BY DAVE HURLEY
MARTINEZ – Sturgeon fishing in the Pittsburg area remains the top draw in the Sacramento-Delta as the striped bass remain spread out in various locations. Overall, the river salmon season has been a major disappointment with the excessively warm water conditions, but Saturday’s overcast skies and cooler temperatures in the morning brought one of the best scores to the Benicia shoreline so for this season. However, 7 salmon being the highlight of the season demonstrates how difficult this river salmon season has been. There are a number of questions as to why the river salmon has been so disappointing, but there are few answers to these questions as the ocean season was solid for big fish.
Sturgeon action went through a bit of a lull during the middle of the past week due to high winds plaguing Suisun Bay, but the action broke out on Friday for the return of Captain Steve Mitchell of Hook’d Up Sport Fishing to the Delta. Mitchell put his five clients on a private charter from the EIG Electric onto early limits of sturgeon working water in the 60-foot range with salmon roe near Pittsburg. Mitchell said, “These fish were really on the chomp, and we had multiple opportunities to land these fish. The sturgeon are stacking up on certain tides, and it is a matter of being able to anchor successfully in the deep water. The method of reeling down when you are getting bit makes a huge difference in the hook up ratio as setting the hook on a sturgeon bite is generally the most difficult aspect of sturgeon fishing.”
On Sunday, Mitchell put his clients onto two legal sturgeon at 53 and 47 inches for Beau and Kathleen Brown of Walnut Creek along with a pair of undersized sturgeon released.
Captain Jay Lopes of Right Hook Sport Fishing also found great action in the deep water on Friday with 9 slot-limit sturgeon with his group keeping two legal fish. Lopes is limiting his trips to keeping one or two sturgeon and sharing the meat in order to limit the impact on the fishery.
There has been more concern expressed recently about the number of sturgeon caught and kept by private and party boats, and this trend of selective harvest may catch on with other party boat operators. Captain Steve Mitchell of Hook’d Up Sport Fishing said, “We already try and encourage our groups to limit the number of sturgeon that are kept, but it is a difficult concept to get anglers to wrap their heads around since once they land a big fish like a sturgeon, especially if it’s their first sturgeon, they want to keep it.”
Captain Zach Medinas of Gatecrasher Fishing Adventures has taken this a step further with his catch-and-release only trips out of the Pittsburg Marina. These trips have proven extremely popular as the fishing community responds to the desire to preserve the viability of the fishery.
Clyde Wands, shallow trolling expert, and his protégé, Dave Houston of Livermore, were out on Houston’s custom 22-foot Thunder Jet in Montezuma Slough for 9 keepers to 25 inches along with 3 shakers, keeping 2 limits running Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows in chartreuse patterns at depths in the 13-foot range. Houston said, “The fish aren’t really stacked up right now, and there is a striper here and there, but there is no real concentration.” Wands added, “The water temperature is still in the 69-degree range, and we need it to drop to around 62 degrees before the bite becomes consistent. The conditions were ideal in the slough with relatively clear water with a minimum of grass.”
Alan Fong, manager of the Fishermen’s Warehouse in Sacramento, was in the north Delta this week for limits of northern largemouth bass at 18 and 20 pounds on successive days punching the weeds. He said, “I have been using Brush Hogs with either a 1- or 1.5-ounce punch weight so I can get through the mats in the heavy current. The current was moving, and there is quite a bit of dead vegetation from the herbicide spraying. We tried for striped bass for around half-hour with no takers, and there is so much grass out there it is difficult to cast. I think the majority of striped bass are still between Rio Vista and San Francisco Bay.”
James Netzel of Tight Lines Guide Service has been drifting live bait in the San Joaquin system, and he said, “We had a decent day early in the week with 20 keepers, but the following day was one for the books. We had only 6 keepers by noon, but we landed on one of those miracle spots where you couldn’t get the bait down to the bottom without having a fish on. We have been working on the Sacramento side of the Delta.”
For largemouth bass, Vince Borges of Vince Borges Outdoors reported a solid largemouth bite in the north Delta by punching the weeds with Sweet Beavers or tossing swimjigs. He said, “The larger average fish to 4 pounds came by punching, and it is a matter of finding clean green grass. A lot of the weeds have been sprayed, and they are dying off and disappearing, but there is thick growth beneath the surface, and it is a matter of dropping a 1-ounce weight through the submerged weeds. Swimjigs were working on the flats over the grass, but current was necessary as the bite died when the current stopped. After the quick change of the tide in the north Delta, the current started moving again, and the bass started to bite again. Striped bass have been ‘hit or miss’ as we are graphing a lot of fish in the deep water, but it is hard to get down to these fish with the swimjigs. The shad are on the flats already, and the largemouth bass are working the shad schools, but the stripers haven’t moved in. The water temperature remains warm at 69.8 degrees.”
Dave Sharp of Marina Bait and Tackle in Suisun City reported the opening of duck season limited the number of anglers out over the weekend, but there are still plenty of shore fishermen in Suisun Bay. He said, “There has really been no cluster of striped bass, and they seem to be scattered everywhere.”
For river salmon in Suisun Bay, Tony Lopez of Benicia Bait said, “There were 7 salmon landed off 1st Street on Saturday morning along with another one lost, and I think the cooler temperatures and overcast conditions really helped with this. We haven’t been getting many reports from the Dillon Point State Park. For sturgeon, Ron Reisinger of Chico has really been lighting it up with lamprey eel, and he caught and released 16 sturgeon in my spot on Saturday.”
The Delta Cross Channel gates at Walnut Grove closed for five days during the end of October, and the closure is related to a lower Mokelumne River pulse flow to help prevent adult fall-run Chinook salmon from being diverted off the migratory route from the Mokelumne River into the Sacramento River. The gates have reopened but opening or closing gates can be made on short notice, and boaters are advised to check the status of the gates, especially around the holidays. The process of opening and closing the gates takes about one hour.
The Delta Cross Channel gates control the diversion channel near Walnut Grove, about 30 miles south of Sacramento. When the gates are open, fresh water is drawn from the Sacramento River into the interior of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta through Snodgrass Slough and the Mokelumne River. The open gates also allow boat traffic to pass. Information on gate operations can be accessed on Reclamation’s Central Valley Operations website at usbr.gov/mp/cvo/vungvari/dcc_chng.pdf or by calling 916-979-2196 or 916-979-2194 (TTY 800-877-8339) during normal business hours.