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.”


By Boots Johnson

We take our hats off to Bob Boucke who has encouraged the promotion of fishing all over Norther California. He has been instrumental in helping to get our children interested in the world of fishing by being involved in the Annual Kiwanis Club’s Kids Fishing Derby held at Ellis Lake in Marysville. He has held many fishing seminars and has paved the way for so many to a lifetime of wonderful fishing experiences and memories. Then he went the extra mile a week ago last Monday by shoveling all the mud, sand and debris, by himself, off of the boat ramp at Boyd’s Pump boat ramp so others could have access to the Feather River. I am talking about a heck of a wonderful person, a guy who loves the outdoors and is just about the best reference to knowledge about fishing out there unless you are a professional guide. We hear that Johnson’s Bait and Tackle located on Garden Highway in Yuba City is for sale. This is indeed sad to hear because Bob who owns that business, will be retiring. The best to you Bob and we hope you enjoy many years on the water. Thanks for always thinking of the other guy...now it is time to think about you. HAPPY RETIREMENT!!


Several people who fish were at a local coffee shop last week. One of the people at the table was new to the Yuba-Sutter area. During the topic of conversation which was about water conditions and fishing he asked the question. “I want to take my daughter fishing. Where should I go?” Silence came around the table and suddenly someone said, “Take her to Ellis Lake!” How true this suggestion was due to blown out rivers, muddy streams and murky reservoirs. Before the conversation ended at the completion of breakfast our new member in this area was reassured of the great fishing yet to come when the waters in the Sacramento Valley and the foothills are once again fishable.


Well folks, the recent planting of small steelhead into the Feather River at Yuba City failed to produce the usual schools of hungry stripers. The high water in the river has been blamed for the demise of the striped bass due to the baby fish being swept downstream so quickly.


Thanks Pete for the kind words. I promise not to tell about your favorite fishing hole in this column.


Clear Lake is huge so do not plan on going from one end to the other due to a 5 MPH speed limit in effect at this time.

High water or not, Collins Lake above Marysville still will be planting rainbow trout by the February holidays. Look for action to return to this popular reservoir as soon as the water clears and stabilizes.


Boots fishing tip of the week: “Check that starting battery in your boat and while you are in

the process, make sure you also check and charge the trolling motor.”


By Boots Johnson

We have a weather report from our weather guy who advises to expect rain by the weekend. This should continue the rising of rivers, streams and reservoirs in the Sacramento Valley and foothills with debris and murky or muddy water. Expect striped bass to start showing up in the Feather River as January comes to an end and February arrives. This time of year the small steelhead, planted by the Department of Fish and Wildlife bring the stripers up river for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


In regard to the month of January, there are a tremendous group of people out there who are scratching their heads and wondering where the month went. I agree and found it amazing just how fast the first month of the year disappeared.


We are told to expect high water in the Sacramento River to continue for a while to relieve Lake Shasta, which still has a bunch of water in its boundaries. At the time of this report (1-30-17) there were no boat ramps open on the river. In addition, roads that cross the bypasses are still currently closed.


Lake Oroville is still releasing lots of water and has reduced the out flow some, but will probably increase one again if the predicted rains return.


A report up at Lake Almanor tells us the area is cold, real cold with boat ramps frozen over and ice on the north end of the lake. The upcoming storms will more than likely increase the white stuff in the high Sierras.


Once all the water stabilizes in rivers, streams and reservoirs we can expect a bumper year for fishing. However, do not be surprised if you find one of your favorite trout streams has changed course a bit or even filled in a favorite pool with sand and gravel. In regard to this keep in mind to be cautious running the Feather River this year. Sandbars will be moved and some areas will be shallower in addition to possible underwater hazards such as fallen trees, etc.


Reports down in the Delta tell us they have lots of water there and most of the marinas are on hold at this time. The striped bass fishing has been slow. Much of the water in that area is brown from all the high river flow into the area.


We have reports of steelhead being caught in the Upper Feather River on roe, spinners, night crawlers and glow bugs. Expect this to get better as the waters clear and the flows stabilize.


We hear from Englebright Reservoir above Marysville. The water has receded to below the parking lot and the ramp is accessible but fishing has been poor.

It would be best to wait awhile before going up to Scotts Flat Reservoir. This body of water sits at around 5000 feet in elevation and has snow, mud and dirty water to contend with. As soon as things dry up a bit expect the fishing to be excellent.


Closing thought: “Do not be defined by your past. It was only a lesson, cannot be changed and was not a life sentence.”


By Boots Johnson


As I write this column yet another storm is due to invade California with heavy rains, high winds and lots of the white stuff in the mountains.


Fishing for sturgeon has been tough on the Sacramento River with the main problem being debris. Might be a good idea, if you decide to go fishing at this time, is to try the Sutter Bypass for catfish. There should be some good sized fish in the flooded areas.


Things are back to normal at Bullard’s Bar Reservoir after the barrier broke surrounding the dam which was caused by recent storms. As we stated last week local anglers are seeing strange boats and people there due to the record bass taken with the news spreading all over the west.


Folsom lake is removing water at maximum flow due to the reservoir being full and the weather reports telling us we are in for another soaking. The American River is running high from toe of levee to toe of levee. Lake Oroville is also dumping lots of water into the Feather River. Last report was 20,000 fps. In addition, the Yuba River is still running toe to toe with Englebright spilling over the top and Bullard’s dam running big time.


All of this water is putting a damper on fishing but some are still out there doing their thing on or near the water. We certainly hope those who go are careful and stay safe.


We attended the Sports Expo in Sacramento last Thursday and found just about anything you would want to look over or purchase. Lots of “show specials” with great price reduction. On the right of the entrance gates they had a building for kids. Even had a pond there with trout swimming around with rod, reel and line available for boys and girls to catch and release a fish. The program that was offered also included instruction on helping the environment and another on how to set up a campsite and so on. This is a great idea (the first this year) for the boys and girls to get first hand info and actually be a part of the process.


We talked about fishing for striped bass in the Feather River at Yuba City. This was stated in this column some time ago and now it appears this will be for sure the way the water situation looks in the North state. So................get that boat cleaned up, check out the tackle box, put some new line on those reels and let’s go fishing right in our back yard.

Boots fishing tip of the week: “Might be a good idea to check the hold in your boat for excessive water from recent heavy rains.”