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Lake Oroville bass fishing remains good

Oroville Waters by Craig Bentley, author badge,

roville area waters are cooling down again as another cold winter storm is forecast this week with rain and snow in the mountains. Meanwhile the fall bite at the lake continues with anglers catching decent numbers of bass, with a few trout and salmon. Waterfowl hunting has been fair for hunters in the Oroville Area when storms roll through.

Lake Oroville
Lake surface elevation is dropping about six inches a day and is now at 652 feet. The surface temperature has cooled now to 58 degrees. The water is mostly clear up in the river arms, main body and coves with mudlines showing near points when the wind blows. [Update: Effective yesterday afternoon Bidwell Canyon ramp was closed by DWR to start construction of the ramp extension. Bidwell will be closed until the lake level reaches 655 feet. The auxiliary ramp at the spillway is the only launch ramp still open. Ffour wheel drive is now required at the spillway.] All of the car-top boat access points are closed with the exception of Foreman Creek where the gate is 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.

Winter is still officially three weeks away, yet it seems to be early! There is a chance of showers through the week, with rain starting early Wednesday, becoming steady Thursday on into Friday morning. It should be sunny on Saturday, then cloudy with a chance of rain Sunday and Monday. Daytime temps forecast to be from 43 to 50 in the mornings with daytime highs 49 to 55. Winds will be S to SW to 35 mph Thursday, then NE to NNW to 9 mph through the weekend.

The cold weather and dropping water temperatures haven't stopped the bass bite on the lake and bass are still being caught in decent numbers! Brent Cline at Oroville Outdoors said the fishing is rated good with anglers catching up to 30 fish!

The top water bite has died and most anglers have switched back to finesse fishing. Fishing in the shade lines along steep walls, or long points remains decent on jigs and tubes. Spoons are working too with boaters jigging Kastmasters, Hopkins Shorty's and Duh Spoons. Bass have been holding from about five feet, down to 40 feet deep.

The finesse bait bite has been good 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 1/4 ounce finesse jigs and small paddle-tail swim-baits on light line to catch good numbers of bass, 12 to 14 inches long, with a few 2 to 3- pound fish being caught for two anglers. Natural colors and earth tone baits like bait fish, Prizm shad, watermelon, pumpkin, oxblood and brown are all working.

Frank Belser at Franks Beacon reported "The bait fisherman have been slaughtering the bass up on the lake, using minnows and crawdads. Business was so good over the weekend we sold out of both minnows and crawdads!

King salmon fishing has slowed for boaters trolling for salmon mostly because of lack of interest. Action has been slow. The fish have been scattered all over the main body of the lake and boating anglers are few lately. A few Kings showing color have been caught by bass anglers throwing plastic worms in ten feet of water, near the mouths of the middle fork and the north forks of the Feather River. Boaters for salmon troll lures down from the 60 to 100 foot mark and deeper, over 120 to 150 foot depths to catch salmon or trout or cast and retrieve spoons along the shoreline.

Salmon may usually 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. Berkley Power minnows, Apex lures or Hoochies-tipped with a piece of anchovy, rigged behind a medium sized dodger, trolled at 30 to 70 feet, at 1.9 to 2.2 mph has been working for both salmon and trout.

Diversion Pool
The fishing has been slow with only a few locals trying for trout when flows are up. Releases from Oroville Dam have been fluctuating between 1000 cfs and 2800 cfs in the late afternoons. Trout and salmon may be active during the releases of water from the lake and occasionally some nice fish have been caught and released. 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 slowed with cold water and steelhead bite off and on at the Afterbay.

Pool elevation is 134 feet. The water temperature is 50 to 53 degrees back in the coves with cooler water at 49 coming from the Thermalito canal. There's about six feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing is fair for boaters with a few anglers catching a fish or two while trolling.

Bank fishing has been slow with a fish caught once and a while at the Wilbur Road canal and near the Hwy.162 Bridge. Anglers use pink Gulp eggs, with a nightcrawler or scented marshmallow, with a three foot leader and a sliding sinker setup, while bank fishing for steelhead trout or coho salmon.

Pond smelt that have been on the flats in the main body in both the north and south waters of the Afterbay have seemingly dispersed. Boaters have been trolling with minnow type lures or a threaded nightcrawler behind a dodger or drifting a fly-lined nightcrawler from the surface down to ten feet deep, along the west wall of the Afterbay, on the flats, or on the edges of the channels in front of the outlets, north of the Highway 162 Bridge and the mouth of the inlet canal.

Bass fishing has continued to slow at the Afterbay with the dropping water temperatures. Few bass anglers are trying for the bass holding on the edges of weed mattes in five to ten feet of water and along the rocks, and moving to deeper water as storms roll through.

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 will also work. Few reports have come in from any bass anglers fishing the Afterbay last week.

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 about twelve inches, up to one or two pounds being caught.

Feather River
Steelhead fishing is slow 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.

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 1400 cfs below the Outlet. [Update: Flows are being increased at this time. The projected total outflow is expected to reach 2000 cfs soon.] The Gridley gauge data showed 1440 cfs at the time of this writing, which is too low for safe powerboat operation and okay for those rowing drift boats. Propeller driven boats are not recommended below 3500 cfs. Remember that release changes can occur without notice.

The water temperature is now at 49 to 50 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 clear 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 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. Steelhead anglers should be aware that hunting season is also open along the river now. Anglers are enjoying some solitude on the river during weekdays as many have given up on the Feather, fishing other streams for better action on steelhead.

The river is into an early winter pattern with some trout and small steelhead biting best now in the afternoons in the riffles or behind any of the few remaining spawning salmon. Local anglers have been trying for trout and steelhead averaging 14 inches with a few to three pounds, while fishing in the "Low Flow.' Reports of success continue to be few and far between.

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 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 on most days.

Boat traffic is minimal 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 may produce 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 almost gone. 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 opened Saturday, Oct. 24th. Type C Wildlife Areas had been hosting some average duck hunting with mallard, pintail, teal, widgeon and wood ducks taken when storms come through.

Hunting conditions have been tough between storms, with windy days seeing some shooting early and windy, stormy days seeing better shooting overall.

*Pheasant and Fall Turkey opened Nov. 14 and hunting was fair for turkeys locally on private land.

*Rabbit season is open thru Jan. 31.

*Tree Squirrel season opened Sept. 12 with a limit of 4 per day. Closes Jan.31

* Balance of State Quail season opened Oct.18, Closes Jan.31

*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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