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Drought still not over, sturgeon are biting

Outdoors
By: George deVilbiss
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A solid week or two of some downright nasty weather dropped copious amounts of rain and snows. Does that mean the three-year drought is over? According to the water experts, not hardly. California’s three major water storage reservoirs – Lake Shasta, Lake Oroville, and Folsom Lake – having been seriously affected by three years of drought, will not magically refill with just a couple weeks of rain and snowfall. While there are more storms on the immediate horizon, at least in the short term, none are major rain or snow producers, and it will take considerably more snow pack in the high country to provide enough snow melt to fill the big lakes and reservoirs. HOW TO STURGEON FISH The Sacramento River is running at a higher level than we’ve seen in quite some time. It’s a deep chocolate brown. All that equates to good news for bay area waters and for those who pursue sturgeon. It’s not that sturgeon necessarily like muddy, dirty water. While it does roil the bay waters up, causing their foodstuffs to become more obviously available, the fresh water washing down into the bays also flushes out the saltier waters, which causes salt water-dependent critters to bail out. Sturgeon baits tend to be expensive and nobody wants to waste a bunch of bait on unwanted critters that readily feast on it. Those unwanted critters will include the bony kingfish, crab and small starry flounder. Favored sturgeon baits will include the three types of shrimp – mud shrimp, ghost shrimp, and grass shrimp – along with eel, pile worms and a gob of salmon roe. Most of the sturgeon hook rigs you buy off the rack at your favorite sporting goods outlet are two hook rigs on a wire leader. Simply tie that hook rig onto a barrel swivel. Above the swivel, use either a commercial sliding sinker snap or a snap swivel. It will take up to a one-pound weight to adequately hold that rig on the bottom, depending on the strength of the tide. That means you’ll need a pretty heavy rod with a reel that will handle a fish that often will hit the 100-pound mark. While a lot of sturgeon are caught during the day, some of the best sturgeon fishing is done after dark. They’re an extremely shy fish so be sure no light aboard the boat hits the water as it will spook them. Some anglers say the pinging of the fish finder will also spook them away so you may want to turn it off. Pile the bait onto the hooks and get it out into the water. While you want a rod with a heavy backbone, you also want a rod with a very light, soft tip. Sturgeon don’t bite. Their mouths are like vacuum cleaners, sucking the foodstuffs off the bottom. And because of that sucking action, the first time they’re only giving your bait a taste. If you expect to catch a sturgeon you cannot ever take your eyes off the tip of your rod. The sucking action will barely wiggle your soft rod tip, the indication of their “bite.” And rarely will you come across a Kamikaze sturgeon that flat out grabs it and runs. When you see the rod tip wiggle, indicative of a bite, pick the rod up but without adding any additional pressure. The first time, the fish is just tasting your offering, making sure what they found is edible. When you feel the next bite, it will be so very, very light, the sturgeon has decided what it tasted the first time is edible and has returned to eat it. When you feel the bite, rear back and set the hook. Give it a lot of power to bury that hook. Any sized sturgeon will give you a good fight, and it can be much more than just a tug of war. Some will jump. Most will roll and, because of their bony outer plates, is the reason for the wire leader on the hooks, to prevent that bony outer layer from easily cutting the line. To the uninitiated, many boats have been damaged and anglers wounded by making one big mistake: putting that big fish aboard the boat. Don’t! Once they recover from the fight, they tend to thrash. Have some ropes on board, learn some good knots and lash that big fish to the side of the boat. You’ll get a lot of meat from almost any sized sturgeon. They have no bones. Their spine is cartilage. Remove the spinal cord, carve off the bony outer plates and all you’re left with is solid meat. It’s prime fishing time for sturgeon in Suisun and San Pablo Bays. Go! CURRENT FISHING American River: Good thing about all the rain: it caused a spurt in a fresh run of steelies into the river. While the hatchery is having a difficult time getting salmon, they’re getting bunches of steelhead. Drift roe, crawlers, even a bead under a bobber. Folsom Lake: The lake is rising nicely but with the amount of inflows, it also means some heavy duty debris is also flowing into the lake. While some of it is easily seen, other stuff floating around and making for a potential boating disaster, can be just below the surface. The five-mile-an-hour speed limit is still in effect. With the quickly rising water levels, the bass are constantly on the move, moving up into the shallower waters to feed, migrating back to the shelves and drop-offs. They can be found if you watch your scope closely. Try drop-shotting and work them slow. Trout can also be found in front of the dam and working the old river channel from the dam to Brown’s. Ice Fishing: There’s definitely been enough snow and cold weather in the high country to make any lake up there safe for getting out onto for fishing. Some lakes such as Caples Lake have a heavy accumulation of snow on top the ice, so besides an auger to get through the ice, you’ll need a shovel just to be able to clear the snow to get to the ice layer. Boring holes through ice has been good at Caples, Boca, Prosser and Davis. Lake Pardee: Lake opens to camping only this Thursday with fishing to start on Friday. It’s expected to be heavily attended with shoulder-to-shoulder conditions depending where you go in the Rec Area Cove. Some crowding can be avoided taking a hike to the east side of the cove. Because the lake hasn’t had anybody fishing it for a few months, and because it will be heavily planted up to and on the opening weekend, action is expected to be great. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, contact George directly at GeorgesColumn@AOL.COM.