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Early fall fishing outlook outstanding

Gary Heffley author photo,

By Gary Heffley
10/01/15 -- The beginning of fall, cooler mornings, shorter days and biting fish. Angling success is picking up in many areas throughout the North State. Once again anglers will be faced with choosing the best options, basically deciding what they want to catch.

Salmon fishing on the Sacramento River is picking up and while far from being lights-out, many guides are now able to consistently put clients on at least one fish per rod, with limits other days. The outlook is for things to only get better, especially after a couple of the early anticipated rain events. Sardine wrapped plugs are producing early, with many switching to roe techniques later in the morning. Below the Princeton Riffle above Colusa anchoring and using spinners is also a popular and productive technique. Tuesday produced good catch rates for guides, clients and even those on the Gravel Bar enjoyed success as a big surge of fish moved through, but as noted it is a day to day fishery. Most of the fish are being intercepted instead of caught in areas where in normal water years they would hold for a period while resting during their migration.

Sacrament River Salmon, photo courtesy of Kirk Portocarreo's Professional Guide Service
Sacrament River Salmon, photo courtesy of Kirk Portocarreo's Professional Guide Service

Rainbow trout action on the Sacramento River has been exceptional with various methods putting the hard-fighting fish to the net. Rainbows up to 7 pounds have been caught on flies, spoons, hard plastics and worms. With the onset of fall and increased numbers of salmon spawning in the system, look for the egg bite to take off. Both fly and conventional tackle anglers should include egg imitations such as beads, artificial or natural roe and Glo-Bugs into their repertoire.

Popular trout creeks like Deer Creek and Hat Creek that are serviced by the “hatchery trucks” should offer great fishing and less pressure. Summer is over, kids are back in school and many occupying the area campgrounds are deer hunters and not anglers. You can now have some areas to yourself without running into another angler at the next hole. The Hat Creek Region is planted on Tuesdays so if you have a chance fish the area on Thursday and Friday before any weekend crowds you should enjoy great results. Hatchery trout normally take a couple days to become acclimated to the streams after planting and to gain an appetite.

Brook Trout fishing is outstanding in many lakes, especially around outlets as they are in spawning mode. The trout are especially beautiful this time of year as most are transforming into the dark green and orange colors of the spawn. At Whiskeytown for instance both the Clear Creek Arm near the Carr Powerhouse and in the Brandy Creek area are producing for bait and lure anglers. The creek mouths of Bucks Lake in Plumas County are also known for consistent brookie action. Another favorite brook trout location is Medicine Lake which has no outlet but will find brookies cruising along the shoreline. As these trout are often just beyond the casting range from the shore, a small boat, kayak, even a float tube or personal pontoon will put an angler right in the middle of the action.

Kokanee are also prepping for the spawn and should shortly be heading out of the main lake bodies and into the streams. The bright silver land-locked sockeyes are beginning their transformation to the deep red coloration of the spawn. Whiskeytown and Trinity Lakes will be producing some of the largest fish of the year at this time. Use of electronics to locate Kokanee is imperative but look for the kokes along stream channels as they begin to stage for the push into the streams.

Bass fishing will be transitioning to fall patterns, moving into shallower waters as surface temperatures cool and their food sources like shad move up as well. Top water in the morning and evening and looking for suspended fish off the banks will be generalized patterns. By late fall trout in the lakes will also move up and trolling in the top 25 feet will become productive. Late fall and winter trolling with diving minnow plugs like Rapala Shad Raps and Rapala Countdown Minnows as well as top line trolling baits like Needlefish, Kastmasters, Daredevils and Cripplures are favorites. Without needing to add dodgers or blades an angler is able to enjoy the full measure of the fish's fight. And in trolling the minnow plugs bass are often included in the take especially when trolling along the shoreline contours. Just remember when trolling in this manner position the baits about 100-125 feet back from the boat, be conscious of the running depths of the lure when crossing offshore points and never troll in a straight line.

This is the beauty of the area as there are so many options to enjoy and let’s not forget steelheading on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers is just around the corner as well. And speaking of the beauty of the area, make sure to take in the fall foliage colors and transitions, as along many of the rivers the colors provided by nature would make any artist proud.

Gary Heffley has been a valued contributor to MyOutdoorBuddy for over seven years serving as manager, sales representative and reporter for much of Northern California. He is an avid outdoorsman and loves to fish and write about his adventures. He has long history in the Sporting Goods field and is presently managing the Gift Bar and Camping Department at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Redding.

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