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Lake Oroville for kings; Feather for steel

Oroville Waters by craig Bently author badge, myoutdoor buddy

ake Oroville king salmon bite continues as bass suspend in deeper water and go on all day topwater bite as water temperatures warm into the mid-seventies! Afterbay bass and steelhead provide good action for boating anglers, while Feather River fishing trends change with warming water starting summer pattern.

Lake Oroville
The Lake surface elevation continues to drop about a six inches a day and is now at 733 feet. The surface temperature is now 76 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 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 owner’s ability to launch the boat.
Summer weather continues with sunny skies and hot temperatures with a slight chance of thundershowers mid-week. Daytime temps are forecast to be in the upper sixties to low seventies in the mornings and the high nineties to over one hundred degrees in the afternoons. The weekend will be sunny and hot with afternoon temps forecast to be in the high nineties.

 landlocked king salmon from Lake Oroville while fishing with Dennis Feckner of D-Rays Guide Service, photo by Craig Bentley
I caught this limit of landlocked king salmon from Lake Oroville while fishing with Dennis Feckner of D-Rays Guide Service last week. Feckner put the writer on fish using ocean trolling techniques for kings, modified to adapt to local bait fish patterns and inland salmon behavior on Lake Oroville and it worked!

The bass fishing has gone into a summer pattern with the fish deeper and out over open water last week with water temps climbing into the mid-seventies. The bite has been called tough with anglers working hard to find a few slot sized fish and avoid the dinks too small to hook. Boating anglers are scratching out a few slot sized bass and may catch about 10 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, but those fish are barely fourteen inches long. 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 trying several types of baits and cover a lot of water to find some decent sized fish. The reaction bite has slowed to a standstill as anglers search with more productive techniques to find and catch bass. The top water bite has picked up significantly with fish chasing bait mid-day, better fish caught in the mornings or evenings near deeper points, ledges, or rock walls on Rico's, Pop-R's and small buzz baits last week.

Finesse fishing usually always works here and has been the ''go-to'' technique, but even pro bass anglers have switched to spooning or topwater. Most anglers are using small tubes, four-inch worms, grubs and small paddle-tail swim-baits on light line. ‘Spooners’ are using Kastmasters, Hopkin’s shorty and P-Line Laser Minnows. The jig bite should pick up as fish move into deeper water.

King salmon fishing picked up last week with a few trollers catching limits of fish at most of the usual spots. Some of the permitted guides caught limits of kings trolling bait and lures fishing down at 60 to 70 foot mark, in water 175 feet or deeper in the main body. The area along the dam had been seeing a decent bite early and late in the day with trollers using all the usual techniques to catch a few limits. The kings are also being caught trolling over submerged islands, 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 fifty-five feet or deeper, over one hundred twenty five, to one hundred seventy five foot depths and troll your gear just under the bait schools. Apex lures, Speedy Shiners, Berkley Power minnows or Hoochies-tipped with a piece of anchovy, behind a medium sized dodger, trolled at 60 to 70 feet and deeper, at 1.9 to 2.2 mph usually works for 14-19 inch Kings and an occasional larger fish to 4+ pounds. Mooching anchovies can produce some fish when they are on the bait over structure or near the bottom. Minnows fished down deep under a bobber will entice a bite early in the morning before the sun is on the water for bank anglers

Diversion pool fishing slows; lower flows and angler interest
The fishing has been quiet here last week with no anglers fishing and no reports coming in. Releases from Oroville Dam have been fluctuating from 1470cfs at 5 a.m., then up to 7460cfs by 9 p.m. 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. One angler was trying his luck at Nelson Avenue Bridge without a bite on Saturday last week. 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. 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 good for boat anglers
Thermalito Afterbay pool elevation is 135 feet. The water temperature is 74 to 76 degrees with about ten feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing has been fair. Schools of pond smelt are moving out of the canal into deeper water below Wilbur Road Bridge. A very 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. This writer hooked eight feisty steelhead last week while trolling a nightcrawler behind a dodger in the north basin, but only got three of the fish to the boat.

Last week’s Hexagenia mayfly hatch that was coming off at sunset has slowed to nothing occurring during legal fishing hours, one hour after sunset.

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 with the higher water. Casting spinner baits, chatter baits, flipping Brush Hogs, Super Flukes, Sweet Beavers, Senko's and other creature baits into the tules has been producing some nice fish. A topwater bite on poppers and grass frogs is starting to develop. Most fish are two to three pounders with some bigger fish to six pounds also being caught. The bass bite will continue to pick up as the water temperature rises even more when irrigation releases are cutback.

Joseph Green holds beautiful steelhead before releasing back into Feather River, photo by Craig Bentley
Summer steel! Oroville local hotrod Joseph Green is a regular on the Feather River and a good source for fishing reports. Green caught and released this beautiful wild buck summer steelhead last week while fishing on the hatchery stretch of the Feather's Low Flow. He was drifting a nightcrawler and Corky in a deeper run and caught two beauties like this on a short day last week.

Steelhead and trout fishing fair on Feather
*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 1500 cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 400 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 1900 cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow is now 3600 cfs. The Gridley gauge data showed 1800 cfs at the time of this writing, which is still pretty low for safe powerboat operation. Remember that release changes can occur without notice. The water temperature is now 59 to 65 degrees at station FRA in the Low Flow and below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet at station FOW, water temps were 61 to 66 degrees on Tuesday last week. The sensor is now offline with no current data available. 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.

The river is going into its summer pattern with warming water temperatures with the fish biting early or late and holding in the deeper pools or runs.

Higher river flows has made fishing a little tough and made wading somewhat difficult in the low flow. Few anglers are fishing for shad at the Afterbay Outlet and below as the shad are now finished spawning.

Summer-run steelhead are in the river now and fishing for them was fair last week with a few local anglers finding fish holding in deeper pools and runs. A couple of 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 Corky and drifting or soaking roe in the deeper pools there. The fish are occasionally feeding on aquatic insects. 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.

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 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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