Give a man a fish and he has food for a day; teach him how to fish and you can get rid of him for the entire weekend.
~ Zenna Schaffer
It used to be that the opening of trout fishing season was sort of a big thing. Way back when, all of the lakes and streams opened for fishing at the same time. It was a special time when families and friends would head to a favorite camping spot or, if you were lucky, a cabin. It was as much about bonding and building memories as it was about fishing.
The traditions around fishing live on in many families, but not to the extent that they used to as near as I can tell. I love the fact that many lakes are now open year-round. But I have to admit, the fact that there is trout fishing to be had all year has taken some of the wind out of the sails of the once cherished tradition of the trout season opener.
But all is not lost. Whether your fishing is centered around a lake, a stream or both, this is still a great time to get out and create memories and start, or continue, family traditions. A weekend fishing outing, whether for the day or a few days, is a great way to spend time with friends and family.
Stream fishing will be tough for opening weekend. Local streams are running very high. Many are off color and just not fishable. Your best bet for fishing the opening weekend of stream season just might be a lake.
One tradition that will continue this year is the opening day fishing derby at Caribou Crossroads on Highway 70 in the Feather River Canyon.
The fishing is likely to be tough. But the good food and company around the campfire will still be worth the trip through the Feather River Canyon to reach the Crossroads.
Lake Almanor is still the best bet for fishing in Plumas County.
I had the opportunity to fish with Bryan Roccucci of Big Daddy’s Guide Service last week.
I was anxious to fish with Bryan because he consistently catches more large fish than just about anyone else on Almanor.
Many people hire a guide for the opportunity to catch some fish. But I like fishing with a guide once in a while because of what I can learn from them. I have my own boat, and I spend lots of time on Almanor. But I knew I could learn from Bryan so I jumped at the chance to fish with him.
I met Brian at the Canyon Dam boat ramp before sun up along with Lloyd Martin, a sergeant with the San Francisco Police Department. I told Bryan that what I was really after was to learn more about fishing for browns. Catching fish would just be icing on the cake for me. Lloyd was new to Lake Almanor and although a lifelong angler, had never caught brown trout. Neither of us were the least bit disappointed at the end of the day.
Bryan certainly knows the lake well. We were targeting brown trout and managed to catch several. Along the way, we managed to catch a couple rainbows and several nice smallmouth bass. All of our fish ranged from about 2 pounds to just under 6 pounds.
Once we launched I expected Bryan to head up the west shore. Right now, the water along the west shore is a bit warmer and the water clarity is better than the east basin of the lake. And the insect hatches tend to start earlier in the season in the west basin of the lake.
But Bryan headed right into the cooler and less clear water of the east basin. We fished both the east shore and the east side of the peninsula.
I asked Bryan why he fished the east basin rather than the west basin. He said the answer was simple: pond smelt.
Brown trout are predators. They prefer a 4-inch pond smelt to a bunch of tiny insects. The rocky shoreline of the east shore offers better habitat for the pond smelt so that is where the brown trout will be. I can’t argue with success. We caught a lot of fish.
Bryan focused on fishing the rocky structure. And it worked. Bryan expects those rocky structures to continue to produce for another couple of weeks. As the water warms and the insect activity increases, the focus will gradually shift from pond smelt to insects. Then it might be worth fishing the west basin of the lake. But if you want browns right now head for the east basin and work the rocky structure in close to shore.
And did I mention the smallmouth bass? We were not targeting smallies but we caught several big fat sassy smallmouths. They were in shallow water on the rocky structure and they were hungry. They will probably be working that rocky structure until they prepare to spawn in late May or possibly early June.
The road is open to the Bucks Creek end of the lake, but covered in snow beyond the intersection by the fire station.
Most years the county road department plows that road to the dam. But this year, with so much money spent on snow removal, they do not have the funds to plow the road.
This can be a great time of year at Bucks. The rainbows and browns will be cruising the shoreline. Even the big Mackinaw can be found in the shallow near-shore water this time of year. So if you don’t mind hiking through the mud and snow, there can be some very good fishing at Bucks this time of year.
There is still ice on the lower end of the lake according to my sources at J and J Grizzly Store. There is open water north of Mallard Cove, but you still need to snowmobile or snowshoe to reach open water. But the days are getting longer and warmer. Even when it rains, the rain has been on the warm side. So, look for that ice to melt quickly and look for some very good fishing when the ice is gone.
The lake is ice free, but the roads around the lake are impassable due to deep mud and snow drifts. The only fishing access without a long slog through mud is right near the dam. Fishing is not red hot, but patient anglers are catching some nice rainbows in the 16- to 20-inch range. Powerbait and suspended nightcrawlers are the most productive baits.
Most streams are running very high and muddy. Even the tail waters directly below dams where releases are normally moderate are experiencing high water this year. Most all area reservoirs are releasing lots of water in an attempt to accommodate the large amounts of snow melt that is just beginning as the weather warms.
I would skip the streams this opening weekend and head for the lake.