Compiled by Dave Hurley and edited by Roger George, a former Olympic-class decathlete at Fresno State and striper record-holder at Millerton Lake and who now guides in the greater Fresno area. Telephone numbers are in 559 calling area unless noted.
* Try dynamite
** Have to work hard
Never miss a local story.
*** Limits possible
**** Fish jumpin’ in boat
Delta Mendota Canal and Sloughs
Striper ** Catfish **
Striper fishing continued to be fair at best in the northern section of the California Aqueduct, with most anglers heading to the O’Neill Forebay or the main San Luis Reservoir. A few anglers continue to target stripers with Duo Realis jerkbaits, Lucky Craft Pointer 128’s, or white flukes near moving water close to the headgates. In the south aqueduct in Kern County, Jacob Rutledge of Bob’s Bait in Bakersfield reported a few large catfish landed on frozen shad; largemouth bass fishing remained solid with plastics on the drop-shot or split-shot.
Bass *** Trout ** Bluegill ** Catfish ** Crappie *
After a long, long winter characterized by a minimal inflow into the two low-elevation reservoirs fed by rivers without appreciable snowfall, the bass bite went off within the past week. Mark Inman of the Six Star Tackle Box Store in Madera said, “The bass bite has been fantastic for numbers in the shallows with fishermen just walking the banks and tossing jigs on a football head or plastic worms on the drop-shot. The bass are oriented toward the shallows, and they are moving onto the beds. Most of the fish are in the 1- to 3-pound range, but there have been some larger fish over 10 pounds landed in the past week with jigs being particularly effective.” Merritt Gilbert of Valley Rod and Gun in Clovis reported a “wide open” bass bite with plastics on a darthead on the submerged island tops. He said, “The bass are in the 1.75- to 3-pound range, but the islands are loaded with fish. One boat went out and caught and released over 60 fish within a few hours. Fishing near any of the rockpiles marked with buoys is a great option.” There is some reaction bite, but the best action is with plastics. Ranger Brian Stiles confirmed the solid bite at Eastman, with a few reports of largemouth bass in excess of 10 pounds, including a 24-incher. He said, “Most of the action has been with drop-shot plastics or Carolina rigs, but artificial nightcrawlers an minnows are also working.” Planted trout have been taken from the banks near the fishing-access lot, just south of the Cordoniz and Chowchilla boat ramps, and near the dam with trout dough bait on a sliding sinker rig. The area of the lake extending upstream from the buoy line near the Cordoniz launch is closed to accommodate nesting bald eagles. There are unmarked hazards throughout the lake due to low water conditions. The lake held at 8% capacity.
Call: Six Star Tackle Box 673-5688; Eastman Lake 689-3255
Bass *** Trout ** Catfish ** Bluegill ** Crappie **
At Hensley, Mark Inman of the Six Star Tackle Box Store in Madera reported numbers of small bass in the 11- to 12-inch range are rampant for anglers working the banks with plastics or jigs. The bass are plentiful but much smaller than those at nearby Eastman. The annual Kids Fishing Derby is April 11, with fishing tutorials and water-safety instruction. The launch ramp is accessible for larger boats. Trout fishing from the shore remained slow. Boaters should contact the ranger station at the Corps of Engineers office for ramp conditions. The lake is at 8% capacity.
Call: Fresno Fisherman’s Warehouse 225-1838; Valley Rod Gun, Clovis 292-3474; Six Star Tackle Box 673-5688; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hensley Lake Hidden Dam 673-5151
Lake Don Pedro
Bass *** Trout ** Kokanee ** King salmon * Crappie **
Manny Basi of the Bait Barn in Waterford said, “Bass fishing has been solid with live minnows or nightcrawlers from the banks near Rodgers and Fleming Meadows, and for artificial, ripbaits, crankbaits, and small topwater lures such as K 3.8 to 4.8 K-Techs in rainbow trout are working.” Trout fishing is improving for overall numbers, and the fish have dropped in the water column at depths from 27-35 feet. Monte Smith of Gold Country Sport Fishing marked small schools of kokanee from 25-45 feet deep, and he plans on mixing up shoepeg corn in order to target kokanee. The surface and lead core trout bite is over for the season as the fish are finding cooler water. The Fleming Meadows ramp has two lanes open, but Blue Oaks remains closed. The lake rose nearly a foot to 713.45 in elevation and 44% capacity.
Call: Monte Smith (209) 581-4734; Danny Layne-Fish’n Dan (209) 586-2383; Gary Vella (209) 652-7550; Bait Barn (209) 874-3011
Lake Isabella/Bakersfield area
Bass ** Trout *** Crappie ** Catfish ** Bluegill **
The 26th annual Lake Isabella Fishing Derby brought out campers and RV’s to the lake for a weekend of fishing. Ten cash prizes from $5,000 down to $500 were distributed. The crappie bite that was so hot two weeks ago has slowed considerably; the best action remains around Piney Point or French Gulch with Crappie Nibbles or small to medium minnows. Most of the weekend interest was for planted trout, and Jacob Rutledge of Bob’s Bait in Bakersfield said, “The participants caught plenty of fish, but the event is less popular than in past years, perhaps due to the extremely low lake levels.” High winds are expected during the middle of this week, which further slow crappie action. Bass fishing remains minimal, but there are a few bass tournaments scheduled for the lake in April. Rutledge thought bass fishing would become more popular now that the trout derby is over. Catfishing remained fair with garlic shrimp, frozen shad, jumbo minnows, anchovies or sardines. With the low lake levels, it is necessary to use a four-wheel-drive vehicle to launch vessels from the dirt ramp near Red’s Marina. There are no marinas or courtesy docks in the lake, which is at 8% capacity. In the Kern River, trout fishing has been slow despite the recent plants in the upper and lower sections. A recent trout plant also occurred at Buena Vista, but there have been few reports. Crappie action is fair at night under lights while catfishing is best with Catnip Beef Bait. The local lakes are transitioning over to warm water species such as bluegill and largemouth bass.
Call: Bob’s Bait (661) 833-8657; North Fork Marina (760) 376-1812
Bass *** Crappie *** Trout ** Catfish **
The bass are on beds and in the shallows, and dragging lizards or Senkos are working for the smaller males. Bed fish are available, but tournament fishermen are keeping very quiet with the upcoming events at the lake. Bank anglers are picking up quality crappie at night under lights with Crappie Stingers or similar lures for slabsides in the three-quarters-pound range. The popular Crappie Stingers are no longer readily available, but Valley Rod and Gun in Clovis still has a few pegs with the lures in various color patterns. Trout action remained slow, as the lake has only received a few plants this year. Catfishing is decent with sardines, or chicken livers.
Call: Sierra Sporting Goods 592-5212
Bass *** Trout *** Catfish ** Crappie **
Chuck Stokke of Sequoia Fishing Co. in Springville said, “The bass are on the prowl, and the warm weather has definitely helped.” Senkos, Brush Hogs, lizards, jigs, or crankbaits are all working. A few crappie are being taken on minijigs or by fly-fishing with Woolley Buggers. The trout bite has slowed to fair with the best action on Panther Martins or nightcrawlers. The lake is at 9% capacity. In the Tule River, Stokke said, “The river is fishing excellent on dry flies using stimulators, caddis, or hoppers, and the action on hoppers is very unusual for this early in the season.” There is a chance of rain in the area for this week.
Call: Sequoia Fishing Co. 539-5626, www.sequoiafishingcompany.com
Bass *** Trout ** King salmon * Kokanee * Crappie ** Catfish **
The lake has risen to 9% capacity and 609.38 feet in elevation. The North Barrett Cove Launch Ramp is open and may stay that way through Easter Sunday. Numbers of bass are plentiful for anglers willing to launch and make the long trek back to the parking area or those walking the banks. The launch ramp is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and boats have to be off the water by 4. Senkos, Brush Hogs, lizards or plastic worms are all working. Bass tournaments scheduled for McClure are being switched to neighboring reservoirs such as Don Pedro for the spring. The store and marinas will remain closed for the coming season.
Call: A-1 Bait (209) 563-6505; Bub Tosh (209) 404-0053
Trout plants have been occurring every six weeks, with a big plant is anticipated ahead of the April 11-12 Merced Irrigation Trout Derby. Registration remains open at lakemcclure.com. The McSwain Marina reported the best trout action has been coming from trollers working at depths from 25-30 feet with hootchies behind a flasher in the 60-degree water. Trout action from the bank has been slow. The lake is stained because of inflow of warm and off-color water from Lake McClure.
Call: McSwain Marina (209) 378-2534
Millerton Lake/San Joaquin River
Bass *** Striper ** Shad * Bluegill ** Catfish ** Trout **
Numbers of bass are found in the shallows, but the majority are in the 11- to 12.5-inch range. An occasional bass will be in the 2- to 2.5-pound category, but anglers have to cull through plenty to find one of these proportions. Senkos, jigs or plastics on the drop-shot, Texas-rig or darthead are producing numbers in the shallows along with a few ripbait fish, but the blade bite has been slow. Big stripers continue to come up to take a swipe at a hooked spotted bass. Recreational boating has increased with the hot Valley weather. A few catfish are showing up on anchovies, but the crappie window has yet to emerge. All motors must conform to low-emission standards. Millerton is rising slowly, and it came up about a half-foot to 496.15 in elevation and 39% capacity. In the lower San Joaquin, action was minimal with the exception of a few bass taken around Sycamore Island Park. Regulations on the lower San Joaquin, and from Friant Dam downstream to the Highway 140 Bridge, allow only two hatchery trout or hatchery steelhead with a total of four in possession. The hatchery fish have a healed adipose fin clip. All wild steelhead or trout with an adipose fin present must be released immediately.
Call: Fresno Fisherman’s Warehouse 225-1838; Valley Rod & Gun 292-3474
New Melones Reservoir/Tulloch
Bass *** Crappie *** Catfish ** Trout ** Kokanee **
The Glory Hole Point launch is open with a two-lane concrete ramp, but a long walk is necessary to reach the parking area. John Lietchy of Glory Hole Sporting Goods in Angels Camp reported fair trout fishing, with the best action in the main lake over the deepest portions. He said, “As the surface temperature continues to warm, the trout will head for deeper water. Trollers are finding the best action with spoons such as Speedy Shiners, Excels, or Needlefish in color patterns matching the water clarity. Bright colors work in stained water while natural colors work in stained water.” Gary Burns of Take it to the Limit Guide Service said, “This week with the weather getting warmer and the water getting warmer things are about to change. The bigger bows have been in the trees hunting for the shad and who knows what the kokanee have been doing but with the warmer conditions, the plankton will start to bloom and we will start putting kokanee in the boat. With the low water conditions, it will be hard to know what the kokanee season will be like, let’s hope we see some nice fat 17-inchers this year. The trout are leaving the trees and starting to go deeper where the water is cooler, this week we have been getting the bows down to 25 feet in depth, and with the warm weather, we will start fishing the dam, spillway and the main lake.” Bank fishing has slowed as the trout have pulled off the shorelines. In order to land a trout from the bank, anglers will near to target areas with deep water access and set up a slip-float rip with a live minnow with the bobber stop placed at 25 inches. Kokanee should be showing up in greater numbers soon; a few local guides are picking them up at depths from 40-60 feet with small hootchies behind a small blade. Bass fishing provides the highlight at the lake, leading Lietchy to state, “The spring bass bite has been exceptionally good as we have seen a bunch of huge fish and some impressive limits. The fish are starting to spawn and it is very important to practice catch and release.” Senkos, Brush Hogs, lizards, and plastics such as Robo Worms are working near the shore as the fish have moved into the shallows. The swimbait bite has slowed, but anglers can still pick up a larger fish on a swimbait. Catfishing has been fair, but the crappie is good in the abundant submerged trees with minijigs or live minnows. New Melones dropped 5 feet to 869.63 in elevation and 22% capacity. At Lake Tulloch, the plan remains to drain the lake in September to meet agricultural and environmental obligations, but it would be open for the summer months. Danny Layne of Fish’n Dan’s found quality rainbow and brown trout to 3.5 pounds on a recent trip trolling the open water near the dam and in the Green Springs Arm with scented grubs, Uncle Larry’s spinners, watermelon Apex lures, and 6-inch plastic worms at depths from the surface to 15 feet.
Call: Glory Hole Sports (209) 736-4333; Monte Smith (209) 581-4734; Danny Layne-Fish’n Dan (209) 586-2383; Sierra Sport Fishing (209) 599-2023
Pine Flat Reservoir/Kings River
Kokanee * Bass ** Trout *** King salmon * Catfish ** Crappie **
Few trout trollers are working the lake, but most are finding limits of planters to 14.5 inches at 3-4 colors of lead core line on Needlefish or similar spoons. The bass are moving onto the beds, and the prediction is the bite will “cut loose” on the next full moon. Senkos, jigs, and plastics such as Robo Worm’s Green Weenie on the drop-shot are working at depths from the bank to 15 feet. A few fish are coming on blades and ripbaits, but the topwater bite remained slow. The crappie have yet to turn on, despite the abundance of submerged trees. A few catfish are taken on anchovies near the Pine Flat Lake Marina. One launch ramp is open on the lake, but the lake is inching up slowly. Kokanee Power will be hosting its annual Team Trout Derby on April 18. Information is available at kokaneepower.org. The lake is at 18% capacity. In the lower Kings River, catchable rainbows are biting various colors of Power Bait or nightcrawlers in low flows. There are special regulations in both the Kings River above and below Pine Flat Dam. The season is open from the last Saturday in April to Nov. 15 from Pine Flat Dam downstream to U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Bridge on Pine Flat Road with a five-fish limit. The Corps of Engineers Bridge is the first one to the west of the dam. The area from Cobbles (Alta) Weir downstream to the Highway 180 crossing is open all year with only artificial lures with barbless hooks with a zero limit. The Thorburn Spawning Channel, the 2,200 foot long channel located 5 miles downstream from Pine Flat Dam, and the reach of river within a 200-foot radius of the channel exit is closed to all fishing all year.
Call: Fresno Fisherman’s Warehouse 225-1838; Valley Rod & Gun 292-3474; Sequoia Fishing Co. 539-5626; The I Forgot Store 787-3689
San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay
Striper ** Catfish ** Bass ** Crappie **
San Luis Reservoir is starting to release water after several weeks of heavy pumping out of the Delta, and it is currently at 67% capacity despite several thousand acre-feet of water rushing out of the lake. Striped bass in the 5- to 10-pound range have been taken on ripbaits, lipless crankbaits, and white flukes cast from a boat, while trollers are working deep water from 60-80 feet near the trash racks or the dam with 6-inch white swimbaits or ripbaits such as Lucky Craft Pointers 100’s or 128’s in chartreuse shad or Aurora Black. Roger George of Roger’s Guide Service said that the overall bite last Thursday through Saturday was tough for most anglers, according to the lake rangers. “The scattered fish are hard to find, and the average count was from zero to 2 fish from all the boats I talked to struggling in the heat. We got 10 fish Friday, fishing with Dr. Clyde Curry of Fresno. Then on Saturday the morning bite faded early, but I finally found some active fish after lunch and we released over 20, with three from 24-26 inches. It’s been an early bite, that turns off quickly — with fish spread from 40-90 feet on YoZuris and Pointers,” George said. Shore fishing is fair with jumbo minnows, frozen shad, blood worms, or pile worms near the Romero Visitor Center, Goosehead Point or Dinosaur Point. The lake is already releasing water, although pumping from the Delta continues to be high. The launch ramp is open, with boaters scoring school-sized striped bass with ripbaits, lipless crankbaits, and swimbaits in chrome or shad-patterned. Trollers are pulling Lucky Craft Pointer 100’s or 128’s in chartreuse shad or ghost minnow. Shore fishermen are scoring near Check 12 and underneath the Highway 152 Bridge with frozen shad, pile worms, or blood worms. Heavy pumping through the reservoir continued throughout the week, and the stripers become active when the water is moving.
Call: Coyote Bait and Tackle (408) 463-0711, Roger George of rogergeorgeguideservice.com (559) 905-2954
Bass ** Trout ** Kokanee *
Trout are still found in the top 10 feet of the surface with blade/crawler combinations, Wedding Rings tipped with a nightcrawler behind a dodger or spinners, but most trout anglers continue to head up to Shaver Lake. There are a few upcoming bass tournaments, and fishermen have been extremely quiet regarding their success. The bass are in the top 15 feet from the banks; most fish are taken on plastics on the drop-shot or darthead. The fish are generally smaller spotted bass, with no fish in the 6- to 8-pound range reported. The lake’s level has held, and launching a 19-foot boat is not a problem, but there is a large chunk of concrete missing from one side of the public ramp. The courtesy dock is only three-quarters of the way in the water. The lake held at 52% of capacity.
Call: Todd Wittwer 288-8100; Mike Beighey 642-3748
Brown trout ** Trout **
The Kaiser Pass Lakes are done until the gate is reopened later in the spring. At Mammoth Pool, few fishermen are making the long drive, but trout fishing continues to be decent from the shore with Power Bait or nightcrawlers. Mammoth Pool is at 30% capacity, with Edison at 5% and Florence 14%.
Call: Vermilion Valley Resort at Edison Lake 259-4000
Shaver Lake/Huntington Lake
Kokanee ** Trout ***
Shaver Lake continues to be the go-to reservoir for central Valley anglers in search of a trophy rainbow trout. Interest remains high with the lure of the trophies and the unseasonably warm temperatures that are expected to stay in the high 60- to 70-degree range over the next week. The Sierra Marina is opening next week, and Dick Nichols of Dick’s Fishing Charters will start operations out of the Shaver Lake Marina on April 7. Both marinas will be available for rental boats. Nichols said, “The trophy trout are moving daily in search of small bait fish and other aquatic food sources, but the Point, the island, Black Rock and Eagle Point remain the top areas for trollers at depths from 20-27 feet on the downrigger. I have been checking with trollers, and the majority of rainbows are holdovers with an occasional 3- to 4-pound recently planted trophy and kokanee to 12 inches.” Blade/crawler combinations, Dick’s Trout Busters tipped with a piece of nightcrawler behind a weighted flasher, Apex lures or various spinners are all working for trout and kokanee. Fishermen are also drifting trout dough bait or nightcrawlers from their boats, and Robin Creamer of Fresno landed a 14-pound Nebraska-strain trophy trout in an undisclosed location. He kept the fish alive, photographed his catch, and released it back into the lake. Since it costs the Shaver Lake Trophy Trout Project about $72 for a fish of this size, anglers are encouraged to release the big fish. Trout in the 10-pound range cost the SLTTP $50 or more, so the organizers are requesting that anglers consider releasing the larger fish or only keeping one of the trophies per trip. Nichols, president of the SLTTP, said, “Congratulations to the sportsmen for their unselfish acts, but keeping a trophy is OK as long as you release any others than you land.” Bank fishing is fair for numbers from Roads 1 or 2, the dam, and the Sierra Marina shore, and a few trophies have been landed on spinners, trout dough bait or inflated nightcrawlers. The Shaver Lake Trophy Trout contest runs through December 31, and the official weigh stations are Ken’s Market or Shaver Lake Sports in Shaver Lake. Anglers can help future plants by the project through donations to the 2016 plant. Send a tax-deductible check to SLTTP, P.O. Box 908, Shaver Lake 93664. The annual fundraising dinner is Aug. 8 at the Shaver Lake Community Center. Shaver has risen to 49% capacity; Huntington has risen to 37%, but the ramp is out of the water amid the low levels.
Call: Dick’s Fishing Charters 841-2740; Dinkey Creek Inn 841-3435; Rancheria Marina 893-3234; Shaver Lake Sports Inc. 841-2740
Access to both lakes ended till spring with the closure of the gate at Dinkey Creek.
Call: Wishon RV Park 865-5361
Half Moon Bay
The ocean salmon season opens Saturday, and it is anyone’s guess as to the results for the first week. An added bonus if the action is slow is the opening of the rockfish take below Pigeon Point on Wednesday. Since most boats out of Pillar Point Harbor will be running south to the Deep Reef, an option for rockfishing exists. Captain Tom Mattusch of the ‘Huli Cat’ is ready for the salmon opener, and he plans on operating south below Pigeon Point, providing the option for rockfishing if the action is slow. He said, “I have been working on the boat over the past few days, and we are watching birds crashing the surf just outside of the harbor.” Captain Dennis Baxter of the New Captain Pete is also ready to roll, and he is chartered for the opener, but there is “spacious room on the decks” in the following days. He said, “We are going to go hunting, and I expect the salmon will be deep with the unseasonably warm water. We are prepared to drop down 4-pound weights on light Spectra line in order to get as deep as possible. Usually we receive reports of incidental catches of salmon hitting Sabiki rigs for sand dabs, but these have been scarce this season, and the normal acres and acres of anchovies or sardines are absent this year. The water should normally be in the 49- to 53-degree range, but it is much higher this year. However, the coming northwest wind will certainly help.” Half Moon Bay Sport Fishing also will be sending out the Queen of Hearts and Riptide on the salmon opener after making the run south of Pigeon Point for rockfish Wednesday. All of the local party boats have light loads for the opening day, and reservations are starting to trickle in. Farther north in Pacifica, Marque Grissom of Coastside II Bait in Pacifica said, “The striped bass have poured into the beaches within the past week, and there are several bass in the 6- to 10-pound range reported from bait fishermen targeting surf perch with sand crabs or pile worms. The best area seems to be Linda Mar, and these fish suddenly arrived, perhaps due to the large tides in San Francisco Bay.”
Call: Happy Hooker (510) 223-5388; Roger Thomas, Salty Lady (415) 760-9362; Bait and Switch Sport Fishing Center (650) 726-7133726-7133; Emeryville Sport Fishing (510) 654-6040; Don Franklin, Soleman (510) 703-4148
Ocean salmon season opens Saturday, and the three boats out of Chris’ Landing in Monterey are already booked for opening day. The water iss cooling but is still 5 degrees higher than normal in the mid-50-degree range. Chris Arcoleo of Chris’ Landing said, “I wasn’t optimistic for last year’s opener of salmon season, but we found spectacular action with early limits of big fish on opening day and at the first of the season. I feel similar to last year. as I just don’t know what to expect, but there has been some krill showing up for the first time this year and along with the recently arriving squid, things are looking up a bit.” The Risso dolphin schools have been chasing the squid up into the beaches in Monterey Bay, and there have been humpbacked whales feeding on anchovies near Mulligan Hill. The Check Mate, the Star of Monterey and the Caroline will start somewhere off the edge of the Monterey Canyon searching for anchovies and bait before dropping down their lines. All of the large party boats out of Monterey mooch for salmon throughout the season; mooching allows the boats to target deep water where the fish have been hanging in the past few years because of the increase in ocean temperatures. However, Arcoleo said, “The water has turned cooler and it is a green color, changing from the blue water that existed for most of the winter months.” Rockfish season starts Wednesday, but high winds predicted to 30- to 40-mph range will keep the boats tied up or close to the harbor. The addition of live squid may allow for jigging up live bait in order to attract ling cod and the larger species of bottomfish from the local reefs that haven’t seen gear for the past 90 days.
Call: Chris’ Landing(831) 375-5951; Bayside Marine (831) 475-2173; usafishing.com
San Francisco Bay
Halibut *** Striper *** Leopard shark *** Sturgeon **
There have been few boats outside the Golden Gate since the close of the coastal rockfish season Dec. 31, but that will all change, weather permitting, this Saturday with the opening of ocean salmon season along the coast. The ocean waters have been unusually warm for the past several months, but the northwest winds that has been absent for days on end have finally arrived in advance of the opener. Mike Aughney of USAFishing.com said, “The northwest wind has risen to 13 knots, bringing down the water temperatures to 53.5 degrees at the San Francisco Buoy, dropping the temperature 3 degrees within the past week. The high winds will create upwelling, bringing nutrient-rich water to the surface, creating conditions for plankton and krill.” The weather is expected to blow throughout the week, and there is the possibility that salmon boats will be tied up to the harbor on opening day. If the weather permits, the Bay Area salmon fleet will spread out from the Farallon Islands to the Deep Reef along the 50 Fathom Curve. Captain Jerad Davis on the Salty Lady out of Sausalito has been running whale watching trips out of Half Moon Bay, and he reported heavy concentrations of anchovies from Mussel Rock north to the San Francisco Pilot Station in 20-30 fathoms a few weeks back. The coming wind should spread out the bait fish, perhaps even bringing them inside of the bay. There is plenty of room on party boats for the opener with the Salty Lady out of Sausalito, the New Huck Finn, New Seeker, New Salmon Queen, C Gull II, and Tigerfish out of Emeryville Sport Fishing, and several party boats running out of Berkeley Marina. The draw of halibut and the anticipation of live bait season within the next few weeks have drawn six-pack and party boats out of the Delta toward the bay ports of Berkeley, Emeryville and Richmond. Combined with outstanding striped bass action throughout the winter months, Northern California anglers have several options —halibut and stripers in the bay, ocean salmon, and the earlier-than-normal rockfish season — on the near horizon. Captain Jim Smith of the Happy Hooker out of Berkeley has stayed in the bay throughout the winter. Over the past few weekends in March, he has been posting impressive scores of striped bass and halibut drifting live shiners from Loch Lomond Bait and Tackle in San Rafael in San Pablo Bay with 23 limits of striped bass to 15 pounds along with six halibut to 17 pounds, with a number of the striped bass in the 8 to 12-pound range near the Pinole Pier. He said, “We had five to six bass on every time we see the fish on the meter. We would have a lull and then hit another spot holding fish with several more hookups.” On Sunday, the senior Smith put in 12 striped bass to 14 pounds along with 12 halibut to a whopping 32 pounds with the big fish taken by Heather Leitz of Auburn on a Loch Lomond shiner. Deck assist, Dave Marquardt, said, “We had a number of big fish with Dr. Hoa from Fremont getting in on the action with two halibut to 27 pounds along with a striped bass, and his daughter Kristel also landed a pair of halibut.” Smith has been drifting live shiners in San Pablo Bay near the Pinole Pier or drifting the rocks near the Brothers or Red Rock for stripers. He said, “We had tremendous striper fishing last weekend, but the bass are scattered now with many of the fish running outside of the gate along the coast with the big tides. I am really impressed with the size of the halibut this early in the season, and we have put in several flatfish over 20 pounds in the past two weeks.” Son James Smith was originally going to stay in Martinez for another weekend, but the reports of big fish enticed him to bring the California Dawn through the Carquinez Straits into their summer home in the Berkeley Marina. While dad has the luxury of live bait, James Smith has been trolling herring or anchovies in the same area with similar results. Sunday’s score resulted in 11 halibut to 28 pounds and 10 bass to 12 pounds. He said, “The bite is good, and everywhere we went there were fish. The coming winds should bring the bait fish in from the ocean, and I think the halibut will filter in along with the bait fish, allowing us to reap the benefits. The surf perch season ended Monday and will reopen Aug. 1. The only live bait available has been shiners, and Loch Lomond Bait in San Rafael has the market on the bait at present. Live anchovies are expected to be filling the San Francisco Bait Receiver by mid-April.
San Luis Obispo
The early opening of rockfish season has the harbors buzzing , and boats from both San Luis Obispo County ports are scheduling open-load rockfish trips. Patriot is selling season passes for the 2015 rockfish season for $1,000. Surf perch fishing remained excellent at Oceano or Pismo Beaches with Berkley Sand Worms or motor oil grubs.
Call: Virg’s Landing, (805) 772-1222; (800) 762-5263; Patriot Sports Fishing (805) 595-4100; Port Side Marine Sports Launch (805) 595-7214
Bass *** Striper *** Sturgeon *** Catfish ** Bluegill ***
The annual migration of six-packs and party boats that have been targeting sturgeon toward San Francisco Bay has begun, but there are still a few operators sticking it out for the coming months. Fresh water inflow is at a minimum, and a legal leopard shark was landed east of the Benicia/Martinez Bridge this week in response to the intrusion of saltwater into the Delta. Captain Jay Lopes of Right Hook Sport Fishing said, “This was the first leopard shark I have ever seen in this area as there are sometimes spiny dogfish or bat rays this far east but never leopard sharks.” Captain Steve Mitchell of Hook’d Up Sport Fishing out of Pittsburg Marina continues to find solid action in lower Suisun Bay, Montezuma Slough, and the Big Cut stating, “There are a lot of fish still out there, and April and May have been traditionally my best months for loading up on sturgeon. There is still great interest in sturgeon fishing, and we will be staying in Pittsburg until May 1.” Mitchell went out with a novice crew of fishermen who had never held a rod previously in their lives, and they managed to release a shaker sturgeon along with losing a large slot-limit fish at the boat. He said, “Since they didn’t have any previous experience, the fishermen didn’t understand to lift on the fish when I was trying to net it. The fish went off of the bite on Friday, but it was back on Saturday with the sturgeon biting like crazy on salmon roe with one friend bringing six sturgeon to the boat, four keepers, a shaker, and an oversized.” Captain Steve Talmadge of Flash Sport Fishing out of Martinez said, “We have been busy the last few days with slot fish on every trip but one. In addition to the slot limit fish, we have released sturgeon to 76 inches with the best action at the end of the incoming tide with lamprey eel. We have found fish at buoy 2, but most of our action has been in the deep water off Ozol Pier. The water temperature is 62-63 degrees, and when you hook up, get ready for a great battle since many of the fish are jumping, even in 55 feet of water.” Jim Waltz of Livermore and Dan Schuste of Corte Madera both experienced their first slot-limit sturgeon this past week with Talmadge, anchoring in 55 feet of water near the Ozol Pier at the end of the outgoing tide on lamprey eel. Benicia Bait reported the calls keep coming into the shop for grass shrimp, and as they are one of the only shops, if not the only one, to have it; they are fielding calls left and right. There is a very limited supply of grass shrimp, so anglers will have to resort to ghost shrimp, lamprey eel, or salmon roe. Striper fishing has improved from the shore with blood worms, pile worms and anchovies. In the Pittsburg area, Do Doung at Dockside Bait reported two huge sturgeon at 59 inches, 70 pounds, were weighed in at the shop Saturday with both coming out of the Big Cut. The striped bass bite has slowed, with most fish in the 6- to 7-pound range and no huge fish reported this past week. Stripers have been the focus in the Rio Vista area, and Captain Jay Lopes of Right Hook Sport Fishing has been trolling above and below the Rio Vista Bridge, finding success for early limits of linesides in the school-sized range. He said, “There are fish everywhere, but most of them are males in the 16- to 22-inch range, and you have to go through a number of undersized fish to put together limits. The action has been steady, but there have been a number of 16- and 17-inch males. These fish are hitting and fighting hard, and we have been running shallow-diving Yozuris exclusively. The water is clear in the Old Sacramento River, the Deep Water Channel, Steamboat Slough, and Cache Slough, but the water is dirty below the Rio Vista Bridge.” The Department of Fish and Wildlife started releasing salmon smolts at Sandy Beach Park south of Rio Vista on Thursday, and the stained water will help the smolts escape toward the bay. Sea lions have moved in, but the birds have been basically absent from predating on the baby salmon. 400,000 salmon smolts were released for four consecutive days, and striper trollers and plug casters moved in to the area in droves. Trollers along the West Bank are finding action in deeper water from 15-20 feet along the outside edge of the bank, as opposed to the traditional troll in 6-8 feet of water on the inside track. Mark Wilson, striper trolling expert, has been finding his best action along the West Bank at the bottom of the tide with shallow-running Yozuri Crystal Minnows or RatLTraps. He said, “There are three keys to successful striper trolling: fish the tides, fish locations, and watch the action of your rod — 20 to 30% of our stripers are already spawned out, and I first landed spawning fish at the end of February, a few weeks earlier than normal. There will still be an influx of stripers from San Pablo Bay, but the run should be over within the next few weeks.” With the recent smolt releases, he advised using a pearl pattern of lure. Wilson reported the largest stripers in the river have been holding in the intermediary range between Courtland and Clarksburg. Alan Fong of the Fisherman’s Warehouse in Sacramento confirmed the solid action around the Coast Guard Station near Rio Vista with plenty of linesides in the 18 to 24-inch range on all different methods including spooning, plugging, and trolling. In the San Joaquin River, the topwater bite has been solid for experienced fishermen while the largemouth bass bite has also accelerated with the warming and clearing waters of the river and back sloughs. J.D. Richey of Richey’s Sport Fishing reported solid action every other day during the past week stating, “It was a weird week with a good bite on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, but Wednesday and Friday were very slow. The one factor in common on the slow days was the wind, which reared its ugly head. They caught and releasesd stripers to 16 pounds with Dan Lucas of Auburn catching and releasing the big fish on an Aiden James Striper Squirrel topwater bait. Richey added, “In addition to topwater, we caught fish on swimbaits, and these were fresh fish full of eggs or milt.” The boat traffic has been heavy on both river systems, and the weekends are really impacted. Captain Mike Gravert of Intimidator Sport Fishing has been working hard in the upper Mokelumne River, Georgiana Slough near the Sacramento River and Frank’s Tract in the central Delta. He said, “The water temperature has risen to 65.9 degrees in Georgiana Slough, and the sea lions are rampant throughout the San Joaquin system. The troll action has been slow, and most of our fish have come by either drifting jumbo minnows or bluegill. We have had to travel up to Johnson’s Bait in Yuba City in order to obtain jumbo minnows, but it pays off as John Gould of Brown’s Valley landed a 25-pound striper on a jumbo minnow in Georgiana on Sunday morning.” The majority of the fish are males that have yet to release their milt sacks. Kenji Nagakawa of “The Bomb Squad,” pro staffer for Delta Wood Bombers, made a quick sunset run this week but the wind made for challenging conditions. They hooked five stripers and landed two out of nine fish rising to the bait. He said, “It is all part of the game called “Topwater.” Later in the week, Nakagawa released a 13-pound lineside on the 6-inch Delta Wood Bomber in bone. Jim Pickens of the Fishermen’s Friend in Lodi reported, “Topwater striper fishing produced the best action this week with many anglers catching 20-30 fish to 13 pounds using plugs and swim baits, with fish to 13 pounds. The best locations have been willow berms and shallow sandy bottoms close to deep water. On the Mokelumne up through Georgiana and over to Potato seemed to produce the best action on topwater lures while on the San Joaquin side, the Santa Clara and San Andreas Shoals have been producing on a shallow troll all the way up to the Sounding Board. Most action has been on shallow divers, but some are working deep divers in 18-20 feet of water with success. Most of the stripers on the San Joaquin are in the 3- to 10-pound range.” For largemouth bass, Pickens said, “The bite blew open last week as they moved into their spawn, and Senkos, jerkbaits, and Fat Baby Craws have all been working at depths from the bank to 5 feet.” Randy Pringle, the fishing instructor, confirmed the excellent bass bite, and he has been working at depths from 2- 8 feet with crankbaits or ripbaits as the large fish are moving up on the high tide. Alan Fong of the Fishermean’s Warehouse in Sacramento caught and released largemouth bass to 7 pounds within the past week tossing Jason Kincannon’s 10-inch Glide Bait or Senkos in the shallows of the central Delta. Sturgeon fishing is only fair on the San Joaquin, but Doug Chapman of Gotcha Bait in Antioch said, “Most of our sturgeon fishermen are concentrating around the Antioch Bridge or the mouth of Dutch Slough in the shallow water or in the deeper water in Broad Slough.” Ghost shrimp has been difficult to keep in the shop, but lamprey eel, pile worms, and salmon roe are all working for the intermittent diamondback. The Antioch Fishing Pier has been loaded with fishermen catching and releasing undersized striped bass on anchovies with the largest fish running 24 inches. He said, “We haven’t had any crappie reports, but we sold 10 dozen minnows on Saturday, so I know they must be out there somewhere.” Catfish can be found in Holland Tract with chicken livers, sardines, or anchovies, and the crawdads are spawning, bringing striped bass into Broad Slough. In the Stockton area, Brandon Gallegos of H and R Bait said, “There have been a lot of stripers coming out of the Old River, Whiskey Slough, and from Clifton Court Forebay on live bluegill or fresh shad.” They received their first fresh shad of the year on Saturday at 40 pounds, and it was gone within a few hours of opening the shop. Bluegill are still found in deep water in Whiskey Slough along with the occasional crappie.
Call: Randy Pringle (209) 543-6260; Captain Stan Koenigsberger – Quetzal Adventures (925) 570-5303; Intimidator Sport Fishing (916) 806-3030
Lake Nacimiento/San Antonio/Santa Margarita/Lopez
Bass *** White bass ** Striper ** Catfish ** Crappie **
Large bass remain the story at Lopez, and there were healthy limits taking the past weekend’s American Bass Association Tournament. The fish are on beds, and the larger ones were coaxed out with Senkos or other lures intended for the purpose of getting the big females to strike. At Nacimiento, the action is hit or miss. Small spotted bass are possible with various lures in the shallows while the white bass can be found in Snake Creek, Las Tablas and near the Heritage Launch Ramp with Shap Raps or similar small white lures. Santa Margarita is open for rental boats or kayaks, canoes or float tubes as the lake needs to come up to 30% in order for the launch ramp to be operable. The marina store is open seven days per week from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. A few large bass, including an 11.5-pounder, have been taken on swimbaits. Catfishing is best with chicken livers or sardines. San Antonio remains very low with only kayaks, canoes, or float tubes able to be released into the lake. A few striped bass, largemouth bass and catfish are available. There are several tournaments scheduled for Lopez in the coming weeks, and the lake will host the Outdoor Discovery Festival on May 9. Information is available at www.slocountyparks.org. Reminder: Consuming white bass, black bass, crappie, catfish or carp is subject to safe eating guidelines becuase of the risk of excessive mercury. Quagga mussel inspections are required before boat launching is allowed.
Call: Lake Nacimiento (805) 238-1056, ext. 3; Lake San Antonio Marina (805) 472-2818; Central Coast Bass Fishing.com (805) 466-6557
Angler’s Choice on March 28 at Delta/Russo’s Marina: 1, Mark Mendez/Bill Peunggete 30.47 pounds (big fish 9.92); 2, Quincy Washington/Kevin Cornwell 28.31; 3, Beau Jourdrey/Josh Reublin 25.93
American Bass Association on March 28 at Lopez: 1, Darrin Bishop/Dean Miller 21.27 pounds; 2, Pat Motley/Mike Griffith 19.54 (big fish 6.43); 3, -Jim Slusher/Ken Sauret 17.32
Friday: Don Pedro, E and J Gallo Winery
Saturday: Don Pedro, Poe Man’s; Bass Lake, 101 Bass Team Open, Mark Corrente 284-2768; Isabella, Lake Isabella Bass Club; Lopez, 101 Bass
Sunday: Bass Lake, Kings VIII Bass Club
April 11: Delta/Ladd’s Marina, Christian Bass League; Delta/Russo’s Marina, US Angler’s Choice; New Melones, American Bass Association; Tulloch, River Bass Club; Don Pedro, Best Bass Tournaments; McClure, Local 3399; Pine Flat, Kerman Bass Club; Isabella, American Bass Association; Nacimiento, Best Bass Tournaments/Golden Empire Bass Club
April 11-12: Lopez, Bakersfield Bass Club
April 12: Don Pedro, Kings River Bass Club; Bass Lake, California Bass Federation, Mark Corrente 284-2768; Success, Success Bass Club; Santa Margarita, San Luis Obispo Bass Ambushers
April 16: Don Pedro, Southern California Bass Club
April 18: Delta/Russo’s Marina, Best Bass Tournaments; Delta/Ladd’s Marina, Angler’s Choice; Pardee, Manteca Bassin’ Buddies; New Melones, Angler’s Choice; Don Pedro, Best Bass Tournaments/Taft Bass Club; Millerton, Roosevelt High School Bass Fishers; Pine Flat, Kokanee Power Trout Derby, kokaneepower.org; Kaweah, Visalia Bass Club; Nacimiento, Kern County Bassmasters
April 19: Delta/Tracy Oasis, Tracy Bass; Delta/Russo’s Marina, Best Bass Tournaments; Don Pedro, Badge Packers; Bass Lake, 101 Bass Team Open, Mark Corrente 284-2768
April 25: Delta/Russo’s Marina, American Bass Association; Delta/Tracy Oasis, Tracy Bass Club; Don Pedro, Sacramento Bass Wranglers; McClure, Future Pro Tour; Millerton, Mid Valley Bass Club; Pine Flat, American Bass Association; Hume Lake, Hume Lake Christian Camps; Nacimiento, Tri Valley Bass Club; Lopez, Best Bass Tournaments
April 26: Delta/Ladd’s Marina, Stockton Bass Club; Bass Lake, Kings River Bass Club
Fresno County: Kings River, Below Pine Flat Dam
Kern County: Kern River, sections 1-3