Fishing Tips for Northern California and Southern Oregon angling
New Feature

Click on Columnists  to access travelogues, field reports, advice, humorous tales and answers to your Q’s! 





Products-Services


Website of the Week

                                




How to Use Pond Smelt Imitations to Find the Fish

Article and photos by Denis Peirce
In the quest to catch fish, a good place to start is to identify the food source. From there you want to identify where it is located and how to imitate it. 

How to Use Pond Smelt Imitations to Find the Fish, myoutdoorbuddy.com, Denis Peirce, Follow pond smelt; find the fish
Japanese Pond smelt range in size from 1 to 4 inches.

The primary baitfish in our local lakes is the Japanese Pond Smelt. It was introduced into California in the late 1950s to provide a food source for rainbow trout in the reservoirs that were being built in that era.

The problem with reservoirs is the fluctuating water levels preclude the establishment of weed beds and the resulting food chain. Two of the most important food sources in our artificial lakes are the incoming streams and the sunlight driven plankton bloom. The streams are limited in their food production and trout don’t do well directly converting plankton to food. The solution was to introduce a bait fish that would convert the plankton into trout food.

myoutdoorbuddy.com, Denis Peirce, Follow pond smelt; find the fish, plankton, trollinglies, DFG,Minnows, Lake Shastina, Lake Almanor, Spaulding, Yuba, Kokanee, sportmen, migration, Oroville, Shad, Arctic Fox, Rollins, Scott's flat, Englebright, Coho, Margarita,
Smelt Minnow from trollingflies.com

The original plan was to introduce the native delta smelt into the impoundments. For some unknown reason this was not successful. The plan “B” was to introduce non-native species to fill the niche. The DF&G tried shad and the pond smelt. It was thought that the Japanese and the Californian smelt were the same species but this turned out not to be the case. This move did put the focus on lures designed to imitate this new bait fish, as shown here.

myoutdoorbuddy.com, Denis Peirce, Follow pond smelt; find the fish, plankton, trollinglies, DFG,Minnows, Lake Shastina, Lake Almanor, Spaulding, Yuba, Kokanee, sportmen, migration, Oroville, Shad, Arctic Fox, Rollins, Scott's flat, Englebright, Coho, Margarita,
Finnesse Minnows

After more than a decade in a few smaller California test lakes, a population of smelt was transplanted from Lake Shastina to Lake Almanor. Somewhere in this time frame, pond smelt were introduced to Lake Spaulding on the South Yuba River.

During the ensuing years of study, a number of attributes of the smelt were realized. Japanese pond smelt are wanderers, migrating downstream over time, and they out compete other species that rely on their same food source. It is now the policy of the DF&G not to plant kokanee into lakes with smelt populations. Spaulding is a prime example of this. When sportsmen’s groups requested that kokanee be planted in Spaulding, the DF&G determined this was not a viable project due to the established smelt population. Instead of kokanee (sockeye salmon), king salmon were placed in the lake to feed on the smelt.

The migrating instincts of the pond smelt were proven at Lake Oroville. Almanor is higher up the Feather River system and the smelt population started in the 1970s, blossomed, and migrated down the river. Oroville was a “shad lake” up through the early 1980s. Since then, the shad have disappeared and the smelt schools at times can be as large in volume as a garage.

myoutdoorbuddy.com, Denis Peirce, Follow pond smelt; find the fish, plankton, trollinglies, DFG,Minnows, Lake Shastina, Lake Almanor, Spaulding, Yuba, Kokanee, sportmen, migration, Oroville, Shad, Arctic Fox, Rollins, Scott's flat, Englebright, Coho, Margarita,
Arctic Fox Tube Fly, UV Pond Smelt

The same migration pattern developed below Spaulding. Both Scott’s Flat and Rollins Lakes now host substantial pond smelt populations. Water from Spaulding also finds its way to Folsom Lake. I have heard that Folsom, which used to be a shad lake, is now predominantly a pond smelt reservoir. Farther downstream, the Japanese pond smelt has become established in the delta as well.

myoutdoorbuddy.com, Denis Peirce, Follow pond smelt; find the fish, plankton, trollinglies, DFG,Minnows, Lake Shastina, Lake Almanor, Spaulding, Yuba, Kokanee, sportmen, migration, Oroville, Shad, Arctic Fox, Rollins, Scott's flat, Englebright, Coho, Margarita,
Two partially digested pond smelt from Scott's Flat Lake compared to an Arctic Fox Tube Fly UV Pond Smelt, Arctic Fox #2 Trolling Fly UV Pond Smelt, Smelt Minnow Fly.

The exception to this migration seems to be Englebright Lake. I have not heard any angler mention pond smelt at this lake which is below Spaulding on the South Yuba. If anyone has seen them here I would like to hear from you.

The point of this article is not whether non-native smelt are good or bad. Rather given the fact that they are here, how can this help us catch fish. The axiom “Find the food and you will find the fish” comes to mind.

myoutdoorbuddy.com, Denis Peirce, Follow pond smelt; find the fish, plankton, trollinglies, DFG,Minnows, Lake Shastina, Lake Almanor, Spaulding, Yuba, Kokanee, sportmen, migration, Oroville, Shad, Arctic Fox, Rollins, Scott's flat, Englebright, Coho, Margarita,
Dan Walters with a Orovile coho caught on Arctic Fox Tube Fly, UV Pond Smelt. Fly visible against wrist.

Smelt like cold water if it is available. You are most likely to find them suspended in deep water during the warm weather months. Their food source is plankton that is driven by sunlight, which is most prolific in the top 25 feet of the water column. It is my supposition that the smelt may come up at night in the summer to feed on plankton. During the cold weather months I have seen smelt individuals along the shoreline in Oroville. Smelt will spawn in the lake shallows when the temps break up through the 40 degree mark. At Lake Almanor (elevation 4000 feet), this occurs in March, and you will find many anglers trolling with pond smelt imitations, working the shallows. Guide Bryan Roccucci targets the ten foot depth contour where it is close to the shore and has rock on the bottom about the size of basketballs. He is pursuing brown trout that come in close to feed on the spawning smelt. It is not unknown for anglers to pick up rainbows, salmon, or smallmouth bass at the same time.

myoutdoorbuddy.com, Denis Peirce, Follow pond smelt; find the fish, plankton, trollinglies, DFG,Minnows, Lake Shastina, Lake Almanor, Spaulding, Yuba, Kokanee, sportmen, migration, Oroville, Shad, Arctic Fox, Rollins, Scott's flat, Englebright, Coho, Margarita,
Warmouth Minnow
The next question is how do you imitate a pond smelt? These fish are torpedo shaped and range in size from an inch up to 4 inches. The most notable feature is their coloration. They have a distinct ultra violet/blue hue to their shiny sides. If you can spot a school near the surface, and if they spook, you will notice this color flash as they turn to swim away. Among the popular lures are various spoons in chrome and blue. In soft plastic baits the Berkeley Power Minnow comes in iridescent blue which is a very realistic representation of the local smelt.myoutdoorbuddy.com, Denis Peirce, Follow pond smelt; find the fish, plankton, trollinglies, DFG,Minnows, Lake Shastina, Lake Almanor, Spaulding, Yuba, Kokanee, sportmen, migration, Oroville, Shad, Arctic Fox, Rollins, Scott's flat, Englebright, Coho, Margarita,
RoboWorm Margarita Mutilator

RoboWorm makes a “Margarita Mutilator” that features a blue stripe and is quite effective. Other worm colors including “Morning Dawn” and “Warmouth” do well in pond smelt waters.

myoutdoorbuddy.com, Denis Peirce, Follow pond smelt; find the fish, plankton, trollinglies, DFG,Minnows, Lake Shastina, Lake Almanor, Spaulding, Yuba, Kokanee, sportmen, migration, Oroville, Shad, Arctic Fox, Rollins, Scott's flat, Englebright, Coho, Margarita,
Lucky Craft Staysee Ghost Minnow

Lucky Craft lures makes a “Staysee Ghost Minnow” rip bait that I have done well with. For trollers, the Arctic Fox Trolling Flies in Pond Smelt are good producers.

Your choice of lure will depend on whether you are fishing from shore, casting from a boat, or trolling. Will a blue smelt imitation always produce in local lakes? No, nothing always works. But if I am fishing Scott’s Flat, Rollins, Oroville or Spaulding I will have these in my tackle packs.

Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union of Grass Valley and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via e-mail at denispeirceflies@gmail.com or visit trollingflies.com.

[Editor's Note: Please share with our readers what you know that will enhance the experience of fishing in Northern California or Southern Oregon. What have you learned? Your expertise, no matter where you fish (fresh or saltwater) or what species you target, could be invaluable to other anglers. What not to do is just as important as what to do. Please send your strategies, ideas, tips, techniques and personal experiences to editor@MyOutdoorBuddy.com. Please include your name and hometown.]


Fishing Tips

Full Story

 

Your outdoor adventures have only just begun
Northern California Fishing News, Northern California Hunting Reports

Fishing News

Northern California and Southern Oregon offer superb fresh and saltwater fishing. Before you make a trip, make sure you have
up-to-date news about where the fish are biting!

Hunting News

This region is also famous for its world-class hunting opportunities. Make sure you are armed with the absolute latest news by checking
the reports being filed daily at MyOutdoorBuddy.com.

Northern California Outdoor News, Northern California Outdoor Reports Outdoor News 

If you like to explore the great outdoors your choices are essentially infinite in Northern California and Southern Oregon. Use our news pages to plan your next outing!

Northern California Destination News, Northern California Destination Reports

Destinations

So many places to visit and so little time, but if you scan
these pages you'll know in advance what lies ahead and what
not to miss in the almost-mythical State of Jefferson.
Buddy Photos

You are there! Towering mountains, vast valleys, unique shorelines. Land, water and air bursting with life. Opportunity presents itself. Llghting is right. Click! An image is captured for the ages.

Photo Galleries, MyOutdoorBuddy.com

Photo Galleries

A preview of coming attractions...if you are planning a trip to this area be forewarned: What photographers have captured will whet your appetite for what will be an outdoor journey filled with wonders.  

Product & Services Directory

Don't let anything come between you and a wonderful weekend, vacation or or auto tour in this region. The fine product and services providers listed here will have what you need to enjoy your visit.  

Come back to MyOutdoorBuddy.com for more Northern California and Southern Oregon fishing, hunting and outdoor news, reports, information, opinions and photos.

Facebook

A friend to all who love the outdoors since 2006

Website Design Photo Credits: MyOutdoorBuddy.com thanks the following individuals for contributing photographs for use on our Home and Section pages: Anders Tomlinson of Tule-Lake.com, Casey Allen of Bayside, CA; Jason Haley of Medford, OR; Steve Breth of Burney, CA; Tracy McCormack of Eureka, CA; Grant Thompson of Grand Junction, CO; Richard Bott of Shingletown, CA; Ron Loftus of Yreka, CA; Scott Caldwell of Montague, CA; Lorissa Soriano of Alturas, CA and the late Dave Menke, formerly with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Website Design by Anders Tomlinson

©Copyright 2005-2015 by Frank Galusha, Editor and Publisher. Articles and photos are copyright protected and are published exclusively on the Internet by the publisher and may not be copied, displayed, reproduced or published in any other form without the express written permission of same who reserves all rights. Material supplied by others is the copyrighted property of the respective authors. Re-use of any MyOutdoorBuddy content, graphics and photos without written permission by the author(s) for any purpose is strictly prohibited.