Hot fishing options for the deep freeze

By: J.D. Richey Journal Outdoors Columnist
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Okay, so I have to come clean here. I am suffering from a huge lack of inspiration as I am writing this. You see, as I type away on my Blackberry, 80-degree water is lapping at my toes and the sun here on the beach in Kauai is glowing brilliantly against a beautiful cloudless sky. It’s kinda hard to get fired up about fishing back home, where I understand it’s recently felt more like Grand Forks, ND or eastern Siberia than the California foothills. Obviously, I picked a good time to get outta dodge! Anyway, this big deep freeze hasn’t been doing local anglers a whole lot of favors. About the best action I have heard about in the past week has been king salmon fishing on the Sacramento River above Knights Landing, where local guides Michael Peckham and Jerry “Prince of Darkness” Lampkin have been catching a few beautiful chromers while trolling spinners downstream. It’s not been a hot bite, mind you, with one or two grabs a day, but the fish are absolutely gorgeous! Down on the Delta, the already sputtering striper bite has gotten tougher in the cold and my guide buddies have been reporting a major slow down. Now, about the only way to get bit is to dunk cut shad on the anchor... or maybe find a deep dwelling school (think 25-40 feet of water) and drop a 1.5-ounce Blade Runner jig down on them.  If you have steelhead on the brain, it is time to start paying attention to the North Coast. All waters up there have been low, clear and extremely cold but there is some rain in the forecast pretty much all through the weekend. What happens up there will, of course, depend on how much rain hits. At the moment, the storm looks to be more of a southerly affair and the Eel River drainage may get the biggest pulse of water. If so, there will be some good sized steelies on tap. Take a few spinners or Kwikfish with you just in case a few straggler kings show up. Remember you have to release everything here. The Mad River has been closed due to low flows pretty much all fall. Khevin Mellegers at Mad River Outfitters in Arcata reports that there are quite a few steelhead showing in the lower river and that the action may be pretty solid once the flows come up. Up on the Smith River, the rain may not do a lot but it should bring the last of the kings in and the vanguard of the winter steelies. You want flows here above 14 feet on the Doc Fine Bridge gauge for the fishing to be good. Probably one of the best local bets in the cold is Lake Amador, where another 3,000 pounds of cuttbow trout were just planted last week. The fish are holding (like usual) right on the surface and you can get em on nightcrawlers or Woolly Buggers fished behind a clear plastic water bobber. From shore or boat, also try tossing 1/32-ounce marabou jigs in orange, olive, purple or black. The lake is nearly 50 feet down so the fish are pretty concentrated... the fishermen too! Well that’s about it for now. Stay warm! J.D. Richey is a 1986 Placer High graduate whose outdoors pieces have been published nationally. Find him on the Web at