I Promise … not to flood you with water level data. But, these past weeks had some extraordinary rain events that are worth looking at.
Sulphur Creek is wider, deeper, browner, and angrier than I have seen it in the five years that I have checked it. It is the perfect partner to the Napa River as we look for widespread sturgeon action up and down the river. The angry brown water washes little mud critters out of the banks on its way downriver. Those big diamond backs have learned to be ready to chow down with the water is brown. Stop in at Sweeney’s Sports on Imola (255-5544) for the latest hot spots and bait. In fast changing situations, the tackle store is “Info Central.” I’d be wanting some grass shrimp, eel and roe to make some unique combo cocktail bait offerings.
Clear Lake’s Rumsey Gauge level on Sunday, Jan. 15 was at 7.2 feet. That is an increase of 4.9 feet since Dec. 11. That large vertical rise covers additional miles of sloping shoreline where bass like to find prey fish to eat in the spring. I’m betting that the lake reaches the “full mark” of 7.56 feet before you read this on Thursday. Quick run-up can cause some muddy patches but they will settle out before spring. Don’t wait to book some spring dates because this full lake information will have guides’ phones ringing off the hook. We are fishing with pro guide, Bob Myskey (274-0373) eight times from February through May.
Lake Berryessa has a way to go to go over the “glory hole,” but it is filling faster than I have seen it in 30 years. With a nod to my long-suffering math teachers, here are some numbers comparing Jan. 8, 2017 with Dec. 8, 2016:
Net inflow (cubic feet per second, cfs) on Jan. 8—40,005 cfs compared to only 154 cfs on Dec. 8.
Lake surface elevation on Dec. 8 was 399 feet above sea level and on Jan. 8 it had gone up 12 feet to 411 feet above sea level.
The overflow “glory hole” is 440 feet above sea level — so the present lake level is only 29 feet below the spill over compared to 41 feet back on Dec. 8. Will it overflow? Stay tuned.
When Pro Guide Bob Myskey speaks … on Clear Lake bassing, it pays to listen. Here’s what he had to say about the lake in a recent note: “Hi Bill, sorry for the late reply. With the recent large amount of rainfall and with more being predicted, it is going to take some time for the lake to clear up. Normally the lake can clear up within a week or so if the creeks are not running hard. This year so far the rain has been pretty consistent and the creeks are running and any rainfall of any amount is now running into the lake.
“The lake is only a few inches from its full mark and the dam is releasing at over 2,000 cubic feet per second every day in order to control the lake level and prevent any flood damage from pending storms.
“The effect on the fishing currently is that the muddy water makes for a much tougher bite because the fish cannot easily see the bait. The other effect that high water will have is that the bass will have a lot of cover with the flooded tules as we move into the spring time patterns.
“All in all while the current conditions and conditions through February will result in a slower and tougher bite, the end result of a full lake, lots of cover for the bass fry during the spawn, will all bode well for great fishing later on. Here at Clear Lake, a rapidly rising lake is nothing new, and the current situation of muddy water is not new, and all will clear up as we go into the later part of March and the first part of April. We just finished one of the best years in over 10 years and I predict that 2017 will be just as good.”
Let me add that we saw hundreds of small bass all year long that will grow up to be 5, 6 ,7 pounders real soon. The millions of healthy bait fish in the lake will help the bass to do this quickly.
What’s Next … A period of nature’s adjustment to the new water levels will take a month or so. But the full lakes, high rivers and scoured out bays will give us better fishing conditions that any time in the past four years. Better check your calendar and reserve guides for trips starting no later than March (sturgeon right now!)
Locally here’s what will be on tap: freshwater bass in all local lakes and farm ponds, steelhead in all the north coast streams with the combo of the Smith/Chetco the prime location, sturgeon in the Delta, Bays and close by in the Napa River, an improving striper bite in those same places. March will start the striper run on the lower Sac, wild rainbows will become active in April/May on the Sac at Redding.
Take some down time know to get out and inspect all of your gear and fishing duds. Repair, renew and replace stuff that can let you down when that trophy fish bites. I use the team at Sweeney’s on Imola (255-5544) to help with that evaluation and recommend upgrades and replacements.
Don’t Pollute; Don’t Trash … our waterways. Here’s what to do when you are fishing out of a boat. Stuff the trash in your pocket and sort it at the trash can when you land. You can’t just leave it on the deck where it will blow over at first run. Go ahead and toss sandwich ends and apple cores, etc. overboard. But not orange rinds — they don’t degrade and critters won’t eat them — so they mess up the lake forever.