A lifejacket is required for each person aboard

Striper fishing is steady on American River
By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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There’s only one thing worse than not having a lifejacket aboard your boat, and that’s having a lifejacket that doesn’t fit properly.

The law requires a lifejacket for each person on the boat. It must be Coast Guard approved, in good condition, and it must fit the person. The last item can be a problem with kids, who have the nasty little habit of growing.

If you do a great deal of boating, the cost of replacing an ill-fitting lifejacket can be much more justified than if you only boat a couple of times a year.

Any old lifejacket doesn’t cut it. You should choose a lifejacket that is the correct size, and the appropriate weight of the wearer should be listed inside the jacket.

Use the touchdown test to see if your lifejacket fits properly. Lift your arms above your head as if signaling a touchdown. The chest portion of the jacket shouldn’t touch your chin when you look left or right, and the jacket shouldn’t ride up on your body.

Checking the fit for a youngster is easy: Wearing the jacket, the child should stand normally with arms at their sides. Grab the jacket at the shoulders and firmly lift. The jacket doesn’t fit if it moves more than three inches up and down.

Additionally, ensure that a jacket for an infant or child has a crotch strap, an oversized float collar that helps keep the head out of the water, and a grab loop for easier rescue.

On all lifejackets, all straps should be intact and fastened at all times.

Now for the good news: You don’t have to buy a life preserver every year for a child that outgrows theirs. The California Department of Boating and Waterways partners with local fire stations and the CSUS Aquatic Center at 1901 Hazel Ave. in Fair Oaks to make lifejackets available to the public on a loan basis.

Dozens of fire stations carry the loaner lifejackets, including:

El Dorado Hills: Station 54 at 2180 Francisco Dr. and Station 85 at 1050 Wilson Blvd.Folsom: Station 35 at 535 Glenn Dr.

Placer Hills Fire District: Station 1 at 16999 Placer Hills Road.

Roseville: Station 1 at 401 Oak Street.

South Placer County: Station 1 at 6900 Eureka Road, Granite Bay; Station 3 at 7070 Auburn Folsom Road, Loomis; Station 4 at 4410 Douglas Blvd., Granite Bay; Station 5 at 3505 Auburn-Folsom Road, Loomis; and Station 6 at 4550 E. Roseville Parkway, Granite Bay.

If you’re out of the region and short a lifejacket, contact the nearest fire station and ask about a loaner.

It beats having to put out the funds when it might not be in the immediate budget.

Current fishing

Local waters: Salmon fishing at the mouth of the American River up to Hazel Avenue has been hit and miss; a few fish caught one day, nada the next. It’s still a tad early for the main run, and a rainstorm to cool the water should make the difference.

Fishing for stripers has remained steady on the American. There’s a good population of linesides in the region of the old grist mill, and many offerings will attract a bite. If they’re boiling, toss top-water gear, like a Zara Spook. Drifting live minnows, working swim baits like a broken-back Rapala or Rebel and even crank baits should attract a bite.

Salmon-catching on the Feather River could be better than what is being found on the American. There is decent action upriver from the mouth, like trolling in the Shanghai Bend area. As a bonus, there is fresh-run steelhead being caught in the Gridley region.

Lake Oroville: It’s so amazing what a wet winter will do for water levels. Lake Oroville is gorgeous, barely down from the full mark. There is lots of boating room, and the best part — fish are biting. You can virtually whack and stack bass. Work something like Senkos off the main points. The mud line during midday hours has been good for those tossing cranks. Bass are gorging on the Japanese pond smelt population but still willing to chomp whatever comes their way.

Rollins Lake: Like many lakes, it’s dropping steadily. While the fishing is far from hot, you can expect to find camping areas easily with the kiddies going back to school. There are crappie, bass and catfish to be had.

Stumpy Meadows: Don’t expect to drive there and find a campsite. Word is the campgrounds are packed and reservations are mandatory. The good news: Fishing has been red hot. There has been considerable boat traffic, but those fishing from shore and trolling are picking up limits of ’bows.

Bay Area: Potluck boats are filling with combinations of rockcod, halibut and stripers from inside the bay and drifting outside the Golden Gate. Salmon boats are finding pockets, and with a pocket comes a limit.

Bodega Bay: There can be a great bite one day; the next day, they can’t find the fish. If they’re having trouble finding salmon, you’ll still come home with fish, as most boats will switch to rockcod and whack away limits for all on board.

Fort Bragg: Salmon here can be hit and miss. Pat and Karen Heaviside, skippers of the BRAGG-N, tell me they got one salmon one day for four anglers on board and nine the next day for five anglers. Big fish in the region have been running in the 30-pound class.

Lake Amador: When the full moon was glowing, night fishing for bass was the way to go. Now that the moon is down, fish for them during the day with worms and jigs. There’s been a surprisingly good crappie bite at night and even some trout for those fishing off the docks. The lake is well known for big catfish, and those fishing the dam-spillway have scored using cut bait.

Contact George deVilbiss at