Choose your Labor Day campground carefully

Fires in north state close some areas, restrict others
By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Labor Day weekend is a week away, and fires in the north state are dominating the news. Some fires remain active while firefighters are containing others.

Thousands of acres are blackened, most caused by Mother Nature’s lightning shows.

The Chips fire near Lake Almanor, the Ponderosa fire near Manton in Tehama County and the Rush fire near Ravendale are still active. The Ramsey fire in Calaveras County, the Reading fire in Shasta County and the Wye fire that closed Highway 20 between Williams and the Clear Lake region are contained.

In all active fire regions, there are road closures and/or restrictions. Highway 70 in the Feather River Canyon is a prime example. In and around the Caribou region, the highway is one lane with a pilot vehicle taking motorists through. Your wait could be extensive.

There could be a great deal of smoke lingering. The smoke is so bad in our area along the east shore of Lake Almanor that we’ve postponed our latest trip.
A few campgrounds have been closed, and conditions may be terrible at others. Choose your area carefully.

Fire restrictions: The state has suspended all burn permits. The only fires permitted now are in developed campsites. It’s nice to sit around a campfire, just watching it burn, letting the kids roast weenies and marshmallows, making s’mores. Just keep it small.

Dove season to open

There is always a weather break before dove season opens, and it appears to have happened last week. The temperature dropped and rain fell. If it doesn’t last too long and isn’t too severe, it doesn’t drive doves to more southern locales.

Dove season always opens Sept. 1, and it’s an annual ritual for some shooters. This year, that date falls on a Saturday. Look for an increase in hunter traffic in the field.

Dove hunting is one of the least intensive hunts. Usually, it’s a short hike on the edge of a field, near water, with a couple boxes of 8’s, and you’re essentially set.

With the very real threat of mosquitoes bearing the West Nile Virus, a necessary addition to your gear should be mosquito repellant. Mosquitoes are more active in the early morning and late afternoon. They usually disappear when the sun warms the air.

Dove habits are predictable. Early in the morning, they leave their roosts and head for water, then to available foods, then find a few grains of gravel to process the ingested seeds and then back to the roost.

As a rule, too, until the lead really starts flying, their flight patterns are pretty well predictable, so if you’ve done a little scouting, you’ll have discovered their paths and can position yourself within a close proximity.

If not, it just means you’ll have to make some physical adjustments in the field.

Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset, and gunning is best in the early morning and late afternoon. Mourning dove limits are the traditional 10 birds per day and 20 in possession. The first half of the season will end Sept. 15.
I’ve encountered wardens in the field, so be sure you have the current hunting license with the attached Upland Game Bird Hunting stamp.

If you de-feather your birds in the field, be sure to leave one wing feathered. White Winged dove aren’t legal game in the north state, and if you do get checked by a warden, easy identification may be made.

Current fishing

A cool-down will bring out more anglers, but it will take a good storm out of the north instead of a tropical-warmth storm from the south to really bring down water temperatures, which are still too warm to make fishing near its best.

Local salmon: Fishing has been pretty good on the Sacramento River, as Chinooks trickle up. Hang any salmon-approved spinner off a spreader, drop anchor or slow troll and you could watch that rod double over as a king attacks it. No one area is red hot. Upriver from Garcia Bend has shown action, as has the American River from the mouth at Discovery Park to the Interstate 80 bridge.

Ocean salmon: Still not much for salmon in the Bodega Bay area, so they’re hitting rock cod with success. The San Francisco Bay Area fleet, however, is hammering salmon off Muir Beach and around the Channel Buoys, which means salmon are schooling and staging for their run up the rivers. Fort Bragg has seen a sporadic salmon bite, but there’s been nothing consistent all summer. On the plus front, boats are finding schools of albacore when the water conditions are good.

Camp Far West: The lake is dropping, but bass fishing remains decent. Split-shotting worms in Bear River and up in the dead-end area of Rock Creek have worked well. There are a bunch of bass in the two-pound class. Soak a chunk of anchovy or clams and you can pick up a nice stringer of catfish, some to five pounds.

Stumpy Meadows: The lake is scheduled for a trout plant by the Department of Fish and Game just before the holiday, so the action will improve. Fish are looking for cooler water, so look for the inlet area to provide some of the better action. As is the case at many lakes, the trout are coated in little white critters. They’re cocopods, a type of leech. While they make fish look terrible, they’re only on the outside. Scale the fish with something like a barbecue brush and they’ll come right off. No effect on the meat of the fish at all.

New Melones: Most of the action is in the deeper water around the dam-spillway. Drop down as much as 75 feet and you can get into a good kokanee bite. No word on the kokes turning color or getting the big-hooked jaw, but it should happen soon, as spawning time is approaching for these landlocked salmon. Get into the action now.

Contact George deVilbiss at