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Bass bite intensifies at Oroville & Afterbay

Oroville Waters by Criag Bently, author photo,

all conditions trigger a fantastic bass bite on Lake Oroville with pairs of anglers catching up to fifty fish a boat, using lures on top, to the bottom and in between! Largemouth bass on the Thermalito Afterbay go on a big chew too as salmon season on the Feather River comes to a quiet close above Live Oak.

Lake Oroville
Lake surface elevation is dropping slightly and is now at 669 feet. The surface temperature is 70 degrees. The water is mostly clear up in the river arms, 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 at Bidwell Canyon, while four wheel drive only is required at the spillway.

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.

The weather finally feels like fall! The forecast is for mostly sunny days with some clouds later this week, on Saturday and Sunday. Daytime temps are forecast to be from low 60's in the mornings with highs in the upper 70's to mid-80's in the afternoons. Winds will be north easterly to 15 mph.

The fall bass bite is on and intensifying as bass fishing improves each day as the season deepens.

Brent Cline at Oroville Outdoors called the bass fishing ''Great!'' with a good top water bite early and late with anglers catching some nice fish on Zara Spook Jr's, or rippin' stick baits near steep, rock strewn banks. Fishing in the shade lines along steep walls, or long points has also been good on poppers, buzz baits and stick baits. Bass are now holding at 10 to 30 feet deep.

The finesse bait bite has been good near steep walls, ledges, drop-offs and structure, all day. Anglers are either drop-shotting small tubes, or casting wacky rigged Senko's, dart-head four-inch worms, or fishing 1/4 ounce finesse jigs and small paddle-tail swim-baits on light line to catch up to 50 bass, 13 to 16 inches along with a few 3 to 4 pound fish, 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 slow with one report of a few boaters trolling for salmon and getting a few kings to 19 inches near the dam. The fish have been scattered all over the main body of the lake, with boating anglers putting in some time to catch a few fish. Boaters 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 slow, but should pick up with dropping temperatures.

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.

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 1995 and 3600 cfs. Trout and salmon have been active during pulse releases of water from the lake. 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
Largemouth bass bite has improved near weed mattes and steelhead action varies at Afterbay.

Pool elevation is close to 134 feet. The water temperature is 69 to 70 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 fair, good one day and then slow for a few days.

A few Coho salmon are occasionally 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.
Good sized schools of pond smelt have been moving back and forth into the inlets and canal mouths with bass and trout following them. Watch for Grebes diving. Boaters have been trolling with minnow type lures or 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.

Good bass fishing continues on the Afterbay for fish up to three and four pounds holding on the edges of weed mattes in ten feet of water and along the rocks. Boating anglers have been casting wacky rigged Senko's or white spinner baits near grass mattes, or working Gitzits in the rocks. Drop-shotting small plastic minnows or tubes off the rock walls, has also been working. On some evenings there is a topwater bite. The fish are hitting Pop-R's or Spook Jr's. and buzz baits. Anglers are now catching twelve to fifteen 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 to the edges of the weed mattes, or along the 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
Steelhead have become the focus of anglers on the upper Feather River.

*The 2015 King salmon season closed 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.

Julian Martin with his salmon from Feather River, Photo by Craig Bentley
Final Feather fish! Salmon fishing on the Feather River in the Oroville State Wildlife Area closed last week and Julian Martin fished the river on Wednesday the 14th to take his final king of this season while drift fishing near Vance Avenue. Photo provided by the author

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 2700 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 52 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.

The Feather River Salmon season closed with a whimper. A few fish were caught in the last two days of the upriver season, which was far less than normal for this river known for its large salmon return. About eighty percent of the fish in the river now are turning dark. Best action for boaters for was on large plugs. Bank anglers caught a few drifting beads and Corkies. One boater was cited last week for keeping salmon snagged with jigs.

The river at lower flows allows wading anglers after steelhead to access nearly the entire stretch of river that runs through the Oroville State Wildlife Area.

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 behind spawning salmon 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 picking up slowly. One local angler caught a nice adult steelhead of about eight pounds while drifting fresh roe in the low flow section of the Feather River. Because of the drought and low water, fishing for adult steelhead should pick up with the first good week of rain.

For trout or steelhead try side drifting Glo-bugs, single eggs, small clusters of cured roe, nightcrawlers with a size 14 Corky, or try soaking roe in the deeper pools, mid-day. Fly fishers can try Glo-bugs, egg patterns, or Trout beads followed by 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 and Some Caddis in the afternoons.

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.

Waterfowl season opens Saturday, Oct. 24th.

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

Hunting conditions have improved some with the rain we had last weekend. *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 these CA. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife webpages.

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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