Winter fish are out there, if you’re willing to look

By: J.D. Richey Journal Outdoors Columnist
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Happy Holidays everybody… hope you and yours have a great Christmas! While getting out with loved ones for a little holiday fishing is something I always like to do, there aren’t tons of great options at the moment thanks to all that crazy weather we’ve had. The high country is snowed in, many of our lakes are chocolaty brown and the rivers are still ripping. Checking the 10-day forecast, it looks like we’ve got some showers over the next week or so but nothing too serious — so fishing conditions are likely to improve going into New Years. In the meantime, here are a few things you can check out over the holiday weekend: LAKE AMADOR TROUT: The lake’s been coming up like crazy lately (it’s spilling for the first time in quite awhile) and the water’s off-color but not totally blown out. The lake’s getting weekly plants of 2- to 4-pound cuttbow trout and there are plenty of fish around to keep things interesting. The trout are all right up on the surface and very tight to the shorelines, where bankies seem to be doing best with white grubs, orange Kastmasters and nightcrawlers suspended under floats. Since conditions can change quickly this time of year, be sure to call ahead (209-274-4739). The lake will be open on Christmas Day. CAMANCHE LAKE RAINBOWS: While we’re looking at the Ione area, we’d better check in with Lake Camanche, where trout planning – and catching – continues in full swing. Trout trollers have been getting rainbows to 9 plus pounds on Rapalas and flasher/crawler combinations up on the surface while Power Baiters have also been catching some nice trout in the South Shore Trout Pond. Again, call ahead before making the trip to make sure conditions are still favorable: (209-763-5915). AMERICAN RIVER STEELIES: The much-anticipated Jan. 1 steelhead opener on the American River, from powerlines at Ancil Hoffman Park up, looks like it may be a bust. Flows on the American reached a whopping 32,000 cfs (I like to see ‘em around 2,000 cfs for steelies) last week and though they’ve come down significantly (15,000 cfs Thursday evening), the river is still way too big and brown. I have yet to hear what the flow schedules are but they’re going to have to drop a lot more and clear before steelhead fishing is a viable option. You can check the river flows on the American River Fishing Report page on my website, SMITH RIVER STEELHEAD: Speaking of steelhead, most of the rivers in the state continue to be blown out, but the Smith is on the drop and the fishing there was superlative before the last rain. The few boats that were out fishing hooked as many as 10 to 13 steelhead each and there are rumors of a giant one not far off of the state record that was landed. It’s a heck of a drive all the way up to Crescent City, but there are a lot of big fish taken between Christmas and New Years, so if you’ve got a few days check in with guide John Klar (707-725-9120). BAY STURGEON: Of all the fisheries going on at the moment, sturgeon is probably the best bet. All the muddy water coming down the rivers has the fish stirred up and feeding. Anglers dunking ghost shrimp in Cache Slough on the clam beds have been seeing some action and there should be a bite soon upriver near Sacramento at places like Merritt’s Landing and the Firing Line. The top fishing, however, has been near the Dumbarton Bridge and in San Pablo Bay. Call Jay Lopes of Right Hook Sportfishing (916-417- 5670). Again, wishing you a very safe and happy holiday season!