Fall 2015/Spring 2016 Delta Fishing Report

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May 28, 2016

San Joaquin, East Delta Sloughs

Water temp:68

Visibility: 3-4 feet
LMB and small Stripers: fishing is good to excellent
I was so discouraged after the fall off in striper fishing after the big rains that I just couldn't get up enough to write. However, with the warming water, things have changed dramatically. Topwater action for LMB and smaller stripers is now in full swing with almost nonstop action. Largemouth to six pounds and stripers to 22 inches are willingly taking gurglers, crease flies, flip flop poppers, hair poppers and almost anything else that floats when the tide is right. It's definitely time to go fishing.

The morning tides on June 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th are perfect for some wide open action. Evenings fish even better but the ever present delta breeze at 12 to 17 mph makes fishing difficult.

This is an early morning, and I mean daybreak and before and late afternoon into evening bite. Once the sun gets up in the sky the grabs slow to nothing. Even going subsurface is a slow process compared to when ideal conditions occur. Clouds extend the bite as does any place where there is shade on the water.

This will be my last fishing report until sometime in August. I'll be doing some fishing in central Oregon around the Bend area in late June, early July and then up into the Sierras closer to home after that.
Topwater - The best time to fish topwater is during a high tide phase. The fish move into the troughs between the rocks and the weeds and over the weeds themselves. Cast within inches of the shore, expect a grab at any time. If no action, use short strips to bring the popper out to the inner weed line. Stop and wait for a few seconds and then chug the popper to the outer edge of the weed line. Wait again until the boat motion starts dragging the popper making a wake.

Gurglers, crease flies, pole dancers, hair poppers and my own flip-flop poppers all bring non stop action when the bite is on.

Subsurface - The fast growing delta weeds make subsurface fishing tough during anything other than a high tide. Fish an intermediate line with weightless fly such as a Puglisi or a large woolly bugger or leech. Work the fly as deep as you can without ending up in the weeds.
April 4, 2016

San Joaquin, Middle River, Little Connection Slough, Columbia Cut, Mildred Island, Old River

Water temp: 62

Visibility: 2-3 feet
Stripers - Fishing is fair to good.
Wow, what a difference a tide makes. The fish are really keying into the outgoing tide and just ignoring anything thrown at them the rest of the time. It makes for tough fishing for those that have a limited time to get out on the water. If you only want to fish a few hours, try to time your day to the outgoing tide. If you stay out all day as I do, (10 hour guide trips), you'll most likely hit a good tide at least some time during the day.

I haven't found any large schools of fish and the largest boated in a while was a nine pounder but the fish are hot and fat. A five pounder put one of my clients into the backing.

The fish are scattered, both on the main San Joaquin and throughout the inner delta. Fish the walls, points around tule islands and the flats In other words, cover a lot of water and if you're not sticking fish, move. A lot of hookups are coming from shallow water, but too deep for an intermediate. A type II line would be perfect for these situations but who has a type II on a striper rod?
Topwater - I've heard from other guides that they're finding a few fish willing to go for a top water presentation in the late afternoons, early evenings. Right now, the water is still cold at 62. I expect the top water action to start in earnest when the river warms a few more degrees. However, if you're a top water nut, try low light in the morning as well. Your efforts may be rewarded and it's just so much fun to see that explosive take.

Subsurface - Bluegill patterns are giving the venerable chartreuse/white Clouser a good deal of competition. And small is not the way to go right now. Neither is a slow strip. The fish that are feeding want a four inch fly and they want it moving. Make your strips nice and snappy with those great, added pauses, to allow the fly to sink and dive between strips.
March 30, 2016

San Joaquin, Middle River, Little Connection Slough, Columbia Cut, Mildred Island, Old River

Water temp: 61

Visibility: 2-3 feet
Note, this is a Wednesday report rather than a Monday.
Fishing -
Fair. The wind kept me off the water Monday and Tuesday. When out on the water today, a big change was obvious. The muddiness of the water has been replaced by the green water of spring. Reports from other guides also confirmed the fact that more fish had entered the delta. Water temperatures were still in the low 60s, but it looks like the continued fair weather should bring on a warming trend, the last factor needed to really improve fishing. From experience, it looks like fishing could bust wide open any day. The bait boats and trollers are picking up fish on a regular basis on the main San Joaquin and there are reports that the fishing on the Mokelumne has picked up as well now that the river is clearing. The next two months should bring on the peak of spring striper fishing. Things are looking up!
Topwater- With the limited fishing due to the wind I didn't even try topwater. I've heard that some small amount of action is taking place in the afternoons after the water has warmed with almost nothing going on during the morning hours.

Subsurface- The hot fly is a bluegill pattern, either tied clouser style or Puglisi style. in 3 1/2 to 4 inch overall size. Fish the fly with a series of snappy strips and pauses, a few feet off the bottom. Make sure you're getting the fly down. Fishing over the top of the fish will bring few strikes.
March 21, 2016

San Joaquin, Middle River, Little Connection Slough, Columbia Cut, Mildred Island, Old River

Water temp: 61

Visibility: 2-3 feet
Stripers - poor to fair. The fishing has become much tougher after the rains. Some schools of larger fish can be found in the inner delta but most of the  time you're fishing over fishless water. The few fish that are in the system are responding to the outgoing tide but you have to work for them.

Water clarity is best above the mouth of the Mokelumne and in the inner delta and sloughs to the east.
Topwater - Heard of one boil, that's it. So far nothing seems to be responding to blind casting.

Subsurface - Large Bluegill patterns are outperforming the reliable chartreuse over white clousers. Work the water close to the banks and tules. The shallow flats are also worth a try.
March 14, 2016

San Joaquin, Middle River, Little Connection Slough, Columbia Cut, Mildred Island.

Water temp: 59

Visibility: 2-3 feet
Stripers - very good. Fishing was very good for smaller stripers last week with lots of reports of anywhere from 15 to 30+ fish boated. However, the fish are not big, with the average fish somewhere between 17 and 20 inches. These fish are fat though and pull hard. Water condition was excellent above the Mokelumne both on the San Joaquin and the inner delta with visibility up to two feet.

Now that was last week before the rains came Saturday and Sunday. Since then the rivers and creeks have been pouring mud into the delta. Most of it has come down the Sacramento but high flows on the Consumes, Mokelumne and other smaller streams have been dumping muddy water into the San Joaquin side as well. I'm going to take a ride on Wednesday just to look at the water above the mouth of the Mokelumne both on the San Joaquin and the inner delta. I'll try to post a report on the DeltaStripers Faebook page Wednesday night.
Topwater - Nothing happening. While the conditions looked excellent, low light, not too much wind, fish in the system, not a single grab was generated. Just not time yet.

Subsurface - We found fish at almost everywhere we threw a line but the bite turned off after working an area for a while and we moved to new water. The outgoing tide was the best producer. We found fish in water from 15 to 5 feet with most of the fish in water shallower than ten feet. Clousers in black/white, chartreuse/white and bluegill patterns were all producers, fished on T-14 with a quick, snappy retrieve.
March 1, 2016 Fishing...let's go. I'm sure many of you have wondered why I've dropped off the face of the earth as far as fishing reporting goes. Well, following the huge flare up in my back, diagnosed as spinal stenosis, I caught the mother of all flues which morphed into pneumonia. I was just released from the hospital on February 27th. Luckily I am well on the road to recovery, and even better, my back problems have come under control.

I plan to do some scouting next week and am opening my calendar starting March 14th. As most of you know, this will be my last year of guiding. My captain's license expires at the end of the year and I'm just getting too old to take on another five years.

So hey, let's go fishing. I've kept my bargain basement rates, no sense in changing now. Take a look at my calendar and shoot me an e-mail. Let's rip some lips.
 
November and December 2015

Middle Delta

Water Temp

Visibility
January 18, 2016 I fell off posting this year during the last two months but here's a generalized report of those months. Instead of improving, the fishing actually slowed as November progressed and really crashed the second week in December since some really cold weather moved in and water temperatures dropped rapidly. Perhaps the drought had something to do with the lack of fish or the reports of lots of bait in the bay, giving the fish no reason to move up and into the delta.

Then, right in the middle of December I suddenly had a huge flare up in my back and was almost unable to walk. My doctor has been working on it since with cortisone injections and drugs and I'm slowly improving and getting to the point where I could start guiding again if the fishing justified it. However, a scouting trip showed water temperatures at 46 degrees. Way too cold for any kind of decent results.

However, the sun is shining right now, (Jan. 18) and it's in the 50's outside. The delta should be in shape sometime in February. When things pick up, I'll resume posting here and daily again in Facebook.
 
October 26, 2015

San Joaquin

Water Temp: 69

Visibility: 3-10 feet
Stripers - Fishing is fair. While it's possible to catch a number of stripers, fish above two pounds are very elusive right now. When found, they seem to be mixed with smaller fish with only one or two larger fish in the schools.

I have no reports, good or bad about fishing in the inner delta, the sloughs around Mildred for example.

If there's any good news, it's that water temperatures have dropped significantly along with daytime temperatures. It's just speculation but everyone believes that the lower water temperatures will bring some fish up into the mid and upper delta.
Stripers topwater. While big fish are missing, it's still fun working the rock walls both in the morning and evenings for topwater stripers. The fish run anywhere from six inches to about 20 and the takes are explosive. A white gurgler or light colored crease fly will bring up lots of fish.

Stripers subsurface. Because of the unusually warm temperatures, these fish are hot when hooked. If you're not getting grabs, get the line down and then really speed up the strips, still adding enough pauses to keep the line down and along the bottom.
October 12, 2015

Potato Slough, San Joaquin, Little Connection Slough, Little Potato Slough,

Water Temp: 74

Visibility: 3-10 feet
Stripers- Fishing is good. This insanely warm weather is really holding back the fall migration to the delta. Water temperatures rose three degrees during the week, bringing the water back to 74 degrees.
Schools of fish to 18 inches can be found east of the Antioch bridge but a fish larger than that is rare.

Some of the hardcore guys are heading west past Broad Slough, working shallow areas and catching some decent sized fish. That water is just out of my reach from my berth and I'll just wait until we have a weather change.

LMB - Fishing is excellent. While striper fishing is suffering, the LMB fishing is some of the best in years. Most of the fish are in the one pound range with an occasional 4-6l pounder rewarding a persistent angler. Their population extends throughout the entire delta, with almost any rock wall holding fish.
Stripers topwater. Most are being caught incidentally while working the rock walls for LMB. The bite is especially hot the last hour and a half of day light, and better on days with some cloud cover. While not monsters, an 18 inch striper topwater will give a good account for itself, sometimes even pulling hard enough to put you on the reel.

Stripers subsurface. To find a good number of fish, you have to find moving water. Once found, you can catch fish for the next few hours, until the next tide change. A few 4-6 pounders have shown up while fishing these schools of juveniles, making for a pleasant surprise.

LMB topwater. These fish are digging the late season, fattening themselves up as never before as fall sets in. The morning and evening bites vary depending on cloud cover and tide with the best days being those with clouds and a tide somewhere near the top. Almost any popper will bring in fish but if you want some real fun, throw a white gurgler for plenty of LMB and a good mix of feisty stripers as well.
October 5, 2015

Potato Slough, False River, San Joaquin, Frank's Tract. Little Connection Slough, Little Potato Slough, Mokelumne River

Water Temp: 71

Visibility: 2-6 feet
Stripers Fishing is excellent. We're not talking big fish here but we're talking a lot of them. Fish are slowly moving up into the delta from the west with smaller fish found well up to the mouth of Middle River and reports of fish to be found at Mildred and the surrounding sloughs. Schools of larger fish can be found on the San Joaquin downriver from the mouth of Three Mile Slough. Fish are working both tides with some topwater action.

LMB Fishing is excellent. Here it is October and water temperatures are still above the magic 70 degrees. Working the rock walls and the tule shallows with poppers and gurglers in the early mornings and late in the afternoons can be extremely rewarding with as many as 50 fish per rod. An added bonus is that a few stripers are bound to be in the mix, some well into the 20 inch range.
Stripers topwater. It can happen any time but early mornings and late afternoons are best for topwater action. During the day, watch for bird action as an indicator of blitzing stripers. A 7 or 8 weight rigged with a two over floating line with a gurgler or crease fly on the end will bring lots of hookups. Longer casts produce more strikes. Keep stripping until you feel the weight of the fish.

Stripers subsurface. It's all in a proper strip. For some people it's hard to break that woolly bugger strip and go to something more aggressive but that's what stripers like. Cast, count down, then mix up a series of good 14-16 inch snappy strips with a pause now and again. You can't strip too fast. Most of the grabs will be on the pause or when the fly goes from the horizontal to the vertical close to the boat..

LMB topwater. Flip flop poppers, gurglers, crease flies, all produce strikes. If I were to choose a color, it would be a medium green but truthfully, the fish are not that choosy with presentation being as important as the fly. Try to slow the boat down to be able to cast a straight line to the rocks. A short rest and then chug the fly out to the weed line. Rest it again. Your rod tip should be IN THE WATER during the stripping since it makes a big difference in whether the fly will stop, or drift because of line sag.
September 28, 2015

Potato Slough, False River, San Joaquin, Frank's Tract. Little Connection Slough, Little Potato Slough, Mokelumne River

Water Temp: 73

Visibility: 2-6 feet
Stripers - Fishing is good. (For small fish) Although not in the numbers they were earlier in the year, most of the major channels hold a good number of small stripers in the 12 16 inch range. The fish are working the tides, both incoming and outgoing and can be found close to the rock walls working topwater, early and late in the day. Larger fish in the 16-20 inch range are being caught in numbers from below Eddo's along the weed lines, all the way to Broad Slough.

LMB - Fishing is excellent. The overcast days along with the still warm water, are perfect conditions for topwater action. These guys can be found along almost any rock wall or shallow water, (less than 3 feet) along tule islands.
Stripers - topwater. Work the rock walls early and late with Pole Dancers, gurglers, crease flies, even bass poppers for lots of fun with smaller fish.
The action is almost all day long with peek periods in the early morning and late afternoons.. Try to maintain a straight line, all the way to the shore and don't lift until you feel the weight of the fish.

Stripers - Subsurface. Work current lines and points for maximum action. Make sure you count your fly down to within a foot or two of the bottom for maximum number of grabs. Most fish are small but you may luck out for a four to vive pound fish.

LMB topwater. For maximum action, work the rock walls, especially near the top of the tides to avoid hanging up in the weeds. The troughs between the rocks and weed lines hold more fish at these times as well. Slower action but bigger fish can be found in theshallows on tule islands. Almost any topwater fly works but if I had to pick, I'd take an smaller olive green popper with some chrome flashabou in the tail. Rest the fly before starting your retrieve. Lots of grabs after the fly has sat still well over ten seconds. Fish are following the fly a long ways as well and will hit close to the boat.
September 19, 2015 No report this week. I spent the whole week in New York City visiting my granddaughter. Being a tourist is much more tiring than fishing!!!
You can't catch anything sitting on that couch. Get out there and toss a line!
September 12, 2015

Potato Slough, San Joaquin River, Mokelumne River, False River, Franks' Tract, Dutch Slough

Water temp: 76

Visibility: 2-6 feet

Stripers - Fishing is good. That is, if you don't mind catching small fish. They are almost everywhere in the main channels and even can be found in the inner delta. I've had reports of one or two five to seven pound fish caught almost as incidental catch but nothing to get excited about yet.

LMB - Fishing is good. Top water action both mornings and afternoons have been extremely productive for fish from about six inches to four pounds. A mixture of stripers taking the fly is a bonus most days.

Note: This report is two days early, posted Saturday night rather than Monday since I'll be out of town all next week.
Stripers -topwater. Schools of small stripers are starting to work some shad boils, even during mid day. Watch for  birds as a key in finding these schools. Working the walls in the evening has also been productive, sometimes the action is non stop until dark.

Stripers - subsurface. You can find schools along the main San Joaquin, False River and the mouths to most sloughs. Most are in the 12-14 inch range with a  few just sublegal fish thrown in. T-14 and smaller Clousers do the work.

LMB topwater. While some areas fish better than others, almost any rock wall will yield fish from six inches to 4 pounds when the bite is on. Morning and evening low light conditions produce the best results. Medium sized olive poppers with some chrome flashabou in the tail seem to produce the most strikes.
September 6, 2015

Potato Slough, San Joaquin River, Mokelumne River, False River, Franks' Tract

Water temp: 74

Visibility: 2-4 feet
Stripers - Fishing is good. lots of little fish in the system but very hard finding anything that can pull line. Fish are along the rock banks. Look for egrets at the water line and you'll probably find stripers below. The bigger fish are probably waiting for water temperatures to drop before moving up in the system. This time last year the water was three degrees colder than now. Still, catching and releasing a bunch of juveniles is a good tune up for what's to come.

LMB - Fishing is very good. As long as there's enough water between the weed beds and the rock walls, with the added conditions of low light, mornings or afternoons, the fish are turned on and aggressively hitting topwater poppers and sliders. Very low tides make fishing a little more difficult since the fish move away from the shallow water but it's still possible to boat over a dozen fish, some with size, in less than two hours time.
Stripers topwater. Not much has started yet on a regular basis. I have been picking up some stripers as incidental catches when fishing LMB. Everything is small right now though.

Stripers subsurface. Nothing new in presentation or flies. Puglisi flies and small Clousers pulled behind some T-14 with a fairly aggressive strip will produce fish.

LMB topwater. Smaller poppers in green will produce both big and small bass. Cast as close to the rocks as possible. Work the more open water,, the weed growth is now so dense, nothing could swim in it.
August 31, 2015

False River, San Joaquin River, Middle River, Franks Tract, Mokelumne River

Water temp: 74

Visibility: 2-4 feet
Stripers - Fishing is good. More of the same. Small fish can be found in numbers throughout the system. Smaller pods of larger fish, to five pounds  are occasionally mixed in. 25 fish per rod or more on a tide change is about average for practiced delta dogs. Fish are gathering around points where major current flow takes place, moving large amount of bait. Some top action has been reported in the early morning, low light hours, but again, smaller fish.

LMB - Fishing is good. Strictly topwater. Work the rock walls and tule shallows for lots of grabs in the early morning and late afternoon hours. Most of the fish are under two pounds with an occasional five to six pounder committing. Small stripers are also in the mix.

I still have lots of open September dates for those that want to try their hand for this hard fighting species. It's especially fun to take people out who have never fished for anything but trout. They are amazed at how hard even a two pound fish can pull.
Stripers topwater - You can't catch them topwater if you don't try. While not an all day thing, it can be extremely rewarding to try some shallow (5 feet or less) topwater presentations for Mr. Striper. Most of the fish this time of year are undersized but even these fish seem to put out a little more effort if you can get them to come to the fly. White or yellow gurglers and sliders can bring success as well as the commercial Pole Dancers. Vary retrieves, try both super splashy and slow, smooth retrieves. Both will generate some fierce strikes.

Stripers subsurface. T-14 lines and 2/0 to 3/0 Clousers in Chartreuse over white or black over white are always winners. If you want to try something different, try a Puglesi style fly in shad or bluegill colors..

LMB topwater. While the bite window in the mornings and afternoons varies from day to day, sometimes lasting four or more hours and sometimes as short as 45 minutes, these fish are just too much fun to ignore. The sight of a two pound plus largemouth going vertical on a well presented popper is one of the apex moments in the sport of fly fishing. Foam head poppers in yellow though black and the same in gurglers will bring fish to the top on a regular basis.
August 24, 2015

False /River, San Joaquin River, Middle River

Water temp: 76

Visibility:2-4 feet
Stripers- Fishing is good. Lots of small fish in the system. You can expect to boat about 20 fish per rod in a tide change, with fish up to the five pound range. Fish can be found at almost any major current intersection. fewer along long current lines.

LMB- Fishing is good. It's an early morning or a late afternoon thing and can vary greatly. Some days you might get a grab on almost any cast. Other days you'll swear there's not a fish in the system. Cloudy skies and a slight chop on the water really improve your chances.
Stripers- I haven't tried any topwater yet but will on my next outing. Lots of fish though on the major intersections of rivers and sloughs in 6 to 15 feet of water. Standard chartreuse over white Clouser works just fine.

LMB - Topwater is all I throw so get those poppers, gurglers and sliders out. Mix up presentations until you find what works that day. I do like the bright day/ bright fly, dark day/dark fly logic.