Last year was a tough one for anglers targeting land-locked king salmon at Lake Oroville. The most common theory was the entire system was disrupted by the failure at the spillway. Some folks theorized that most of the resident kings were washed over the dam and down into the Feather River.
While it is true that large schools of fish used to be found in front of the dam that was not the only area in the lake to find kings. The notion that the entire kings’ population went over the dam seems pretty far-fetched to me. Still, the truth is that whatever happened, the king fishing was miserable.
The good news is that, thanks to a fall plant of over 80,000 healthy fish, the species has rebounded and the outlook is good this year. Reports started leaking out a few weeks ago, so I decided it was time to time to see for myself.
I got to the ramp at Bidwell Point around 7:30 a.m., and immediately got hit with the usual blast of wind coming from the east. The lake is very low and the main ramp there is out of the water; however, there is a very serviceable alternate ramp in place with a courtesy dock.
It was too windy to get around the main point to the dam, so I headed over for calmer waters near the green bridge, where I found several boats already trolling the area. I rigged up both rods with small white hootchies tipped with a piece of anchovy behind 6-inch white/silver sling blade dodgers.
The white hootchies imitate the small pond smelt that are the lake’s main food source for these fish. I let the lines out to 80 feet and set the rods at 20-25 feet deep on the downriggers. Trolling speed was between 2.5 to 2.8 mph.
Early in the year, fish are close to the surface. Within minutes I started getting hits and had three fish in the boat within the first hour. They are still small right now, around 10-12 inches, but growing rapidly. I kept the best one to take home.
I had three more hits, but the fish got off as I was reeling them in.
As the morning went on, the wind died down and I moved around to try some different areas. I tried a few different offerings, such as needlefish and humdingers, but had no takers. I marked fish from 20-30 feet deep, but the bite had turned off. The wind kicked up again so I called it a day.
The key right now seems to be size. Try to keep the lures small and match the pond smelt.