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Fall-run king salmon season to open

Oroville Waters by Craig Bentley, author badge,

ake Oroville’s king salmon bite continues to produce fish for trollers while the bass bite remains somewhat tough as channel catfish and panfish are still being caught. King salmon and steelhead are pushing upriver into the cooler waters of the Low Flow as flows are increased to 3290 cfs on the Feather River. The 2015 fall-run in-river king salmon season opens tomorrow 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.

Lake Oroville
The Lake surface elevation continues to drop about a foot a day with increased releases and is now at 703 feet. The surface temperature is now at 79 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 and the spillway launch ramps are open. Lime Saddle has been closed. 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.

Seasonal temperatures return again this week. Daytime temps are forecast to be in the mid-sixties to low seventies in the mornings and the mid-nineties to near 100 degrees in the afternoon midweek, with temperatures cooling down again over the weekend into the high eighties to low nineties. Winds will be light and variable.

The bass fishing continues in its summer pattern with the fish holding deeper at 30 to 40 feet deep, over open water. The bite has remained tough with some anglers fishing at night and catching a few decent sized fish, 15 to 16 inches long.

There are still some small spotted bass holding from the bank down to 30 feet deep, but most of those fish are dinky. A decent 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 fish. 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. A 7-1/2 pound largemouth bass was caught by a lady angler on a dart headed Roboworm last week. Boaters are covering a lot of water and dragging tubes or worms. A crank bait bite is happening at night for those fishing near points and drop-offs.

Channel catfish continue to be caught up in the river arms and off the face of the dam. Anglers are reporting some nice fish being caught. The cats are 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 in the warmer, shallower water.

Colby Garcia on Lake Oroville holding king salmon, photo courtesy of James Stone
Colby Garcia caught this nice king salmon while fishing Lake Oroville with James Stone of Elite Guide Service. They were trolling using Apex lures in the main body at 50 to 70 deep in 125 feet of water and boated eight quality kings on Tuesday this week. Salmon fishing remains steady on Oroville with limits or near limits of nice kings being caught by those putting in a little time on the lake this week. Photo courtesy of James Stone

King salmon fishing has been consistent last week with most trollers catching limits or near limits of fish at most of the usual spots. The fish are scattered all over the main body of the lake and boaters trolling lures down at 50 to 70 foot mark and deeper, over 100 to 150 foot depths are catching fish. An occasional rainbow trout or Coho salmon are being seen in the catch with the king salmon.

The area along the dam has slowed as the fish are moving out to open water with the falling lake levels. The kings are 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, Apex lures 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 may produce 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 angler reports coming in. Releases from Oroville Dam have been fluctuating from 5000 cfs to 5200 cfs. 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 varies from day to day and steelhead fishing remains tough with warming water temperatures.

Thermalito Afterbay
Pool elevation is above 135 feet. The water temperature is 80 degrees back in the coves with cooler water coming from the Thermalito canal. There's about ten feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing has slowed. 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 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, although a 12 pound largemouth was caught here earlier this month. The bluegill and redeared sunfish bite has picked up with fish on the spawn on the flats with nearby cover.

The remainder of the early run king salmon continue run up into the "low flow" with increased flows over 2220 cfs. Trout and steelhead fishing picks up as more fish move upriver with higher flows.

Craig Bentley on feather River holding rainbow trout. Photo by Craig Bentley
The author caught and released this fifteen inch wild rainbow trout during a scouting trip on the Feather River earlier this week. He joined Paul Norton of Magalia in his jet boat to survey the Feather from Gridley to Oroville looking for king salmon and reported very few fish seen below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, making prospects look pretty bleak for the season opener. It appears there are few is any fall-run kings in the river yet.

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 2220 cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 1050 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 3270 cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow was 5190 cfs. The Gridley gauge data showed 3488 cfs at the time of this writing, which is marginal for safe powerboat operation. Propeller driven boats are not recommended below 3500 cfs. Remember that release changes can occur without notice. The water temperature is 60 to 66 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.

King salmon opens Thursday, July 16th and what’s left of early run of the spring kings have moved right through the lower river up into the "Low Flow" section of the river, which remains closed to salmon fishing. The fish are not stopping at the confluence of the "Low Flow" and the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet before moving upriver and they're not rolling much to reveal their presence at all. A scouting trip on Tuesday the 14th, revealed very few fish in the river from the Gridley launch to and above the Afterbay outlet. Look for an update on Golden State Guide Service's page after the opener.

Currently 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. Local anglers have been taking some nice trout and steelhead while fishing from kayaks in the Low Flow, using nightcrawlers and Rooster Tail spinners.

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 in lower flows. 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 drift 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, early and late. 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 shotshells only are permitted for hunting on state lands.
See regulations regarding Hunting and area use at the CDFW 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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