Smart anglers adapt to changing seasons
I was checking my e-mail recently and I noticed an ad for fishing gear from one of the big box companies.
There was nothing unusual about that. This company sends me an ad or catalog about once a week. I find that annoying and wasteful, but that is another story. What bothered me about this ad was that they called it an “End of Fishing Season Sale.”
What do you mean “end of fishing season”? Is there some magical date when we have to stop fishing? Of course not!
That is the beauty of northern California. The party never ends. There is fishing year round. Good fishing.
We have a fishing season that changes. Not one that ends. The key to successful fishing is to understand you fish behavior changes with the seasons and adapt your techniques accordingly.
Right now, in the heat of summer, the key is to understand how trout seek water that meets their oxygen and temperature needs and how they adapt to changing feed availability.
Surface temperatures have risen into the mid-70-degree range. That is great for swimmers, but too warm for trout. The fish have headed for cooler and deeper water.
The other change is that the key feed source for trout and salmon is changing from insects to pond smelt.
Whether you are trolling or mooching on anchor, your best bet is to get on the water early and fish at least 30 feet deep.
Local guide Doug Neal, of Almanor Fishing Adventures, says the bite is scattered all over the lake with no real hot spots. Successful trollers are using half crawlers behind a flasher.
Doug says some of the most productive trolling lanes are Bunell Point to The Fox Farm and back toward Goose Island; Big Springs to Hamilton Branch; and the Rocky Point Area.
Bait anglers are finding fish at Rec 2, working the springs just outside the log boom, and also at Big Springs. Doug says to put your bait four to seven feet off the bottom.
This time of year Bucks Lake is full of wake boarders, jet skis, and swimmers on any given afternoon.
But the mornings are different. The mornings belong to the anglers.
The mornings are quiet and beautiful with only a few fishing boats on the lake.
Fishing at Bucks changes with the seasons. In the spring, the big mackinaw are on the prowl. Rainbow and brown trout feed in the shallow water near shore.
In the fall, the kokanee move into the creeks to spawn and the other fish follow them into the bays in front of the creek mouths.
Now it is mid-summer and the kokanee are a very big draw.
Kokanee are land-locked Sockeye salmon. They are found in only a handful of lakes in California. Bucks Lake turns out to have nearly ideal conditions for kokanee reproduction so it has a very healthy and self-sustaining population.
Kokanee salmon do not reach the really large size of many other trout and salmon, but what they lack in size, they make up for in numbers. And Bucks Lake has lots of kokanee.
I am a big believer in catch and release. But you will never see me release a kokanee.
Catch and release needs to be approached with a bit of thoughtfulness. A large mackinaw or brown trout is a scarce resource and, I believe, should be released to spawn and perhaps be caught again.
The kokanee at Bucks are another matter. Kokanee only live 2 or 3 years, then spawn and die.
When I catch a kokanee the only question is whether it is headed to the smoker or to the grill. These are fine eating fish and there are plenty of them in Bucks Lake.
Catching kokanee requires a bit of finesse. They have a “soft” bite.
Kokanee are naturally plankton feeders. The best kokanee lures are rather small. Lures tipped with a corn kernel are most effective.
Dodgers and multi-blade attractors can often make the difference between catch and no catch.
Dodgers are flat metal blades that move in a side to side movement.
Multi-blade attractors have blades that spin and appear like a school of kokanee.
Kokanee seem to have strong color preferences, but the preferred color changes often.
If the color of the lure you are using isn’t producing, change colors and keep changing until you find the color that works.
This time of year the kokanee are rather deep. Downriggers or lead core line are the best way to reach them.
Landing kokanee can be tricky. Once hooked and on top of the water prior to netting, they often go crazy. They will start to roll up on your line.
When a kokanee is exhausted and lying on top of the water they are easy to net.
However, when a kokanee is on top and going wild, quickly lower your rod tip and get the fish to go under and start swimming again. If you attempt to horse a kokanee when it's on the surface going ballistic you will almost always tear the hook out.
Fish are still being caught at Davis, but the water temperature is warming. The fishing guides are moving on to greener (and cooler) pastures.
Trollers are doing best working the deeper channels in front of the dam or on the north side of the island.
The water temperature at Frenchman Lake tends to be a bit cooler than Davis so the active bite lasts longer.
There have been reports of anglers catching limits of both rainbow trout and catfish.
The north end of the lake is still the best part of the lake for shore anglers.
Fly anglers are having some success with small wooly buggers, sheep creeks and Jay Fair Wiggle Tail Nymphs fished on an intermediate line.
Nightcrawler Bay and Lunker's Point were excellent spots.
Trolling is still excellent around the dam and near Big Cove
Call Wiggins Trading Post for the latest conditions (530-993-4683).