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Bidwell launch closes for construction

Oroville Waters by Craig Bently, author badge,

ass bite for tournament anglers and Bidwell Canyon launch ramp closes for construction on Lake Oroville, while the Feather River steelhead fishing is fair with anglers catching around one fish to the rod.

Lake Oroville
The Lake surface elevation continues to rise and is now at 673 feet. The surface temperature is now 50 degrees. The water is muddy green up in the river arms, main body and coves with mud staining the water during downpours and near points when the wind blows on fair days. Bidwell Canyon launch ramp has been closed for completion of the construction of the launch ramp extension. The auxiliary ramp at the spillway is open. Four wheel drive vehicles are required by State Parks officials for launching boats at the Spillway launch ramp.

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. Boater's 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.

Steelhead caught and released by caught and released by Michael McGahan, on Feather River, photo courtesy of Michael McGahan
Late fall steelhead liken this big hen caught and released by Michael McGahan, of Chico are present in the Feather River in Oroville. The fish was caught on a small white jig fished under a float on a Centerpin combo opening day. Photo courtesy of Michael McGahan

The wet winter continues with rain forecast for most of the week, with a break on Sunday, with clouds and and chance of rain, then a chance of showers again next Monday. Daytime temps are forecast to be from 43 to 48 in the mornings with daytime highs 50 to 58. Winds will be south to southeast 16 to 22 mph, with gusts to 29 mph, then S-SE to 7 mph.

The winter weather has slowed the bass bite some, mainly on fair days, with fish being caught by anglers using winter tactics to catch fair numbers of fish when there's some weather.

Brent Cline at Oroville Outdoors said the fishing has slowed some, but is still decent with boating anglers catching plenty of bass during last weekend's tournament. There were 98 boats in the field and a lot of slot sized bass were caught. The winning limit weighed fifteen pounds for seven fish and a tournament on Sunday was won with a five fish limit weighing twelve pounds.

There has been a decent crank bait bite when there is weather on the lake. Spinner baits have also been taking fish during the rain. The water coming in from runoff streams has been colder at 48 to 52 degrees.

Most anglers have been finesse fishing. Bass have been holding from about five feet, down to 30 feet deep. Anglers are either drop-shotting small tubes, or fishing 1/4 or 3/8 ounce finesse jigs and small paddle-tail swim-baits on light line to catch bass, 12 to 14 inches long, with an occasional 2-1/2 to 4-pound fish being caught. Shaky heads and dart headed worms are also getting bit. Natural colors and earth tone baits like bait fish, Prizm shad, watermelon, pumpkin, oxblood and brown are all working. A slow retrieve is getting the bite in the cold water.

King salmon fishing remains slow with few, if any boaters trolling for salmon.

Some sixteen to twenty-inch long adult kings and a few rainbow trout are being caught by anglers fishing bait or casting lures from the shoreline. Popular baits have been cut anchovies, minnows, fished under a float and rainbow Powerbait. Popular spoons are Crocodiles, Kastmasters, Little Cleos and P-Line Lazer Minnows.

A few kings continue to be caught by anglers fishing for bass with plastic worms and swim baits along the shoreline. The fish have been scattered all over the main body of the lake. Boaters should troll lures down from the top 10 feet down to the 30 foot mark to catch salmon or trout, or drift and cast 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 and along steep shorelines. Casting spoons or small minnow imitating lures to the shoreline will take salmon or trout. The best tactic is to try and find bait schools then troll your gear just under the bait. Berkley Power minnows, Apex lures or Hoochies-tipped with a piece of anchovy, rigged behind a medium sized dodger, trolled at 10 to 30 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 up to 1850. 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
Largemouth bass and steelhead bite remains slow with lack of angler interest at Afterbay.

Thermalito Afterbay
Pool elevation is just below 134 feet. The water temperature is 48 degrees. There's about three feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing is slow for boaters with few fish caught.

Bank fishing has been slow with a fish occasionally caught at the Wilbur Road canal and near the Hwy.162 Bridge. 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.

Boaters usually troll with minnow type lures or a threaded nightcrawler behind a dodger ,or drift a flylined nightcrawler from the surface down to fifteen 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 been on hold at the Afterbay with the frigid water temperatures. Few anglers are trying for the bass. The bass had been holding in ten feet of water or more along the rocks and moving to deeper water as storms roll through.

Boating anglers cast wacky rigged Senko's, skirted jigs or white spinner baits near cover, or working Gitzits in the rocks. Drop-shotting small plastic minnows or tubes, off the rock walls will also work.

No 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.

Feather River
Steelhead fishing has been fair on the stretch of river above Hwy. 70, while fishing down river remains slow with minimal flows.

* The Feather River, from the Hwy 70 Bridge, up stream to the Table Mountain Bicycle Bridge in Oroville is now open to fishing as of Friday, Jan. 1st, 2016 for Steelhead.
* Barbless hooks and a 2016 Steelhead Report Card are required.
* Salmon season closes on the lower Feather River from Live Oak to its mouth at Verona, today Dec.16th.
* 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.

* 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 any water is closed to salmon fishing.

* 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 140 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 940 cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow is 950 cfs. The Gridley gauge data showed 645 cfs at the time of this writing, which is too low for safe powerboat operation and quite shallow for those rowing drift boats on the river below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet.

Remember that release changes can occur without notice.

The water temperature is now at 48 to 49 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 milky green in the Low Flow with about two to three feet of visibility and below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, the water is stained with about two and a half feet of visibility.

DFW's Feather River Hatchery personnel reported 15 steelhead over 16 inches long caught in their traps on Jan. 6th. Low flows have continued to make it difficult if not impossible for the fish to come upriver above the Sunset Pumps at Live Oak. Flows in the lower river at Boyd's Landing are only 1885 cfs.

The river is in a winter pattern with some trout, small steelhead and a few adult steelhead biting best in the morning through mid day, in the the tops of riffles or runs below drop-offs. Experienced anglers have been catching around one fish to the rod on a trip to the river.

For trout or steelhead try side drifting jigs under a float, Glo-bugs, single eggs, small clusters of cured roe, nightcrawlers with a 4mm florescent red bead, or size 14 Corky. Lure caster's use spinners, spoons, or small jigs. Fly fishers can try Glo-bugs, egg patterns, or Troutbeads followed by a size 14 Birdsnests, Fox Poohpah, Prince Nymph, or Soft Hackle Emergers, in green, olive, or tan and San Juan Worms, in red, bubblegum or tan.

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 gone. Use small chatter-baits, buzz baits, plastic worms, creature baits or nightcrawlers for bass and red worms or small flies and work them slowly for the bluegill or sunfish.

The General Hunting Season is now open in the Oroville State Wildlife Area.
* Waterfowl season opened Saturday, Oct. 24th and closes Jan. 31st.
Type C Wildlife Areas have been hosting some average duck hunting with some Mallard, Gadwall, Sprig, Teal, Widgeon and Wood ducks taken. Hunting on type A refuges and in the rice fields has been yielding limits of ducks and some geese for knowledgeable hunters hunting in pit blinds.
Most guides have been limiting their clients out on ducks and a some geese.
Hunting conditions have been marginal between storms, with cloudy, windy days shooting better early morning with windy,rainy days shooting better overall.
* 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, 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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