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Cool water is the key to finding feeding fish

Most of the world is covered by water. A fisherman’s job is simple: Pick out the best parts.
-Charles Waterman 

The July heat wave has given way to slightly cooler weather during the first half of August. That is good news for fish and for anglers.

The heat wave was raising surface water temperatures well above the comfort range for trout. Although still on the warm side, water temperatures have declined some during the past few weeks. But cool water is still the key to finding feeding fish.

It you are not fishing creek mouths or springs, fish deep; 30 to 40 feet deep or just off the bottom.

Lake Almanor

Most of the action at Almanor is in the east basin right now according to Doug Neal of Almanor Fishing Adventures. The trout and salmon are keying on the abundant pond smelt.

Boats are scattered throughout the basin looking for feeding fish. Decent reports are coming from the usual areas with cooler water like the mouth of Hamilton Branch, Big Strings, Rocky Point, and Rec 1 to the A-Frame.

Doug advises anglers to be on the water early with lines in by 5:45 a.m. for the best action. By 11 in the morning the bite is pretty much over.

Trollers are pulling fast action lures like Speedy Shiners in red and gold or silver hammer finish. Needle Fish in 3 dot frog are also working well. (I don’t know who comes up with the designs and names for these lures. I can imagine some of them may have been the same folks who produced the amazing psychedelic concert light shows back in the day.)

Mealworms or nightcrawlers trolled very slowly behind a dodger are also effective. No matter which rig you choose, the key is to fish deep. Thirty to 35 feet deep is a good place to start.

Fly fishing is tough right now. There are some mayflies and caddis hatching. Hamilton Branch or the mouth of the North Fork Feather are the best bets for top-water action; maybe the only bets. Working rocky shores near springs and seeps with a full sink line and pond smelt imitations like Jansen’s Minnow is another good option. That full sink line is the key.

Butt Lake

The powerhouse has been running and fish are on main channel feeding on the pond smelt flushed down from Lake Almanor. If the water temperature increases, look for the fish to move over to the But Creek channel in search of cooler water. This is some tough fishing as these are very wary fish.

The main lake is warm and the fishing is slow. Butt Lake is fairly shallow and does not hold the cold water refuges that some other lakes do.

Antelope Lake

Antelope Lake is nearly full and the fishing has been decent. This is a great place to troll for trout in the early morning and then switch to bass later in the day. Just be prepared for the water skiers and jet skis, especially on weekends.

Indian Creek just below the Lake is also fishing very well offering another very good angling option. So if it is variety you are after, Antelope Lake is an excellent choice.

Bucks Lake

Bucks Lake is a great choice right now for kokanee fishing. The kokanee in Bucks are not as large as they are in many other lakes, but they are at their best in August and September. These are mostly 12- to 14-inch fish and they are a blast to catch on light gear. They are also very tasty.

Because the Bucks Lake kokanee are so numerous (that is the reason they are on the small side) there is no reason to release them. This fishery offers a perfect catch-and-keep option. They are arguably over-populated and because of that, the California Fish and Wildlife Commission has established a 10 fish limit rather than the normal five fish in other lakes.

The best way to fish for kokanee is to troll very small spoons or spinners behind a small dodger. These landlocked salmon prefer deep cold water.

Bryan Roccucci of Big Daddy’s Guide Service has been getting his clients into 10 fish limits. He said he is catching fish between 32- and 35-feet deep right now. That is a good place to start but let your sonar be your guide.

A downrigger is a must. Use ultralight gear for some really fun fishing.

Weekdays will be best. Bucks Lake is very popular with the jet ski and the wake-board crowd. This will be slowing down now that some schools are starting back up, but weekends will still be busy for a while. Even then, anglers own the lake early in the morning.

High Elevation Lakes

Head to the high country if you want some decent fishing and relief from the August heat. The fish, like the lakes themselves tend to be smaller than their mid elevation counterparts.

The water in these lakes is not quite as warm as their lower elevation counterparts and that can make for some better fishing.

In the north end of the county there is Echo, Silver, Caribou, and Crater. The latter three lakes are in Lassen County but within easy reach of the Almanor basin. To the south, Lakes Basin Recreation Area straddles the Plumas and Sierra County line. There are many hike-in options here but he most popular lakes are accessible by paved road.

Snag, Goose, Lower Sardine, Gold and Upper Salmon have all been planted with catchable trout and offer decent fishing with easy access in a beautiful setting.


Stream flows that have been on the high side all summer have finally settled into very fishable levels on all local streams. Even Mill Creek, normally the last stream to clear enough to be fishable, has finally settled in low and clear flows, and is reported to have some decent evening fly fishing.

Just like with our local lakes, finding cold water is the key to successful stream fishing in August. Look for evidence of springs or seeps or try fishing just downstream from tributary mouths.

The North Fork of the Feather above Lake Almanor and the Middle Fork of the Feather downstream from Two Rivers are both good options. Deer Creek is also fishing very well right now.

Try small spoons and spinners in the deeper pools or drift eggs through the riffles. Fly anglers should try nymph patterns like pheasant tails, prince nymphs, zug bugs, or stimulators.  A dry/dropper rig can be very effective.

I like to drift a hopper pattern near the stream banks in the middle of the day. It is getting late in the year for flying ants, but if you do see them these are a favorite for opportunistic trout.

In the late afternoon and evening mayflies and golden stones should be active. Switch to attractor dries or try matching the hatch.

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