Warmer and drier weather could lead to better fishing

There will be days when the fishing is better than one’s most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.

~ Roderick Haig-Brown, Fisherman’s Spring, 1951

The most successful anglers are the ones who understand and use seasonal patterns to their advantage. Whether it’s feeding behavior, migrating or spawning, fish behavior changes predictably through the season. The better anglers are able to understand and predict those changes the more successful they will be.

Temperature is one very important trigger of seasonal patterns. Air temperature can change from day to day and even hour to hour. But water temperature changes much more slowly.

This year, water is more abundant and cooler than most years. Spawning and migration of bait fish, crawfish molting and insect hatches are all very important to game fish feeding behavior and all are affected by water temperature.

Look for fish behavior patterns to lag a few weeks behind what you may have seen the past few years and adjust your fishing accordingly.

Lake Almanor

Big browns are still a top attraction at Almanor. This could change soon as warmer and more settled weather increases the insect activity.

Brown trout, along with some rainbows and smallmouth bass, have been focused on pond smelt. The best fishing has been in shallow water off of rocky shorelines and especially rocky points.

Bryan Roccucci of Big Daddy’s Guide Service has been on the browns very consistently for about a month now. He continues to get his clients into browns running 3 to 7 pounds and rainbows in the 3- to 4-pound range. To round out the catch, they have been hooking smallies in the 3-pound class. Check out his Facebook page facebook.com/bigdaddysguideservice to see some pictures from Bryan’s recent trips.

While many fish are still chasing pond smelt in the rocky shallows, the fly activity is starting to increase and more fish will shift their attention to the insect hatches in the coming days.

As the action shifts to insects, the trout will abandon the rocky points and head for more open water in search of insect hatches. The early insect hatches on the lake are primarily very small midges and mayflies. Those tiny insects can’t be imitated with any lure. But anglers can take advantage of the trout’s opportunistic nature by trolling lures like Rapalas, 1/16 ounce Speedy Shiners, or  #2 Needlefish where the trout are feeding on the insects.

Try a fast troll — 2 to 2.8 mph — in 8 to 15 feet of water. It can be tough to locate the fish using sonar when they are this shallow. The insect hatches can be near shore or well out into open water.

Be prepared to cover lots of water to find the fish. Look for feeding birds. Flocks of feeding swallows are a good indicator of hatching insects. And don’t forget to use a scent on your lure.

If your fast action lures don’t work, switch to a slow trolled crawler behind a dodger. This rig can be more productive later in the morning.

Smallmouth bass action is very good for fish ranging from 2.5 to 4 pounds. Look for the smallies along rocky points.

Lake Davis

The lake is full and spilling over the dam. That has not happened in several years and is very good news for the fishery.

The snowplows have been at work and there is now access up the east side to Mallard Cove. Still plenty of snow drifts and actual fishing reports are very sparse. But the ice is gone, the access is improving and the fishing should be good with the warming weather.

The water is still very cold and like most fisheries, the seasonal cycles are likely running a few weeks behind normal. Midges are likely to be the primary food source right now. As the water temperature warms a bit, look for Callibaetis mayflies, more blood midges and then some flying ants.

In recent years, the catch rate at Davis has dropped of considerably. Ten to 20 fish days have been replaced by two to five fish days. The average size of the fish has improved, but the numbers being caught are cause for concern. Nobody can say for sure what has caused this decline.

The most often cited suspects are declines in CDF&W stocking and an increase in the number of anglers that are keeping limits of fish (five per day) and sometimes more.

Please consider limiting your kill rather than killing your limit. A fish or two for the table once in a while is fine. But please do not overdo it. Davis is a special fishery. It deserves our respect and our protection.

Frenchman Lake

The lake is full and spilling over the spillway and fishermen are out with the warmer days. Most fishermen are doing fairly well according to the reports from Wiggin’s Trading Post. Most of the action has been on bait (suspended crawlers or Powerbait) near the dam.

Road access is still limited, but the Frenchman Campground and the boat ramp have been plowed.

Streams

Streams opened in most areas last week. They are running quite high with all of the runoff. Clarity has been an issue, but it has improved to the degree that most streams are fishable. The key in these high flows is to use enough weight to get your gear down deep. It doesn’t matter if you are fly fishing or dunking bait. Weight is essential.

There is no doubt that unseasonably high stream flows are making for some tough fishing. There are a few tactics to mitigate this. First, try fishing higher in the watershed. The higher up, the lower the flows will be. If your favorite stream is just flowing too high for your comfort level, consider fishing a tributary a bit higher up in that same watershed.

Another tactic is to fish tail-waters. Tail-waters are the controlled flow stream reaches below dams. These stream reaches often provide long stretches of deeper, slower water than you will find a short distance downstream. Several of our local reservoirs are spilling water over the dams and releasing water to make room for more runoff right now.

Tailwater opportunities will improve as these flows settle down to normal seasonal levels.

Wherever you happen to be fishing, look for the slowest water you can find. Flows near stream banks are always slower than in the middle of the stream. Tail-outs, the lower end of pools, are also good places to find slower water.

Early season high flows are not the best for small dainty flies. Try eggs, worms, stoneflies or crawdads. They can be in the form of the actual bait, a lure imitation or a fly. But now is the time to go big and go deep and do it in the slowest water you can find.

Streams that flow into some of our area lakes like Almanor and Butt Lake do not open until the Memorial Day weekend. Be sure to check the fishing regulations before you head out to your favorite stream.