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Summer pattern emerging at Lake Oroville

ake Oroville is going into its summer pattern a month early and irrigation releases have been cutback from Oroville Dam to the Feather River as shad and salmon arrive in the Oroville Wildlife Area. The viewing window at Feather River Fish Hatchery ladder has also reopened to public.

The Lake surface elevation has been dropping about a nine inches a day in the last week with reduced releases and is now at 744 feet. The surface temperature 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 or when wakes from boat traffic pick up. There may be some floating debris on the middle fork of the lake, so caution should be used while running your boat there. Bidwell Canyon, the spillway and Lime Saddle launch ramps are open. Car-top boat access is dependent on the boat owner’s ability to launch the boat.

Lake Orovlle Bass, Craig Bentley
Lake Oroville largemouth bass are on the bite as they are at various stages of spawning, either on a nest or guarding it. The author caught this one on a Roboworm 4-1/2", FAT straight tail worm, Warmouth color, on a 3/16 ounce, 1/0 brown dart head jig hook, fished on 6lb P-Line CX premium line. Whether its doodling, dragging or shaking, dart headed plastics all produce fish. It's a basic rig commonly used on Oroville while casting to the bank from a boat that will catch all species of bass and an occasional incidental salmon, trout or catfish once in a while.

The spring weather continues again this week with partly cloudy skies and a chance of thunder showers all week with south winds 5 to 7 mph with some gusts to 15 mph. Daytime temps are forecast to be in the low fifties in the mornings and the mid to upper seventies in the afternoons. The weekend will be mostly sunny and warm with afternoon temps forecast to be in the mid to upper eighties, with little or no wind.

The bass fishing has slowed some as anglers adjust tactics for a summer pattern that has developed in the last week. Boating anglers are catching a few largemouth bass averaging two pounds with some bigger fish also being caught along with decent numbers of spotted bass. Anglers can still expect to catch 20 to 30 bass in a day.

As fish are starting to suspend over open water, there are still spots holding from the bank down to 30 feet deep. Anglers are finding bass on points and on smooth clay or sand banks with small rocks. Largemouth can be found in shallow water in post spawn. Best baits have been Senko's, natural-colored tubes and creature baits. The interest in a reaction bite has slowed somewhat, as anglers switch over to more productive techniques in search of a bite pattern. A top water bite is happening in the mornings and 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 when in doubt and most anglers have switched back to using small tubes, four-inch worms, grubs and small paddle-tail swim-baits on light line. Dragging plastics has been producing fish for most boaters. 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 watermelon, pumpkin, red crawdad and shad have been working. Hula grubs can be a good choice in the same colors.

King salmon fishing is still slow with a few reports of trollers catching only a fish or two at the usual spots. Increased boat traffic with the onset of the summer vacation has made fishing all day somewhat tough. Trollers reported a definite slowdown in action after eight a.m. with only one fish per boat caught before that. Cloudy days midweek were a little bit better last week with about two fish per rod for trollers that found bait near the surface.

Lake Oroville King Salmon, Craig Bentley
Lake Oroville king salmon fishing success, like the weather, has been varying daily. Some days are fair others are slow to poor. Liam Martin fished on a partly cloudy day that had a chance of showers catching this 24-inch king and one other 18-inch salmon trolling a pink Shasta Tackle Wiggle Hoochie just fifteen feet deep while using a downrigger near the green bridge on Oroville. Martin and one other angler only caught four salmon for their effort, but considered it a fair day, catching salmon of 16, 18, 19 and the 24-inch long fish pictured.

The area along the dam has been very slow there with trollers spending a lot more time trying to catch a fish. 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, but mostly smaller fish to 19 inches have been caught recently. The best tactic has been to find bait schools at twenty-five feet or deeper, over ninety to one hundred twenty foot depths and troll your gear just above or under the bait schools. Apex lures, Speedy Shiners, or Hoochies tipped with a piece of anchovy, behind a medium sized dodger, trolled at 15-45 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 bobber will entice a bite early in the morning before the sun is on the water.

Diversion Pool
The fishing has slowed some here last week with the lack of anglers trying their luck. Releases from Oroville Dam have been fluctuating from 1250cfs at midnight, to 2300cfs at 6 a.m. and then up to 5500cfs by noon. A few trout and some hold over Coho salmon were caught here last week by a few persistent 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
Although no recent reports have come in from the Forebay, populations of trout, salmon, bass, catfish and other species of rough-fish are present in the Forebay. 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. Continued releases moving through the Forebay may have moved the fish down into the Afterbay. Grand Avenue and Garden Avenue access areas may be worth trying soaking some rainbow PowerBait or an inflated worm in the main channel there.

Thermalito Afterbay
Pool elevation is up over 134 feet. The water temperature is 58 to 61 degrees with about ten feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing has been fair with continued 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 occasionally being caught by anglers fishing off of the bank by the Wilbur Road access. Inflated nightcrawlers or a 'crawler with a mini marshmallow, 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 has been good with the bass back in 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. Most fish are nice two to three pounders. The bass are also hitting jerk-baits, Senko's', plastic worms and jigs. The bass bite should continue to pick back up as the water temperature rises.

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 1500cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 1250cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 2750cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow is now 4300cfs. The Gridley gauge data showed 2890cfs at the time of this writing. Remember that release changes can occur without notice. The water temperature is now 53 to 58 degrees at station FRA in the Low Flow and below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet at station FOW, water temps are steady at 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 eight feet of visibility.

Last week’s increase in river flows had brought up some Shad and more spring run king salmon and made wading tough in the low flow. Flows have now been decreased this week and wading is possible at some locations on the low flow. A few anglers are finding success while fishing for shad at the Afterbay Outlet and below while casting chartreuse or champagne grubs on 1/8th oz. red or pink jig heads. There were a couple of incidental salmon hookups by shad anglers last week; however the kings are not to be targeted until July 16th. Feather River Hatchery personnel reported that spring run king salmon have continued to enter the ladder into the hatchery and the viewing window at the lower end of the ladder is now open again.

Summer-run steelhead is in the river and fishing for them was fair last week. Very few anglers fishing the hatchery stretch last week. Most tried the Low Flow for some trout and steelhead while fishing from boats in the higher flows. Some fish were caught side drifting nightcrawlers and casting lures in the runs there. The fish are occasionally feeding on aquatic insects. Some fish were being caught on Caddis emergers or dry flies before flows were increased and that action should pick back up as flows are reduced. 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 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 fairly frequent now and Chironimids, mosquitos and blackflies are also swarming in the evening and early morning hours.
* Please note that only hatchery trout (those fish fewer than 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 here

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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