked in the front of my house, she yelled, "Are you going fishing?" I yelled back, "Yes – tomorrow!" Joan: "Could you bring me back a fish to eat?" Me: "How big a fish do you want?" I could see the others conferring before she answered: "I don't clean fish!" Realizing what she was getting at, I yelled back as loud as I could, "I don't either!" The whole group fell out laughing. Guess I should have asked her if she wanted me to bring back some fresh fish sticks instead!
Roger George can be reached at email@example.com
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* Try dynamite
** Have to work hard
*** Limits possible
**** Fish jumpin' in boat
New Melones Reservoir
Bass*** Crappie** Catfish** Trout** Kokanee*
Melanie Lewis of Glory Hole Sporting Goods in Angels Camp said spotted bass action is on the upswing with the best fishing around points up the river arm or submerged islands and points in the main lake from 20-40 feet deep. Drop-shotting small shad-patterned plastics are the most consistent, but swimbaits are working when the wind is blowing. There were a few large bass over 7 pounds landed during the weekend tournament. Rain kept trout angling interest to a minimum. Lewis said still fishing from a boat in any of the creek arms is still the best technique. She advised bank anglers to sit under the Highway 49 Stevenot Bridge or on the south side of the lake with inflow in the area. The Kokanee Seminar Weekend is April 16-17. Catfishing remains slow with the best action in the creek arms. Crappie and bluegill fishing is improving near structure in Bear or Coyote coves with red/white crappie jigs or small to medium minnows. With the rising water, boaters are advised to watch for floating debris and unmarked island tops. The lake rose 4 feet to 71% capacity.
Call: (209) 736-4333; Monte Smith (209) 581-4734; Danny Layne-Fishn' Dan (209) 586 2383; Sierra Sport Fishing (209) 599-2023.
Bass** Trout*** Crappie** Catfish** Bluegill**
Trout fishing is still the best thing going at Lake Isabella in advance of the huge trout derby next month. The best action continues on Hatchery Pellet Power Bait in garlic or rainbow or the new Power Bullet bait presenter developed by the Target Bait Co. Sierra Gateway Sporting Goods in Lake Isabella touted the areas of Paradise, the main Dam or Boulder Gulch as top trout producers. Pete Cormier of Bob's Bait in Bakersfield said a few crappie can be taken in the submerged trees near Rocky Point with small to medium minnows or minijigs. The lake is balanced between inflow and outflow at 36% capacity. On the Kern River, trout fishing continues to be slow in the upper and lower with the stained water. In the Bakersfield area, Hart Park was crowded with bank fishermen over the weekend after two weeks of plants. The last trout plant at Buena Vista Lake was made a few weeks back, and trout fishing is slow. There were at least two large 12-pound striped bass taken on live shad at Buena Vista.
Call: Bob's Bait (661) 833-8657; North Fork Marina (760) 376-1812.
San Luis Reservoir and O'Neill Forebay
Stripers** Catfish** Bass* Crappie*
Even with the high water levels, the striper bite is starting to pick up with anglers using a variety of techniques for linesides to 22 inches. Both Ly Tu of Ly's Fishing Goods and Mickey Clements of Coyote Bait in San Jose said the 1.5-ounce River2Sea SeaRock jigs in white or blue are working in the big lake for school stripers to 3 pounds while trolling along the Trash Racks with broken-back Rebels, X-Raps or P-Line Predators. White or pearl ice flukes on half- to three-quarter-ounce jig heads, Storm WildEye Swim Shad in rainbow trout and Lucky Craft 128s in American Shad and Ghost Minnow are working in the main lake off of the Dam. In the Forebay, Tu said a few trollers are pulling Smithwick Lures and also jigging for stripers to 3 pounds. The water levels at Check 12 have been fluctuating. A few fish have been taken there on jumbo minnows or mudsuckers. The lake is at 99% capacity.
Call: Ly's Fishing Goods (408) 629-9644; Coyote Bait and Tackle (408) 463-0711.
Bass** Trout** Bluegill** Catfish** Crappie**
Patrick Movey of the Fishermen's Warehouse said the bass are moving into the shallows, and a 13-pound female reportedly was landed within the past week. Senkos are starting to work for bass to 2.5 pounds, and the action should continue to improve as the water temperatures rise. Watermelon Hula Grubs, jigs or Brush Hogs, and ripbaits in the shallows, are good choices. There are bass cruising the shorelines, but they have been reluctant to bite. The rockslide along Road 29 is keeping that area of the lake off-limits until mid-June. The Lakeview Trail is closed until Aug. 14 to protect a pair of nesting bald eagles. The lake rose 2 feet to 82% capacity.
Bass** Trout** Catfish** Bluegill*
Both Patrick Movey and Merritt Gilbert acknowledge the stirring signs of life at Hensley with quality fish to 3.5 pounds taken on ripbaits or Senkos. There have been quality fish cruising the banks in the afternoons in the 58-degree water. Gilbert predicts it'll break loose within two to three weeks. Hensley has a slightly better cut of bass than nearby Eastman. Trout fishing continues from the banks, and some trout have moved into deeper water with trollers boating limits on Wedding Rings tipped with a night crawler. The lake rose a foot to 60% capacity.
Call: 225-1838; 292-3474; 673-5151.
Diana Mello of A-1 Bait in Snelling said trout fishing continues to be best from the banks with chrome Kastmasters near the Brush Pile or with Chartreuse rainbow or the Neon Chartreuse Sparkle Crappie Nibbles. Trolling has been slow in the off-color waters and won't significantly improve until the water clears.
Call: (209) 378-2534.
Delta Mendota Canal and Sloughs
The action in the manmade water conveyance structures has improved in the past week with a largemouth bass weighed in at 10.4 pounds landed by Mike Her of Fresno on a spinnerbait in Mendota Slough on Sunday to go with stripers landed on the California Aqueduct out of Kettleman City and Firebaugh. White pearl flukes on a half- to three-quarter-ounce jig head are still flying out of area tackle shops, and Patrick Movey said sales of the 3-inch Storm Wildeye Swim Shad in rainbow trout are still high. In the south aqueduct, Pete Cormier of Bob's Bait in Bakersfield reported a 10-pound largemouth was taken on a Brush Hog in the aqueduct, a nd there are "plenty of stripers" in the Aqueduct with the best action on jumbo minnows or frozen shad.
Millerton Lake/San Joaquin River
Bass** Stripers* Shad* Trout**
Merritt Gilbert at Valley Rod and Gun said the overall bass bite has gotten tough. The water has been fluctuating over the past several weeks. Smaller baits on the dart head or drop shot have been working for spotted bass, but the majority of fish are in 11-12 inches with few keepers. Top anglers are scratching for 8- to 8.5-pound limits. No striper reports for the past week, similar to the past several months. The lake is releasing water, and it dropped a foot to 78% capacity. In the San Joaquin River, Steve Mullins of Herb Bauer's Sporting Goods in Fresno reported slow action over the weekend in the Lost Lake area where he had to "empty the tackle box" to take home a couple of planted rainbows. Salmon peach or corn yellow Power Bait are still the top sellers.
Call: 225-1838; 292-3474.
Pine Flat Reservoir/Kings River
Bass** Trout** King salmon** Catfish**
Merritt Gilbert of Valley Rod and Gun in Clovis said the bass action has slowed a bit – top anglers who had been pulling in limits of 10-12 pounds have been scratching for 8-pound sacks. The water temperature has risen to 58 degrees in the cuts in the afternoons on sunny days, and there is a ripbait bite in shallow water on warm days. The most consistent action remains on brown, brown/purple or green pumpkin jigs or drop-shotting at 20-30 feet. Larry Kerns of the Visalia Bass Club said the fish have been scattered from 5-50 feet, and he found spots to 4 pounds on drop-shotting and jigs. Patrick Movey touted Green Weenie plastics, Brush Hogs or jigs around rockwalls. Trout fishing has been hit-or-miss with the best action around the Power Lines at depths from 5 to 6 colors of lead core with Apex, Cripplures, Needlefish or Dick Nichol's Trout Busters. Wedding Rings tipped with a night crawler are working at depths from two to three colors in the Trimmer and Sycamore Creek areas. There have been a few king salmon at 16 inches confirmed in the main lake, and these fish are growing from the 11- to 13-inchers landed a few months ago. Anglers have been working all day to put in a couple of limits of trout. Doyal's Store reported good bank action in the Trimmer area with Power Bait. The lake dropped a foot to 68% capacity. Merritt Gilbert said heavy spoons have been the top lures for the lower Kings River with Blue Fox and Kastmasters being top sellers. The water releases are making this section of the river challenging. Doyal's Store said there haven't been any large fish brought in within the past week. Power Bait in various colors is still popular.
Call: 787-2387; 225-1838; 292-3474.
Bass** Crappie* Trout** Catfish**
Larry Kerns of the Visalia Bass Club said bass fishing is reported to be improving with a number of largemouth to 3 pounds taken on jigs or drop-shotting. He said, "If you are on the right spot, you are going to catch them." Bank fishing for planted trout remains decent with the best action along the first and second Launch Ramps with Kastmasters, rainbow or orange Power Bait or night crawlers. The lake rose 16 feet to 16% capacity.
Bass** Trout** Catfish**
The Army Corps of Engineers Ranger Station reported seeing only a few boats on the water over the weekend with most fishermen lining the banks along the Rocky Hill side to fish for trout with night crawlers or various colors of Power Bait. Bass fishing should pick up with warmer water and the largemouth bass spawn. The lake rose 4 feet to 25% capacity.
Bass*** Trout** King salmon** Kokanee* Crappie** Catfish**
Diana Mello of A-1 Bait in Snelling said a few limits of king salmon have been taken on rolled shad, Cop Car Needlefish or shad-patterned ExCels at 55-90 feet across from Temperance. Trout have been biting white bikini Needlefish or popsicle ExCel spoons at 25 feet in the McClure Point area from the Buoy Line to the Dam. Mello added that a few crappie have been biting medium minnows at night near the Houseboats. Live crawdads have been hard to obtain, but they are working for bass from the banks at McClure Point. The lake is releasing water and dropped 4 feet to 67% 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 has experienced varying success on his past two trips to the lake with the best action for rainbow trout found along the west end of the lake. The fish are moving out into the open water, and they are dropping deeper in the water column. Smith predicts a good bite once the weather stabilizes. The lake is at 80% capacity. Trout plants at nearby Turlock Lake have provided good action from the banks.
Call: Monte Smith (209) 581-4734; Danny Layne-Fishn' Dan (209) 586-2383; Bait Barn (209) 874-3011.
Bass** Trout** Kokanee*
A trout plant is scheduled for this week and trout fishing should be good from the banks with chrome Kastmasters, night crawlers or various colors of Power Bait. The lake is stable at 42% capacity and access to the launch ramp is limited to small aluminum boats.
Call: Todd Wittwer 288-8100; Mike Beighey 642-3748.
Shaver Lake/Huntington Lake
Kokanee* Trout** Smallmouth bass*
Both lakes are frozen over. The Shaver Lake Trophy Trout Project meets March 16 at 9 a.m. at Tiffany Pines conference room. Tickets for a fundraiser dinner Aug. 13 at the Shaver Lake Community Center are $20.
Call: Dick's Fishing Charters 841-2740; Dinkey Creek Inn 841-3435; Rancheria Marina 893-3234; Young's Sporting Goods 841-8271, 841-2522, 841-2740.
San Francisco Bay
Halibut** Stripers** Sturgeon** Leopard shark**
A few fishermen have been trying to locate halibut inside the bay. Jim Smith on the Happy Hooker was the apparent highliner Saturday with a solitary 14-pound halibut taken on the troll near X Buoy in the Berkeley Flats. He will focus on sturgeon for a few weeks before making another try for halibut. There were good conditions reported including green water off of the Alameda Rockwall to go with plenty of bait in the bay and bird action off of the Berkeley Pier. John Akina at Oyster Point Bait, Tackle and Deli in South San Francisco said the action has been very slow for both sturgeon and halibut. The pier is limited to sharks and ray with an occasional surf perch. The Napa River will be loaded with boats this weekend for the 28th-annual Al's Ark Striper Derby out of Cutting Wharf.
Half Moon Bay
Local private and party boats still are working through the long winter months for crab and the occasional crab/sand dab combination trip. Anglers heading to Half Moon Bay are advised to obtain their one-day licenses prior to the trip since there are only two locations within the harbor that are available for license purchases.
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.
Sonny Arcaleo of Chris' Landing said they pulled eight limits Sunday to go with "unlimited" sand dab and about 50 mackerel in the three-quarter-pound range. Arcaleo said they are scheduling combination trips for Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the coming week. Arcaleo is scheduling salmon trips for the tentative opener April 2, and the potential opening day is booked, but there is plenty of room following the opener, if it takes place. Bayside Marine in Santa Cruz reported they will have plenty of live pile worms and shrimp for the coming Sand Crab Perch derby on Saturday. There were two party boats out of Santa Cruz fishing for sand dabs. Ly Tu of Ly's Fishing Goods in San Jose has weighed in several barred perch 2-2.5 pounds in the past week taken from the beaches around Moss Landing on grass shrimp or sand crabs. All of this is good news for the sixth-annual Sand Crab Surf Perch Classic on Saturday. Registration forms are available at www.letsgofishingradioshow.com.
Call: Chris' Landing (831) 375-5951; Bayside Marine (831) 475-2173; usafishing.com.
San Luis Obispo
Local rockfishing season is over until May 1, and both harbors are featuring whale watching or nature cruises on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the winter months. Both tackle shops are open on a daily basis.
Call: Virg's Landing, (805) 772-1222, (800) 762-5263; Patriot Sports Fishing (805) 595-4100; Port Side Marine Sports Launch (805) 595-7214.
Lake Nacimiento/San Antonio/Santa Margarita/Lopez
Bass*** White bass** Stripers** Catfish** Crappie**
The coastal lakes are either popping or ready to pop with a new lake record 14.33-pound largemouth bass caught by Joe Alanis of Clovis at Santa Margarita on Sunday around noon in the Murphy's Bay area. This huge fish was taken on a 6-inch motor oil plastic worm on 6-pound test, and it was safely released back into the lake. The water temperature at the lake is 50 degrees, which is still on the cold side for the spawn. San Antonio Reservoir has shown signs of life with 15 limits ranging from 7.24 to 14.71 pounds during Saturday's Angler's Choice tournament. Nacimiento is still great for numbers with anglers coming as far away as Bakersfield or San Jose to get in on the varied bite for spotted and white bass, along with crappie. Pete Cormier of Bob's Bait in Bakersfield said there were several carcasses in the garbage cans, and anglers are advised not to eat the fish out of Nacimiento due to excessive levels of mercury. Nacimiento rose 2 feet to 77% capacity with San Antonio rising a foot to 62% capacity. Santa Margarita is still stable at over 100% capacity with Lopez rising a half-foot to 77% capacity.
Call: (805) 238-1056 ext. 3, (805) 472-2818; Central Coast Bass Fishing.com (805) 466-6557.
Bass** Stripers** Sturgeon***
Sturgeon and striper fishing is starting to perk up as the water temperature rose a few degrees to the 50-degree range. Curtis Hayes at Benicia Bait reported continued good sturgeon action up in the shallows in Grizzly Bay at the top of the tide. Dockside Bait in Pittsburg said the sturgeon have been on the bite with at least three to four brought into the shop on a daily basis. Mike Pipkins at Gotcha Bait in Antioch said things were pretty slow Sunday, but anglers have been using live minnows for largemouth bass in the San Joaquin River system. Sturgeon action also is picking up all the way upriver towards Isleton with eel/grass shrimp or pile worm/grass shrimp combinations. Pipkins said, "Things are looking good, and the only thing we should be battling soon is the wind." The Fish First Fly Shop in Albany reported poor to fair striper action in the central Delta on the San Joaquin River and near Frank's Tract with the water remaining off color in the one to four foot visibility.
Call: Randy Pringle (209) 543-6260; Stan Koenigsberger/Quetzal Adventures (925) 570-5303; Mark Wilson Sport Fishing (916) 682-1630; Intimidator Sport Fishing (916) 806-3030; Jolly Jay's Guide Service (209) 478-6645.
Kerman Bass Club at Pine Flat on March 5: 1, Rusty Baron, 12.50 pounds; 2, Raul Lozano, 10.42 (big fish 6.04); 3, Dale Ashcraft, 9.41
Angler's Choice at San Antonio on March 5: 1, Jim Keeny/Tom Ryan, 14.71 pounds (big fish 3.73); 2, Herm Delore/Jeff Smith, 13.08; 3, Charlie and Dan Barrios, 12.36
American Bass Association at New Melones on March 5: 1, Gerry Johnson/Terry Odem, 20.73 pounds (big fish 7.72); 2, Randy and Glenn Pierson, 16.49; 3, Matt Dolph/Sam Balbas, 14.74
Fresno Open at Don Pedro on March 5: 1, Seth Rowe/Mike Alvarez 17.05 pounds; 2, Eddie Alanzo/Jim Betts, 15.92; 3, Mark Corrente/John Albidrez, 15.90 (big fish 4.69)
Bass Pro Shops in Manteca, Spring Classic Seminars Saturday: noon, Jared Johnson of Rocky Mountain Tackle Company, Fishing in Flaming Gorge in Utah; 1 p.m., Fly Fishing Expert Al Smatsky, Dorado, Fishing Mexico on the Fly; 2 p.m., Bass Pro Shops Pro Staffer Joe Askamit, Spring trout/kokanee trolling techniques; 3 p.m., Bass Pro Shops Pro Staffer Kevin Brock, Striper fishing techniques on the Delta; 4 p.m., Guide Monte Smith of Gold Country Sport Fishing, Kokanee, trout, and king salmon trolling techniques in the Mother Lode reservoirs
Sunday: noon, Clifford Sullivan, Stillwater fishing for trout; 1 p.m., Bass Pro Shops Pro Staffer Kevin Brock, California's fishing Hot Spots for 2011; 2 p.m. Bass Pro Shops Pro Staffer Joe Askamit, Spring trout/kokanee trolling techniques; 3 p.m., Jared Johnson of Rocky Mountain Tackle Company, What it takes to catch land-locked salmon
Other events Thursday: Barry Canavero of FishHookers Sport Fishing, Delta Striped Bass Techniques, 6 p.m. at Manteca Fisherman's Warehouse; Bruce Beck, Pro Staff of Uncle Larry's Lures, Surface Trolling for Trout, 6:15 p.m. at Fresno Fisherman's Warehouse
Saturday: Tulloch Reservoir, Angler's Choice; Pine Flat, Angler's Choice; Don Pedro, Western Outdoor News; McClure, Future Pro Tour; Delta/Russo's Marina, Hook, Line, and Sinker; Kaweah, Golden Empire Bass Club; Kokanee Power Annual Dinner, annual Kokanee Power Fundraising Banquet at the Lodi Gun and Bocchi Club, information, kokaneepower.org; Sand Crab Surf Perch Classic in Santa Cruz, information, letsgofishingradioshow.com
Sunday: Don Pedro, Fresno Bass Club; Tulloch Reservoir, Kings VIII Bass Club
Fresno County: Avocado Lake; Fresno Regional Sports Complex pond; Kings River below the Pine Flat Reservoir; Pine Flat Lake, San Joaquin River below the Friant Dam
Kern County: Brite Valley Reservoir; Hart Park Lake; Kern River from Powerhouse No. 3 to Riverside Park, Kernville; Lake Truxton; Ming Lake; The Park at River Walk lake
Madera County: Bass Lake; H. V. Eastman Lake; Hensley Lake
Tulare County: Del Lago Park lake; Kern River from Brush Creek to Fairview Dam; Kern River from Fairview Dam to Falling Waters Lodge; Murry Park pond