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Lake Oroville for kings; Afterbay for bass

Oroville Waters by Craig Bentley author badge,

ake Oroville king salmon bite produces limits for trollers while the topwater bite for bass continues as water temperatures remain constant an channel catfish are going on the bite! Down below, Afterbay largemouth bass provide good action for boating anglers, while Feather River fishing conditions change with increased water releases.

Lake Oroville
The Lake surface elevation continues to drop about six inches a day and is now at 729 feet. The surface temperature is now at 77 degrees. The water is clear up in the river arms and main body and coves with mudlines 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 now limited to Foreman Creek access and Stringtown access. Successful launching is dependent on the boat owner’s ability to launch his or her boat.

Summer weather continues with sunny skies and hot temperatures. Daytime temps are forecast to be in the mid to upper sixties in the mornings and the mid to high nineties in the afternoons. The weekend will be sunny and hot with afternoon temps forecast to be in the high nineties, to over one hundred degrees on Sunday and Monday.

The bass fishing remains in a summer pattern with the fish deeper and out over open water last week with water temps staying in the mid-seventies. The bite has been tough with anglers working hard to catch a few fish and avoid the dinks. Boating anglers are scratching out only a few slot-sized bass and may only catch about 10 bass between two anglers for a half-day session.

A lot of bass are suspending down deep over open water. There are still some spots holding from the bank down to 25 feet deep, but most of those fish are barely fourteen inches long. The top water bite continues, with fish chasing bait mid-day and the better fish caught in the mornings or evenings near deeper points, ledges, or rock walls. Zara Spooks, Rico's, Pop-R's and small buzz baits are getting the blowups. For the finesse fishers the best baits have been Gitzits, Senko's, and creature baits. Most anglers are using small tubes, four-inch worms, grubs and small paddle-tail swim-baits on light line. Boaters are trying several types of baits and cover a lot of water to find some decent sized fish, but even pro bass anglers have switched to spooning or topwater. Spooners use Kastmasters, Hopkins Shorty and P-line Laser minnows. The lead-head jig bite should pick up as fish move into deeper water, while the reaction bite has slowed to a standstill.

Channel Catfish are being caught up in the river arms as they prowl coves prior to spawning. Anglers are using cut baits such as anchovies, mackerel or sardines and stink bait, dough baits or chicken livers, taking the whisker fish to seven pounds. Some anglers reported being broke off by bigger fish while using "too light of line," while bank fishing in the south fork.

King salmon fishing picked up a notch last week with most trollers catching limits of fish at most of the usual spots. Permitted guides caught limits of kings trolling bait and lures fishing down at 60 to 70 foot mark and deeper, 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, with a few going to twenty-four inches.

Most fish that have been caught recently are around 18 to 19 inches long . The best tactic is 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 works for sixteen to nineteen inch long Kings and an occasional larger fish over three pounds. Mooching anchovies has produced some fish when they are on the bait over structure or near the bottom, early in the day. Minnows fished down deep under a bobber will also entice a bite early in the morning before the sun is on the water for bank anglers.

Diversion Pool
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 1450cfs at 6 a.m., up to 2300cfs at 8 a.m., then increasing to as much as 6200cfs by 8 p.m. Hopeful anglers cast and retrieve minnow imitations such as: soft plastics, stick baits, or spoons, or fish bait for the trout or salmon. 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 Avenue 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 also be worth a try by soaking PowerBait or an inflated nightcrawler in the main channel there.

Afterbay largemouth bass bite intensifies, as steelhead fishing slows with warming water temperatures for boating anglers.

Craig McBride holding a 5-lb largmouth bass, photo courtesy of Craig McBride
Craig McBride of Yuba City caught and released this 5-lb. largemouth last week from the Thermalito Afterbay. McBride said the fish was spawned out and fell for a Lip Ripper spinner bait available at Hartman Outdoors. Photo courtesy of Craig McBride

Thermalito Afterbay
Pool elevation is 134 feet. The water temperature is 76 degrees with about ten feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing has slowed. Schools of pond smelt have moved out of the canal into deeper water west of Wilbur Road Bridge. Very few 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 a few steelies to twenty-two inches.

Last week the Hexagenia mayfly hatch that was coming off at sunset has again slowed to nothing coming off during legal fishing hours because of the heat.

Inflated nightcrawlers or a 'crawler with a mini-marshmallow, live minnows, Gulp eggs, PowerBait and soft plastics may work for the bank angler. Boaters are trolling with a threaded 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 and the mouth of the inlet canal, about a half mile west of Wilbur Road.

Bass fishing has been good and getting better with bass moving into the coves and tulles again with the warmer water. Casting crank baits, spinner baits, chatter baits and flipping Brush Hogs, Super Flukes, Sweet Beavers, Senko's or other creature baits into the tulles or rocks has been producing some nice fish. A topwater bite on poppers and grass frogs is decent in the evening. Most fish are two to three pounds with some bigger fish to six pounds also being caught. The bass bite will continue to pick up as the water temperature continues to rise.

Steelhead and trout fishing slows and shad fishing may pick up with increased flows on the Feather River.

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 Afterbay Outlet, downstream to 200 yards above the Live Oak boat ramp at Pennington Road.

Flows are now 1800 cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 700 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 2500 cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow is now 4400 cfs. The Gridley gauge data showed 2496 cfs at the time of this writing, which is minimal for safe powerboat operation. Remember that release changes can occur without notice. The water temperature is now 55 to 61 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. Feather River hatchery personnel report that 3500 spring run King salmon have entered the hatchery so far this year and more are expected with the increase in flows this week to the river.

The river is going into its summer pattern with the hot weather, with fish biting early or late in the heads of riffles and then holding in the deeper pools or runs during mid-day.
Higher river flows has made fishing tough and wading difficult in the low flow.
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 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 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 Woolly buggers are a good bet.

There's been little if any boat traffic on the river below the Hwy. 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. Grass mats are beginning to form with bass hitting lures on top in the moss. Use small chatter-baits, buzz baits, topwater lures, 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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