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Lake Oroville salmon on bite; bass sulk

Craig Bentley, Oroville Waters, author badge,
ake Oroville king salmon go on the bite as bass sink into post spawn sulk while the lake continues to drop as releases are increased again from Oroville Dam to the Feather River.Afterbay bass and steelhead keep anglers busy with fishing on the upswing!

Lake Oroville
The lake surface elevation continues to drop about a six inches a day in the last week with increased releases and is now at 736 feet. The surface temperature is now 69 to 71 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.

Early summer weather continues with sunny skies and warm temperatures with a slight chance of thundershowers throughout the week. Daytime temps are forecast to be in the upper fifties in the mornings and the low eighties in the afternoons. The weekend will be partly cloudy with a chance of thundershowers Saturday with afternoon temps forecast to be in the mid to upper eighties, with light winds to about 6 mph.

The bass fishing has gone into a slump with the post spawn sulk moving fish deeper and out over open water last week with water temps climbing above seventy degrees. The bite has been called tough with anglers working hard to find any pattern that will bring their catch rates back up. Boating anglers are scratching out a few slot-sized bass and are catching about 20 bass between two anglers for a half-day session.

Fish are now being found suspending down deep over open water. There are still some spots holding from the bank down to 25 feet deep. Anglers were finding bass on points, steep walls and on smooth clay or sand banks with small rocks. Best baits have been Gitzits, Senko's, and creature baits. Boaters are dragging baits to cover a lot of water and find fish. The reaction bite has slowed to a standstill as anglers switch over to more productive techniques to find and catch more bass. The top water bite has slowed significantly, yet a few fish were caught in the mornings and evenings near deeper points, ledges and rock walls on Rico's, Pop-R's and small buzz baits last week.

Finesse fishing usually always works here and is the ''go-to'' technique. Most anglers are using small tubes, four-inch worms, grubs and small paddle-tail swim-baits on light line. The jig bite has slowed along with all of the aforementioned techniques for those fishing deep in the twenty-five to thirty foot depth range and most anglers have switched back to using other techniques.

King salmon fishing has picked up nicely with reports of trollers catching limits of fish last week at most of the usual spots. Some of the permitted guides caught limits of kings trolling bait and lures fishing down at 50 to 70 foot mark, in water 200 feet or deeper in the main body. The area along the dam has been seeing a decent bite early and late in the day with trollers using all the usual techniques to catch limits of fish along the dam. The kings are also being caught trolling near structure, in the river forks mouths, the slot and 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 forty-five feet or deeper, over ninety to two hundred foot depths and troll your gear just under the bait schools. Apex lures, Speedy Shiners, or Hoochies tipped with a piece of anchovy, behind a medium sized dodger, trolled at 50 to 70 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 fishing slows with lack of angler interest and fluctuating releases.
The fishing has been quiet here last week with few anglers fishing and no reports coming in. Releases from Oroville Dam have been fluctuating from 2500cfs at 6 a.m., and then up to 5500cfs by 4 p.m. Fishing should pick back up with the increased releases that started Tuesday. Hopeful anglers cast and retrieve minnow imitations: soft plastics, stick baits, or spoons, or fish bait for the trout or salmon. When the bite is on 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.

Jimmy Zannocco joined "Rustic Rob" Reimers and outdoor writer Dan Bacher for some landlocked steelhead fishing last week on the Thermalito After bay. The group boated three nice fish and lost a few more while trolling nightcrawlers behind Sep's dodgers.

Jimmy Zannocco, fishing guide is shown here with his gorgeous landlocked steelhead from the Thermalito Afterbay. Photo courtesy of Rob Reimers
Jimmy Zannocco, fishing guide is shown here with his gorgeous landlocked steelhead from the Thermalito Afterbay. Photo courtesy of Rob Reimers

Afterbay bass and steelhead provide decent sport for holiday weekend anglers.
Pool elevation is just below 135 feet. The water temperature is 59 to 63 degrees with about ten feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing has been fair and improving 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 being caught by anglers fishing off of the bank by the Wilbur Road access, while boaters have been trolling nightcrawlers behind a dodger to take some nice steelies to twenty-two inches.

Last week steelhead started keying in on the Hexagenia mayfly hatch that's been coming off at sunset. A couple of opportunistic fly casters took steelhead on Hex nymphs and dry flies while casting to rising fish late in the day from sunset to dusk.

Inflated nightcrawlers or a 'crawler with a mini-marshmallow, live minnows, Gulp eggs, PowerBait and soft plastics are working 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, chatter 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 two to three pounders with some bigger fish to six pounds being caught.

The bass bite will continue to pick up as the water temperature rises when irrigation releases are cutback.

Steelhead and trout fishing slows with fluctuating river flows as shad bite wanes on the 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 1550 cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 450 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 2000 cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow is now 3500 cfs. The Gridley guage data showed 1640 cfs at the time of this writing, which is pretty low for safe powerboat operation. 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 63 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.

Last week’s fluctuating river flows made fishing a little tough and made wading difficult in the low flow. Few anglers are finding success while fishing for shad at the Afterbay Outlet and below as the shad are now finished spawning. Casting chartreuse or champagne grubs on 1/8 th oz. red or pink jig heads may take a shad or two now. There was a couple of incidental salmon hookups by shad anglers again last week and DFW wardens were issuing warnings to those fishing on the river last weekend about targeting salmon. Feather River Hatchery personnel reported that spring run king salmon have continued to enter the ladder into the hatchery and they have trapped two thousand salmon in the last week.

Summer-run steelhead are in the river now and fishing for them was slow last week with the fluctuating flows. A few anglers found fair fishing the hatchery stretch last week. Most tried further downstream in the Low Flow for some trout and steelhead. 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 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.

* 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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