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Oroville: ‘One of our best bass lakes’

Craig Bentley author badge for myoutdoor, Oroville Waters

ass fishing is good with decent numbers of fish being caught all over Lake Oroville in the past week. Boating anglers are catching lots of spotted bass to two pounds and an increasing number of largemouth bass, with some weighing up to six pounds! The first group of spotted bass is done spawning and largemouth bass are preparing to spawn now.

Anglers can expect to catch 25 or more bass on a half-day session. A small tournament last weekend produced a nine pound largemouth for the winning angler. No wonder Oroville Lake continues to live up to its reputation as "one of the West's best bass lakes!"

Lake Oroville’s surface elevation has been fluctuating a few inches in the last week with increased releases and is now at 761 feet. The surface temperature is warming up and is now at 65 degrees. The water is clear up in the river arms and main body coves with mud lines showing near points when the wind blows. There is still some floating debris on the lake, so caution is needed while running your boat. All launch ramps on the lake remain open.

The spring weather is feeling more like summer each day with sunny skies and daytime temps in the low to mid to upper fifties in the mornings and warming up into the mid-eighties in the afternoons. The weekend will be sunny and warm with afternoon temps forecast to be in the upper eighties, with little or no wind.

The fish are holding from the bank down to 25 feet deep. Find spotted bass on points of cove mouths and along the walls leading to them, on smooth clay or sand banks with small rocks. Largemouth can be found in the backs of coves in shallow water, getting ready to spawn. Best baits that have been continuously producing fish have been Senko's, natural-colored tubes and spinnerbaits. The reaction bite continues with anglers catching fish on rip baits or slow-rolling spinnerbaits just off of the bottom.

Finesse fishing has always been the ''go-to'' technique here and anglers are catching fish on small tubes, four -inch worms, grubs and small paddle-tail swim-baits on light line. The jig bite has been okay for those working skirted jigs in the 3/8 & 1/2 ounce sizes. Natural colors like oxblood, pumpkin and watermelon, red crawdad and shad have been working to take a few larger bass. Hula grubs can be a good choice in the same colors.

King salmon fishing has slowed again with reports of anglers catching very few of the smaller kings at the usual spots. Some anglers say the increased water releases have scattered the fish and put them off the bite, yet the bite should rebound after the fish settle down. The area along the dam continues to see a lot of pressure and the bite has been very slow there with trollers spending a lot more time trying to catch a few fish. The kings may be caught trolling in front of the dam, near structure, in the river forks mouths, the slot and near the Enterprise Bridge, or under the green bridge. Some bigger fish have been in the mix, but mostly smaller fish to 17 inches have been caught recently. Apex lures, Speedy Shiners or Hoochies tipped with a piece of anchovy, behind a medium sized dodger, trolled at 35-55 feet at 1.3 to 2.3 mph usually works for 14 to 17 inch kings and an occasional larger fish to 4lbs. Mooching anchovies can produce some fish when they are on the bait over structure or near the bottom. Minnows fished under a sliding bobber may entice a bite from a salmon or trout for the shore-bound angler. Casting minnow-type stick baits may be a good technique early or late in the day for the bank angler.

Diversion Pool
Light fishing pressure here last week. Releases from Oroville Dam have been fluctuating from 1950cfs, up to 3500cfs from the dam. Trout and salmon have been seen feeding on the surface last week and a few trout to three pounds were caught here by anglers casting lures below the powerhouse. Hopeful anglers cast and retrieve minnow imitations: soft plastics, stick baits, or spoons, or fish bait for the trout or salmon. Please note that DWR advises that flows can increase without notice and flows are subject to change throughout the day. No wading, swimming or floatation devices are allowed on this water above the buoy line that spans the pool, 100 yards below the spillway.

Thermalito Forebay
Populations of trout, salmon, bass, catfish and other species of rough-fish are present in the Forebay; however there hasn't been a trout plant since DFW policy changed the waters where fish may be planted. Some transient trout and salmon that have moved down from the diversion pool to the South Forebay are occasionally caught on bait by patient anglers enjoying the solitude of this little used facility off of Grand Ave. Nelson Ave. Bridge may offer some fishing for holdover trout or salmon with irrigation releases and current running under the bridge. However, there have been no reports from anglers fishing the Forebay lately, so reports remain scarce. Continued increased releases moving through the Forebay may have stirred up some fish near the Nelson Bridge and may be worth trying.

Thermalito Afterbay
Pool elevation is up over 134 feet. The water temperature is 56 to 60 degrees with about eight feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing has picked up with increased releases moving water through the Afterbay. A few two to three pound steelhead are being caught by anglers fishing off of the bank by the Wilbur Road access. Nightcrawlers, inflated, or with marshmallows, minnows, Gulp eggs, PowerBait and soft plastics will entice a bite for the bank angler. Boaters are trolling with a nightcrawler behind a dodger at ten to fifteen feet deep, along the west wall of the Afterbay or in the channels In front of the outlets.
Bass fishing has been good and getting better with increased spawning activity on the Afterbay and some nice fish are starting to show in the catches. Flipping Brush Hogs, Sweet Beavers and other creature baits into the tules has been producing fish.
The bass are also hitting jerk-baits, Senko's', plastic worms, jigs and Spinner baits.

Feather River
Fishing for king salmon is closed on the Feather River. Fishing for the king salmon is also closed all year in the Low Flow above the Outlet. There is no allowance for any catch and release fishing that targets salmon when the river is closed to salmon fishing. The reach of the Feather River above the Hwy 70 Bridge, to the Table Mountain Bicycle Bridge in Oroville is open to fishing for steelhead and all other species except salmon and Green Sturgeon, from Jan. 1, 2015 through July 15, 2015.
Only barbless hooks may be used in the Feather River above State Hwy 70.
Below the Hwy 70 Bridge, the Feather River is open year around for steelhead, trout, bass, catfish and panfish. Check DFW regulations for species limits, gear restrictions and salmon regulations.

Flows are now 1200cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 500cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 1700cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow is now 3100cfs. The water temperature is now 52 to 58 degrees at station FRA in the Low Flow and below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet at station FOW, water temps are 59 to 63 degrees. The water is very clear with ten feet or more of visibility.

Although a few summer-run steelhead are beginning to show, fishing for them was very slow last week. Local anglers found little action while trying to fish in the hatchery stretch in the higher flows. A few fish were caught in the Low flow, about three miles downstream of town. The fish are occasionally feeding on aquatic insects. Some fish were being caught on Caddis emergers or dries prior to the increase in flows. For the fly fisher, streamers and aquatic insect imitations: (Caddis, Chironimids, Mayflies & Midges) in small, size 16-20, dry flies, nymphs and size 6 or 8 Wooly buggers are a good bet. Bait fishers use nightcrawlers or fresh natural borax cured roe, beneath a clear float on light line to try and catch a few fish.
There's been very little boat traffic on the river below the 162 Bridge. Most boaters fly fish nymphs under strike indicators, or swing streamers when fishing for trout or steelhead in the Low Flow. Caddis hatches are coming off more frequently now and Chironimids, mosquitos and blackflies are swarming in the evening.

* Please note that only hatchery trout (those fish under 16 inches) and hatchery steelhead may be taken from the Feather. Wild fish- (those with an adipose fin) must be released. The daily bag limit is 2 hatchery trout, or steelhead, with a maximum of 4 in possession.

Oroville State Wildlife Area ponds are kicking out some bass, bluegill and sunfish for anglers fishing the ponds near weed beds or stickups. Use small chatter-baits, creature baits or nightcrawlers for bass and red worms or small flies for the bluegill or sunfish.

The General Hunting Season is now closed in the Oroville State Wildlife Area.
Turkey season closes May 4th.
Turkey hunting is only allowed in the O.W.A. with a permit issued by DFW Prior to the season.
See regulations regarding Turkey Hunting and area use at CA. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, online webpage.

Craig Bentley has been an outdoor writer, photographer, outfitter and fishing guide for over twenty years in Northern California. Based out of Oroville, his articles, perspectives, reports and stories on fishing have been featured in many outdoor publications as well as local newspapers and radio talk shows. Craig can be reached via e-mail at His report was posted courtesy of the Oroville Chamber of Commerce.

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