Lightning is the greatest danger to anglers

Fishing report: Halibut and stripers are hot inside San Francisco Bay
By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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The National Weather Service falls under the purview of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and recently issued a finding that fishermen and boaters are the most “at-risk” group when it comes to lightning.

A new data review of deaths caused by lightning between the years 2006-12 reveals water-related activities — fishing, boating, swimming and the beach — made up 36 percent of all leisure-related deaths due to that big flash in the sky.

Of 152 lightning deaths that occurred while the victim was participating in a leisure activity, fishing topped the list with 26. Boating listed 14 deaths.

Lightning is common in late spring and summer. Thunderstorms are common in the high country, and we recently experienced massive thunder and lightning at Lake Almanor.

Thunderstorms can occur without warning. One reason boaters and anglers are so much at risk is because those activities require extra time to get to a safe place. And, especially for the angler, there’s the want to catch just one more fish so there’s often a delay reeling in lines, stowing away gear and getting the boat to shore.

Men top the list of victims, making up 82 percent of the total. The thought by the NOAA is that men not only are fully aware of the dangers of lightning but also are unwilling to be inconvenienced by the threat.

Watching a wondrous lightning show is great, but it’s not something you want to do from a boat. And while a lightning bolt may seem far away, lightning can strike an object, including you, from as much as 10 miles away.

If you aren’t monitoring forecasts, your eyes and ears should tell you plenty. If you hear a clap of thunder or see a lightning bolt, get your fishing gear out of the water and get to a safe place.


Practicing fly fishing


Fly fishing is becoming more and more popular with California anglers. There’s something mystical about fooling a trout with some type of artificial fly rather than drifting bait by its nose.

I remember when I wanted to learn how to cast a level wind reel without constantly causing a massive backlash in the reel. I practiced casting in the front yard and street and learned how to cast with that kind of reel quite well. The nuances of that casting were further refined by going to the water.

You can do the same thing. You can get your back casts and lay out the line in your driveway or street. However, how well you might be casting can’t be known until you go to a waterway.

Instead of learning the nuances of fly fishing by trial and error, practice, practice, practice. You can perfect all the various casts you can make with a fly rod — learning to lay the fly on the water, controlling the drift — without a fishing license. You can become an ace in short order.

You can practice to your heart’s content on any waterway by using a fly on the end of the tippet. However, the fly can’t have a hook attached.


Current fishing


San Francisco Bay: Halibut fishing remains viable inside the bay. Jim Smith, skipper of the Happy Hooker, after hammering a quick limit of bottom fish on the Marin County coast, decided to make some drifts at the famed Rock Pile between Alcatraz and the Golden Gate. If you don’t know how to fish the Rock Pile, you’re going to lose a bunch of gear due to the rocks. Well, gear was lost but the anglers aboard also hammered big numbers of stripers, and the linesides were the biggest they’ve seen in a few years. The average was 6-12 pounds, and a number were more than 20 pounds. The striper fishery can be red hot but doesn’t last long. Get in on it now.

Salmon: If you take your boat and launch in San Francisco Bay — Sausalito, Emeryville, Berkeley — follow the party boats. Most of the best salmon trolling has been occurring around the Farallones, and the fishery remains hot. Action in the Bodega Bay region also remains hot with tons of private boats limited alongside the party boats.

Carson River: The East and West forks get stocked a time or two by Alpine County, and the fish aren’t the small catch-ables. They’re putting in 1,800 pounds of rainbows, and each will average at least three pounds. Both forks are producing well on the smaller planters and trophy-size rainbows, some hitting nearly five pounds. Many different flies will get you bit. If you drift bait, use a high-quality salmon egg.

Eagle Lake: There was a cool-down last week, but the air is warming. The cooling brought a good bite, but you had to be on the lake at the crack of first light. Best action is now dropping the anchor and a threaded crawler. Try the deeper water around Eagle’s Nest, where the water is about 55 feet deep. Drop your crawler down about halfway. Rainbows have been running mostly two pounds, and a three-pounder still cruises by.

Lake Amador: It can get awfully warm at this lake, so most anglers kick back during the day and start their fishing activities late in the afternoon. Some of the best bass fishing is occurring now at night and will be especially good on a brighter night because of the moon phase. Senko’s and a variety of swim baits are accounting for the bass coming in. Catfishing, generally near your campsite, is also a popular activity.

Lake Oroville: If you drive across the bridge on Highway 70, you see a lot of bare, nearly vertical dirt where there used to be water. The lake has dropped significantly but still has nearly 70 percent of capacity. Get on the water early; bass fishing is still good. Before any boating traffic may roil the waters, top-water offerings like a Zara Spook and a variety of buzz baits will work. If those quit working, start tossing crank baits around the rock walls. By midday, Dart-head worms and Senkos will get bit, but you’ll be dropping them down as much as 50 feet.

Folsom Lake: This time of year, you can pretty much rule out fishing on a weekend due to recreational boating traffic. You might get a little time on the water if you get there at the crack of dawn. During the week will be your best bet, and there are a few trout and king salmon being caught. Troll the main channel from Brown’s Ravine to the dam and down as much as 65 feet. Drop your downrigger ball just above where you find the majority of the fish. Remember, fish can see up but not down.

Contact George deVilbiss at