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Spring fishing conditions persist into summer

There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.

~ Steven Wright 

Two weeks ago, I wrote about using corn to catch kokanee salmon. An astute reader questioned whether using corn to fish for kokanee was legal. He also made the point that corn was harmful to fish because they fill up on the corn and then have trouble digesting it.

So, what are the facts? Is corn harmful to kokanee? Is it illegal to fish with corn?

It turns out the answer is both “yes” and “no.”

Chumming with corn is illegal. In fact chumming with anything is illegal in fresh water in the state of California. However, it is perfectly legal to use corn for bait.

The difference is that bait is attached to your hook. Chum is feed, usually large quantities, that is scattered into the water to attract fish.

As for being harmful to the fish, certainly chumming could be harmful. But what about a kernel corn on the tip of the hook on your kokanee lure?

While I am a big proponent of catch and release fishing, when it comes to kokanee I am more of a catch and cook sort. So yes, I suppose that kernel of corn on my lure is harmful to the fish. That is sort of the point. I should probably have one of those shirts that say “Fish Fear Me.”

Lake Almanor

The fish are scattered throughout the lake and feeding on insects. Throw in some very warm weather and you have a recipe for some tough fishing.

Trollers are picking up some rainbows slow trolling naked crawlers. “Naked” just means the crawler is not rigged behind a dodger as is often the case. It is not quite as sexy as it sounds.

The fish have not yet headed to the deeper and cooler water so start trolling around 15 feet deep in 25 to 50 feet of water. As the morning progresses, lower your gear to 25 or 30 feet deep.

The reports are good from the west side of the peninsula — Rec 2 north to Bailey Creek. I like the west shore, especially around Rocky Point, right now. My guess is that the hex hatch has lured fish from around the lake to the west shore where the vast majority of the suitable hex habitat is found.

The hex are not active in the morning, but the trout are still there cruising around looking for a good meal. A slow trolled worm just might be the ticket. Jigging grubs or grasshoppers along the west shore should also be effective.

The hex hatch got off to a bit of a slow start this year. That is not surprising given the colder than normal runoff flowing into the lake. However, the next two weeks should see some very active evening hatches.

If you have fished the hex hatch much, you probably already know that some evenings there are only a few bugs hatching. Other evenings there are plenty of bugs, but not so many fish. And then there are those magical evenings when there are plenty of bugs and lots of eager fish. Those are the evenings that you will not soon forget.

For the latest on the hex hatch and the best flies to use, contact Tom at the Lake Almanor Fly Fishing Company in Olde Town Chester (258-3944).

Look for big changes over the next few weeks. The hex hatch will fade and the feeding activity will shift from insects to pond smelt. Water temperature will continue to increase forcing the fish to move to the colder water sources like springs, creek mouths and deeper water. Almanor is a large and somewhat complicated lake. Being tuned into the seasonal changes is key to successful fishing.

The Almanor Fishing Association will be hosting the 25th annual Family Barbeque on Saturday, June 29, from 4 to 9 p.m., at Rec 1 in the Lake Almanor Country Club. The Almanor Fishing Association is a group of volunteers who raise thousands of fingerling trout into catchable size fish that are released into the lake. This fundraiser will help pay for fish feed and much needed repairs of the rearing pens.

You can support the Almanor fishery and enjoy a delicious New York steak dinner with the works. Your donation is $20 in advance or $25 at the door. The hot dog plate is $10 with all the fixings. For more information, call Rich at 259-5899.

Butt Lake

The fishing is on the slow side at Butt Lake. Some nice rainbows have moved into the powerhouse channel on both sides of the jetty. Patient and skilled anglers will be rewarded with some nice fish, but be prepared to put in some time. Low light conditions early in the morning or late in the evening offer the best opportunity.

The Hexagenia mayflies are hatching near the dam attracting trout, smallmouth bass and far fewer anglers than Lake Almanor. I like that about Butt Lake.

Lake Davis

The warm weather has kicked the damselfly hatch into high gear at Davis. However, the fish population is lower than it once was so anglers are having to put in some time for their fish. Work damselfly nymph patterns slowly off points and edges of submerged weed beds (of which there are plenty).

The fish will cruise the shallows in singles and small pods. If you have a proven spot, you can stay there and wait for cruising fish to come your way, but your best bet if you are not getting some action is to keep moving.

The damsels will be most active from early to late morning. In the afternoon, try midges or wiggle nymphs. In the evenings, look for the Hexagenia to hatch.

Trolling is on the slow side, but patient anglers trolling 15 to 20 feet deep in 35 to 40 feet of water are finding a few fish in the 18- to 22-inch range.

Frenchman Reservoir

Fishing has been good since spring at Frenchman and that is reflected in the fishing pressure. If you don’t mind a little (no … make that a lot) of company, Frenchman Reservoir offers anglers of all stripes a good chance to catch some feisty rainbows.

Fly anglers are working the coves north of Lunker Point. The fish are actively feeding on midges and small mayflies. Nymphs fished under an indicator work well.

Bank anglers are still reporting some nice catches both with bait and flies, but a boat or personal watercraft gives the advantage of reaching some deeper water.

Gold Lakes Basin

All of the roadside lakes are now accessible in Gold Lakes Basin. All but the highest backcountry lakes should be free of ice, but getting to them will still require slogging through lots of snowdrifts.

Lower Sardine and Packer lakes have been planted and are fishing well. But the real attraction for early season anglers is Gold Lake. Gold Lake has some larger rainbows and browns and some decent sized Lake Trout. Trolling rapalas and flatfish along the edges has yielded fish up to 10 pounds. It is not fast and furious, but the lake is beautiful and the fish are large.

Eagle Lake

The water level continues to rise and fishing has improved a bit, but it is still not red hot. Fish seem to be scattered through both basins. Tui chubs are the main source of food so no matter if you are fly fishing or trolling with lures, red-brown and olive colors are productive. Jay Fair Wiggle Tails and Trolling Flies were designed specifically for Eagle Lake and are always a good bet.

Thomas Boyant or Speedy Shiners are good lures. Try working your  lures about 15 feet deep.

Eagle Lake will have lots of algae as the water warms so be sure to keep your lines clean.


Some area streams are running quite high with the recent warm weather while others are starting to settle down. It has been a rough start to stream fishing, but we should have above very good stream conditions well into the summer to make up for it.

The flows on both  the North and Middle Forks of the Feather River are dropping and fishable, but still unseasonably high. Flows on the Middle Fork are best above Two Rivers. The North Fork is still very high above the diversion dam, but fishing well between the dam and the mouth at Lake Almanor.

There are a few mayflies and caddis flies in the late afternoon and evening on both forks. Stonefly nymphs are also a good bet. Panther Martins and Rooster Tails spinners are working for spin fishers.

Deer Creek is another good option. Flows are moderate and there are plenty of feeding fish thanks to several plants by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Trout are active mid-morning on when the sun has warmed the water.

Work the deeper pools with enough weight to get your fly or bait down  to the bottom. Try attractor dry flies late in the afternoon when the insect activity increases.

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