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Oroville still kicking out 20-30 bass a day

On Oroville Waters by Craig Bentley

ake Oroville fishing continues on a summer pattern as water warms, salmon go deep and bass are on a topwater bite. Releases are being reduced from Oroville Dam to the Feather River and recreational users descended on the river in hordes to celebrate the holiday weekend on kayaks, tubes and air mattresses!

Lake Oroville
The Lake surface elevation has been dropping about a six inches a day in the last week with reduced releases and is now at 739 feet. The surface temperature is now 69 degrees. The water is clear up in the river arms and main body and coves with mud lines showing near points when the wind blows over ten miles per hour or when wakes from boat traffic pick up. Bidwell Canyon, the spillway and Lime Saddle launch ramps are open. Car-top boat access is dependent on the boat owners ability to launch the boat.

Summer has arrived a month early with sunny skies and warming temperatures. Daytime temps are forecast to be in the upper fifties to mid-sixties in the mornings and the upper seventies to low eighties in the afternoons. The weekend will be sunny and warm with afternoon temps forecast to be in the mid to upper eighties, to low nineties with light winds to about 6 mph.

The bass fishing has gone into a summer pattern that has continued through last week with water temps climbing up close to seventy degrees. 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.

Fish are now being found suspending over open water and there are still spots holding from the bank down to 25 feet deep. Anglers are finding bass on points, steep walls and on smooth clay or sand banks with small rocks. A few largemouth can still 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 as anglers switch over to more productive techniques to catch more bass. 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 always works here and is the ''go-to'' technique here when you want good numbers of fish. Most anglers are using small tubes, four-inch worms, grubs and small paddle-tail swim-baits on light line. Dragging or shaking plastics is producing fish for most boaters employing those techniques. 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 or creature baits can be a good choice in the same colors.

King salmon fishing remains slow; yet, shows signs of picking up with reports of trollers catching a few fish last week at the usual spots for private boaters. Some of the permitted guides caught fish trolling bait and lures fishing down at the 50 foot mark, in water 200 feet or deeper. In the main body, increased boat traffic with the onset of the summer vacation and holiday boat traffic had made fishing tough last week with fish scattered all over, down deep on the main body of the lake

The area along the dam has been slow 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 thirty-five feet or deeper, over ninety to two hundred 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 been fair here last week with only a few anglers fishing. Releases from Oroville Dam have been fluctuating from 2700cfs at 6 a.m., and then up to 4575cfs by 6 p.m. A few nice rainbow trout and 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 such as soft plastics, stick baits, or spoons, or fish bait for the trout or salmon. The Berkley PowerBait minnow and Ima stick baits have been getting bit. 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
No recent reports have come in from the Forebay, however, 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 the fish moving around, up from, or 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 135 feet. The water temperature is 59 to 63 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 Rd. Bridge. 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 in the coves and tules again. Casting spinner baits, flipping Brush Hogs, Super Flukes, Sweet Beavers, Senko's and other creature baits into the tules has been producing an occasional nice fish. Most fish are nice two to three pounders with some bigger fish to six pounds being caught.
The bass bite will continue to pick back up as the water temperature rises.

USMC Veteran Joseph Green of , Feather River Steelhead
Memorial Day Metalheads! USMC Veteran Joseph Green of Oroville got into the steelhead and trout on the Feather River Low Flow. Green reported hooking seven fish, bringing this one and three others to hand while drifting a threaded nightcrawler with a Corkie on six pound line on his morning foray last weekend. HooRah!

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 1300 cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 200 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 1500 cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow is now 3100 cfs. The Gridley gauge data showed 1400 cfs at the time of this writing. Remember that release changes can occur without notice. The water temperature is now 56 to 62 degrees at station FRA in the Low Flow and below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet at station FOW, water temps are steady at 60 to 64 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 slightly color with about eight feet of visibility. Flows are too low for safe powerboat operation with the reduced releases.

The start of summer vacation with Memorial Day weekend brought out recreational water users in droves, toting air mattresses, tubes and kayaks to float the river. Everyone had fun in the perfect water and weather!

Last week’s decrease in river flows made Shad fishing a little tough, but made wading easier in the river overall. A few anglers are still finding success while fishing for shad at the Afterbay Outlet and below while casting chartreuse or champagne grubs on 1/8 th oz. red or pink jig heads. There were a couple of incidental salmon hookups by shad anglers again last week and DFW wardens were out in force to make their presence obvious to those fishing the river last weekend. 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 are in the river and fishing for them was decent last week with the reduced flows. A few anglers found good 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 with a size 14 Corkie 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 and that action should pick back up as flows are stabilized. 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, or drifted with a slinky weight 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 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.

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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