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Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 13, 2012
It’s no secret that many of the reservoirs in northern California’s foothill region offer excellent trout fishing. Most years, the trout action at these reservoirs heats up during the latter part of March and extends through late June, when rising surface temperatures drive the trout into their deep water haunts.
This year’s relatively dry February, combined with the spring like temperatures that dominated the middle portion of the month spurred a solid late winter trout bite in many of the north state’s foothill impoundments. Indeed, from Shasta in the north to Don Pedro in the south and most everywhere in between the trout fishing has been very good. Over the past couple weeks I’ve had the opportunity to sample some of this trout action first hand.
On February 10, my dad and I made the short trip from Auburn to Collins Lake. Over the years, Collins Lake has become one of my favorite trout fishing destinations. Not only does the lake feature big numbers of trout as a result of the most aggressive stocking program north of Sacramento, but it also offers anglers a realistic opportunity to land a trophy trout over 5 pounds.
Dad and I arrived at the lake around 9 o’clock. Since my Gregor was in storage and my new Jet Craft wasn’t yet ready to be delivered we planned on fishing off the bank. When we stopped at the store to pick up some worms we had the opportunity to speak with Lincoln Young, Collins Lake Recreation Area’s general manager. He related that bank anglers were doing well from the swim beach to the dam.
Minutes latter we were parked on a point near the dam. We each set up two spinning rods with sliding bullet sinkers, 24 inch 4 pound test Vanish fluorocarbon leaders, and No. 10 Gamakatsu octopus hooks. Both of us baited one rod with Power Bait and the other with an inflated worm. At first the sun felt good, however after an hour without a bite we were feeling hot and ready to check out a new spot. We headed to the swim beach in hopes of finding some cooperative trout and a little shade. When we got there we found a half dozen anglers scattered along the shoreline and most of them had two or more trout on their stringers. It looked as if we were in the right spot.
We both baited our rods as we had before, except this time instead of inflating my worm with air I shot it full of Pro-Cure anise oil. I’d just settled into my chair when my “worm rod” showed the tell tale signs of a bite. Opening the bail, I fed the trout several feet of line before setting the hook. Minutes later I slid the fat holdover rainbow onto dry land and we had our first trout of the day. For the rest of the afternoon we enjoyed steady action. The highlight came when Dad hooked and landed a thick bodied brown that just couldn’t pass up Dad’s “anise ‘crawler”. When we left the lake we took home the brown, three holdover rainbows, and one recently planted rainbow, more than enough for a couple trout dinners!
February 25 found Dad and I on the road in search of trout once again. This time the destination was Lake Pardee. Lake Pardee opened for fishing on February 3 and anglers had been landing limits of pansize trout in addition to some whoppers as evidenced by the 6.6 pound beauty caught by Bob Roth on February 15. My dad had never visited Pardee and I’d only been there twice. Both times I fished the lake last season easy limits were the rule.
When we arrived just after 8:30 we headed for the point to the south of the launch ramp on the lake’s north arm. There were several anglers dotting the shoreline and a few of them had trout. Dad set up his rods right away, while I walked around a bit taking photo’s of successful anglers.
When I returned about a half hour later I baited one rod with a night crawler injected with Pro-Cure garlic oil and tossed it out. I was planning to rig my second rod up with a slip bobber. Just as I started rigging the bobber my first rod registered a solid bite. I grabbed the rod, let the trout move off with the bait, and set the hook. Dad hadn’t had a bite. Attributing my quick success to the garlic oil, he reeled in his baits and added some scent to them as I put my rainbow on the stringer.
It took less than five minute for dad to nail his first trout of the day and we thought we were dialed in. Unfortunately, the trout hadn’t gotten the news and for the next 3 hours we went without another bite. Finally, we decided to move to the cove on the reverse side of the point and try our luck there.
Well, I’m sorry to relate that the change in scenery didn’t change our luck. As we waited for a bite that never came I visited with Ed Healy, a Lake Pardee regular. He told me that the fishing had been really consistent for the first couple weeks after the opener, but that things had slowed down for bank anglers once the lake managers started dropping the water level.
Knowing that the lake is home to some big smallmouth bass, such as the 8.7 pound fish landed by Nick Welton on February 12, Dad and I decided to finish out the day tossing plastic worms and jigs. I’d like to report that we nailed a fat smallie, but it just wasn’t meant to be. In the end it didn’t really matter. We’d met some new friends, dad got to check out a new fishing hole, and best of all we had the main course for a couple more trout dinners!
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