Gold Lake Basin a great choice for anglers as the weather warms

May the holes in your net be no larger than the fish in it.

~ Irish Blessing

Consistently hot weather has the spring snow melt just about over for the year. Streams flows are higher than normal for this time of year and a bit on the cold side, but are looking much more like summer streams. In other words, they are very fishable and the insect activity is picking up.

Warming water is slowing the fishing at mid-elevation lakes, but the higher lakes are in excellent shape and finally waking up after a prolonged winter/spring.

Gold Lake Basin

This is the perfect time of year to fish the Lakes Basin area. Water in these high-elevation lakes has not warmed to the extent as the mid-elevation lakes.

These lakes may not be known for large populations of trophy fish, but you would be hard pressed to find a more scenic area to fish.

Several of the road-accessible lakes have been planted in the past two weeks. These include Gold Lake, Lower Sardine, Packer and Salmon.

Gold Lake is the largest of the lakes and hosts a nice population of lake trout. Just be aware of the afternoon winds, which often churn up white caps.

Lower Sardine is a great choice for trollers with small boats. Boat rentals are available at the lake and there is a very small dirt ramp at the resort.

Gold Lake and Packer Lake are good choices for bank fishing and are good for kayak or canoe fishing. They can be a bit crowded on the weekends.

An added bonus in the Lakes Basin this year is the very abundant wildflower blooms. The Bear Lakes Loop Trail is a great trail to see some beautiful wildflower displays in the many trailside seeps and wet meadows. The lakes along the trail are beautiful and offer a great opportunity to fish for native trout with just a short and fairly easy hike.

Lake Almanor

Surface temperatures have warmed considerably and the cold flows from Super Ditch and Bailey Creek are over for the year. As a result, the fishing has predictably slowed.

Normally as the lake warms, the fish will congregate near cold-water sources like Hamilton Branch and Big Springs. That has not happened yet. The fish are still scattered and that is why the fishing has slowed.

Another reason the fish are scattered is the hex hatch. The hatch is just about over, but there are still a few stragglers and the fish are scattered up and down the west shore in search of them.

As the last of the hex hatch winds down and the water continues to warm, I would expect to see the fish hanging at cold water depths (usually 30 to 35 feet deep) and heading for cold water sources like Big Springs and Hamilton Branch. Fish will also feed more on pond smelt.

For now, I would try trolling the west shore or either side of the peninsula with a threaded crawler. Keep an eye on your sonar to see what depth fish are feeding. I would start at 20 feet and lower the gear to 35 feet as the day progresses.

As the trout shift their feeding focus to pond smelt, I would switch to fast action lures like Speedy Shiners and Needlefish.

Fly anglers should work rocky banks with a full sink line. Try brown or rust colored buggers and crawdad imitations or white pond smelt imitations.

Bucks Lake

Trollers are picking up a few rainbows and an occasional brown. There is even the odd brook trout every now and then, but these are far less common than they were a few years ago. Hardcore fans of the big macs are probing the depths for an occasional nice lake trout. However, kokanee salmon are providing the real action at Bucks Lake right now.

Kokanee are on the small side, typically around 12 inches. They hang out in deep water. A downrigger and ultra lite gear is the ticket for these little guys. When you get a bite  and your gear releases from the downrigger, it’s just you and a very feisty fish; pure fun. You can also get deep using lots of weight or lead core line, but it is just no fun fighting a fish with all of that weight.

Kokanee are plankton feeders so they respond best to very small spoons or spinners. Add some scent or a dodger to attract the fish and you are good to go.

There are more than enough kokanee in the lake so Fish and Wildlife raised the limit to 10 fish this year. That is enough fish to make for a very good dinner for you and some friends. Moreover, two limits are a good smoker load. Kokanee are very tasty fish and unlike many other fisheries, there is no compelling reason for catch and release.

Lake Davis

Davis is a fairly shallow lake and as such, it is more sensitive to warming water temperatures than most local lakes.

Of course, the upside for being a shallow lake is that the sun penetrates to the bottom of the lake promoting lots of plant growth which means tremendous habitat for all those little critter trout feed on. However, this time of year, the fishing at Davis always slows down and that is what is happening now.

Through the years, Davis has been well known, especially among fly fishers, as an outstanding fishery with a large population of fast growing trout. With such a productive lake and all that feed available the trout do grow large quickly. However, during the past couple of years the population has dropped off noticeably.

The Lake Davis fishery is limited by a shortage of reliable spawning habitat. The Department of Fish and Wildlife has compensated for this by providing generous trout plants over the years. But in the past couple of years, the state hatchery program has been hard hit by a combination of budget reductions, disease and other disasters. As a result, the trout plants at Davis have dropped off and the population with them.

The good news is that there have been three plants in the past few weeks, but still the population is low and that results in lower catch rates for anglers.

The bottom line is that fishing at Davis is slow. Anglers who know the lake and are willing to put in some time can catch some fish. Work the deeper water. Dick Nite spoons and Jay Fair trolling flies are a good choice for trollers.

Fly anglers should try size 12 damsel fly nymphs. Callebaetis mayflies are hatching. Try nymph patterns in the morning and switch to mayfly emerger patterns and adults in the late afternoon and evening. Leech patterns are another reliable choice for Davis.

If  you prefer to release your fish — an important consideration in a lake like Davis with population issues — you might want to skip Davis until fall. Catching fish in warm water puts a lot of stress on them. Releasing them unharmed is not likely at Davis now.

Streams

After a much longer and stronger than normal spring runoff, area streams have settled down to very fishable flows. Many area streams look more like June than late July but water clarity is good and insect hatches are on the rise.

The Middle Fork of the Feather River is fishing well. The best fishing is between Clio and Sloat. The North Fork of the Feather above Lake Almanor is another good option. Both streams have been planted with catchable trout recently.

Indian Creek below Antelope Lake and Little Last Chance Creek below Frenchman Reservoir have been fishing well, but may be suffering from lots of fishing pressure as these tail-water fisheries were less effected by the early season runoff and so attracted lots of anglers early on.

Deer Creek has been fishing well and received numerous plants in recent weeks while nearby Mill Creek is still running high and off-color.

Stoneflies (goldens and little yellow stones) numerous caddis flies and mayflies (green drakes, pale morning duns, and a few March Browns) are all present in local streams right now.

Fish midges or dry/dropper rigs in the morning and switch to emergers and dries in the evening. Streamers are a good choice in the bigger water.

A variety of small spoons, spinners and the usual baits are all working right now. Panther Martins, Rooster Tails, eggs and worms are all good choices. The key is to use just enough weight to get to the bottom of the stream, but not so much that you keep getting too many hang-ups.