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Time for trout at Shasta

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Outdoors, by J.D. Richey, Journal Columnist With the weather looking better and better (I don?t know what happened last weekend!), it?s time to dust off the rods, spool your reels up with some fresh line, dig out the tackle boxes and remove the mountain of stuff that you?ve got piled on the boat in the garage. Spring?s definitely in the air and that means that trout fishing should be good at a bunch of lakes in Northern California. Places like Folsom, Collins, Rollins, Pardee, Camanche and Amador should all have pretty good bites right now, but if you?re looking for some truly world-class trout action, you can?t beat Lake Shasta. And we?re not talking round-tailed 12-inch truck trout here, either. You can catch some beautiful football-shaped rainbows that are truly fighting machines along with some salmon-sized browns Speaking of salmon, Shasta also has a good population of king salmon that get pretty big, too. And of course, the lake is also a quality bass fishery, but let?s focus on trout here because April is prime time. ?The weather can still be a player this time of year, but it?s also when the bigger fish are pretty common,? said Gary Miralles of Shasta Tackle & Sportfishing, based right on the lake. ?There are some smaller holdover rainbows around, but in general, we usually see native fish in the two- to five-pound range in April. There are also quite a few browns that will go six to eight pounds and sometimes much more. My largest brown is 12.5 pounds and the lake record is just over 16 pounds.? Miralles said the key to locating the lake?s chunky trout is to find the bait. In the summer months, he looks for schools of threadfin shad, but in the spring, Miralles targets areas that have high concentrations of plankton. ?The shad are down deep in the spring, but the plankton will be right up on the surface and that?s what the trout will be eating,? he said. ?I just look for it up top. When you find the plankton, it will almost look like water?s muddy. Where you find those blooms, you?ll find the fish.? Once the plankton is located, he said that the action can wild and multiple hook-ups are not uncommon. When fishing the plankton, Miralles uses a very simple technique to put fish in the boat. He likes to troll Cripplures or Rapalas in gold or fluorescent colors right on the surface with no weight and no attractor blades. He?ll run the lures at least 125 feet ? and sometimes 150 to 200 feet ? behind the boat so that he doesn?t spook the fish. Most of the trout will be right under the surface, but sometimes he will also run a lure or two off a downrigger set for 10 or 15 feet just to have all the bases covered. One the deeper lines, he?ll often picks up some of the lake?s landlocked king salmon as an added bonus. ?When toplining, I like to use a reel with a line counter so I can tell how far my lures are out,? he said. ?A stiff rod really helps you stick the fish when they hit because you?ll have a lot of stretch in the line with so much of it out there.? In April, Miralles concentrates his efforts on the upper ends of the reservoir?s arms. The Pit River arm is one of his favorites for rainbows, but when he?s specifically after lunker browns, he?ll fish the McCloud River arm. On occasion, Miralles will also troll the boat launch areas right after a load of planter rainbows has been stocked. The big browns will often move into those areas to feast on the truck trout and they can be caught by trollers pulling rainbow imitations like A.C. Plugs and Castaic Trout. ?The best launch for fishing the Pit River area is at Jones Valley,? he said. ?To fish the upper McCloud, I?d head for the ramp at Hirz Bay, and for the main body of the lake, launch at Bridge Bay. If I?m fishing the Sacramento River arm, I?ll drive up to Lakehead and put in at the Antlers launch. At the public ramps, it?s $5 to launch a boat.? Lake Shasta is about a three hour drive up I-5. There are numerous campgrounds and marinas on the lake and the nearby town of Redding has everything you?d need ? tackle shops, motels, boat dealers, restaurants, fuel, etc. If you want more information on fishing the lake, give Miralles a ring at (530) 275-2278. ??? J.D. Richey graduated from Placer High in 1986. He has been published nationally. To reach him, call (916) 736-9031 or email him at JDRicheyOutdoors@aol.com.