Joe Ringer, of Monterey, caps off a recent trip to Almanor fishing with family and friends by catching this 10-pound, 6-ounce brown trout. Joe was fishing with Bryan Roccucci of Big Daddy’s Guide Service. The fish hit a minnow pattern spoon and took 20 minutes to land. Photo courtesy Capt. Bryan Roccucci
I haven’t been fishing in a while. Winter does that too me. The rivers and streams are closed to fishing and the high elevation lakes I enjoy so much are out of reach. My boat has been winterized for a couple months now.
Worst of all, I lost my four-legged fishing buddy Sierra a couple months ago. We fished together for 15 years. I won’t be able to go fishing without thinking about her. I will probably have to fess up to the truth that the jerky I took on each fishing outing wasn’t just for her, I enjoyed it too. But I know if she were still here she would tell me it is time to get off my butt and grab the fishing gear (and some jerky). Leave the shack nasties at home. It’s time to go fishing again.
Ice fishing is one of the big attractions this time of year. I have never been ice fishing. I hear it is cold.
I have been snow camping many times and survived that. You can stay warm during a snow camping trip by doing lots of skiing or by standing next to a fire the size of a small house.
With ice fishing your options are more limited. You can sit there. Or you can stand there. And while a small fire in a portable fire pit of some kind may be possible, the sort of fire that I envision as necessary for keeping warm would undoubtedly melt a hole in the ice. And that can just ruin the whole experience.
So for me, the winter fishing options are narrowed down to three choices: the tropical destination option, the coastal steelhead option and the lounge chair and grilled sausage on the hibachi while fishing from the shore of a local lake option. I think I will give this third option a try this weekend.
After nearly 38 years of marriage this fishing by the lake option has the added benefit of doing double duty as a date of sorts. So I’ll have good company, earn some relationship points (always a good thing) and I will have someone to share the jerky with.
Frenchman Lake and Lake Davis are the most popular local destinations for those hardy anglers who know how to stay warm while ice fishing. (Apparently it can be done.)
The ice on Lake Davis is reported to be 10 to 12 inches thick, according to our sources at J&J’s Grizzly Store and Camping Resort (832-0270). The entire lake is frozen and fish are spread out. The best fishing is from Coot Bay north and also near the dam.
Jigging spoons, PowerBait and worms have all been working. The fishing has been a bit slow but according to the old-timers the fish should start schooling up near the end of the month in preparation for spring spawning. This will improve the catch rate.
The ice at Frenchman is still nice and thick even though we have had a few very nice days lately. Many people ventured up this past weekend. Most have been fishing at the dam using worms and jigs. The road around the lake is still not accessible without a snowmobile. Call Wiggin’s Trading Post (993-4683) for updates and current lake conditions.
Lake Almanor is the one lake that is easy to get to and usually ice-free most of the winter. This winter has seen more ice than usual, leaving Almanor unfishable much of the past couple months.
That has finally changed. Warmer weather and north winds have broken the ice. While some ice remains in sheltered areas, there is now open water throughout the lake.
Fishing reports are sparse right now but one guide who has hit the water recently is reporting very good results. The ice is finally gone and the fishing is on, according to Bryan Roccucci of Big Daddy’s Guide Service (283-4103).
Bryan and his clients have been working the east shore and catching king salmon in the 17- and 18-inch range, rainbows to 4.5 pounds and brown trout mostly in the 3-pound class. Fish have been hitting a combination of Arctic Fox Tube Flies in the pond smelt pattern and minnow pattern spoons loaded with Pro-Cure’s Trophy Trout Gel. The fish are scattered from the surface down to 50 feet.
I am going to give it a try this weekend. I’ll leave the boat at home. I will likely fish from an exposed point where I can reach some deeper water from shore. The shallow coves will be colder and possibly covered with ice.
I know the fishing will be on the slow side this time of year. But I also know that Almanor offers up some of her best fish in the winter. And getting out on a beautiful lake with my best friend is about the best way I can think of to spend a sunny winter day. We will both be thinking about Sierra.