Fishing Line

Fishing Line: Steelhead, stripers and cutthroats - oh, my!

Steelhead continue to run on select north state streams.
Steelhead continue to run on select north state streams. Bee file

AMERICAN RIVER – The closed salmon spawning area of the American River reopens to fishing on Thursday, Jan. 1, and the opener is likely to be very good for winter run steelheading, as many fish raced up into the closed spawning area beginning on Oct. 31 when the river closed. These fish have likely not seen any fishing tackle and should be vulnerable to tiny spin-n-glows, nightcrawlers, roe and beads. Fly fishermen should do well on the opener, too, casting golden stones, egg patterns and red copper Johns.

DELTA REGION, Sacramento River side – The north Delta striper bite is on hold with the cold and muddy water. Stripers have vacated the north Delta to head west to Suisun Bay or north to the Port of Sacramento. The water temperature has dropped nearly 3 degrees, leaving the sturgeon off the bite for a few days. The best sturgeon fishing has been in the north Delta in Cache or Prospect Sloughs or in Suisun Bay with lamprey eel. Grass shrimp have been extremely scarce, as well as live bullheads. The demand for live bait has been very heavy on the weekends.

DELTA REGION, San Joaquin River ride – The river continued to be muddy and cold, with the best action for striped bass in Discovery Bay or near Antioch. Finding clear water is the key. Live bait has also been scarce with heavy demand on the weekends. Bluegill have gone deep in the cold water, and crappie can be found in Discovery Bay with a variety of baits.

PYRAMID LAKE – Valarie Taylor at Crosby’s Lodge reported the best week for big fish so far this season. Rich Moomaw of Sutcliffe and his buddy fished from shore and caught, weighed, photographed and released 24 1/2- and 24-pound cutthroats. Charles Evans Sr. caught a 22-pounder, and Mathew Gaines caught and released a 19 1/2-pounder. Crosby’s Lodge weighed nine fish over 10 pounds including Evans’ 22-pounder – a 15, a 13, two 11’s and four 10’s – again mostly by shore anglers. George Molino at Cutthroat Charters reported trolling was slow. His last trip produced four fish to 23 inches from eight strikes while trolling Apex 25 to 35 feet deep from Warrior Point to Pelican.

RED LAKE – Victor Babbitt at Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters reported ice fishing was excellent for 11- to 12-inch cutthroats through 12 inches of ice using a piece of worm.


NORTH COAST RIVERS – North Coast streams and rivers are regulated by low flow closures. Always call ahead to determine the condition of the river you want to fish. If not mentioned, the river is closed or no reports. The DFG’s Low Flow Closure Hotline for north coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. For the Russian River and counties of Mendocino, Sonoma and Marin, call (707) 944-5533. South Central Coast streams number is (831) 649-2886. Many streams close, and others change to artificial/barbless only on, March 31 and others on April 25. Trouble identifying salmon or steelhead? Go to:

CHETCO RIVER, Brookings, Ore. – The Chetco was flowing with glacier-colored water this last week. “I haven’t heard how the boats are doing on the river, but the bank anglers have been catching a few chrome steelhead over the last week,” said guide Curtis Palmer of River Secrets. “There are several guides and several public areas, depending on how you would like to fish for a day or two.” A report from the river came from guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The river dropped into plunker shape on Friday and driftboaters got their shot at it Saturday after the flows dropped to 3600 cfs – perfect for steelhead. Action wasn’t ‘red hot,’” Martin said, “but all the guide boats landed at least a fish or two.” Expected to stay in fishable shape for the weekend at least.

MILLACOMA RIVER, Coos Bay, Ore. – Both the East and West Forks of the Millacoma River are producing winter steelhead, reported guide Curtis Palmer of River Secrets. “These rivers are very small and beautiful with Myrtlewood trees lining the banks. East Fork has a nice trail following much of the more popular fishing areas of the river. Most anglers fish from the banks of these rivers. Bobbers work very well and spinners will catch fish as well.”

ROGUE RIVER, Gold Beach, Ore. – “With all the rains two weeks ago, we are still watching the high muddy flood water drop,” according to WON Field Reporter and guide Curtis Palmer of River Secrets Guide Service. “If we have another week of limited showers, we should be hearing of anglers catching winter steelhead just a couple miles upriver from the mouth of the Rogue River.”

ROGUE RIVER, Grant’s Pass, Ore. – “We’re seeing mostly brown water in this area and fishing has been tough for boaters,” said guide Troy Whitaker at U-Save Tackle in Grant’s Pass. “Bank anglers seem to be doing OK fishing close to the banks with side planers. Use dark-colored plugs or large yarn balls soaked in Pautke’s. The Rand area might be the best bet for boat anglers with these same baits. More rain and cold temperatures are forecast for this week.”

SMITH RIVER – Guide Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service is usually on the Trinity, but he was on the Smith River last week with his two sons, Kyle and Jordan. They fished with guide Mike Coopman and 16-year-old Jordan caught a 16-pounder sidedrifting roe with a Mad River Drifter and Fish Pills. Conditions were great, Huber said, “The river dropped right into place and was ready for a push of steelhead. We ended up going six for seven, with three adults and three jacks. On Sunday, we caught three adults to 7 pounds and a couple of half-pounders.” He said there were lots of boats on the river. Kyle and Jordan landed 12 fish in the two days of fishing.

UMPQUA RIVER, Roseburg, Ore. – The Umpqua River is still chocolate in color from recent high waters, said guide Curtis Palmer. The north and south forks of the Umpqua River are also flowing a lot of mud and considered unfishable. North fork, however, comes into fishable condition about five days earlier than the other two rivers.


KLAMATH RIVER, Iron Gate Dam – Steelheading continued to be very good below Iron Gate Dam. The river is fishable down to Orleans. Fish are taking crawdad patterned plugs, drifted nightcrawlers and flies either on the swing or dead-drifted under indicators.

TRINITY RIVER – The flows on the Trinity River have become a beautiful green condition all the way down to the south fork. Bigger winter run steelhead are being caught now. Flies, small plugs (like Hot Shots and Rapalas) and roe are catching a couple to five or six steelhead an outing.


CLEAR LAKE – The lake is still stained overall and anglers should look for clearer water. Areas to key in on include the Rattlesnake Island area up through the midlake and down to Monitor Point with plastic worms, crankbaits and jigs. Some are also reporting success with spinnerbaits. The live bait bite has not taken off yet.

LAKE BERRYESSA – The Narrows down to the dam has been a popular spot for bass. Larger main body points have been the spot for swimbaits. Putah Creek and Markely Cove ramps are open and the one at Capell Cove should reopen soon with the water rising.

LAKE SONOMA – Anglers are still waiting for the waters to clear up. It was fishing well for bass before the storms rolled through so give it a few weeks to clear up. The public launch ramp is still in use with the private marina still closed.


LAKE ALMANOR – The ramps at Canyon Dam, the USFS at Almanor and Rec. 1 and 2 ramps are operational. In between storms has been a good bet for some nice-sized trout, since there has been no fishing pressure.

BAUM LAKE – With other bodies of water closed, this continues to be a good option with consistent fishing. This lake is always a good winter option with its cold and clear waters and hungry trout.

EAGLE LAKE – Closed for the season on Dec. 31. It will reopen on Saturday of Memorial Weekend.

FALL RIVER – This is one of the rivers that closed on Nov. 15.

UPPER HAT CREEK – Closed for the season.

McCLOUD RIVER – Closed for the season.

PIT RIVER – With no rain, things have dried up and fishing has improved. The Fly Shop suggests starting at Pit #3 and working your way down to No. 4.

SHASTA LAKE – Clarity will continue to be a problem here due to the runoff dumping a lot of silt back into the system from what were dry creek beds for many years. The lake is also rising, so that adds to the scattering of fish. Watch out for a lot of debris in the system. Both trout and bass will be in the top 10 feet feasting on the shad die-off caused by the sudden drop in water temperatures. With fish fattening up on dead shad they are already getting fat and feisty.


FEATHER RIVER – Fishing on the Feather has been slow since salmon season closed. A few steelhead are still being caught in the Low Flow Section, mostly on flies, but the run has slowed considerably. A few striped bass are being caught at Shanghai Bend, but the early run of big stripers is not likely to show up for another month.

FOLSOM LAKE – The lake has been rising, but it’s still below the 400-foot level – not enough to cancel the 5 mph speed limit. Bass and catfish are still being caught in the mouths of incoming streams such as New York Creek, but inflows have been decreasing. Drop-shot Robo-worms and drag jigs. Trout fishermen are trolling the main body with Speedy Shiners, Needlefish, and small Rapalas for holdover trout.

RANCHO SECO LAKE – Trout plants are finally occurring at Rancho Seco and anglers there are catching them from shore and in float tubes, canoes and kayaks. One of the better methods is to slowly paddle with a slow sinking line pulling woolly buggers. Nightcrawlers, small Rapalas, and Kastmasters are good, too.

SACRAMENTO RIVER, Sacramento – The best bet has been to fish for sturgeon. It’s slow fishing, though. Verona, Knight’s Landing, Cache Slough, and South River Road have been some of the better spots. The Deep Water Channel and the Turning Basin have been producing a few small striped bass.

SACRAMENTO RIVER, Redding – The river continued to be muddy, and trout fishing was very slow once again. However, the stur–geon run is starting, and fishermen are catching a few at Knight’s Landing, Cache Slough and Verona. Pileworms, eels and even the lowly nightcrawler have been good. The Turning Basin in the Deep Water Channel has been producing a few small striped bass.

YUBA RIVER – The lower Yuba down to below DeGuerre dam has dropped and cleared and fishing below the Highway 20 Bridge has been very good for trout 14 to 28 inches long.


BERKELEY – Rockfish season wound down successfully and boats began turning their attention to fishing the Bay. El Dorado on Sunday slam-dunked the December trifecta... limits of rockfish, lingcod and Dungeness. Happy Hooker finished her rockfish season with limits of rockfish and crabs. For the winter the popular boat will focus inside the Bay and through the Carquinez Straits, catching striped bass and sturgeon. California Dawn finished off her rockfish season with limits and is planning to fish sturgeon out of Martinez beginning mid-February.

BODEGA BAY – Water conditions warranted a shift in fishing focus from the Fort Ross Area to off of Point Reyes where the water was much cleaner and the fish were biting like wild dogs. Crabbing was good and limits came up for New Sea Angler passengers to add to their limits of rockfish. Capt. Rick Powers decided to scout a sanddab spot on the way back. The group made a 45-minute stop and caught 200 sanddabs using 2-hook rockfish rigs. Looks like it will be a good winter for ‘dab & crab combos.

EMERYVILLE – Late season rockfish trips went splendidly, with limits of rockfish and crabs, plus some hefty lingcod. Surprises came in the form of 2 large bonito Sunday on New Huck Finn. One weighed 10 pounds and the other was a big 15 pounder. Sea Wolf will be running sandab/mackerel/crab combo trips during January. Maybe they will catch bonito, too.

EUREKA/SHELTER COVE – Good fishing from the jetty at Eureka was the highlight of the week for local anglers who waited a long time for the weather to break. Rockfish and rainbow perch were the main biters. Crabbers worked the jetties and piers. A few boaters went out and managed some Dungeness crabs. At Shelter Cove, people caught red tail perch and rainbow perch from the boat launch.

FORT BRAGG – Crabbers got back after the crabs once the big swells subsided late in the week. Telstar and Sea Hawk both made it out. Many pots had to be unstuck and perhaps repaired. Some were lost entirely. Counts ranged from half-limits to full-limits. Minus tides allowed abalone hunters to work their favored spots and some got limits.

HALF MOON BAY/PACIFICA – Huli Cat and Riptide fished hard during the winding down rockfish and lingcod season, working Tunitas, Pescadero and San Gregorio. Striped bass bit in the surf at Pacifica while crabs and perch kept pier folks happy.

SAN FRANCISCO – Herring spawns in the South Bay got people out after sturgeon, which were caught at San Mateo Bridge and near Alameda Rock Wall. Argo fished stripers in San Pablo Bay during the week and ran one last rockfish trip on Sunday along the Marin Coast for a decent pick on rockfish and 3/4-limits of crabs.


BOCA LAKE – The lake is down to 16.8-percent capacity – Reno has a lot of toilets to flush!! Mountain Hardware and Sports reported one angler was catching 16- to 18-inch browns off the dam on CD Rapalas.

CAPLES LAKE – The lake is at 68-percent capacity. John Voss at Caples Lake Resort reported the resort was open for lodging for the winter season. The lake was not frozen yet and shore anglers were out at the dam and the spillway early this past week. A cold front late in the week caused skim ice to form and colder weather in the forecast could have thick ice forming by this weekend.

CARSON RIVER (East) – Todd Sodaro at Todd’s Bait and Tackle at the Creekside Lodge reported the mornings had been bitter cold at 15 to 20 degrees and the cold weather was keeping anglers home to stay warm. He didn’t see anyone parked at Hangman’s Bridge all this past week.

DAVIS LAKE – The lake is at 55-percent capacity. Ed Dillard at Dillard’s Guided Fishing reported shore fishing was much improved this past week. Shore anglers at Mallard Point were picking up 2 to 4 rainbows each, mostly 16 to 20 inchers. Deborah Donovan of Portola landed the big fish of the week – a 5-pound rainbow taken at Mallard Point on floating dough bait. Some ice was forming at the dam but it was still too thin for ice fishing.

DONNER LAKE – The lake is at 42-percent capacity. One angler reported catching 4- and 6-pound macks off the north shore on a Kastmaster spoon, according to Mountain Hardware and Sports.

FRENCHMAN LAKE – The lake is at 35-percent capacity. Wiggins Trading Post reported the bite was slow, but anglers putting in the effort were being rewarded with some nice rainbows. A group from Loyalton fished near Big Cove and caught-and-released 11 rainbows to 2 1/2 pounds. The dam and Turkey Point were also producing 15- to 20-inch rainbows on nightcrawlers and floating dough bait.

ICE HOUSE RESERVOIR – The lake is at 63.5-percent capacity. Kyle Neeser at Crystal Basin Tackle suggested staying out of this area due to the bitter cold conditions and the problems associated with black ice. Though the road to the lake is paved, icy conditions can make driving hazardous.

INDIAN CREEK RESERVOIR – Todd Sodaro at Todd’s Bait and Tackle at the Creekside Lodge reported that bitter cold conditions, 15- to 17-degree lows and highs in the 30s, made this lake a poor prospect for fishermen. Windy conditions made things even worse!!

JACKSON MEADOW RESERVOIR – The lake is at 98-percent capacity. Icy road conditions made access to this lake questionable. Call ahead to the Sierraville Ranger Station during the week for the latest road conditions at 530-994-3401.

JENKINSON LAKE (Sly Park) – Jeff Tilley caught an 8-pound Mackinaw trolling a Lyman lure – the only fish reported all this past week.

LAKE TAHOE – The cold front that moved in, bringing bitter cold temps, slowed the mack bite late this past week. Chuck Self at Chuck’s Charter Fishing reported catching easy limits of 4 to 7 pounders in 2 to 3 hours until the weekend. Over the weekend, limits were tough to find, but the quality of the fish landed was good, 4 to 9 pounds. Self was trolling 140 to 400 feet deep between Tahoe City and Crystal Bay Point. Zack Gordon at Tahoe Sportfishing recommended their afternoon trips because the bite was faster and it was warmer!! The fleet was catching limits or near limits of 2- to 5-pound macks mooching live bait in Rubicon Bay at 150 to 175 feet deep.

PROSSER LAKE – The lake is at 30-percent capacity. Brian Nylund at Mountain Hardware and Sports reported fishing was very slow here.

SILVER LAKE – The lake is at 43.5-percent capacity. No safe ice yet, but bitter cold weather was in the forecast and freezing should begin in earnest this week.

STAMPEDE RESERVOIR – The lake is at 25-percent capacity. Kalan Richards of Cameron Park fished the lake this past week and caught 2 macks trolling Rapalas on the bottom in 70 feet of water at the Little Truckee inlet. The 3 and 5 pounders were the only strikes he and his son had on a cold day. Launching was 4-wheel drive only through the mud below the ramp.

TOPAZ LAKE – The trout season and the Topaz Lodge and Casino Fishing Derby begin Jan.1. With no boat launching at Topaz Landing Marina or the County Park, fishing will be mostly from shore unless you have a cartop boat you can carry to the water to launch. Both the NDOW and Topaz Lodge stocked fish over the closure. The DFW announced it will stock part of 60,000 rainbows from an Inyo County hatchery into the lake within the next month.

TRUCKEE RIVER – Mountain Hardware and Sports reported the water temps were in the high 30s and the fish were very lethargic. Trout fishing was very slow at best.

UNION VALLEY RESERVOIR – The lake is at 65-percent capacity. The road to the lake from Pea Vine Ridge Road was supposedly fixed by the USFS, according to Kyle Neeser at Crystal Basin Tackle. With the bitter cold, black ice can be a serious problem on this road in the shady areas.

WEST WALKER RIVER – Pam Hamic at the West Walker Motel reported the DFW was going to stock part of 60,000 rainbows from an Inyo County hatchery into the West Walker within the next 4 weeks. Flows were up, but the bitter cold weather put a damper on the fishing.


LAKE AMADOR – Regular trout plants are scheduled from Mt. Lassen Trout Farm on a weekly basis for the remainder of the season, although the past week’s plant was placed on hold due to the recent storms. The lake is rising steadily, and the launch ramp is open with a single lane. Bank anglers are scoring with trout dough bait, white crappie jigs, or nightcrawlers from the dam, the spillway, and along the Boathouse Docks. Trolling is improving with a variety of lures as the water clarity continues to improve with the lack of rain within the past week.

CAMANCHE LAKE – Trout plants are scheduled on a weekly basis with loads of Mount Lassen Trout released into the lake at both the North and South Shore launch ramps as well as into the South Shore Trout Pond. The rainbows are moving towards the surface, and bank fishermen are scoring with trout dough bait, nightcrawlers, or Kastmasters from the launch ramp areas.

DON PEDRO RESERVOIR – Few anglers have been targeting the lake prior to the Christmas holiday. Mother Lode trout fishermen have been focusing on nearby New Melones or Camanche. Trollers should focus around the shorelines with shad-patterned spoons or plugs coated with scent while shore fishermen are using salmon eggs, nightcrawlers, or trout dough bait near the Fleming Meadows or Blue Oaks ramps. The bass bite continued to be slow with the best action on live minnows from the shorelines. The Flemings Meadow and Blue Oaks Launch Ramps are open, but there is still a 5 MPH speed limit from the ramp at Blue Oaks Recreation Area to the Buoy Line at the mouth of Fleming Bay.

LAKE McCLURE – -The lake remains extremely low, and the only access for boats is the Barrett Cove North Ramp. The ramp is only accessible during daylight hours. Small boats such as kayaks and canoes are able to be launched from the shoreline, but few fishermen are targeting the lake.

LAKE McSWAIN – The best trout action continues from the banks at the Brush Pile, Handicapped Docks, or the points near the Marina with Pot O’ Gold spoons, bubble gum trout eggs, Mice Tails, or yellow trout dough bait. Few boats have been launching, although the lake is full and clearing on a daily basis. Trout plants are anticipated every other week.

NEW HOGAN RESERVOIR – Minimal change with few fishermen are targeting the lake with the low water conditions. The launch ramp is still open without a courtesy dock, but launching is a two-person job.

NEW MELONES RESERVOIR – The lake has risen to the point where the Glory Hole Launch Ramp is back on the concrete ramp. The rainbows are rising to the surface in order to chase the small shad. Trollers are scoring with shad-patterned lures near the surface while the best bank fishing is around the Highway 49 Bridge with bright colors of trout dough bait, white marshmallows, or nightcrawlers. Huge largemouth bass to 12 pounds have been caught and released on California Reservoir Lure’s jigs during the past week, but the most consistent action is on plastics on the drop-shot.

LAKE PARDEE – Closed for the season until February 2015.

TULLOCH RESERVOIR – The prime time for trout fishing is during the months of November through January, and trolling near the surface with shad-patterned spoons or blade/crawler combinations are producing numbers of small rainbows. Few fishermen have been targeting the lake despite the potential for solid action.


AMERICAN RIVER – The river was running clear at the Hwy. 49 confluence this past week, but no one was fishing, according to the Georgetown Ranger Station.

BULLARDS BAR – The lake is at 49-percent capacity. The lake was clear with no debris causing any boating problems. The boat ramp at Emerald Cove Marina was getting closer to opening with the water level rising slowly. The Dark Day ramp remains the only open launch facility at this time. Bass fishing was improving according to Bruce Gibson at the Paradise Tackle Company. Deep-diving Strike King crankbaits in chartreuse shad worked on rocky banks and long flat points were producing some spots to 7 pounds. Jigs were also working on the same structure at 25 to 30 feet deep.

CAMP FAR WEST – North Shore Resort reported the water color had improved to a murky green and debris was only floating near the shore. Fishing pressure was very low, but anglers reported catching from 4 to 20 bass in the Bear River arm on “anything with white in it.”

COLLINS LAKE – The lake is 33 feet from full. The trout fishing was improving with the stable weather. Some limits were coming in for shore anglers using worms and floating dough bait at the dam and near the marina. The biggest trout of the week was a 5 1/2 pounder caught trolling near the buoys with a threaded nightcrawler.

ENGLEBRIGHT RESERVOIR – The lake is at 97-percent capacity. Skippers Cove Marina reported trollers were out in force in the marina working flasher/worms in the lanes between the moored houseboats.

LAKE OROVILLE – The lake is at 36-percent capacity – up another 5 feet this past week!! The Lime Saddle Marina boat ramp opened this past Saturday, so now there are concrete ramps open on both ends of the lake for 2-wheel drive vehicles. The concrete ramp extension at the Spillway may be open by this weekend. Guide Ron Gandolfi reported the water color was improving as the rains slowed, and incoming water was still the most productive area for bass. Anglers need to look for warmer incoming water in the river arms, creeks, or any source where the water temp is 54 to 56 degrees. Gandolfi said the warmer water was attracting huge schools of pond smelt and bass were right behind them. One short trip he had this past week produced 20 bass in just 2 1/2 hours – great winter time action. Jigs, tubes, drop-shot worms, Keitech 3.8 swimbaits, and spinnerbaits were all working.

ROLLINS LAKE – The lake is at 93.5-percent capacity. Not much happening here according to NID.

SCOTT’S FLAT LAKE – The lake is at 58-percent capacity. There were still a few trout coming in for trollers working the dam area with flasher/worms.

SUGAR PINE RESERVOIR – The Foresthill Ranger Station reported there was little fishing pressure here with the cold weather.

THERMOLITO AFTERBAY – The lake was at 135.1-foot elevation at press time – 89.5-percent capacity. Bruce Gibson at the Paradise Tackle Company reported steelhead were still hitting nightcrawlers at the Wilbur Road Access. Bass fishermen were advised to stay away from the coves anywhere on the lake due to the presence of duck hunters. The riprap banks along the channel at Wilbur Road and around the Hwy 162 Bridge were safe for bass fishing – try crankbaits and jigs.