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Lake Oroville: Salmon still king

ake Oroville king salmon bite produces limits for trollers while the bass bite continues in a summer pattern as water temperatures warm with channel catfish and panfish also on the bite! Excitement grows among river salmon anglers for next week's opener as flows are increased to 3250 cfs on the Feather River!

Lake Oroville
The Lake surface elevation continues to drop about a foot a day with increased releases and is now at 710 feet. The surface temperature continues to rise and is now at 80 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.

Coho salmon that were planted two years ago are still finning the waters of Lake Oroville and the Diversion pool below the lake. Ryan Tripp holds up the evidence, a 5-1/4 pound Coho he caught that was included in his limit with king salmon taken last Sunday morning while trolling with his dad Mike on the Orange Crush. While the fish are scattered all over the main body, an occasional Coho or rainbow trout are also being caught along with some nice limits of king salmon on Oroville lately. Photo courtesy of Mike Tripp

A cooling trend is forecast for this week with seasonal temperatures and a chance of thundershowers mid-week. Daytime temps are forecast to be in the low to mid-sixties in the mornings and the mid-eighties in the afternoons, with temperatures on the rise again over the weekend.

The bass fishing continues in its summer pattern with the fish holding deeper and out over open water with the water surface temperature now at eighty degrees. The bite has remained tough with anglers working to catch a few decent sized fish and avoid the dinks. Boating anglers are scratching out a few slot-sized bass and may only catch a few bass between two anglers for a half-day session.

There are still some small spotted bass holding from the bank down to 30 feet deep, but most of those fish are barely six inches long. The top water bite continues, with fish caught in the mornings or late evenings, in the shade near deeper points, ledges, or rock walls. Zara Spooks, Rico's, Pop-R's and small buzz baits are getting a few blowups. For the finesse fishers, most anglers are drop-shotting small tubes, Senko's, four-inch worms, small grubs and small paddle-tail swim-baits on light line. Boaters are covering a lot of water and dragging tubes or worms. Most anglers have switched to either drop-shotting, spooning or topwater. Spooners are using Kastmasters, Hopkins Shorty, P-line Laser Minnows or 3/8's to 1/2 ounce lead-head jigs. The reaction bite has been slow.

Channel cats another option
Some big channel catfish continue to be caught up in the river arms and off the face of the dam. Anglers are reporting some nice fish weighing into the upper teens biting cut baits such as anchovies, mackerel or sardines. Stink bait, dough baits or chicken livers are taking fish averaging between five and seven pounds. Panfish are on the bite as well, with meal worms, red worms and pieces of nightcrawlers catching hand sized sunfish.

King salmon fishing has been fairly consistent last week with most trollers catching limits or near limits of fish at most of the usual spots. Guides caught limits of kings for their clients trolling bait and lures fishing down at 50 to 70 foot mark and deeper in the main body. An occasional rainbow trout or Coho salmon are being seen in the catch with the king salmon. The area along the dam has been seeing a decent bite early in the day before the sun is on the water with trollers catching a few limits working the water there. The kings are also being caught while trolling over submerged islands or structure in the river forks mouths, the slot and west of the green bridge. Some bigger fish are showing in the catches, with a few going to twenty-six inches. Most the fish caught recently are around 16 to 24 inches long. The best tactic is to find bait schools and troll your gear just under the bait. Speedy Shiners, Berkley Power Minnows or Hoochies-tipped with a piece of anchovy, rigged behind a medium sized dodger, trolled at 50 to 70 feet, at 1.9 to 2.2 mph has been working for both salmon and trout. Mooching anchovies has produced a few fish when they are on the bait over structure or near the bottom, early in the day. Minnows fished down deep under a bobber may 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 5000 cfs at 8 am, then going back down to 4200 cfs at 1 p.m. Hopeful anglers cast and retrieve minnow imitations: soft plastics, stick baits, or spoons, or fish bait for the trout or salmon. Fishing is usually better when flows are up. 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 Avenue. 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 fluctuates with inflows and steelhead fishing gets tough with warming water temperatures for boating anglers.

Thermalito Afterbay
Pool elevation is above 135 feet. The water temperature is 80 degrees with about ten feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing has slowed to poor. Most of the pond smelt have moved out of the canal into deeper water in the main body, where the inflow currents merge with the warmer water. The Hexagenia Mayfly hatch is pretty much over.

For those anglers wanting to try for the steelhead, inflated nightcrawlers, or a 'crawler with a mini marshmallow, live minnows, Gulp Eggs, PowerBait and soft plastics may work for the bank angler fishing off the rocks in deeper water near the Hwy. 162 Bridge or along the inlet canal below Wilbur Road. Boaters should try 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 one day and slow the next, with bass hanging out in the coves, tules and rocks with the warmer water. A topwater bite on poppers and grass frogs has been occurring on some evenings. 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 to six pounds on better days. Most fish are two to three pounds. The Bluegill and red-eared sunfish bite should be picking up as these fish go on the spawn on the flats with nearby cover.

King salmon continue run up into the "low flow" with increased flows over 2000 cfs as DWR takes measures to cool the river down the week before salmon season opens on the Feather River. Trout and steelhead fishing slows with lack of angler interest.

Feather River
*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.

* Fishing for the king salmon is closed all year in the Low Flow above the Outlet. There is no allowance for any catch and release fishing that targets salmon when this stretch of 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 and closes on 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.

Flows are now 2000 cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 1000 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 3000 cfs below the Outlet. Flows are scheduled to increase to 3250 cfs and have already been increased earlier than projected. The project total outflow was 5100 cfs at 8:30 am today. The Gridley gauge data showed 3170 cfs at the time of this writing, which is okay for safe powerboat operation. Remember that release changes can occur without notice. The water temperature is 60 to 65 degrees at station FRA in the Low Flow and below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet at station FOW, the sensor is still 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 a total of 5314 spring run King salmon have entered the hatchery as of July first and while the return is below the average of 7700, they have enough fish to meet their egg taking quota of two million.

The river remains in its summer pattern with trout biting early or late in the day 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 extremely difficult in the low flow.
Angler interest has dropped off considerably in the pursuit of trout and steelhead.
Some anglers tried further downstream in the Low Flow for some trout or steelhead with poor results. For trout or steelhead try side drifting nightcrawlers with a size 14 Corky and drifting or soaking roe in the deeper pools. The fish are occasionally feeding on aquatic insects. For the fly fisher, streamers and aquatic insect imitations: (Caddis, Chironimids, Mayflies & Midges) in small, size 14-16 nymphs are a good bet. Tan Birdsnests, olive or tan Fox Poohpahs, soft hackle emergers and San Juan Worms have been getting bit.
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 thick 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.The Wildlife Area Hunting season opens September 1st with the Dove opener. Non-Lead Shot shells only are permitted for hunting on state lands.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 is posted courtesy of the Oroville Chamber of Commerce.

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