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Anglers still challenged by Oroville area fish

Oroville Waters by Craig Bentley,

almon are sneaking upriver on the Feather despite reduced flows, Lake Oroville king salmon action has slowed to a grind for trollers and Lake Oroville bass fishing has been tough even for anglers using finesse techniques. Afterbay largemouth bass bite is hanging on and steelhead fishing also remains tough with pool elevation dropping and fluctuating water levels.
Lake Oroville
Lake surface elevation continues to drop about three inches a day and is now at 677 feet. The surface temperature is 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. Bidwell Canyon and the auxiliary ramp at the spillway are now the only launch ramps 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. Boaters are advised to call the lake's Visitor Center at 530-589-2219, to check the daily status of the launch ramps prior to making a trip up to the lake.

A typical sized largemouth bass caught and released from the Thermalito Afterbay by Craig Bentley

«A typical sized largemouth bass caught and released from the Thermalito Afterbay by the author.

The hot summer weather continues again this week. It's sunny and hot with daytime temps forecast to be in the mid-sixties in the mornings with highs in the mid-nineties in the afternoons, through the weekend. Winds will be light and variable through the weekend.

The bass fishing has been slow, with some fish holding at 15 to 30 feet deep and some schools of fish as deep as seventy feet. There is still a topwater bite in the late evenings on poppers or buzz baits. A few anglers are still going out and fishing from sundown until midnight to fish and it has been a finesse bait bite for those fishing near points and drop-offs.

There are still some bass holding from the bank down to 30 feet deep, but most of those fish are 12 to 15 inches long at best. Most anglers are drop-shotting small tubes, Senko's, four-inch worms, small grubs and small paddle-tail swim-baits on light line to catch a few bass in a session.

More consistently, channel catfish and panfish may be caught up in the river arm coves. The bite has been a little slow, yet the cats are still hitting cut baits such as anchovies, mackerel or sardines. Stink bait, dough baits or chicken livers are also working. While the numbers aren't big, panfish are still biting, with meal worms, red worms and small pieces of nightcrawlers catching hand sized sunfish in the warmer, shallower water up in the river arms.

King salmon fishing was slow last week with trollers scratching out a couple fish at 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 only catching a couple of fish for a four to five hour effort in the mornings, before it gets too hot. The area along the dam continues to slow with the fish having moved out of that area.

The kings may be caught while trolling over submerged islands or structure, in the river forks mouths, the slot, and west of the green bridge. Most the fish caught recently are around 16 to 17 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 have been working for both salmon and trout.

Diversion Pool
The fishing remains quiet here with no reports coming in. Releases from Oroville Dam have been fluctuating from 2100 cfs to 2300 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.

A typical sized largemouth bass caught and released from the Thermalito Afterbay by Oroville Waters author, Craig Bentley.

«The author caught this nice largemouth bass from the Thermalito Afterbay last week while slow rolling a Spin N Glo with a nightcrawler across the bottom in 15 feet of water near the Larkin Road Outlet.

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. Bowfishing for carp is an option in the warmer, shallower waters of the Forebay and Afterbay.

Thermalito Afterbay
Pool elevation is now around 133 feet. The water temperature is 77 to 80 degrees back in the coves with cooler water at 65 coming from the Thermalito canal. There's about three feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing continues to be real slow. The pond smelt have moved out of the canal into deeper water in the main body channels. For steelhead, boaters may 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, north of the Highway 162 Bridge and the mouth of the inlet canal, early in the morning.

Bass fishing has been slow with the lower pool elevation and fluctuating water temperatures. Small bass have been hanging out in the coves, tules and rocks with warmer water. A few larger bass have been caught in the deeper pockets that are 15 to 25 feet deep and those fish have been feeding on crawdads. The topwater bite has been okay on some evenings on frogs, but only in the last half-hour of dusk. Productive techniques used here include 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. Most fish caught lately are 10 to 12 inches long, with some to 20 inches. There are some fish that are two to five pounds, but mostly smaller bass are hitting. A 12-pound largemouth was caught here earlier this summer.

Feather River
Feather River salmon are sneaking upriver at this time but fishing remains slow as flows are again reduced to 1500 cfs.

*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 1100 cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 400 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 1500 cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow is 2900 cfs. The Gridley gauge data showed 1365 cfs at the time of this writing, which is too low for safe powerboat operation and technical for those rowing drift boats down the wide, low water. Propeller driven boats are not recommended below 3500 cfs. Remember that release changes can occur without notice.

The water temperature is steady at 59 to 65 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 tinted green in the Low Flow with about five feet of visibility and below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet the water is off slightly color with about four feet of visibility.

This week, a few fish were caught on plugs with a sardine and crawdad wrap. Most guides have quit fishing the Outlet hole and were only getting one or two fish one day and nothing the next. There have been reports of a few fish being caught by bank anglers, lining fish with long leaders and on jigs.

The salmon that are scooting upriver through the seventy-plus degree water are barely stopping at the confluence of the "Low Flow" and the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet before moving upriver into the Low Flow. A few fall run kings are beginning to show in the upper river, but the bite has been slow, even in the legal pre-dawn hour before the sun gets on the water and warms up.

Currently the river remains in its stubborn summer pattern with some 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 that had made fishing tough and wading extremely difficult in the low flow have been reduced to just under 1100 cfs. Local anglers have been taking a few nice trout and steelhead while fishing in the "Low Flow" but fishing has been slow for most, except for those knowledgeable and persistent anglers who know the river.

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, San Juan Worms or pale orange Glo-Bugs. There's been a little 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 a few 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.
Prospects look okay for the dove opener with fair numbers of birds around.
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 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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