Spring has sprung; but where are the fish?
“And finally, I fish not because I regard fishing as being terribly important, but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant, and not nearly so much fun.”
Spring has sprung. Never mind that it is spitting snow as I write this. The weather man says it will be sunny by the time you read it. Such is the nature of spring in the Sierra.
The spring bite, if it hasn’t already arrived, will be coming to a lake or stream near you soon. It is time to shake off the shack nasties and get out to your favorite fishing hole.
Our local lakes are open for fishing. Some streams opened earlier this month and most of the rest will open the end of the month. Be sure to check the regulations before you go; some spawning streams will not open until the end of May.
Spring fishing is different. If you caught fish in a particular spot last summer, chances are good that spot will not produce in the spring.
So where do you find the fish and how do you entice them to bite? Answer that question correctly and you unlock the key to successful spring fishing.
I thought I would share some of my advice for locating spring fish. Then I considered my recent (lack of) success and figured you would rather hear what the actual experts have to say about locating spring fish. So here you go …
Reese McAlister of Reese’s Fish Hunt guide service (283-2536) is a longtime angler. He is new to the local guide scene but has been fishing all of his life.
Reese likes to fish lakes, especially during the spring. He seeks out the warmer water this time of year noting that trout prefer water around 54 degrees. The water flowing into the lakes from colder streams will cool down the lake near creek inlets, so Reese will look for fish away from creek mouths.
Reese had another tip I hadn’t considered before: He likes to troll with tandem dodgers. (Dodgers are larger single blade attractors that look like adult fish while flashers are smaller and imitate a group of smaller fish.)
The tandem dodgers look like a group of larger feeding fish and are likely to trigger the feeding instinct in other fish.
That sounds like a solid strategy as long as you don’t mind dragging that much hardware. Reese likes to use Sling Blades made by Shasta Tackle because they offer less resistance than other dodgers.
Bryan Roccucci of Big Daddy’s Guide Service keeps it simple. Bryan says it’s about temperature and feed.
Find the food and you find the fish. The trout’s diet is wide-ranging but is often limited by water temperatures and availability of feed.
Early on, Almanor trout will focus on the Japanese pond smelt while they are waiting for the water to warm and insect hatches to begin.
Bryan says the angler that pays attention to water temperatures and food sources will find fish.
Jon Baiocchi of Baiocchi’s Troutfitters is an expert on Plumas County streams.
He says early season stream fishing finds the angler facing two road blocks: water temperature and spring runoff.
In regards to water temperature fish are a bit shy about taking flies when water is in the 40- to 50-degree range.
Try to locate long tail outs of runs, back eddies and sloughs. These areas usually have warmer water and are out of the main flow of the river. With high water the fish will be where they do not have to work so hard with plenty of food available.
Anglers should approach rivers slowly and carefully. Fish like to hold in the slower water at the edge of the stream. They may be right at your feet!
Jon suggests adding split shot to your leader when presenting flies, lures or bait. This will allow you to get down in the water column where the bigger fish are likely to hang out.
Doug Neal of Almanor Fishing Adventures has a simple solution: concentrate on your home water.
Doug focuses all of his effort on Lake Almanor. Almanor is not an easy lake to fish. Doug has invested the time necessary to become intimately familiar with the lake’s patterns.
Doug says the pond smelt are the key food source in Lake Almanor. As surface temperatures warm to 43 degrees the pond smelt move closer to structure to begin their spring spawn.
Smelt egg masses are like frog eggs: a jelly-like mass that needs to stick to structure to keep in place.
The most structure at Lake Almanor is found along the shoreline.
Big fish will follow that food source closer toward shore structure. Trolling too close to shore can scare the fish so Doug likes to use side planer boards to get his baits in close to shore without spooking the feeding fish.
Doug likes to fish a Rapala behind a planer board, 25 feet away from the boat.
So there you have the experts’ advice. My advice is to get out and give it a try.