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Bass fishing still excellent at Lake Oroville

Craig Bentley author badge for, Oroville Waters

rrigation releases continue and have now quadrupled flows from Oroville Dam to the Feather River, keeping the trout and salmon bite in the diversion pool going, then moving more salmon, shad and summer steelhead upriver near Oroville! Oroville lake continues to be ON with its reputation as "one of the west's best bass lakes" and fishing is very good! The fish are on the bite with anglers catching up to fifty bass a day!

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 750 feet. The surface temperature is now 67 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 continues again this week with partly cloudy skies and a chance of thunder showers midweek through Friday, with south winds 5 to 9 mph with gusts to 18 mph. Daytime temps are forecast to be in the low fifties in the mornings and the low to mid-seventies in the afternoons. The weekend will be mostly sunny and warm with afternoon temps forecast to be in the mid to upper seventies, with little or no wind.

The bass fishing is very good with big numbers of fish being caught all over the lake, with the middle and north fork arms being favored by veteran bass anglers. Boating anglers are now catching largemouth bass averaging around two pounds with some bigger fish also being caught. Anglers can expect to catch 25 to 50 bass a day. A nine pound largemouth caught three weeks ago has been the biggest bass caught to date this spring.

While fish are starting to suspend over open water, there are still fish are holding from the bank down to 30 feet deep. Anglers are finding spotted bass on points and on smooth clay or sand banks with small rocks. Largemouth can be found in shallow water in either pre, or post spawn nesting. 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 and in the evening. A top water bite is happening in the evenings near deeper points, ledges and rock walls with anglers getting fish on Rico's, Pop-R's and small buzz baits.

Finesse fishing is always 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 2.8 Keitech paddle tail grubs have been especially effective. 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. Watermelon or transparent green is the hot color at this time.

King salmon fishing remains slow with a few reports of anglers catching only a fish or two at the usual spots. Some anglers say the additional increased water releases have scattered the fish even more, sent them deeper and put them off the bite. The wind this week kept many from trying to troll for salmon.

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 usually 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, earlier this spring, 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 to 17-inch 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 bobber will entice a bite early in the morning before the sun is on the water.

Diversion Pool
The fishing was fair here last week. Releases from Oroville Dam have been fluctuating from 3500cfs at midnight, to 5500cfs at 9 a.m., and then up to 8000cfs by 7 p.m. A few trout, some hold over Coho salmon to eight pounds and another trophy sized rainbow trout was caught and released here last week 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 Avenue 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 two weeks ago, but never got a nibble there last week. Continued increased releases moving through the Forebay may have moved the fish down into the Afterbay. Nelson Bridge and Garden Avenue access areas may be worth trying soaking some rainbow PowerBait or a worm.

Thermalito Afterbay
Pool elevation is up over 134 feet. The water temperature is 57 to 60 degrees with about eight feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing has been fair with increased releases moving water through the Afterbay. Schools of pond smelt have been pushing up into the canal below the Wilbur Road Bridge, with the gamefish following them. A few two to three pound steelhead are being caught occasionally by anglers fishing off of the bank by the Wilbur Road access. Minnow type lures, nightcrawlers, inflated, or with marshmallows, live 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, yet the cooler water moving through the main body has pushed the bass back into the finger coves and tules again. Casting spinner baits, flipping Brush Hogs, Sweet Beavers and other creature baits into the tules has been producing an occasional nice fish.

The bass are also hitting jerk-baits, Senko's', plastic worms and jigs. The bass bite should pick back up once the water temperature stabilizes.

Feather River
*Fishing for king salmon is closed on the Feather River through July 15th. 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.

*The 2015 King salmon season will open July 16, with a limit of two salmon per day, with a maximum possession of four salmon. Open water is from the boat ramp above the After bay Outlet, downstream to 200 Yards above the Live Oak boat ramp at Pennington Road.

Flows are now 1775cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 1985cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 3750cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow is now 5440cfs. The Gridley Gauge data showed 4000cfs at the time of this writing.

Remember that release changes can occur without notice. The water temperature is now 52 to 57 degrees at station FRA in the Low Flow and below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet at station FOW, water temps are 58 to 61 degrees. The water is clear in the Low Flow with about ten feet or more of visibility and below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet the water is off color with about five feet of visibility.

The continued increases in river flows has brought up some shad and more spring run king salmon, but has made wading tough in the low flow. Feather River Hatchery personnel reported 40 spring run king salmon have entered the ladder into the hatchery so far. Summer-run steelhead are now in the river and fishing for them was fair last week. Local anglers found some action fishing the hatchery stretch and the middle Low Flow for some trout and steelhead while fishing from boats in the higher flows. The fish were caught side drifting nightcrawlers and casting lures in the slower runs there. The fish are feeding occasionally 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 Wooley 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 some boat traffic on the river below the 162 Bridge. Two boats were on the low flow last weekend and they did okay on fresh steelhead. 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. Rabbit season opens July 1st.
See regulations regarding Hunting and area use at Ca. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, online webpage at this DFW website.

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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