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Oroville area fishing offers mixed bag

Oroville Waters by Craig Bentley, author badge,

ass bite continues on Lake Oroville and in the Thermalito Afterbay. Fishing for king salmon in the lake has been slow to fair. On the Upper Feather River, fall run king salmon are showing in better numbers below the Afterbay Outlet, but the bite remains slow. Oroville Salmon Festival is this coming weekend!

Lake Oroville
The Lake surface elevation is fluctuating a few inches a day and is now at 672 feet. The surface temperature is 73 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, remain the only two launch ramps open. Four wheel drive vehicles are recommended for launching boats.

All of the Car-top boat access points are closed with the exception of Foreman Creek and Stringtown, where the gates are still open to access the lake.

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.

Fall has arrived and cooler temperatures are forecast for the later part of the week. It should be sunny and mostly clear with daytime temps forecast to be from 57 to 64 in the mornings with highs 87 to 90 in the afternoons, cooling to the high eighties over the weekend. Winds will be gusty from the south at 15 to 18 mph early in the week then variable or westerly and light through the end of the week

While only a few boats are going out on the lake, the bass fishing continues to be fair. Fish are holding at 20 to 40 feet deep and some schools of fish as deep as seventy feet. Best action continues to be fishing the finesse bait bite, near steep walls, ledges, points, drop-offs and structure. Anglers are drop-shotting small tubes, Senko's, four-inch worms, hula grubs, small curl tailed grubs and small paddle-tail swim-baits on light line to catch 25 to 30 bass, 13 to 15 inches long, on a session for two anglers. Natural colors and earth tone baits like watermelon, pumpkin, oxblood and brown are working. Angling pressure remains light with only a few boats on the lake through the week.

King salmon fishing has been slow to fair, one day to the next with trollers scratching out a few fish at the usual spots. The fish are scattered all over the main body of the lake and boaters trolling lures down at 60 to 70 foot mark and deeper, over 100 to 150 foot depths may catch a few fish for a few hours effort in the mornings.

Salmon may being caught while trolling over submerged islands or structure, in the river forks mouths, the slot and west of the green bridge, when fishing is good. 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. White has been the preferred color in lure choice. 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 remains quiet here with no reports coming in. Releases from Oroville Dam have been fluctuating from 1387 cfs to 1400 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. 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.

Thermalito Afterbay
Afterbay largemouth bass bite continues with warmer water and full pool. Pool elevation is now over 135 feet. The water temperature is 70 to 75 degrees back in the coves with cooler water at 61 coming from the Thermalito canal. There's about five feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing has been up and down from slow to fair. Anglers report fishing can be okay one day and dead slow the next. The pond smelt remain out in deeper water in the main body channels. For steelhead, boaters have been trolling with a threaded nightcrawler behind a dodger or drifting a fly-lined nightcrawler 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. A few Coho salmon averaging 3 to 4 pounds have occasionally been caught in the canal by Wilbur Road. Anglers use pink Gulp eggs, with a nightcrawler or scented marshmallow, using a three foot leader and a sliding sinker setup.

Bass fishing has been fair with the higher, warmer water and the size of fish caught has been a little better. Small bass have been hanging out in the coves, on the edges of the tules and along the rocks. Best action has been between either casting crank baits or spinnerbaits, and working Senko's and drop-shotting small plastic minnows or tubes, off the rock walls.

The topwater bite has returned and the fish are hitting Pop-R's or Spook Jr's. 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. There are some fish that will go two to five pounds, a lot of three to four pounders with mostly smaller bass of one to two pounds usually always hitting.

Feather River
Salmon are still being caught while steelhead fishing remains slow as low releases and flows remain in place on the 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 795 cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 400 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 1195 cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow is 1695 cfs. The Gridley gauge data showed 965 cfs at the time of this writing, which is way too low for safe powerboat operation and certainly 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 cooling down some and is now at 51 to 55 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 to six feet of visibility and below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, the water is clear with about five feet of visibility.

Fall run kings are showing in better numbers in the upper river below the Afterbay Outlet, but the bite remains slow. Best action for boaters has been on large plugs, like the t-55 Flatfish in the legal pre-dawn hour before the sun gets on the water, or the last half-hour of legal fishing time at dusk. The best action is being had by those boaters that make plan, pick a spot and get on it before sunup or dusk. Most boaters are using Flatfish or Kwikfish with a sardine wrap, but a few are jigging. One boater reported that more fish are hooked with the rod in the holder, rather than working the plug while holding the rod.

The river being low allows waders to access nearly the entire stretch through the Oroville State Wildlife Area. While it’s tough to get a good drift, fish are being caught by wading anglers that are lining fish with long leaders and very light weights in the riffles. Some anglers are fishing jigs in deeper water below the Afterbay Outlet.

The river is going into the fall pattern with some trout biting early and late in the day in the heads of riffles after holding in the deeper pools or runs during middle of the day. Local anglers have been taking a some trout and steelhead to 21 inches, or 3 or 4 pounds, while fishing in the "Low Flow,” but fishing remains slow for large adult steelhead.

For trout or steelhead try side drifting nightcrawlers with a size 14 Corky, small clusters of cured roe, Glo-bugs, or single eggs, early and late, or try soaking roe in the deeper pools, mid-day. Fly fishers can try Tan Birdsnests, olive or tan Fox Poohpahs, soft hackle emergers and San Juan Worms, or pale orange, or shrimp pink Glo-bugs. Small Steelhead and trout have been rising to caddis and mayflies in the early morning in the upper river. There's been little boat traffic on the river below the Hwy. 162 Bridge. Most drift boaters fly fish nymphs or egg patterns 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 were kicking out a few bass, bluegill and sunfish for anglers fishing the ponds near weed beds or stickups. No recent reports have come in. Grass mats are thinning some. 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 open in the Oroville State Wildlife Area.

*The Wildlife Area Hunting season opened Tuesday September 1st with the Dove opener.

* First half of dove season closes Sept. 15th.

*Rabbit season is open: however, hunters should beware of Tularemia disease in rabbits until after a hard frost and use nitrile gloves to handle any rabbit they decide to take.

*D-3 Deer Season opens Sept. 26 in the Oroville State Wildlife Area. Shotgun with Slugs only

*Tree Squirrel season opened Sept. 12 with a limit of 4 per day.

*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 was posted courtesy of the Oroville Chamber of Commerce.

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