In a typical year, the bass spawn in our north state lakes will peak in late April. Following this yearâ€™s winter, the timing has been pushed back a few weeks. Currently we are seeing a mix of pre-spawn and post-spawn fish in our local lakes. Needless to say, the fishing has been quite good.
In the cold water of winter, bass fishing techniques are centered on slow presentations for lethargic bass. As the waters warm and the fish get more active they will travel a distance to chase down a fleeing item to eat.
Last week I interviewed Damon Witt, professional tournament bass angler and fishing guide. He is on the water daily and had some interesting insights into his approach to current bass fishing. In the winter he will spend as much as an hour in one area, targeting fish he has seen on his electronics. Cold water fish do not eat as often and you often need to put the bait right on their nose to get them to eat. Now that the water is warming they are active and he will spend at most 15 minutes targeting a location. If the fish are not actively feeding he continues to move along the shore line rapidly fishing the area with quick moving lures.
One observation he made about fishing Folsom Lake last week was the crawdads had come out of winter hibernation. Bass love to eat crawdads if they are available. Damon lives in the Sacramento area and frequently guides on Folsom Lake. For the first time this year he caught bass that had been feeding on crawdads. The tell-tale signs are bits of crawdad shell the bass have coughed up when he has them in the live well of his boat.
During the drought the exposed side of reservoirs grew grass. Damonâ€™s observation is that he seldom sees spawning beds in flooded grass. The spawning activity is much more likely to take place on a clean bottom.
We have three kinds of bass in our area, largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. Of the three the spotted bass tend to be â€śpackâ€ť feeders during the warm water months post spawn. Damon targets these feeding schools of spots which are constantly on the move looking for bait fish. To find them he looks for feeding birds if they are around. An important clue is wind direction. The down wind shores of lakes are prime feeding locations. Wind moves the surface water and piles it up against the shore. This concentrates the surface food chain and subsequently the bait fish and predators. The bass know this and they search the down wind banks regularly. An active wind is a good indicator but a recent wind can have a residual effect.
The main take away from my conversation with Damon was this is the season to cover a lot of water and this is the best time of year for numbers of fish.
TOP LURES A GOOD CHOICE
Local bass angler Ed Everhart has been spending a lot of time on our local lakes. Recently he was on Scotts Flat and did very well. The â€śtop water biteâ€ť has come on. As a searching technique, throwing top water lures is a good choice, especially in low light conditions.
He commented that he was seeing both pre and post spawn bass around the lake. He did well targeting any flooded brush or trees.
Recently I was the weigh master for a bass tournament at Collins Lake. The winning bass in that contest was 9.60 pound bass. It was caught midday with a â€śSenkoâ€ť worm in the flooded brush on the east side of the lake close to the dam. This angler immediately brought the fish in to be weighed and promptly returned it to the location where it was caught. It was the largest bass I have ever had my hands on.
Another species of fish that local anglers are anticipating is American Shad. These fish migrate from the ocean to spawn in rivers. One of the indicators that they should be present is the cottonwood trees putting out their white cotton. I saw this recently in Penn Valley.
To date, the Yuba and Feather Rivers have given up a few shad but no significant numbers. Justin Leonard reports a few fish being taken in the lowest reaches of the Yuba River. These fish have come to anglers moving up the river by boat from the Feather River. Justin also mentioned that there are some significant navigation hazards just below the surface on the lower Yuba.
Tom Page fished the lowest part of the Yuba last weekend picking up only two fish for a days effort. He had reports from the Miller Park area of Sacramento that there were shad on the lower American River.
Most years the shad run is fully on by Memorial Day weekend. With other species of fish a bit behind schedule, hopefully we will get a good shad run arriving in the near future.
Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Unionâ€™s Outdoors section and is host of â€śThe KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,â€ť which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at http://www.trollingflies.com.