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The Napa Valley Fishing Report: Sturgeon prefer a muddy Napa River
The Fishing Report

The Napa Valley Fishing Report: Sturgeon prefer a muddy Napa River

  • Updated

Napa River Drainage… has not produced that muddy water that calls the big sturgeon to come up into town to eat. I use Sulphur Creek up here in St. Helena as my checkpoint. While it has run clear and slow a couple of times this year, it has not run brown.

Brown water washes little critters that live in the mud banks down the Napa River where sturgeon will come up into town for a little critter feast. Usually, brown water lasts during the rainy season — then clearing spring weather will signal the striper return.

Berryessa Is Pretty Flat… at just under 420 feet above sea level, and has been there for a long time. This is about 21 feet below the Glory Hole, which sits at 440 feet above sea level. But, remember, this is a deep lake; Google says that its maximum depth is 275 feet, so you will find a wider range of water temperatures than, say, Clear Lake, which is only about 35 feet at its deepest. That’s one reason you will find more fish to catch that prefer different water temps. An example: Berryessa carries smallmouth bass that like colder waters, whereas Clear Lake is too warm for them.

Mooching for king salmon, reported in the Hot Sheet last week continues to bring heavy fishing pressure to Berryessa. But here’s Sweeney’s Sports’ Luke Lipanovich’s Hot Sheet report on today’s broader bite: “Trollers have been struggling to catch trout, but there has been some big crappie taken up north near Putah Creek. The trout seem to be moving into the back of the creeks. Numbers of bass to 4 pounds are possible but finding the larger versions of the species has been difficult…”

Bass guide Don Paganelli (916-502-FISH) is starting to work plastics on a drop-shot or small swim baits in the 20 to 25 foot range. He also told the Hot Sheet, “When you find the bait schools, working spoons can also be good.”

More On Luke Lipanovich… The 2017 Vintage High School graduate, who starred in football and baseball for the Crushers, came in fourth in a recent Clear Lake Bass Tournament with fishing partner Joe Mariani, a 2020 Winters High alumnus who played baseball for the Warriors.

Their umbrella rig led the way to his strong finish, along with deep-diving crank baits and underspins in water depths between 13 and 25 feet. Lipanovich went on to tell the Hot Sheet, “… but the bass were really nomadic and were moving all over the place. We were getting bit in flurries, and sometimes we went over an hour without a bite.”

My approach to these seasonal changes is to hire a guide you trust or ask the team at a bait and tackle store you trust. Either of these will shorten your learning curve and help you land more fish.

Wither The Water… Here’s a base-line look at Clear Lake’s most recent Rumsey Gauge readings. The Jan. 26 reading was .62 foot and on Feb. 2, it stood at .90 foot. It hit its highest on Jan. 27 at .91 feet. It’s sometimes easier to visualize these fractional depths by seeing them in inches. For example, .62 foot is only 7.44 inches. And .90 feet is only 10.8 inches (of course, these depths are at the Rumsey Gauge measuring station).

A Rumsey 1 is deemed an empty lake. So we have a long way to go to a “full” lake, which is a Rumsey depth of 7.56 feet. Worse, we are running out of rainy weather months. Let’s face it: a full lake is best for fishing because of its wide, shallow banks with lots of cover for baitfish, and bass are under water and working for us. I’m not much on praying for rain — maybe you loyal readers can get us another 5 inches of rain in February with a prayer or two.

If you don’t mind, ask for it in February so the muddy water and run-off is all settled down by March 25 when we start our spring attack on big bass in Clear Lake. If you haven’t booked a guide yet, now is the time. Our favorite is pro guide Bob Myskey, at 349-4460. He put me on a 10.1-pound largemouth bass up Adobe Creek a couple of Aprils ago — my personal best bass, caught and released.

Smith River Readings… Jan. 26 river flows were 2,000 cubic feet per second. On Feb. 2, they were 21,000 cfs. These numbers reflect some serious rainstorms in that watershed, just what is needed to get big wild steelhead moving up.

In that same period, the water stage (height) went from 7 feet to just over 15 feet. As that water settles down, look for it to hit the sweet spot called “steely green,” with flows at 8,000 to 10,000 cfs and a depth between 9 and 11 feet.

The Smith is short and rocky, so it tends to clear up quickly after big rains. Call my pro river guide, Kevin Brock, at 800-995-5543 to ask him when to come up to Crescent City to fish the Smith with him. Stan Press caught and released a magnificent 20-pound steelhead out of Kevin’s boat. I caught one that went 15 pounds. They are strong, smart, and tough to land — that’s why you want to target a Smith River steelhead.


Families and business owners are busy cleaning up after an atmospheric river brought flooding rains and blinding snow to California.

Email Bill Ryan at

Email Bill Ryan at

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