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Bass fishing improves on Lake Oroville

Oroville Waters by Craig Bentley, author badge,

ass bite at Lake Oroville has turned on while some bright fall run king salmon showed up on the Feather River as the season is coming to a close. The weather feels like Indian Summer, but fall is here!

Lake Oroville
Weather is forecast to be sunny with clouds often this week, with a chance of showers on Saturday and Sunday. Daytime temps forecast to be from low 60's in the mornings with highs in the upper 80’s to mid-90's in the afternoons. Winds will be light and variable to the weekend, then southerly to 10 mph.

The fall bass bite is on and more boats are going out on the lake as bass fishing improves.

Brent Cline at Oroville Outdoors called the bass fishing ''Super good" with the topwater bite, early and late on the lake good with anglers catching some nice fish on Zara Spook Jr's near steep, rock strewn banks. Fishing in the shade lines along steep walls, or long points has also been good on poppers and buzz baits. Bass are holding at 20 to 40 feet deep.

There has also been a crankbait bite when fish are chasing bait near the surface. Action continues to improve fishing the finesse bait bite near steep walls, ledges, drop-offs and structure. Anglers are either drop-shotting small tubes, or casting wacky-rigged Senko's, dart-head four-inch worms, or fishing jigs with hula grubs, small curl tailed grubs and small paddle-tail swim-baits on light line to catch up to 50 bass, 13 to 16 inches and larger, for two anglers. Natural colors and earth tone baits like watermelon, pumpkin, oxblood and brown are working. Plastics in those colors with red flake have been especially productive.

King salmon fishing has been poor with no reports of any boaters trying for the salmon. The fish were scattered all over the main body of the lake, with boating anglers having a tough time finding any numbers of biting fish. Boaters usually troll lures down at 60 to 70 foot mark and deeper, over 100 to 150 foot depths to try to catch a fish or two. Fishing for salmon has been so slow many regular Oroville anglers are fishing elsewhere.

Salmon may be 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. The best tactic is to try and find bait schools then 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.

The Lake surface elevation is steady and is now at 670 feet. The surface temperature is 71 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 highly recommended by State Parks officials 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) 538-2219 to check the daily status of the launch ramps prior to making a trip up to the lake.

 Local angler extraordinaire' and Guide, Joshua Giordano of Early Bird Guide Service caught and released this monster rainbow trout, estimated to be over fifteen pounds, photo courtesy of Joshua Giordano of Early Bird Guide Service
Thermalito Toad! Local angler extraordinaire' and Guide, Joshua Giordano of Early Bird Guide Service caught and released this monster rainbow trout, estimated to be over fifteen pounds, while taking advantage of the pulse of water releases to the Thermalito Diversion Pool on October 11th while casting a ''minnow imitating lure'' to hook the big 'bow.

Diversion Pool
The fishing remains quiet here with only a few locals trying for trout when flows are up. Releases from Oroville Dam have been fluctuating between 1500 and 3000cfs. Trout and salmon are becoming active during pulse releases from the lake. One local guide caught and released a big rainbow believed to be over fifteen pounds here last weekend. Try casting and retrieving 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.

Thermalito Afterbay
Pool elevation is close to 135 feet. The water temperature is 70 to 71 degrees back in the coves with cooler water at 55 coming from the Thermalito canal. There's about five feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing has been up and down, good one day and then slow for a few days.

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, while bank fishing for steelhead trout or coho salmon.

Pond smelt have been moving back and forth into the inlets and canal mouths with bass and trout following them. Watch for Grebes diving and feeding on smelt and cast your minnow imitation in the general direction of the feeding birds. 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.

Bass fishing has picked up with fish up to three and four pounds have been hanging out in the coves, on the edges of the tules or weed mattes and along the rocks. Boating anglers have been casting wacky rigged Senko's or white spinnerbaits near grass mattes, or working Gitzits in the rocks. Drop-shotting small plastic minnows or tubes off the rock walls has been working, too. On some evenings there is a topwater bite. The fish are hitting Pop-R's or Spook Jr's. and buzz baits. Anglers are catching seven to ten fish in a session on the Afterbay.

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, the edges of the weed mattes, 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 being caught.

Feather River
The 2015 Feather River King Salmon season closes this week on Thursday the 15th!

*The 2015 King salmon season closes Thursday, October 15th, for the water from the boat ramp above the Afterbay Outlet, downstream to 200 yards above the Live Oak boat ramp at Pennington Road.

* The Feather River remains open from Live Oak to the mouth at Verona until December 16th.

* 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 800 cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 400 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 1200 cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow is 2300 cfs. The Gridley gauge data showed 936 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 now at 50 to 54 degrees at station FRA in the Low Flow. 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.

Bright fall-run kings were moving through the upper river up into the Afterbay Outlet and the bite turned on for anglers in the last week with most reporting fishing action to be good one day and dead the next. About eighty percent of the fish are now turning dark. Bank anglers were doing good on silver Vibrax spinners and about 30 kings were taken on Monday morning this week. Best action for boaters for was 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 salmon were stopping briefly at the top of the legal open water above the Afterbay Outlet before moving up into the cooler water in the Low flow.

The river being at lower flows allows waders to access nearly the entire stretch through the Oroville State Wildlife Area. While it’s tough to get a good drift, fish were 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. A few were using size 4 or 5 spinners, or roe and sand shrimp under floats with some success on salmon.

The river is into the fall pattern with some trout biting early and late in the day in the heads of riffles after holding in the deeper runs during middle of the day. Local anglers are getting some trout and steelhead averaging 17 inches, up to 3 or 4 pounds, while fishing in the "Low Flow'' and fishing for larger adult steelhead is a good bet from here on out. One local angler caught a pair of adult steelhead last week while drifting fresh roe in the low flow section of the Feather River. For trout or steelhead try side drifting nightcrawlers with a size 14 Corky, small clusters of cured roe, or Glo-bugs, single eggs, or try soaking roe in the deeper pools, mid-day. Fly fishers can try Glo-bugs, or Trout beads followed by a size 14 Birdsnests, olive or tan Fox Poohpahs, soft hackle emergers and San Juan Worms. There has been some good blue wing olive Mayfly hatches in the mornings.

Boat traffic is picking up on the river below the Hwy. 162 Bridge. Most drift boaters fly fish nymphs or egg patterns under strike indicators, or swing wet flies or streamers when fishing for trout or steelhead in the Low Flow. Some boaters pull plugs or side drift from drift boats on un-crowded days on 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 have produced 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. Smaller ponds have pretty much dried up.

The General Hunting Season is now open in the Oroville State Wildlife Area.

*The Wildlife Area Hunting season opened Tuesday September 1st.

Hunting has been tough with the extremely dry habitat conditions due to the drought.

*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 opened Sept. 26 in the Oroville State Wildlife Area. Shotgun with lead free Slugs only.

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

* Mountain Quail Zone Q-1 season opened Sep.13, Valley Quail opens Oct.18.

*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, online 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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