Compiled by Dave Hurley and edited by Roger George, a central San Joaquin Valley native and local fishing expert.
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Delta/San Joaquin River producing stripers, Randy Pringle said. New Melones rainbows working near shore, Melanie Lewis said. Hensley trout taking flies, Bob Scharton said. Millerton bite ramps up, Patrick Movey said. Pine Flat bass weights up and trout active, Merritt Gilbert said. Don Pedro swimbait bite exciting bass anglers, Manny Basi said.
Looking back on 2009, I decided to rate our overall fisheries and look for any trends. I asked James Mize of Valley Rod and Gun in Clovis, Larry Hodge of the Fresno Bass Club and John Poindexter of the California Striped Bass Association to give me their opinions on the direction they see things going.
Valley bass: Mize gave it a 2-fish rating, way down from a 3-plus fish rating from three years ago. He felt way too much pressure, with fewer anglers practicing "catch and release," compounded by a lack of enough law enforcement have contributed to the decline. He cited the surprising absence of double-digit fish at lakes such as Don Pedro and Eastman as another indicator of a serious decline. Lowering bag limits to three fish, or lower, was one thing he thought would at least moderate the damage. "As long as anglers consistently keep taking fish, and the regs don't change, it's just going to get worse," he said. Hodge gave 2009 a 2 1/2-fish rating based on the strength of the Millerton, Pine Flat and McClure bites, but also agreed there was a significant dip in the Eastman and Hensley bass fisheries and said he felt that low water was a key culprit. Mize and Hodge concurred Hensley had to be the worst bass lake right now. "There was an extended time where tons of small fish were harvested, and now we see the result," Hodge opined.
Trout/kokanee: Mize said that the fishing had been very good this year -- at least a 3-fish rating thanks to the DFG and all the plants they have made. Another program that needs to be expanded to other species is the trophy brood trout plants that spark incredible interest. This fishery has been stable or gotten better -- but it is the only part of our fishery monitored and fed resources and fish consistently.
Striper: Poindexter pointed to a resurgence in the San Luis and Millerton fisheries and gave this year's crop a 3-fish rating. Some monster fish -- such as the 70-plus-pound noncertified behemoth taken out of the forebay or the Millerton record 62.8-pounder by Chong Yang -- added some real spice to the striper chaser. Concerned that San Luis fishing may go through another "boom or bust" period, Poindexter felt that a combination of a new wave of fishing pressure, low-water conditions and lots of small fish could be tipping the balance away from the bigger fish we saw four to six years ago. Mize said San Luis was getting hammered again too much.
Crappie: Mize gave a 3-fish rating, strictly on the strength of the Kaweah bite. Lakes such as Don Pedro, New Melones and Hensley have all fallen by the wayside because of heavy pressure. Commercial- type operations where the slabs are harvested almost day and night have got to be addressed as well as new-way lower limits.
Conclusions: Hodge said DFG needs to be carefully watching what's coming out of our lakes. "We need to be doing things that will help our fishing get back on its feet -- before they are devastated." One idea he proposed would be to make a lake "catch and release" only, at least till it rebounded, rather than close it completely. Mize suggested some serious reductions in limits for all species except trout. Hodge felt DFG needs to take a hard look at rewriting its regulations. It's amazing our fishing is as good as it is, in spite of the pressures on it, but the warning signs are flashing and we need to pay attention while we still can.
- Roger George
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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 reported very good trout fishing, particularly from banks for rainbows to 3 pounds on Berkley Power Bait in chartreuse or green glitter, Power Eggs, marshmallow/crawler combinations or small Kastmasters in firetiger, rainbow trout or silver/blue. Glory Hole Cove and the Tuttletown launch ramp have been the top spots for shore anglers, as well as those still fishing on the anchor. The best fishing continues along shore with the warmer water on the north slopes in the afternoon. Monte Smith of Gold Country Sport Fishing advises staying as close to the shore as possible with blade/crawler combinations or shad-patterned lures such as Needlefish, ExCels, Vance's Slim Fins or Cripplures in the top 15 feet from the surface on sideplaners in all of the Mother Lode lakes. This week's rains will provide runoff and nutrients and the fish will be hanging along the banks waiting for easy meals. Gary Burns of Take It to the Limit reported landing rainbows on Trophy Stick lures at 40 to 55 feet in depth. Brown trout can be found at similar depths with similar lures near structure. The Kokanee Power Pen Project is in full swing with rainbows from the Department of Fish and Game being fed on a daily basis at the New Melones Lake Marina. These fish will be released in the spring when they range from 3 to 5 pounds. The bass are around the shad balls in the middle of the lake, and they have been hitting lures dragged by trout trollers. On calm days, a slow presentation with Carolina-rigged creature baits in green pumpkin, crawdad-colored Zoom Baby Brush Hogs or Reaction Innovation Sweet Beavers from 30 to 40 feet with a heavier weight of half-ounce to get the lure to the bottom.
Numbers of smaller fish can be taken on 4-inch plastics on the drop shot. The larger bass are found on Huddleson ROF 12 in any trout patterns dragged across windy points. Catfish have moved into deep water, but there are a few whiskerfish found on anchovies, mackerel, sardines, chicken liver or a ball of night crawlers. The lake rose to 47% of capacity. Monte Smith said some of the large brown trout to 6 pounds from the recent plants from the closure of the Moccasin Creek Hatchery have been landed from the banks on Kastmasters.
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
Pete Cormier of Bob's Bait in Bakersfield said bass fishing has been slow at best, but this is the time when quality takes precedence over quantity. A 16-pound largemouth was reportedly caught and released on a jig in deep water. Cormier said jigs or swimbaits will produce a few large fish until March. Most fishermen still are targeting catfish with frozen shad or cut baits in deep water, with trout around the Wilford Heights Cemetery and the auxiliary dam with chunky cheese, garlic or salmon peach Power Bait. The lake rose to 18% of capacity. In the Bakersfield area, Lake Buena Vista has been heavily planted with huge trout, but there is great interest in crappie fishing with small minnows.
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 action was very slow over the weekend with the rain and wind. Jumbo or extra-large minnows on a slow drift should work near the trash racks or Portuguese Cove. In the forebay, fishing is slow with low water levels. The lake rose to 34%.
Call: Wind conditions (800) 805-4805; Ly's Fishing Goods (408) 629-9644; Coyote Bait and Tackle (408) 463-0711
**Bass ***Trout ***Bluegill **Catfish **Crappie
Ranger Keith Willis said most anglers have been targeting trout with rainbow, yellow or orange sherbet Power Bait off banks near the dam. One regular has been taking home limits of planters with a plastic trout worm and white Power Bait combination on a No. 8 hook. Bass anglers have been pestered by trout while drop-shotting shad-patterned plastics. Bass continue to be very slow. The lake came up to 10% of capacity.
***Bass ***Trout **Catfish **Bluegill
Bob Scharton of Herb Bauer's Sporting Goods in Fresno reported good trout action while fly fishing from his boat with any bait fish imitation on an intermediate fly line. He thought any basic pattern would work. From the banks, limits were taken on chartreuse Power Bait near the swimming area. The lake rose to 21% of capacity.
Call: 225-1838, 292-3474, 673-5151
The lake has refilled after repairs, requiring a drawdown. The level is now stable -- and a plant of 7,000 pounds of brooder fish was made this week. McSwain Marina said inclement weather conditions have limited angler interest, but the trout have been observed breaking the surface.
Call: (209) 378-2534
Delta Mendota Canal and Sloughs
Merritt Gilbert of Valley Rod and Gun said there hasn't been much interest in purchasing anchovies or sardines, a sure indicator of slow action at the canals and aqueducts. The water level in the sloughs has dropped, and fishing has been slow in the cold weather. In the south aqueduct, Peter Cormier of Bob's Bait said the striper bite is holding up with orange/green tube baits, anchovies, pearl or bone swimbaits or top water lures.
Millerton Lake/San Joaquin River
***Bass *Stripers *Shad **Trout
There were five limits of bass over 10 pounds weighed in during the Angler's Choice tournament during miserable conditions Saturday, a pleasant surprise for a lake where a 10-pound limit generally guarantees victory. Most large fish were taken in shallow water on reaction baits, with a much tougher bite in deep water with jigs or plastics. Patrick Movey of the Fisherman's Warehouse in Fresno said the fish have been scattered from the surface to 70 feet in depth, with brown jigs with a Yamamoto twin-tailed trailer working best. The water has been shut off, and with the recent inflow, the ramp will stay in the water for the remainder of the year. The lake rose to 37% of capacity. Movey said planted trout are biting sherbet Power Bait, Roostertails or Kastmasters at Lost Lake. Woodward Park and Avocado Lake with receive trout plants this week. These are good bodies of water to introduce children to wintertime trout fishing from the banks.
Call: 225-1838, 292-3474
Pine Flat Reservoir/Kings River
***Bass ***Trout *King salmon **Catfish
Merritt Gilbert said the trout bite remains good for rainbows to 18 inches on blade/crawler combinations or shad imitation lures such as silver/black Apex, Shasta Tackle Cripplures or Humdingers, Needlefish or ExCels at depths to 20 feet from Zebe Creek to the power lines. Movey said there have been numerous 6- to 8-inch planted trout landed from the banks near the Deer Creek Marina on Power Bait. Movey added trollers are also using Speedy Shiners in copper and red. Bass fishing has been good for limits to 11.5 pounds with brown, brown/purple or black jigs at depths to 35 feet around rocks. The lake rose to 30% of capacity. Doyal's Store said fishermen continue to line up along the shoreline on the lower Kings for planted trout with various colors of Power Bait. A plant of the large brooder fish is expected within the next week or so.
Call: 787-2387, 225-1838, 292-3474
**Bass **Crappie **Trout **Catfish
Sierra Sport Fishing in Exeter said bass fishing is slow with the rapidly rising water, with most working for planted trout with rainbow glitter Power Bait from the banks near the second launch ramp. Catfishing is best at night, with fish moving into deeper water. The lake rose to 10% of capacity.
**Bass ***Trout **Catfish
Jerry Williams of the Success Bass Club said Silver Buddy Sonar's is the top lure for a good bass bite. He said most anglers familiar with the lake use this blade bait at this time to get to the deep water where fish are holding. With the low water, most fish are in deeper holes at 30 feet. There continues to be heavy interest in trout from the banks along the Rocky Hill side with Power Bait or crawlers. Despite trout plants, the swimbait bite for largemouths has yet to take off. The Rocky Hill and Tule Point launch ramps are both open. The lake rose to 10% of capacity.
**Bass ***Trout **King salmon *Kokanee **Crappie ***Catfish
Manny Basi of the Bait Barn reported a continued tough bass bite with a small limit of more than 8 pounds winning the weekend tournament. Most fish continue to be located in water from 60 to 70 feet. Planted trout to 3 pounds are showing up off the banks near the dam or McClure Point with rainbow-glitter Power Bait or Roostertails. Diana Mello of A-I Bait in Snelling said trollers picked up limits of rainbows around the dam and into Cottonwood Creek on shad-patterned Needlefish from the surface to 20 feet. Catfish have moved into deeper water to seek warmer temperatures. The lake rose to 40% of capacity. The only two launch ramps open are McClure Point and the Barrett's Cove south ramp.
Call: A-1 Bait (209) 563-6505, Fishwrangler's Guide Service (209) 604-8222, Bub Tosh (209) 404-0053.
Lake Don Pedro
***Bass ***Trout *Kokane *King salmon
Manny Basi reported a greatly improved bass bite, with fish in the 5- to 7-pound range taken on rainbow trout 8-inch Huddlestons with a Rate of Fall of 12. The bass are chasing the planted trout and are up on the surface. These large fish accounted for the 20-pound- plus limit at the American Bass tournament. Finesse is still working from 50 to 70 feet with the Reaction Innovations in Bad Shad Green or Pro Gold small redflake plastics, but the best cut of fish is on the swimbaits. Monte Smith of Gold Country Sport Fishing advised trolling close to shore with blade/crawler combinations or shad-imitation spoons on sideplaners while using an electric motor. A long- line presentation and quiet approach should work for trout, particularly on sun-exposed coves and banks.
Call: Monte Smith (209) 581-4734, Danny Layne-Fishn' Dan (209) 586-2383, Bait Barn (209) 874-301.
**Bass ***Trout *Kokanee
Movey at the Fisherman's Warehouse in Fresno said the trout bite remains strong for those able to launch a small aluminum boat. Lake levels have risen, making launching easier. Quick limits of smaller, planted rainbows are possible on blade/crawler combinations or Wedding Rings tipped with a night crawler from the surface to 20 feet. For launch conditions, check the Webcam at basslakeca.com. The lake has risen to 49% of capacity.
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 said, as of Monday afternoon, the launch ramp was open with a single 10-foot lane to the water. There have been few, if any, fisherman on the lake because of rain and snow. Shorelines are covered with more than a foot of snow and more is expected. Prior to the rough weather, a few hardy fishermen found a few fish per boat trolling at depths to 10 feet with Dick's Trout Busters or other chartreuse or orange/red lures. An occasional next-year's kokanee was taken at 30 to 40 feet with Captain Jack's Super Fat bug in perch behind a Shaver Lake dodger. Visitors should bring chains. Monitor ramp conditions via Webcam at Sierramarina.com. Shaver is at 69% of capacity and Huntington at 57%.
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 **Crabs **Leopard shark **Sturgeon
A few private boaters continue to score limits of crab off Marin after a long soak when the weather cooperates. The bay fishery has officially changed over to sturgeon as the prime species. Top areas seem to be the Oakland Airport or near the pumphouse in San Pablo Bay. The storms should produce enough runoff to get fish to move into the extreme south bay and the flats of San Pablo Bay. Keith Fraser of Loch Lomond Bait in San Rafael liked the outgoing tide for the next three to four days. Fraser said legal sturgeon at 58 and 47 inches to go with a 68-inch oversized released were reported Sunday inside the pumphouse at the Shell Banks in 10 feet of water with live mud shrimp. The legal sturgeon were loaded with mud shrimp. At this time, Loch Lomond and Leonard's Bait at Port Sonoma are the only San Pablo Bay shops with live mud shrimp. Benicia Bait also has some. Joel Sinkay of Leonard's Bait said things were very slow Saturday with the weather, but there were a few boats Tuesday. He heard of a couple of legal sturgeon landed Saturday prior to the rain. There was a 40-pound striper caught and released at the mouth of Sonoma Creek on grass shrimp or herring fillets. A 29-inch striper was landed at Black Point Launch Ramp on a mudsucker. Don Franklin of the Soleman out of San Francisco said there were a number of smoothhound sharks near Hunter's Point. A 54-inch sturgeon was landed Sunday off the airport on ghost shrimp, and three legal sturgeon Saturday. Ly Tu at Ly's Fishing Goods in San Jose said local creeks ran strong, dumping water into the south bay. This usually marks the start of the south bay sturgeon bite.
Half Moon Bay
The big swell early in the week and rough ocean conditions over the weekend have limited private boaters from crabbing. Sheryl Jimno of the Rusty Hook in Pacifica reported a few hard-core crabbers have been bundled on the pier the past couple of days and caught enough to maintain interest.
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.
Randy's had a crab/squid combo Saturday with a light load for limits of crab and 45 Humboldt squid. Todd Arcaleo of Chris' Landing in Monterey reported a trip for limits of crab, sand dabs and Humboldt squid. Ly Tu said perch fishing has been much improved on the Santa Cruz beaches on grass shrimp or Berkley Camo Worms.
Call: Chris' Landing (831) 375-5951, Bayside Marine (831) 475-2173, usafishing.com
Lake Nacimiento/San Antonio/Santa Margarita/Lopez
***Bass *Stripers **Catfish *Crappie
Jerry Williams of the Success Bass Club reported a strong spotted bass bite at Nacimiento by dragging 7-inch plastics on a Texas-rig at depths from 10 to 15 feet. Matt Short of Jim's Pro Bass Tackle in Paso Robles said brightly-colored spinnerbaits or dark-patterned plastic worms such as Aaron's Magic or Oxblood continue to work at depths from the banks to 15 feet. San Antonio is a total mystery, with few anglers interested in checking things out. For size, Lopez continues to be the top regional lake, with bass to 4 pounds taken on buzz baits, crankbaits or plastic worms on the drop shot or dart head. Santa Margarita is still slow, with the best bite on large dark green plastic worms from 8 to 10 inches on the drop shot. San Antonio has risen to 33% of capacity and Nacimiento to 15%.
Call: (805) 238-1056 ext. 3, (805) 472-2818; Central Coast Bass Fishing.com (805) 466-6557.
***Bass ***Stripers **Sturgeon
It has been hard to get a read on delta action, with few fishermen over the weekend. There should be stripers still in the deeper water in lower Suisun, but Jim Smith on the Happy Hooker didn't fish over the weekend. He hasn't given up on stripers yet. The best striper fishing seems to be in the back sloughs in the north or south delta, with the fish moving out of the main channels, chasing bait fish. Dockside Bait in Pittsburg reported a pair of legal sturgeon over the weekend on ghost/grass shrimp combinations. In the Pittsburg area, striper fishing has been slow, with a few fish to 6 pounds landed on frozen shad or mudsuckers. Mike Gravert of Intimidator Sport Fishing has been experiencing the best action in the delta with live jumbo minnows out of Freeport Bait. Working his special spot in the north delta, Gravert caught and released seven fish over 10 pounds Friday with two at 15 and 21 pounds. Jeff Boyle of Bass Pro Shops in Manteca caught and released six stripers to 15 pounds Monday, working the south delta off the main San Joaquin River. All fish came on Berkley Hollow Belly swimbaits on a very slow retrieve. The stripers were holding near rocky structure, perhaps because of a warmer temperature near the rocks. There were no birds working the surface with only a few ripples of minnows on the top. Randy Pringle, the fishing instructor, worked the San Joaquin on Monday for a pair of stripers to 10 pounds to go with smaller fish on the Berkley Hollow Baits near the bottom. A slow presentation was necessary in the 50-degree water. He said the larger stripers move into the back bays and sloughs on the incoming tide, with smaller fish holding in the currents. He had an excellent day Friday, with cloudy conditions giving cover for 19 stripers to 20 pounds, with several in the 8- to 10-pound range on the Double Diamond swimbait in perch, Roadrunners in chartreuse/white with a white trailer and a topwater bite on the IMA Big Stick. He thought the striper bite would resume after the period of high pressure passes midweek. For largemouth bass, finesse techniques are still tops, with the 6-inch Power Worm in greenpumpkin or oxblood on a Zappu head. He advised not shaking the plastic, with an absolute "dead-stick" working best. The IMA Flit ripbait in shad-patterns continues to be effective.
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.
Millerton: Kerman Bass Club, December 5 -- 1, Rod Brown, 9.06-pounds (big fish, 4.92); 2, Steve Swarts, 8.78; 3, Butch Farmer, 8.59.
Pine Flat: Sierra Bass Club, Dec 12 -- 1, Craig Gong, 11.14 pounds; 2, Ryan Huskey, 8.89; 3, Marty Hooten, 8.71. Big fish, Jamal Lane, 3.42 pounds.
Millerton: Angler's Choice, Dec. 12 -- 1, Denny Bowlin/Rod Burns, 11.93 pounds; 2, Darrell Masterson/Dean Miller, 11.61; 3, Larry Lee/Doug Watson, 10.75.
McClure: Western Outdoor News, Dec. 13 -- 1, Chappell/Riggs, 8.84 pounds; 2, Dollard/Dollard, 8.02; 3, Murphy/Murphy, 7.93.
Thursday: Paul Kalpakoff, Central Sierra Outfitters, on downrigger techniques, 6:15 p.m., Fresno Fisherman's Warehouse; Kevin Brock, Kevin Brock's Guide Service, Striper Trolling, 6 p.m., Manteca Fisherman's Warehouse
Saturday: McClure, Angler's Choice
Sunday: McClure, Fresno Bass Club
Jan 1: Millerton, Fresno Bass Club, Mark Corrente 284-2768; Nacimiento, Bakersfield Bass Club; Kaweah, Visalia Bass Club; Delta/Ladd's, Stockton Bass Club.
Fresno County: Avocado Lake, Kings River below Pine Flat Dam, San Joaquin River below Friant Dam, Woodward Park Lake.
Kern County: Brite Valley Reservoir, Hart Park Lake, Lake Truxton, Lake Woollomes, Ming Lake