thoughts on stripers on the Sac...
September is a transition month for most of us fly fishers…summer is kinda ending and fall is kinda beginning, but really it is still summer and it is not fall yet. The days are getting shorter for sure and evenings are cool but midday it is still in the high 90s…even over the century mark on some days.
I spend a ton of time guiding June-August and this year I told myself and my family that I was going to take some time off in September and fish for myself, stay home and watch Notre Dame games live not recorded, watch the pennat and wild card race that the giants are part of, and just be home with my wife and kids before the craziness of fall and winter guiding season set in.
My goal has been to get out striper fishing on the sac at least 2-3 days a week, so far so good. I have had some of the best striper fishing of my life over the last few weeks and even have tried to get some guide dates sense the fishing has been so good but I have had no takers so I keep going fishing on my own. The Sac is low and is going to get MUCH lower come the first week of October as the flows will be cut to 3250cfs out of Keswick.
One of the most apparent results of the drought on the Lower Sac, up and down the river, has been the huge amount of weed growth. From Redding down to Butte City the weed growth is insane! With the low water and lack of any substantial run off this winter/spring the weeds have thrived this year more so then any year I can remember. There are areas up through Redding and Anderson that look like a spring creek with huge flats of waving and flowing weeds, which I can’t help but think will mean some AMAZING baetis hatches this fall/winter. Down low out of chico the scence is the same, but with warmer and slower moving water there are huge weed beds up to the surface boarding the banks and coming up in any water shallow enough for weeds to get some sunshine and perform photosynthesis.
The weeds in the lower river have allowed for an explosion in the bait fish population, pike minnows, bluegill, small bass, shad…striper food. There has been very good spawns the last 2 years and there have been schools of stripers in the 2-3lb range and the explosion of bait fish should feed and help grow the juvenile fish. I have seen some of these schools sense July grow from about 12” to solid 16+” fish. The biologist for the river in this area is a good friend of mine and we were talking the other day and he is predicting a HUGE explosion in the resident striper population over the next few years as a result of all the food and likely low water (even if we have a big winter most of the water will be stored in reservoirs and while this section of river can blow out from creek and tributary flow with out massive reservoir releases the chance of big water flows is pretty slim).
I know stripers in the river can at times have a bad wrap as people say they eat salmon and steelhead head smolt and trout in general. I am sure they do and I even fish for them in the winter with patterns that look like salmon fry. BUT trout and steelhead in the upper river, pike minnows, suckers, Largemouth bass, Smallmouth bass, cat fish, and farmers pumps with out fish screens (which there are many of between Los Molinos and Butte City) throughout the river eat just as many salmon and steelhead fry. I would argue pike minnows, bass, and other trout eat just as many if not more fry and eggs then stripers…especially pike minnows who live in the same exterior bank habitat that out migrating smolt and fry take up residence in.
With all the talk about drought and gloom and doom with regards to water levels I thought that a bit of positive news with regards to the low water was in order.
Here is some solo shots...aka fishing alone.