Time is now to research campsites for Labor Day weekend

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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The three-day Labor Day weekend used to be the last hurrah of the summer.

It used to be the school year opened on Tuesday following Labor Day weekend. Today, many schools are in full-blown operation before Labor Day.

Does that mean campgrounds will be underutilized? Not a chance. It just means many families won’t be able to go for a week.

Campgrounds near and far, in the high country, foothills and along the Pacific coast are expected to be filled.

Can you find a place to camp if you don’t already have reservations? Sure, though you might have to adjust your preference of where you want to go.

The most popular campgrounds with the easiest drives and access will fill quickly. Lakes and streams closer to the Nevada border will be heavily attended by vehicles bearing Nevada plates.

Campgrounds that are on the reservation system can’t reserve every campsite. A percentage must be kept aside for non-reservations. Most campers will readily agree the non-reserve sites are some of the least-preferred sites.

So, you can take a chance that a non-reserve site will be available when you arrive or make plans to try a different area that might have more available sites than your first choice.

What you really need to do is research, especially if you don’t have reservations. As an example, lakes such as French Meadows Reservoir and Hell Hole Reservoir are underutilized by the time Labor Day weekend comes around. Both are lakes you should be able to drive to without reservations and find a campsite.

Last I heard, however, the campground on the north side of French Meadows has a water delivery system problem.

Free Fishing Day

The state allows two days per year when anglers can visit any waterway in the state and fish without a license. The second day this year is Saturday, Sept. 8.

The state Legislature authorizes the California Department of Fish and Game to set the free fishing dates. The DFG picked two prime times when people are in the field: the Fourth of July and Labor Day holiday weekends.

There are a few restrictions. You should visit the DFG’s Web site or a sporting goods outlet and acquire the current fishing regulations booklet for freshwater or salt water.

All fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures remain in effect.

Additionally, report cards for abalone, steelhead, sturgeon, spiny lobster and salmon in the Smith and Klamath-Trinity river system will still be required.

If you would like to teach a youngster under the age of 16 all about fishing, no license would be required at any time. However, the drawback is that legally, you would be unable to touch the rod at any time unless you’re in possession of a current license.

Current fishing

Bodega Bay: The blistering salmon fishery finally came to a screeching halt but not because the salmon moved out. Massive schools of jellyfish moved in, and anglers can’t get through them to get to the salmon. If you want a trip, check ahead. Skippers say it could change overnight.

Local salmon: The water is warm and the air temperature hot. Yet, fair-to-good salmon fishing is being found in local stretches of the Sacramento River. However, there are many recreationists utilizing the river, which can make fishing more difficult. That means you pretty much need to plan your trip more on a weekday. The prime fishing time is early morning and late afternoon. The fish being caught are chrome bright and feisty, indicative of being fresh from salt water. Spinner, Flatfish, Kwikfish and back-bounced roe are working.

Lake Pardee: The lake is in great shape, down only three feet from the spillway. Bank fishing this time of year is always tough. The best shore catching has been from the Woodpile area for those soaking Power Bait or a crawler. Best fishing for trout has been the river arm, trolling the area of Twin Coves, Deer Island, Indian Head Rock and as far up as Columbia Gulch. The kokanee bite is good, but they’ve dropped from 75-110 feet. Trout fishing also is a top bet upriver, and they aren’t as deep as the kokes.

Camanche Lake: Camanche isn’t in as good of shape as its neighbor, Lake Pardee, being about two-thirds full, but the fishing can be just as good. There are many recreationists, though, especially on weekends. Best fishing is during the week. There have been reports of trout limits. Upriver, around the Lancha Plana Bridge, rainbows are hitting to three pounds. Get down about 30 feet. The dam area is producing hits for trollers.

Lake Amador: Mostly, it’s just a good camping experience right now. Let the kids soak worms or grubs under a bobber. A pretty good bluegill bite is being seen, and they can have a ball hauling them in hand over fist. The Rock Creek arm is yielding catfish and with the heat, the best bass fishing is after the sun sets.

Contact George deVilbiss at