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Rainy day rainbows are showing up

Oroville Waters by Craig Bently, author badge,

ake Oroville winter bass bite continues for tournament anglers, and Feather River steelhead fishing picks up as fresh fish show in upper river with recent rains.

The Lake surface elevation continues to rise and is now at 690 feet. The surface temperature is now 51 degrees. The water is muddy green up in the river arms, and main body with mud staining the water during downpours. Bidwell Canyon low water launch ramp has been reopened and the auxiliary ramp at the spillway is open. Four wheel drive vehicles are required by State Parks officials for launching boats at both the Spillway and Bidwell Canyon launch ramps.

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. Four wheel drive is recommended. 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.

Photo submitted by Craig Barrick, man holding fish
Anglers are braving the elements to catch some nice bass on Lake Oroville. This one was caught on a Wacky rigged Oxblood Senko in Ten feet of water at Potters Ravine. Photo submitted by Craig Barrick, Kelly Ridge

The winter rain has helped the bass bite some, with fish being caught by anglers using winter tactics and crank baits to catch fair numbers of fish when there's some weather.

Brent Cline at Oroville Outdoors said there's a little crank bait bite happening when its raining. Fishing is still decent with boating anglers catching plenty of bass during another tournament last weekend. There were a lot of slot sized bass caught. The winning limit for a two days weighed twenty-two pounds for ten fish and the big fish was a four pounder.

There has been a 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 sticking to 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 were being caught by anglers fishing bait or casting lures from the shoreline, however no recent reports have come in. 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 tournament 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 usually works 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 zero to around 1060 cfs. 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 and steelhead bite remains slow with lack of angler interest at Afterbay.

Pool elevation is just below 133.5 feet. The water temperature is 49 to 50 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 or two 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 colder 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

Joseph Green caught and released this rainbow, photo courtesy of Joseph Green
Rainy day Rainbows are showing more now in the Feather River's Low Flow reach, along with some fresh Steelhead. Local Oroville Angler Joseph Green caught and released this beautiful wild fish below the hatchery while drifting a nightcrawler on spinning gear in the stained water on the Feather last weekend. Photo courtesy of Joseph Green.

Steelhead fishing picks up on the stretch of river above Hwy.70 and below Hwy.162 with fresh fish showing in anglers catches after recent rains.

* The Feather River, from the Hwy 70 Bridge 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 900 cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 150 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 1050 cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow is 1060 cfs. The Gridley guage data showed 780 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 50 to 51 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 dirty green in the Low Flow with about one and a half feet of visibility and below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, the water is stained also with about one foot of visibility.

DFW's Feather River Hatchery personnel reported just 2 steelhead over 16 inches long caught in their traps on Jan. 15th. 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 are up today on the lower river below Yuba City, at almost 10, 000 cfs, with water coming in from the Yuba River.

The Feather is in its winter pattern with some trout, small steelhead and a few adult steelhead biting best through mid day, in the the tops of riffles or runs below drop-offs. There has been an influx of fresh fish showing in the Low Flow along with some larger adult steelhead up to six and eight pounds. Experienced anglers have been catching around one to two 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 Fry patterns, 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 shooting above average on duck hunting with Mallard, Gadwall, Sprig, Teal, Widgeon and Wood ducks being 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 and stormy 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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