By Boots Johnson

The business of fishing has gone out of sight. We have lures that talk, swim and shudder when a real fish approaches. We have baits that smell any odor you wish to extend to the end of your line. In fact, the next generation of lures....or should I call them “something to catch a fish on”...will probably be a way to entice the fish population we have, as of this time, because some have never been seen in the water.

Now, let us go back a ways...................way back to the good old days..........when lures were first invented. Take the hula popper (which by the way was a killer for small and large mouth bass). Then let us discuss the famous jitterbug. Wow, what a lure. It was invented by a guy who made his name famous. Of course that was Fred Arbogast. His prototype was placed on the market in the 1930’s. This lure was deadly late in the evening and after dark. In fact the inventor of this lure suggested an angler use it after night fall. With the right retrieve and the right jerk it was deadly and of course it made its own noise and gurgle as it was pulled through the water. The jitterbug was a surface lure just like the hula popper. Then we have the lure which changed the way we fish and made us realize the value of sound in the water. I am referring to the famous Rat-L-Trap introduced by Bill Lewis back in the 1960’s. This lure was a huge success and is still available today. Try one and see what you will put in your live well or on your stringer.

I could go on and on about some of the famous lures, some of which have disappeared and those which are still available. Keep in mind however that same lure today will be different, not only in what it is made of, but also what it will cost. One more thing to discuss before we go to the next subject. I am referring to the Mirror-Lure which was a fantastic lure in its own right. This lure, when used the way the manufacturer suggested, was so great at enticing fish to strike, that some higher-ups in the world of fishing almost decided to outlaw the lure.

This is old news for some folks, but we decided to report on the release of almost a half million small steelhead into the American River. The little guys came from the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Nimbus fish hatchery which survived the drought and the high water problem the past two years.

Closing Thought: “Life is short so live it to its fullest”


By Boots Johnson

We decided to head up to Little Grass Valley above La Porte for some camping, fishing and riding of the quads. We learned about the new management, or should I say the management which took over the old ways, and discovered the rules. For one, you cannot ride your motorcycle or quad, in other words anything that is a motorized vehicle and not registered for highway use anywhere in the camping areas. All camping areas are designated as “restricted areas” and this covers just about everything except camping. No firearms area allowed which includes non-firing weapons such as bows and arrows. If you want to ride your off road vehicles they insist you load them up and go outside the camping areas. But wait a minute......you still cannot ride them on any paved road or other dirt or gravel roads unless they are designated as such on an official forest service map. Good luck.

The fishing on the lake at Little Grass Valley was a waste of time. We trolled for four hours last Tuesday morning with all kinds of lures, spinners, spoons and even broken back rapalas. We had four poles out, two on down riggers and two with lead line. We tried depth levels of 15 feet down to 50 feet and never got a strike. A run of the lakes boundaries failed to produce any excitement on the graph. The new state of the arts electronics just recently installed in the red boat failed to produce any fish, except for an occasional single show on the screen.

I stopped at the store in La Porte to make a purchase on my way down to the valley and was told the lake has been very slow, but there have been some fish caught in the river, both above and below the reservoir.

Our report on Fuller Lake last week once again prove to be wrong. Apparently the Department of Fish and Wildlife decided to plant the small lake last week. We assume they wanted to drop fish in the lake after the roads were repaired.

We are headed up to Lake Tahoe tomorrow (Monday) and will make a decision whether to charter a boat and fish Tahoe or drop down a bit to hit Donner Lake for the elusive Mackinaw Lake Trout. If we decide to hit either lake we will report our findings next week.

Boots fishing tip for the week: “Troll at different speeds to find out what the fish will strike on.”


By Boots Johnson

All the places we checked into this week had reports of good to great fishing. For instance, the stripers are still active in the Sacramento River as well as in the Feather. Shad are still in all rivers with the best bet being the American River. The spotted bass bite is still outstanding at Lake Oroville as well as Clear Lake, Shasta Lake (Shasta Dam) and other bodies of water.

If you decide to get out of the valley to avoid the upcoming heat wave we recommend Lake Almanor. Slow trolling here will get you fish for dinner. Also, it you go just about anywhere in Northern California in the foothills or high mountains you can expect creeks, streams and rivers running a bit high. Personally I am looking forward to some trout stream fishing around the end of June and after the big Fourth of July Holiday. Streams by then should be ideal.

The Squawfish Derby, which will be held this Saturday (June 17th), will offer lots of prizes amounting to $2500.00 worth to be exact. The cost per entry is $40.00 which will include a barbeque lunch and membership in the Guides and Sportsman’s Association. The derby will cover the Sacramento River from the Shasta Dam to Verona and on the Feather River from Verona to the Oroville Dam.

The object of this derby is to reduce the number of squawfish population due to their feeding on baby salmon and steelhead.

More can be obtained by calling Guide James Stone at (530) 923-9440. Other Guides in the Sacramento area are also available for information as well as Johnson’ Bait and Tackle in Yuba City.

Closing thought: “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow......it only saps today of its joy.”


By Boots Johnson

We have reports from the after bay at Oroville. Water levels continue to go up and down a couple of feet on a regular basis which continually changes the water temperature which fluxuates 10 degrees at a time. This really messes up the bite and there is no indication, with the ongoing work at the spillway, when fishing will get any better. On the other hand the bass bite in the reservoir itself has been out of this world. Anglers are catching easy limits and some days are catching and releasing hundreds of bass.

The striped bass run is still among us even though many have spawned and are returning to ocean waters via the Delta. Water being released from the Oroville Dam, which is coming out of the bottom of the structure, is cold and will slow down the remaining spawn for late arrivals in the Feather River.

We hear from the Verona Area. This is where the Feather River joins the Sacramento River and is known as the mud line to many anglers. Striped bass were in this area last week and it appeared the best part of the Sacramento River to catch stripers.

Shad are in all local rivers at this time, but the hot spots seem to be along the American River in the Sacramento area. These feisty cousins of the tarpon have been taken on jigs, darts, spinners and spoons.

The road to Bowman Lake is now open and we have access to Fuller Lake on the way. However, our information a couple weeks ago was not true in regard to Fuller being planted with trout. This will not be done, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, until mid-July.

Now that we have the Memorial Weekend behind us the waters of lakes and reservoirs will once again be fishable. All the boat and recreational vessels last week really put the stop on fishing.

Donner Lake is outdoing Tahoe at this time. Mackinaw lake trout are being taken consistently up to six pounds in depths between 80 and 140 feet. In addition, the kokanee are also on the bite, but most fish are small, around 11 to 12 inches.

We hear from Folsom Lake. The reservoir is almost full at this time. Fishing has been slow. Expect better fishing from now into the summer months.

Boots fishing tip of the week: “reading the surface of the water is a good way to understand what lies beneath.”


By Boots Johnson

Reports tell us the striped bass fishing is still in full swing on the Feather and Sacramento Rivers. The best bet at this time is above Colusa on the Sacramento River and above the Yuba River on the Feather. Minnows are the name of the game and this also includes the dyed ones. Apparently there are products available which dye the live minnows which enable the striped bass to see them more quickly that the standard natural color. What next?

Many trout streams and rivers are coming into shape and will continue to get better for fishing as May leaves and the month of June is upon us. Catchable fish have been planted by the Department of Fish and Wildlife in the following areas: BUTTE CREEK: Sly Creek Reservoir and Desabla Reservoir; EL DORADO COUNTY: Stumpy Meadows Reservoir, Silver Fork of the American River, Icehouse Reservoir and Union Valley Reservoir; NEVADA COUNTY: Fuller Lake, Donner Lake and Prosser Reservoir; PLUMAS COUNTY: Sly Creek Reservoir; SIERRA COUNTY: Lower Sardine Lake; SISKIYOU COUNTY: Lake Shasta and Kangaroo Lake; YUBA COUNTY: Sly Creek Reservoir.

We recommend, for those who head for the lakes, reservoirs and streams of Northern California to be extra cautious in regard to water conditions, snakes and wild animals. The past wet winter has changed some of the usual areas we intend to visit this time of year. Expect creek channels to be somewhat different in certain areas and other locations to be deeper than previous years. If you catch a hold over trout from last year the fish might be injured, missing a fin or have wounds. In regard to animals and reptiles, their world was turned upside down this past winter and do not be surprised to find them in areas which they are not usually found.

Closing thought: “Strength doesn’t come from what you can do....it comes from overcoming the things you once thought you could not do.”


By Boots Johnson

Our trip to Bodega Bay last week was a blast in regard to limits of crabs for all. The wind played havoc with just about everything and everybody during the three days we were camped. The wind was so strong the night before we left it shook the toy hauler all night. Other than the wind the weather was ideal with cool mornings, nights and warm days. However, once the wind came up it was downright cold.

The latest announcement from the Department of Water Resources tells us the water release from Oroville Dam will be much lower. This is due to the level of water in the lake being low enough for no discharge from the spillway. They can still release water from the bottom of the reservoir, but not near as much as we have been experiencing since the high water. Expect the Feather River to stabilize and all should be aware of the hazards once the water is at its normal level. Meanwhile the shad have arrived and the stripers are active. Drifting minnows has been the ticket for striped bass. Shad darts, spinners and spoons are the way to go for the shad early in the morning and late in the evening.

Reports tell us the Sacramento River is putting out limits of Striped Bass. Teasdale Boat Ramp is open as well as others along the river. Live minnows are the best offering at this time. Anchored boats fishing with cut bait and pile worms are also scoring.

We hear from Lake Berryessa. Bass are on the bite and we have a report of some fish topping the ten pound and above score. Lake Oroville bass are also on the bite after the up and down water levels have finally subdued. Find a school of fish and they will hit just about anything thrown at them.

A primary pump at the Thermalito Facility of the Feather River Fish Hatchery at Oroville failed a couple weeks ago which resulted in the loose of some 200,000 to 300,000 small fall run Chinook Salmon. The quick response of Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel saved thousands if not millions of small salmon which will be released later on this year. These fish are the ones which were rescued in February during the high water at the main hatchery at the damaged Oroville Dam spillway and moved to Thermalito.

Those of us who have boats and fish the waters of California are reminded that we must have a lifetime California Boater Card when on state waterways. This card can be obtained by taking and passing an approved boating safety examination. This new law, which takes effect on January 1, 2018, will affect boaters 20 years of age and younger with the rest of us left to figure out when the date for those over 20 years of age will be required to take the exam and possess a card. More information can be obtained by going on line at CalforniaBoaterCard.com.

Boots fishing tip of the Week: “Never underestimate the unpredictable actions of wild game and fish.”


By Boots Johnson

A lot of years ago salmon could be found in just about any ditch that could hold water when the fish migrated upriver to spawn. It was common to find salmon in ditches that fed the rice fields. In fact my cousin Dick and I used to see them when pheasant hunting in November, their dark backs out of the water in the early morning sunlight. Most or I should say just about all of the salmon found in these areas were beat up and dark skinned. In other words they were on the verge of dying, which is natural for salmon. They come up the rivers to spawn and once this task is done they pass on.

Once in a while we could run into a fairly clean fish stuck in a narrow irrigation ditch in the middle of an alfalfa field. Back then my cousin Dick and me, he was nine years old and I was twelve, would be instructed by our folks to find a good one and “catch” it for dinner. By catch my Uncle Ralph told us to go into the barn for a pitch fork. The farm grew alfalfa so there were several forks available.

The drainage ditches were narrow, about two feet across, so straddling one was no problem. The problem was to get the fish to slow down enough so one of us could use the pitch fork like a spear and bring the fish unto dry ground. We accomplished this by me straddling the ditch with the pitchfork in hand and Dick getting past the fish and then wading down the ditch towards me. This caused the salmon to take off like a race car. It was difficult to hit the fish as it passed between my legs and we missed more than we hit and went back to the house emptyhanded.

When Dick or I, who ever had the fork, was successful we had our hands full. The salmon were fighters and it was a real job keeping the fish in that spot and finally tossing it on dry land. Back at the farmhouse my Aunt and Uncle, along with us kids helped cleaned the fish, cut salmon steaks and chunks and Uncle Ralph smoked the rest.

Back in the 40’s no one thought about breaking the law. Times were tough and it was a matter of feeding the family. We hunted and fished for most of our food and grew most of the vegetables.

In this day and age a person, even a boy would get into trouble fishing in the manner above. You might say it wasn’t fishing, but just bringing food to the table.

Closing thought: “Sometimes the best therapy is a long drive and music.”


fishing talk Valerie otten  5 10 17By Boots Johnson

Yuba City Angler Valerie Otten caught the first fish last Friday on the Feather River. We fished downstream drifting minnows. Her first fish was not only the first but the largest of the day. The Striped bass weighed in at 6 pounds and gave her a good fight. We saw a bunch of boats all over up and down the river with some anchored, others drifting minnows.

Ted Johnson donated his time and boat for the Annual K.A.S.T. 4 Kids Fishing Derby last Saturday at Collins Lake. We arrived at seven a.m. and later in the morning were assigned two young girls in the boat. They were sisters age 6 and 10 years of age. The fish did not cooperate and after several hours of fishing they wanted to return to shore. There was a good crowd and lots of raffle prizes and awards along with breakfast burritos and a barbeque lunch. Each child who entered the derby received a fishing pole and a tackle box full of fishing gear.

Eagle Lake is a natural lake not a reservoir but the high volume of rain and snow this year has raised the lake 5 feet which will enable things to get back to normal including the boat ramp at the south end of the lake. Trout fishing opens on May 27th. Eagle Lake is located near Susanville. More information can be obtained by calling (530)825-3133.

The boat ramp at the spillway at Lake Oroville will be closed due to the damaged spillway. The lake level continues to drop so repairs can be made. Release from the reservoir has been reduced, but there is still a bunch of water coming down the Feather River.

The shad have been reported in the Sacramento River below Sacramento and the run this year is expected to reach the American, Feather and Yuba Rivers anytime. Jigs are always popular to catch these fish but this year with all the high water it might take more weight to get down to the bottom.

Reports tell us there are many access roads to lakes and reservoirs in the high country are still closed due to snow. Best bet is to call ahead before you go.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has been busy with their trout planting program. The following lakes and streams were planted last week. NEVADA COUNTY: Rollins Reservoir; PLACER COUNTY: Sugar Pine Reservoir and Rollins Resevoir; SHASTA COUNTY: Lower, middle and upper Burney Creek; Clark Creek, Little Cow Creek, Grace Lake, Middle and Upper Hat Creek, Hatchet Creek, Keswick Canal, Montgomery Creed, Nora Lake, Rock Creek below Britton and the Sacramento River. TEHAMA COUNTY: South Fork of Battle Creek, Deer Creek and Gurnsey Creek.

Boots fishing tip for the week: “Don’t forget to put in the drain plug and remove the tie downs before you launch your boat.”


fishintalk5 3 17By Boots Johnson

The striped bass run is in full swing and there are many happy faces out there. One in particular is Grass Valley Angler Ken Malott who was invited to come down and fish with Ted Johnson last Thursday. They fished the Feather River drifting minnows when Ken got into a big fifteen pound striper. It was his first striper and was a beauty. Congratulations, Ken! Many more fish were caught and released except for two legal size bass which were kept for dinner.

Collins Lake will hold its second annual Family Fishing Derby on Saturday, May 6th starting at 7 a.m. until noon. A free barbeque will be held during the weigh in time. Prizes will be awarded, including cash awards for the adult anglers. Kids will be awarded miscellaneous prizes. A raffle is also planned. Pre-registration is $25.00 for adults and $5.00 for children by going on line at collinslake.weebly.com. Tickets will also be available at the site and will cost $5.00 more. In addition, participants must pay applicable day use fees at the lake and a fishing license is required according to state laws.

The opening weekend of the general trout season is behind us. Those who went found their favorite trout stream, creek or river running high with some areas high in elevation still snowed in. Some rivers, such as the Middle Fork of the Feather are running at flood stage. We are looking at June this year for some decent stream conditions.

Mackinaw lake trout are on the move at Lake Tahoe with fish running in the four to seven pound range and a ten pound fish now and then for big thrills. Most fish are being caught in 200 feet of water at this time.

We hear from Lake Almanor at Chester. Winter conditions, which have made fishing this reservoir difficult, are finally showing signs of spring weather. Trout are being caught as well as some bass.

If you have plans to head up to Fuller Lake above Bear Valley off of state highway 20, you had better hold off due to road work underway. The road to Bowman Lake, which goes right by Fuller, is closed to traffic until June 1, 2017. This makes the lake inaccessible by vehicle.

We advise everyone to stay off the Thermalito After bay below Oroville. The water is still dirty, has lots of debris and is dangerous at this time. Those who are familiar with this body of water are also encouraged to find another lake or reservoir to fish.

Lake Oroville still continues to drop down and the water is full of debris. The bass fishing has been poor due to the constant dropping of the lake level. The Department of Water Resources has announced a reduction in water release which might bring on the bass bite once the fish are able to remain in areas instead of constantly moving with the water levels.

Closing thought: “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”


By Boots Johnson

Striped bass are running strong in the Feather River at this time. Lots of fish being caught with some in the 20 to 40 pound range. The fish are hitting on cut bait, pile worms and minnows. A few sturgeons have also been caught in the Feather.

We expect Shad to be in local rivers any day now. These fish normally show up in the Sacramento River about now and the fish are expected to be in all rivers by the end of April.

Local river guide Jimmy Zanocco passed away on April 6th. Jimmy was one of the first guides in our area and he was an amazing man. We send our thoughts and our condolences to his family. Rest in Peace, Jimmy.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife have been busy preparing for the upcoming trout opener the last Saturday of April. So far plants have been placed in the Sacramento River and McCloud River in Siskiyou County; Kilarc Reservoir and the Sacramento River in Shasta County and the Susan River in Lassen County along with plants in the southern part of the state.

Reservoirs in the North State are beginning to clear up which means good fishing now into early summer. Our weather source has stated to expect light rains in the next week on the valley floor, but has advised we should not have a lot of the wet stuff. This is good news due to the huge pile of snow yet to melt and make it way down the mountains into the reservoir system.

As we stated earlier the ocean salmon count is low enough to force authorities to either close the season or restrict it to a shorter time frame.

I personally have had my share of close calls with rattlesnakes. The snakes are out now and will be in unusual areas due to the high water conditions. Rattlers are active from April to October with their living areas covering from the Pacific Ocean to the Nevada Dessert. These poisonous snakes will attempt to avoid you unless you try to pick them up or surprise them in any way and of course if you corner them. Be aware they could be found this year inside city limits and in subdivisions. If you get bitten, try to stay calm and get the victim to the nearest medical facility ASAP. More information is available at the California Poison Control System at (800) 222-1222.

CLOSING THOUGHT: “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.”


By Boots Johnson

The Gold Country Fly Fishers are sponsoring a Fly Fishing Film Tour which will be held at the Nevada Theater in Nevada City on April 26, 2017 starting at 7 P.M. This event will include door prizes, a raffle and a silent auction. Tickets are available at the Reel Anglers Fly Shop or on line at thef3t.com.

All proceeds will go to local conservation projects.

The buzz around the valley and Delta is about the current striped bass run and of course sturgeon. We tend to forget there are other bass in most waters including black bass, both large and small mouth, crappie and the rest of the perch family, steelhead, all species of trout available now in reservoirs and the end of this month we have the general trout season opener for streams and rivers.

There is one fish which comes to mind whenever we have high water conditions. Actually these fish are available year round but tend to be more cooperative when the water rises and they cruise the otherwise dry areas for food. The fish I am referring to is the catfish. We have several species of this fish in California, but the channel cat seems to be the most abundant and popular. You will find these cats in rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, ditches and ponds which say the catfish will just about be swimming anywhere there is water.

Catfish tend to run in schools so if you catch one chances are you will catch a lot more in that location. They also feed mostly by scent which means the cats will come to you if you are near their areas. This fish is almost 100% nose. What I mean is they can smell with their entire body. This is why some anglers swear by their “special stink bait” or using chicken livers which were left out of the frig overnight.

When a catfish takes your bait you will not see the fish break water but will make several runs with its head down. They put up a good fight and are excellent for a fish dinner.

Catfish are not caught only with bait, but have been caught on spinners, crankbait and live minnows. The fish will eat anything that is dead or alive. Some of the favorite “tidbits” are minnows, crayfish, and water bugs and so on.

Catfish do not have scales but have skin. They also have a sharp barb at the end of each fin including the one on top of the back of the fish. We highly recommend using caution when handling these fish due to the bards having a poison like substance that hurts like heck if you get stuck with one.

Lots of people disregard the catfish as a dirty scavenger which is not fit to eat. I can attest to the fact that catfish fillets fried in a frying pan are absolutely delicious and have their own flavor.

I have caught catfish all over the state of California from the valley floor, up in the foothills and in reservoirs at 5000 feet in elevation and above.

I wonder how many of you out there in the world of fishing mapped out your favorite reservoir during the low water conditions caused by the recent drought. With all the water we now have and the reservoirs full it would be great to have knowledge of exactly what is on the bottom and what areas will hold fish.

Boots fishing tip of the week: “Dull hooks can lose fish so make sure your hooks are sharp.”


By Boots Johnson

The striped bass run is well underway in the Feather River but releases from the Oroville Dam have complicated things. The level of the river is constantly changing due to these releases, some of which have raised the river by as much as six feet. These conditions make catching stripers a bit more difficult. We have reports of anglers catching 20 or so smaller fish before putting a legal 18 inch fish in the boat. The feather is putting a bunch of water into the Sacramento River at Verona which should bring up the large striped bass into the Feather River due to the abundance of food being washed into the system. We will not be surprised if some anglers catch stripers in the 30 and 40 pound range this year.

We have reports from both Englebright and Collins Lake. Trout were released from both pens last week plus other plants. Fish at Englebright Reservoir have been caught ranging from three to five pounds trolling near the marina. The water conditions at Englebright are still murky and cloudy. At Collins over 2500 trout were planted including releases from their holding pens. Fish are being caught by trollers and from the bank all over the lake. The water is still cloudy, but is clearing up a bit.

Our weather source, who several months ago predicted lots of rain, has advised to expect more rain in the valley floor and foothills on Wednesday (4-12-2017) or Thursday (4-13-17). He also predicts winds and snow in the high country.

Oroville dam dropped over 40 feet last week which put the areas bass were being caught in high and dry. Expect the bass to be found in deeper water now and will be more difficult to locate. Limits will be common once the large schools of fish are found.

Boots fishing tip for the week: “When bait fishing for striped bass with cut bait, add a night crawler to your hook.”


By Boots Johnson

The striped bass are coming into the river system. Most fish at this time are “shakers” ranging from six to 17 inches. Expect bigger fish to follow with limits common in the coming months of April, May and June. Water conditions on the Feather River are poor at this time due to the work on the damaged spillway at Oroville Dam.

Bullard’s Reservoir has been open to boaters, but be advised to use caution while underway due to lots of debris in the water. Efforts to clean up the reservoir are underway. Big spotted bass have been taken recently. We recommend fishing the points for fish which are holding in those areas.

The opener for trout fishing in the Sierras is quickly approaching but be prepared for high water conditions on most streams below the snow level. The bumper snowfall this year will continue to melt and raise the level of waters. Best bet for the opener would be to fish higher elevation streams to avoid discolored and higher water.

Englebright Reservoir has been on the murky side due to heavy releases from Bullard’s Bar reservoir. The dam has been at capacity for some time.

We recommend a phone call to Donner Lake before going up there. Last report told us the boat ramps have been plowed but were blocked off with no access.

Clear Lake is beginning to clear up a bit, but the bass fishing has been slow. We have the same with Lake Berryessa which is on the mend in regard to murky water.

Closing thought: “What is taken for granted will eventually be taken away.”


By Boots Johnson

We hear from an excellent source the salmon this year are in limited quantities. Ocean salmon fishing will be limited this year. The latest reports tell us Eureka and Crescent City will be closed this year. In addition, other areas on the Northern California Coast will be limited. The Pacific Fishery Management Council have stated the low Klamath River fall run kings counts are down to under 51,000. Expect a shorter season in Fort Bragg, which could end up with as short as 30 days. All this bad news is credited with five years of drought, which did not allow Juvenile salmon to make it to the ocean. Many died from lack of water or warm water temperature.

Anyone who crosses a bridge over the Feather River can see it will be some time before the river is fishable. A check with the Department of Water Resources at Oroville tells us the high water will be a factor for some time as they release water in preparation for the spring run off as well as the repair of the main spillway and the emergency spillway. We were told this effort will be underway for months on a 24/7 schedule in order to fix, repair or replace everything needed for our safety and the stability of the dam.

As of this writing the water release at Shasta Dam is down which has made the Sacramento River fishable with sturgeon and striped bass being caught on a regular basis even though the river is still high and off color. Reports tell us anglers are having fair to good luck from Colusa all the way to Sacramento.

The mackinaw lake trout at Lake Tahoe have shifted their bite to the west shore and are hanging out down to 200 feet and more. The fish are averaging from three to six pounds.

Collins Lake added another 1800 pounds of trout to their waters last week. With the water starting to clear the fishing in this reservoir should improve considerably. Our sincere sympathy goes out to Kathy Hess’ family. Her passing will be a blow to all who enjoyed her fishing reports and her expertise. God Bless.

Englebright Reservoir is planning to release their pen fed trout the end of March or the first part of April.

Lake Davis, near Portola, is still iced over and very dangerous at this time. It is highly recommended to stay off the ice due to the thinning taking place. It may look alright, but one person has already broken through and had to be rescued so it is best to stay away from this body of water until the ice melts.

CLOSING THOUGHT: “Sometimes you have to accept the fact that certain things will never go back to how they used to be.”


By Boots Johnson

We launched the red boat at Boyd’s Pump last Friday morning hoping for a chance of a striper dinner prior to the reported release of water from the Oroville spillway. We fished off and on down to Star Bend with only a couple of shakers. The water conditions were high and murky with the temperature in the fifties. Curiosity got the best of us so we went up river past the rapids (which were not a rapid) through the Jesus Hole and up a bit. The surprise was the conditions of the river bottoms. The Jesus Hole was back to normal at over thirty feet deep, but the river changed on the curve on the way down river just before the rapids. We observed a wall of sand on the right side which was next to the water and had to be at least six or seven feet high. In addition, trees were down, some with roots exposed as we traveled down river to star bend, some with broken off trunks. Expect new snags and hazards when the water drops back to normal.

Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association will host a striped bass derby on April 22, 2017. The derby is limited to fishing on the Sacramento and Feather Rivers from Verona to Butte City and Verona to Live Oak Dam. Weigh-in will be at Steelhead Lodge located at 3249 Butte Slough Road, Colusa, California. First prize is $1500.00 with second prize set at $1000.00 and third at $500.00. Cost is $80.00 entry fee, $20.00 for a big fish option. The fee includes a $20.00 membership/ lunch/water/derby entry and $20.00 in raffle tickets. A BBQ lunch will be served from 1 to 3 P.M. Info line: Janes Stone @ (530) 923-9440 or Scott Feist @ (530) 822-6314.

Reports tell us the big brown trout are hitting at Lake Almanor on the east shore. Fish six pounds and over are being caught.

Lake Francis Resort is hosting their fourth annual Sportsman’s Day on May 6, 2017 to be held at Bullard’s Bar Reservoir. More later on this two-man tournament.

Mackinaw Lake Trout are on the bite at Lake Tahoe on the South Shore. Charter boats reported last week fish were being caught from 9 to 12 pounds. The fish are hanging out in 70 to 150 feet of water. The big macks were feeding on six to eight inch kokanee salmon.

Closing thought: “Be concerned less about doing things right and more about doing the right thing.”


By Boots Johnson

We have reports of striped bass being caught in the Feather River. Some of the hot spots are Shanghai Bend and the Nicolas Bridge. With the water on the murky and occasionally high side, it would probably be a best bet to use bait.

We are happy to hear about the ban on lead tackle being reversed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. This happened on his first day as the 52nd Secretary of the Department of Interior. This reversal also pertained to lead ammunition. This law was initiated during the last minutes of the Obama Administration without public review or comment.

Since all the rivers and streams in Northern California are running high and murky, with some still downright muddy, it might be a good bet to head to the Delta. San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay are hot at this time for sturgeon. All that high, muddy water that has been running down from above has really turned the fish on.

The Sacramento River is still high and murky. Expect this river to improve soon which will make the striped bass fishing much better. Once the river stabilizes expect a bumper year for stripers from April all the way into June.

Clear Lake has reopened to boaters, but there is a speed restriction within one quarter of a mile from shore. This will be in effect until the water level drops.

Lake Almanor is still high and murky but some anglers are having success with trout when the water is calm. Best bet is using tube flies from the surface down to 10 feet as the weather warms.

Our last check at Lake Oroville tells us the debris is still problem, although it has improved some. Until the lake water clears up do not expect any good fishing.

BOOTS FISHING TIP FOR THE WEEK: “Some who fish do not realize the importance of fresh, new line until the trophy of a lifetime breaks that old line and swims away.”


By Boots Johnson

A check of reservoirs, boat ramps and other areas this past week tells us fishing and access is still a factor. With the release at Oroville reduced or shut down the Feather River is fishable. Don’t expect a lot of action until the water stabilizes and gets away from being murky. We are told the Yuba City Boat Ramp has been cleared for launching. Lake Almanor, up Chester way, is beginning to clear but is still high and muddy. Clear Lake, the last time we asked, was still closed. Englebright Reservoir off of Highway 20 above Marysville is closed. The high water has messed up local rivers for steelhead. We recommend you check ahead for conditions before planning any outing for boating or fishing at this time.

There is a bunch of snow in the high country which will be melting as spring approaches. We pray for a normal spring runoff this year and not warm weather or rain to soon. There has been enough high water this year. Besides, a normal runoff will be good for fishing.

We wonder how many anglers, in the madhouse of evacuation, released all lines on their boat which secured it to the trailer and then tied a line to a tree or stationary object. During the 1997 evacuation I did this to my boat and again it was done two weeks ago during that evacuation. Some boats will float attached to the trailer, but some will sink.

I do not know why the spillway failed at Oroville. We all know the emergency spillway should have been concrete, not dirt. However, we all made it without a disaster, one which would have been much larger than any flood in my memory, which goes back to the flood of 1950, followed by 1955, 1986 and 1997. We send out a big “thank you” to all the people who worked so hard around the clock to keep us safe.

CLOSING THOUGHT: “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”


By Boots Johnson

All of us who fish wish for a chance to catch the big fish which will be the topic of conversation for years to come. To many of us it does not matter if it swims in salt or fresh water or clean or dirty water. To others it must be a “big one” caught in their favorite fishing hole or a backwoods trout stream and to some anglers their wish is in the ocean or a huge reservoir. To some the feat must be accomplished in the presence of others for bragging rights.

No matter where it might happen it will be the thrill of a lifetime. I have been fortunate to have caught large fish in just about all of the above mentioned waters. But the one that sticks in my mind is that large brown trout caught the opening weekend of trout season many years ago. Bill and I were fishing in high, fast murky water in the middle of the Feather River canyon. He decided to go down stream so I went up stream. I spotted the current on the opposite side of the river feeding a large pool directly in front of me. The distance to than fast water was too far for me to cast with my fly rod so I climbed a large rock, gaining about thirty or forty feet. I had decided, upon seeing the water conditions, to tie on one of the biggest flies In my creel, a streamer I had tied several years prior to imitate a rainbow minnow.

My idea was to drop that big streamer fly right where the white water was as it churned into the pool. My first cast was right on the money and I stripped line off the reel like crazy to keep up with the fast water. Finally my line slowed down as it moved across the pool I felt a jerk and set the hook. I was standing on top of the big boulter and as I retrieved my line I could see the fish in the early morning light.

As I brought the fish towards me and it began swimming on top of the water I could see is was a small rainbow when suddenly the water exploded and the fish disappeared. My fly rod doubled over and I let out a hoot so loud Bill turned, saw what was going on and began walking back towards me.

I was running two pound leader and was worried about a breakage as the fly line zipped across the water and back again. Then the fish decided to head down stream and I had a heck of a time holding him so he would not strip my spool. I had two problems. One was the fast water and the other was the size of the fish.

After what seemed like a lot longer than a couple minutes I carefully laid the big fish on the sand bar below, jumped down and grabbed the trout. Just before I had the fish in my grasp the little rainbow came out of the bigger fish’s mouth. As I sat there with a big grin on my face I marveled at the size of the

brown trout. My de-liar scale measured him at 16 ¾ inches. The brown was spectacular in colors and was covered in black spots with orange running off his body into the fins and gills.

That was an amazing morning and it was not that the brown was large for the area, but because I had caught not one fish but two at the same time on the same fly. Needless to say, Bill and I talked about

that day for years and it was a great tale to tell around the campfire to those who had not heard the story.

To this day I marvel how the small eight inch rainbow trout managed to swallow my two inch streamer fly.

CLOSING THOUGHT: Never assume you are stuck with the way things are. Life changes every minute and so can you.”


By Boots Johnson


We start off this week’s column with a big “HATS OFF” to the hard work done by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. While Oroville, Marysville, Yuba City, Olivehurst, Live Oak and Gridley were in the process of evacuation of their homes and businesses employees of the DFW were removing eggs and salmon fry from the fish hatchery on the Feather River. These dedicated state employees rescued 8 million little baby salmon and steelhead from the dirty rising water. Over 60 hatchery workers from all over the state were responsible for rescuing millions of spring chinook and another three million fall kiing salmon so they could be transported by truck to the Thermalito Hatchery. You people, as far I am concerned and those who salmon fish, are part of the heroes during this time of emergency last week and maybe into the coming months.


Well folks, here we go again. It appears there are people In Sacramento who want to protect the Yellow legged Frog. We went through this in the past with the red legged frog with many lakes and reservoirs either poisoned or placed on a list forbidding the planting of any trout. I believe, and correct me if I am wrong, that ban finally was attributed not to the fish eating the frogs or the tadpoles but a fungus which was doing the killing of so many frogs before they reached the adult size. We suggest all of you out there who fish for trout in the foothills and the Sierras keep an eye on this situation.


Look for the striped bass run to be late this year and it will probably run into June. This must bring back some memories for those who have fished for these fish in the past. We do not expect the run of stripers until mid-march. For the last four years, during the drought, we have seen fish showing up as early as the middle of February. This year will more than likely be like old times with a chance to catch stripers and shad at the same time.


Expect higher water conditions for the opening weekend for trout in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. With all the water, including the snow pack, the opening the end of April will probably have high and murky water. There might even be changes in the streams in regard to the filling of pools with sand and maybe a change in some small creeks natural beds, especially in the sharp curves of the water flow.


CLOSING THOUGHT: “The truth is still the truth, even if no one believes it. A lie is still a lie, even if everyone believes it.”


By Boots Johnson


Several months ago we were praying and hoping for rain. After four years of drought the water picture, which included fishing, was bleak. Fast forward several months and we are now hoping the rains stay away and the snow in the mountains stay in place until spring. Sadly, this is not the case. Our weather source advice us to expect rain on the valley floor and foothills starting on Wednesday or Thursday and continuing through the weekend with snow above 6000 feet.


The current high water will certainly benefit those of us who fish. The high water will bring more fish into the Feather River as well as the Yuba River. Striped Bass fishing on the Feather right in Yuba City should be great and black and spotted bass should be first hand in local reservoirs. Trout in reservoirs will be on the bite once the water clears.

The last four years of drought has taken its toll on lakes, reservoirs and rivers in Northern California. The Department of Fish and Wildlife rearing pens for trout took several hits with disease caused by the lack of water and with the water being too warm. The trout planting program really slowed down because of the drought. Some streams, which were spawning areas for salmon almost dried up.


With all the water now in local reservoirs which is rushing down the Feather, Yuba, Bear and American Rivers we will be seeing many changes. Some of those changes will be the depth of water, the removal of obstructions and the additions of other trees and debris which was not it that certain spot prior to the high water.


Once the Feather River stabilizes and is fishable I would not be surprised to see anglers hooking onto that prehistoric sturgeon. These monsters are bottom feeders and there is usually a striper Fisherman in the Sacramento River getting surprised with a sturgeon. The high water in the Feather will make this a chance as well. So folks, if you see the end of your pole move slightly, twitch a little and then slowing pull down it might not be a crawdad but one of the big guys. If this is your day set the hook hard and hang on for a wild ride.


Closing thought: “Be calm and crazy....laugh, love and live it up because this is the oldest you have been, the youngest you will ever be again.”