January 08, 2020    Headlines

Foothill & Mountain Lakes


A number of bass fishermen were up in the northern part of the state this weekend to fish the second of the Phil’s Propellers tournament, and 17 pounds took first place out of the number of boats as interest is high with the two upcoming Wild West Bass Trails events on the lake in January. The best action remains on the bottom with plastics on the drop-shot or jigs.


New Melones

The turnover at New Melones has yet to occur, and this has been similar to the other low-elevation Mother Lode lakes. The best bass action remains in deep water as the reaction bite continues to be few and far between. January through March are the top months for big bass at New Melones, and once the lake finally turns over, the swimbait and glidebait bite should improve.


Gene Hildebrand of Glory Hole Sports in Angels Camp said, “Typically this time of year Melones water temperatures are low enough to have the lake turn over, inducing a flurry of action on the bass and trout bite; however possibly due to the historic water level for this time of year, we believe its slowing down how quickly the water temperature is dropping, delaying the lake from turning over. The bass bite on Melones has improved from the last couple months with the water temps creeping slowly down. Anglers using jigs, and worms on a number of different setups are landing bass, along with spoons. Bryson Hooper was fishing up river, and he landed 5 spotted bass in the 2- to 3.5-lb. range using a Roboworm in "Morning Dawn" near the log jam, fishing at a depth of 35 feet. The trout are moving up in the river column, and they are being seen on the surface, but the bite is sluggish. Ted Overton of Vallecito brought in a 4.5-lb. rainbow trolling the spillway with a Cop Car Speedy Shiner at 45 feet.”

Ryan Cook of Ryan Cook’s Fishing was on the lake twice this past week, and he said, “It is getting better, and we found decent action for spotted and largemouth bass at 40 to 70 feet with jigs or plastics on the drop-shot as the fish are still deep. You really have to fish this lake a few days in order to learn the current patterns.”

The New Jen Bass Tournaments held an event on New Melones on Saturday, and the team of Bryan Coy and Bub Tosh took first with a limit at 16.46 pounds. The big fish was 5.31 pounds taken by the team of Vince and James Vella.

Hildebrand added, “A word of caution when traveling from the Rangers Station towards Glory Hole Point as if you are hauling any trailer over 10 feet in height, be aware the Bureau of Reclamation has many oak trees that need to be trimmed to meet Federal Highway Administrations minimum vertical clearance on local roadways which is 14 feet. The trees overhang the road are creating hazardous driving conditions for you and your trailer/boat/rv having to often drive in the opposite lane of traffic to avoid these trees and prevent damage to your property.” New Melones rose slightly to 83 percent.


Lake Camanche trout plants with Lightning trout released into the South Shore Pond

IONE –Trout plants continue at the Lake Camanche, and this week’s plant of 1200 pounds was split between the South Shore Marina, and the South Shore Pond. 600 pounds of Mt. Lassen Hatchery rainbows was released into the South Shore while 600 pounds of Lightning trout were released into the South Pond, bringing the season’s total to 25,200 pounds.


Trolling is hit or miss for boaters, and experienced anglers at the lake find the best action while others attempt similar techniques and struggle. Speedy Shiners at 3.0 mph along with 3-inch grubs in chartreuse are among the top techniques at either the dam area or in the Narrows, but the trout have been biting lightly and difficult to keep on the hook. Experienced trollers such as Robbie Dunham of Koke Machine Guide Service continue to find limits to near-limits while others using the same gear are struggling. There must be some small difference between success and less than success to consistently boat Camanche’s rainbows.

The bass bite remains challenging, and this has been attributed to the lake still not turning over in the 55-degree clear water. Jigs along with plastics on the drop-shot have been the top techniques, and the New Year’s Day tournament was taken with a 12.46-pound limit out of 24 teams participating. Matt Frazier of Denair had a huge surprise during the tournament with a 9.14-pound rainbow trout that hit his plastic on the drop-shot at 40 feet. He said, “The rainbow put up a crazy fight, and I thought I had a catfish on. It ended up getting caught in the prop, but somehow my team partner, Cliff King, netted it before it broke loose.”

Camanche dropped slightly to 71 percent.


Lake McClure continues to be steady for Mother Lode anglers for numbers

SNELLING – Numbers of spotted bass remain the rule at Lake McClure, and the bass bite continues to improve on a weekly basis. The spots remain scattered at various depths with the most consistent action from 20 to 40 feet.


Ryan Cook of Ryan Cook’s Fishing participated in Sunday’s Merced Bass Club tournament with his youth partner, Michael Mulgado, and they came in fourth with a 10.78-pound limit. He said, “Veteran bass fishermen Larry Kerns of Exeter and Jerry Williams of Porterville took first at 11.18 so we were right there. The bite was tougher for us on Sunday, but we ended up with 30 bass with most taken from 20 to 40 feet with Dead Stick soft plastics on a shakey head or jigs such as the Dead Stick Hula Daddy on a G-Money -ounce football head. Green pumpkin/purple flake was the top color pattern for us, but the reaction bite is virtually non-existent. The bass are scattered from 5 to 85 feet.”

Steve Marquette of Lake McClure/McSwain Recreation Company was casting from the banks with silver/blue Kastmasters for a few rainbows who are moving in closer to the shallows. He said, “There have been a lot of boats trolling around the dam or around the South Ramp with Speedy Shiners or Tasmanian Devil spoons.”

There will be a population of kokanee and king salmon growing to catchable size within the next two years due to plants from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

McClure held at 62 percent


DON PEDRO — The bass bite continues to improve as the numbers are picking up, but the fish remain scattered from 5 to 80 feet with the best concentration between 20 and 50 feet. A few swimbait bass are showing up, but the best action is coming on soft plastics or jigs along with umbrella rigs. Trout fishing should improve as guides are starting to return to the lake to target rainbows and king salmon.  A heavy plant of fingerling king salmon this spring should pay dividends in the future. The lake held at 80 percent.


LAKE AMADOR — 500 pounds of cutbows were released this week, and 25 tagged trout will be released each week in January. A total of 300 tagged trout will be released for their annual derby which ends on March 8th. The steep shoreline due to the lake being 29 feet from full is limited access for those with mobility issues, and rain is needed to raise up the reservoir levels. Woolley Buggers, white crappie jigs, Mice Tails, and small balls of trout dough bait with scent remain the top baits as the cutbows are close to the shoreline and surface. 3000 Lightning trout from their hatchery will be released in March along with a number of trophies in the 8- to 14-pound range.

LAKE CAMANCHE — 600 pounds of Mt. Lassen Hatchery rainbows were released at the South Shore Marina, and South Pond with 600 pounds of Lightning trout into the South Pond, bringing the total since October to 25,200 pounds. Trolling is great for some and a struggle for others with the best action in either the Narrows or the triangle around the dam with Speedy Shiners or 3-inch chartreuse grubs from the surface to 10 feet. The bass bite remains tough with the best results found on the bottom with jigs or plastics on the drop-shot as the lake has yet to turn over. The lake dropped slightly to 71 percent.


LAKE McSWAIN — The lake is still waiting for another trout plant, and shore fishermen have to work hard for a few holdover rainbows with trout dough bait or inflated nightcrawlers near the Cabins or the Brush Pile. A plant was dumped into the Merced River near the Hornitos Bridge, and nightcrawlers or trout dough bait were the ticket for limits of planters. Lake levels remain high.


LAKE PARDEE —The lake is closed until February 13, 2020.The lake has dropped to 88 percent.


NEW MELONES — The lake has yet to turn over, perhaps due to the unseasonably warm winter temperatures along with the higher than normal lake levels, and the majority of bass remain in deep water from 40 to 70 feet with plastics on the drop-shot for a mixed bag of largemouth and spotted bass. Once the lake turns over, the swimbait bite in the shallows should improve, and the months of January through March are traditionally trophy time for New Melones largemouth and spotted bass. Few trollers are targeting rainbow trout, and the occasional quality rainbow is taken on spoons such as Speedy Shiners or Needlefish in shad patterns. The Kokanee Power Net Pens are loaded with rainbow trout, and they are being fattened up for a release in the spring. The lake rose slightly to 83 percent. 


Pine Flat

Recent trout plants at Pine Flat Reservoir have contributed to vastly improved conditions for trollers while the lower Kings River below the dam is a viable option for planted rainbows.

Merritt Gilbert of Valley Rod and Gun in Clovis reported solid action for trollers working around Windy Gap from the surface to 3 colors of leadcore with spoons such as Needlefish in Cop Car or Bikini, Apex lures in similar patterns, or blade/’crawler combinations. He said, “Fishermen are reporting from 15 to 20 rainbows in the 11-inch range with the occasional holdover, and trollers are reporting difficulty in getting down to three colors as they are getting hit right below the surface.”

Jeff Harris of Tollhouse was on the lake twice this week, and he said, “The river channel has a really good cut of trout right now, and we are picking up the rainbows at various depths from 6 to 8 feet or as deep as 45 to 50 feet, and I’m using shad-patterned Rapalas exclusively. The topwater trout seem to be where there is light debris floating on the surface as the lake continues to rise. The bite seems better in the early morning when there is a little chop on the water, and I have also been trolling a little faster than normal. There are huge bait balls in all water columns, and the trout are loaded with tiny shad. Big groups of small birds are feeding on the shad, and I have been trolling through the birds and finding huge bait balls on the screen. The water temperature is still warm at 57 degrees.”

Parking at Trimmer is limited, and in order to make room for as many boat trailers as possible, staying in the designated parking areas is important.

In the lower Kings River below the dam, trout plants continue on a weekly basis, and trout dough bait, nightcrawler/marshmallow combinations or Kastmasters are all working for the planters. The water levels are steady with some very nice ripples.

Pine Flat rose from 46 to 48 percent.



There was optimism for some decent weights during Bass 101’s traditional New Year’s tournament at Millerton Reservoir, but the big largemouth and spotted bass were absent, at least on this date. The reaction bite remains slow with most everything taken on the bottom.  The 12- to 13-pound limits did not materialize, but the team of Tim Rowan and Travis Brown took first with 11.50 pounds out of the 28 boats.

Merritt Gilbert of Valley Rod and Gun in Clovis said, “I have been fishing the New Year’s Day tournament with one of my sons over the past few years, but this year, my partner was Ocsanna Seropyan. I was on a good bite the weeks before the tournament, but the bass that I was on moved and shut down. I had been picking up limits in the 10-pound range with Zoom Trick Worms or plastics on the drop-shot at depths from 5 to 20 feet for the past month. We were fishing as deep as 40 feet for the tournament, and the bass seem to have moved around with all of the pumping into the lake. The water is very clear, and most everything came on the bottom with few reaction fish. The water temperature in the river arm has been holding around 53/54 degrees for the past three to four weeks. The New Jen Bass Tournaments was on the lake on Sunday, and they were expecting around 30 boats.  Plastics on the Texas-rig, drop shot, or dart head along with jigs remain the best techniques.”

The lake rose from 51 to 53 percent.


Shaver Lake

The lack of regular snow storms have created conditions amenable for trolling Shaver Lake, and more boats were out on the lake after the New Year. Limits of rainbow trout are possible with the best action remaining in the Stevenson Cove area.

Dick Nichols of Dick’s Fishing Charters is not guiding at this time of year, but he takes the time to obtain regular reports. He said, “Let’s hope this new year is as good a season as 2019 was at the lake. There were a few more boats on the lake over the weekend in the beautiful 50-degree weather under blue skies, and one to two limits of rainbows were taken by trollers working the top 15 feet in Stevenson Bay. Rapalas, Apex lures, and blade/’crawler combinations are working best for trollers, but perhaps the best news came from the shoreline at the mouth of Dorabella Cove. Retired Cal Fire Battalion Chief Rick Giubbini of Paso Robles brought a crew of 5 to the lake, and they caught 17 rainbows using orange or yellow trout dough bait on a 3 to 4-foot leader. They didn’t start fishing until noon, but the bite was fast and furious before dropping off around 2:00 p.m. Also for trolling, I talked to a couple anglers this week who reported a take of 22 rainbows over the two days of fishing focusing on the Stevenson Creek area and using a long-line Apex with a crawler at 8 to 10 feet. Year after year, you will find the holdovers in the Stevenson Bay and Tunnel Creek areas.”

Nichols continued, “I thought the 2019 kokanee season was one of the best in years, but this coming season will be tough due to the lack of kokanee fingerlings planted two years back by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Fortunately, we did have a decent natural spawn of kokanee two years ago, and we should have a few third-year kokanee mixed with the 2nd year fish. Remember those second-year kokanee are your catch for 2021, so please release them carefully. I will be presenting my 12th annual Shaver Lake fishing seminar at a Fresno sporting goods store in latter March. It will focus on how to fish Shaver in 2020 without the help of third-year kokanee. Representatives of Southern California Edison will provide the water levels for Shaver and Huntington in 2020, and a Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist will be on hand to discuss the 2020 DF&W plant, brown and the new residents of Shaver, golden trout which are normally a very high elevation species.

Shaver is currently at 54 percent.

San Luis Reservoir

San Luis Reservoir continues to rise in elevation, and the best action has been with jumbo minnows or bait as the reaction bite has slowed to some degree.

Merritt Gilbert of Valley Rod and Gun in Clovis said, “Bait fishing seems to be the best best as customers are reporting 4 to 5 stripers to 23 inches in a half-day of fish from the shoreline. Sales of reaction baits have slowed down, but we are still selling a number of 4- to 5-inch Storm swimbaits in bluegill pattern.”

Anthony Flores of Coyote Bait in Morgan Hill said, “The big lake is fishing better than the Forebay, and those drifting jumbo minnows seem to be finding decent action, especially along the rockwall on the Highway 152 side. The lake is up so the Trash Racks and Portuguese Cove are good options. Trollers are working Lucky Craft Pointers in the same areas.”

Roger George of Roger’s Guide Service said, “The overall bite has been tough in the rising water of the big lake as I fished two times this week. On both days, the conditions looked good, but most anglers were struggling to find active biting fish. I guided John and Jay Pimentel from the Gustine/ Newman area on Wednesday for a total for the day of 17 released fish to 24 inches trolling Lucky Crafts at around 60 to 75 feet in Portuguese Cove. The fish seem to be suspended more than usual and feeding in short bite windows. We’re seeing lots of stripers on the meter, but they aren’t too active in the 56-degree water. I scouted the lake couple days later on Friday with Andy Bedell of Watsonville, and it was the same situation as we ran all over to find some active biters. We released 13 nice sized fish in the 21- to 25-inch range as well as a bigger 29-inch, 9-pound lineside for Andy Some friends fishing minnows got over 20 stripers, telling me the trick was finally finding some biting school fish.  I talked to a lot of anglers, looking for any signs of boiling fish or topwater action, and they’ve all told me they’ve had no success in the last week. Many anglers have fished hard with few results as the norm is one or two striped bass.”

The lake rose from 56 to 61 percent.

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