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Salmon & shad move upriver

Craig Bentley, Oroville Waters, author badge for

rrigation has begun in the valleys and increased releases doubled flows from Oroville Dam to the Feather River over the weekend, sparking a trout and salmon bite in the diversion pool, then prompting salmon and shad to move upriver below Oroville! As always! Oroville lake continues its reputation as of "one of the west's best bass lakes" where largemouth bass are now on the spawn with good numbers of two pound bass being caught all over the lake!
Lake Oroville
The Lake surface elevation has been dropping about a foot a day in the last week with increased releases and is now at 758 feet. The surface temperature continues to warm up and is now 66 degrees. The water is clear up in the river arms and main body coves with mud lines showing near points when the wind blows over ten miles per hour. There may be some floating debris on the lake, so caution should be used while running your boat. All launch ramps on the lake remain open.

The spring weather returns this week with partly cloudy skies and a chance of thunder showers midweek through Friday, with daytime temps in the low fifties in the mornings and warming up into the mid-seventies in the afternoons. The weekend will be mostly sunny and warm with afternoon temps forecast to be in the upper seventies, to eighty degrees with little or no wind.

The bass fishing is good with decent numbers of fish being caught all over the lake. Boating anglers are now catching lots of largemouth bass to two pounds with some weighing as much as six pounds! The spotted bass are done spawning and largemouth bass are on the spawn now. Anglers can expect to catch 25 or more bass on a half-day session. A nine pound largemouth was caught two weeks ago and Florida strain largemouth bass are present in the shallows now.

The fish are holding from the bank down to 30 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 at some stage of the spawn. Best baits have been Senko's, natural-colored tubes, creature baits and spinnerbaits. The reaction bite continues with anglers catching fish on rip baits or slow-rolling spinnerbaits just off of the bottom, early in the morning.

Finesse fishing is the ''go-to'' technique here and anglers are always 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 using skirted jigs in the 3/8 & 1/2 ounce sizes, fished deep in the twenty-five to thirty foot depth range. 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 remains slow with reports of anglers catching only a few of the smaller kings at the usual spots. Some anglers say the additional increased water releases have scattered the fish even more and put them off the bite, yet the bite should rebound after the fish settle down in deeper water.

The area along the dam has been very slow there with trollers spending a lot more time trying to catch a fish or two. 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 15 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 and deeper, at 1.3 to 2.3 mph usually works for 14”- 17” Kings and an occasional larger fish to 4-lbs. Mooching anchovies can produce some fish when they are on the bait over structure or near the bottom. Minnows fished deep 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 very early or late in the day for the bank angler.

Diversion Pool
The fishing picked up here last week. Releases from Oroville Dam have been fluctuating from 1750cfs, up to 6500cfs and averaging 4400cfs. A few trout and salmon to three pounds and a couple of trophy sized rainbows 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. Most anglers are releasing the wild rainbows and taking the hatchery Coho instead. 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. The Nelson Ave. Bridge may offer some fishing for holdover trout or salmon with irrigation releases and current running under the bridge. One angler reported catching his limit of trout and steelhead while fishing with PowerBait at the Grand Avenue access and never saw another angler. Continued increased releases moving through the Forebay may have stirred up some fish. Nelson Bridge and Garden Avenue access areas may be worth trying.

Thermalito Afterbay
Pool elevation is up over 134 feet. The water temperature is 59 to 63 degrees with about six feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing has been fair with increased releases moving water through the Afterbay. A few two to three pound steelhead are occasionally 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 had been good prior to the increase in flows and the cooler water moving through the main body has pushed the bass back into the finger coves and tules again. Flipping Brush Hogs, Sweet Beavers and other creature baits into the tules has been producing a few nice 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 1000cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 2200cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow is now 4900cfs. The water temperature is now 53 to 59 degrees at station FRA in the Low Flow and below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet at station FOW, water temps are 60 to 64 degrees. The water is clear in the Low Flow and green with about six feet or more of visibility below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet.

The increase in river flows, (almost double) brought up some spring king salmon and some Shad. While the river was very busy with rafters, tubers and swimmers, very few anglers were on the entire river last weekend. Summer-run steelhead are around however, fishing for them was very slow last week. Local anglers found a little action fishing the hatchery stretch in the higher flows. A few fish were caught in the slower flats there. The fish are occasionally feeding on aquatic insects. Some fish were being caught on Caddis emergers or dries even with 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.

There's been a little boat traffic on the river below the 162 Bridge. Five boats were on the low flow last weekend with hopes the higher flows would bring in fresh steelhead, but there was no bragging going on at the takeout at the end of the day. 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 fairly frequent now and Chironimids, mosquitos and blackflies are swarming thick again 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 closed May 4th. Rabbit season opens July 1st.

See regulations regarding 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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