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Feather River salmon opener only fair

Oroville waters by Craig Bentley author badge, myoutdoorbuddy.com

eather River salmon opening day produces a few limits then slows to a grind. Lake Oroville king salmon bite continues to produce fish for trollers while the bass bite remains tough while Catfish and panfish are still being caught. Low water closes Spillway launch ramp.

Feather River Salmon opener
King salmon opened Thursday, July 16th and while the bite was not stellar, it did produce a few limits of bright kings weighing between six and eighteen pounds. Most of the fish were caught using plugs with a sardine and crawdad wrap, by clients of well known guides that have fished the waters of the Feather and Sacramento Rivers for several years.

The Outlet Hole, pictured here and only twenty-three anglers fishing from shore.
Angler attendance on opening day of salmon season on the Feather River was down this year, however the bite and catch rates were better than most anticipated. Two guide boats had full limits and there were fifteen kings caught by wading anglers.There was about half the usual number of boats on the Outlet Hole, pictured here and only twenty-three anglers fishing from shore. Photos courtesy of author

Along with five guide boats, there were eight other boats in the Outlet hole opening morning. A handful of fish were caught on spinners by bank anglers at the Outlet hole and a few were even legitimately caught jigging by boaters.

MyOutdoorBuddy.com Oroville Waters author, Craig Bentley was the first angler to hook and land a king salmon
MyOutdoorBuddy.com Oroville Waters author, Craig Bentley was the first angler to hook and land a king salmon while casting a spinner from shore at the infamous Outlet Hole opening morning on the Feather River last week. Bentley lost one other king of about twenty pounds while casting a blue and silver R&B Thumper spinner before the bite shut off at 6:50 a.m.

Salmon fishing slowed after opening day, with few anglers fishing since last weekend. One boater reported that the fishing was a grind, because he'd went only one fish out of four hooked, for a three day effort. Most his bites came from the outlet Hole.

Keng Vang took his first ever spinner caught king
Keng Vang took his first ever spinner caught king while casting a silver and purple number six Vibrax spinner from shore at the Feather River's Outlet Hole on opening day last week. Fishing has since slowed, but should rebound as additional cold water is released with the increase in flows again from Oroville dam.

The fish are stopping briefly at the confluence of the "Low Flow" and the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet before moving upriver into the Low Flow.

Feather River regular Jeff Harville continued his lucky streak catching his limit of kings
Feather River regular Jeff Harville continued his lucky streak catching his limit of kings on opening day for the last four years in a row, while casting Blue Fox Vibrax spinners in size six and a variety of colors. Harville is an expert at spinner fishing and prefers a slow, deep retrieve while fishing for kings. The spinner bite was fair on opening morning, but has since slowed on the Feather.

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. The salmon bite has been best in the first three hours of the morning. The bite should improve with increased flows and cooler water in the next few days.

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 spinners.

For trout or steelhead try side drifting nightcrawlers with a size 14 Corky and drifting or soaking roe in the deeper pools. Fly fishers can try Tan Birdsnests, olive or tan Fox Poohpahs, soft hackle emergers and San Juan Worms.

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.

Lake Oroville
The Lake surface elevation continues to drop about a foot a day with increased releases and is now at 697 feet. The surface temperature 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 is now the only asphalt launch ramp open. The spillway launch ramp and Lime Saddle launch ramp have been closed due to low water. 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 sixties in the mornings and the mid-nineties in the afternoon mid-week. Winds will be light and variable at 10 to 15 mph.

The bass fishing continues in its summer pattern with the fish suspending and holding deeper at 30 to 40 feet deep, over open water. The bite has remained tough with most anglers fishing from sundown until midnight and catching up to 10 fish, 15 to 16 inches long. It's mostly been a crank bait bite for those fishing near points and drop-offs in the dark.

There are still some small spotted bass holding from the bank down to 30 feet deep, but most of those fish are very small. A fair 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.

Channel Catfish continue to be caught up in the river arm coves. Anglers are continuing to report 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 too. 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.

King salmon fishing was decent 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 40 to 70 foot mark and deeper, over 100 to 150 foot depths are catching fish. An occasional rainbow trout, Coho salmon and spotted bass are being seen in the catches with the king salmon.

The area along the dam has been slow with the fish having moved 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.

Diversion Pool
The fishing has been quiet here last week with few angler reports coming in. Releases from Oroville Dam have been fluctuating from 4075 cfs to 4460 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. Aquatic weed growth is widespread in the Forebay.

Thermalito Afterbay
Afterbay largemouth bass bite picks back up and steelhead fishing remains tough with warming water temperatures. Pool elevation is 134 feet. The water temperature is 83 degrees back in the coves with somewhat 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. A few diehard trout anglers managed a steelhead or two last week, trolling in the main body above Highway.

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 picked back up with the hot weather and warming water temperatures. Bass have been hanging out in the coves, tules and rocks with warmer water. A topwater bite on grass frogs has been okay 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 tules or rocks has been producing some nice fish to five 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.

Feather River
*The 2015 King salmon season opened 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 now closed to fishing for all species, from July 15, 2015 to Jan. 1, 2016.

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 2300 cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 700 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 3000 cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow was 4900 cfs. The Gridley gauge data showed 2857 cfs at the time of this writing, which is sketchy for safe powerboat operation. Propeller driven boats are not recommended below 3500 cfs. Remember that release changes can occur without notice.

The water temperature has cooled and is now 56 to 61 degrees at station FRA in the Low Flow and below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet at station FOW, the sensor remains 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.

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.

Hunting
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 the CA DFW 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 gsguideservice14@gmail.com. His report is posted courtesy of the Oroville Chamber of Commerce.


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