Hot bassin' on Bruin Ranch

By: J.D. Richey, Journal Outdoors Columnist
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There’s a 2,300 acre piece of fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation nirvana in North Auburn that I really hope you get a chance to check out. If you’ll recall, I took a tour of the epic private wonderland known as Bruin Ranch last fall with Placer Land Trust’s executive director, Jeff Darlington. To refresh your memory, the ranch, which lies near Auburn Valley Country Club, is coming up for sale and the landowner has given PLT first shot at purchasing it. Darlington’s outfit is trying to come up with funding to buy the land and turn it into a public recreation area. And man, oh, man … the recreation opportunities here are endless. In addition to a ton of wildlife to view (and hunt), the fishing on Bruin Ranch is top-notch. When we visited the place last November, Darlington and I took a few moments to sample the red-hot smallmouth bass fishing in Bruin’s two-plus miles of Bear River frontage. A couple weeks back, we returned to the property to do a little “investigative fisheries work” and checked out what the many ponds had to offer. Bass City With all the funky weather we’ve had this spring, the bass on the Ranch were still feeling a little mixed up … but that didn’t stop us from catching nearly a fish a cast in the first pond, a beautiful six-acre affair that featured everything a basser could ask for – submerged trees, weedy shorelines, tule banks, shallow spawning coves, an inlet stream and deep water near the dam. We started off catching fish on small Lucky Craft Pointer rip baits and then also found some bass on Senkos and GULP worms rigged on shaky heads. But small DOA jerk shad (think Flukes) rigged weightless and weedless were super deadly. Most of the bass were on the smaller side, from one to three pounds, but they more than made up for their lack of size with sheer numbers. I did see larger fish — including one that would have gone 10 or 11 pounds — but the combination of a bouncing barometer and the fact that we were fishing in the dead middle of the day didn’t help our chances for glory. I would, however, love to hit this place on a warm summer evening and fish into the dark hours! Too Much to Explore It would have taken us a week to properly sample all the ponds on the Ranch and we just didn’t have the time, but Darlington and I hit a few others before we had to leave. As we drove through the rolling oak woodlands to the other big pond, another five- or six- acre job, we stopped and peered into many of the smaller tanks that ranged in size from an Olympic swimming pool to maybe a quarter-acre. The place was alive … there were bass, sunfish and bluegill everywhere! And I’m sure there are some big catfish in at least some of the ponds, too. The second big lake we fished was rimmed with reeds and had very little shore access. Still, we managed several nice bass in the few open water spots we could reach and kicked ourselves for not bringing along a couple belly boats. With the ability to get out on the water, there’s no telling how many fish we could have caught. All in all, the fishing was spectacular and I’m sure will only get better as the weather stabilizes. Let’s make this place ours! Again, the big picture here is to turn Bruin Ranch into a place that the public can enjoy. PLT has until the end of 2010 to come up with $12.7 million (plus an additional $2 million to cover management costs) to purchase the property. If Darlington’s outfit can make it happen, the 2,300 acres of Bruin Ranch will be added to an adjoining 1,700 acres that PLT has already acquired, giving the public 4,000 contiguous acres of outdoor wonderland to enjoy and making it truly one of the area’s marquee spots for public recreation. If not, the place is zoned for 900 homes… Log onto to send a donation or see what you can do to help out. In the meantime, visit to see more pictures from our exploratory fishing trip to Bruin Ranch. Hope to see you out there some day!