Thank you to everyone that has come onboard over these last 25 years. 2022 was another great season and I am looking forward to having you onboard in 2023. Stay tuned, some exciting things are coming in 2023.
Winter fishing has always been special at Lake Almanor, one of the few lakes, at a higher elevation in the sierras that is relatively accessible. Many hearty anglers flock to its waters during the colder months in hopes of doing battle with some of Almanor's famous trout. Fishing the "off season" colder months does take a bit of pre-trip planning and preparation, things such as gear, clothing and travel routes in and out of the Almanor basin all should get extra attention. To promote success, you need to pick and choose you days wisely, learning to fish the "weather windows" between fronts and storms when conditions can more on the favorable side is key. On those days Almanor can be magical, calm waters with stunning views of the surrounding hills and Mt. Lassen clad in their wintery veil. 12/7/22 was one of those days.
The Canyon Dam Boat Ramp facility becomes crucial during the winter months as it is the only public access on the entire lake that is both open and maintained during winter or at least it used to be. Obviously, the facility provides access for people to launch boats, however the road and parking lot also provide key access to shore-based anglers at a prime time to intercept cruising trout as they slide in and out of the coves to the north and south. Bird watchers also frequent the facility, it gets them closer to the water and provides a good point to view their feathered friends.
There is an important economic component also associated with users having Canyon Dam to access the lake. Many of the users travel from out of town and while in and going through our communities they bring recreation dollars into local businesses. Many businesses in the area opt to run on the seasonal model, and close down during the winter, but to the ones that stay open year-round these dollars are vital. Visitors may eat in restaurants, purchase fuel and supplies or even stay in local lodging establishments.
On 12/7/22 I was traveling north to Oregon when i received a call from someone who had driven several hours to Almanor intending to launch a boat and fish, only to find that access was not available. Several feet of snow covered the access road and a nice berm had been built up by the Cal Trans plows working Hwy 89. He had done his due diligence in planning the trip, he checked the weather as well as the road situation and was prepared for the conditions. He also checked to see that Canyon Dam would be open. Discouraged, he left and returned home. Below you will see several screen grabs from the Almanor Ranger District's web site indicating Canyon Dam is open and useable.
A little back story and history: for many years going back the Canyon Dam facility was maintained by the Plumas County Road Department plow operators. Each year the Almanor Ranger District would sign and provide a contract to the county to maintain the access road, boat ramp and parking lot. Beginning last year that did not happen, instead they let the snow stack up for several weeks to the point that no plow truck would be capable of breaking through. Finally, the USFS bought in a large loader to open things back up. As of this writing there was several feet of snow covering the road from multiple storms that were about 5 days apart and the latest storm is currently adding what will most likely be additional feet of snow to that, all but guaranteeing it will again take the intervention of heavy equipment to open the facility back up.
If you have an interest in this as a user, potential user, local business or anyone who cares about local recreation, please use the contact information below to contact the USFS. Tell them to keep Canyon Dam Boat Ramp facility open, maintain the access road and parking lot so the public can have access to Lake Almanor.
Almanor Ranger District (530) 258-2141
Lassen National Forest Supervisors Office (530) 257-2151
A little Fall fishing wrap up from the waters of Lake Almanor. (side note: As I am writing this report, I am watching snow coming down out the window of my office.) The Fall schedule was a little different this round, than in the past 25 years. Declining water levels at Eagle Lake made launching difficult for most and impossible for larger deep draft vessels, that said, i would not be fishing Eagle Lake this season. No Eagle meant all Almanor and despite lower-than-average water levels along with algae blooms, for the most part Almanor produced, and as it is known to do, produced some exceptional quality fish.
As the water temps cool in the Fall and the aquatic bug activity slows down, fish turn their focus to the pond smelt in the lake. The Japanese Pond Smelt or Wakasagi will remain the fish's primary food source throughout Winter and into Spring. Targeting this fish becomes a game of "find the bait find the fish" and can happen just about anywhere in the lake this time of year. During the month of October, we spent a lot of time in the west basin working areas along the peninsula and west shore as well as a few trips way up north. The bait can be found at almost any depth and depending on circumstances and fish activity we were able to catch fish from the surface all the way to the bottom, sometimes in 30 plus feet of water and others in water less than 10 feet deep. In November the deeper waters of the east shore were productive, but it is Fall fishing in the Sierras, so you know I had to run some gear in the shallows along the east side as well as up north for some beautiful Rainbows. Areas around the peninsula also heated up in late November as fish moved into feed on bait that had staged there. Lately the east shore has continued to produce. Working the rocky shoreline just up from the dam and snag point has been producing fish.
"Match the hatch" is a saying you hear, and it always makes sense to try and imitate what the fish are keyed in on. Soft plastics do a great job of mimicking the bait fish and they are usually one of my go-to baits. Flies are also a good option in the Fall and Winter and definitely hooked their share of fish. i spent most of the time slow trolling these baits, again keeping an eye on what level the fish were targeting the bait fish at. With fronts moving in and out as they tend to do this time of year slow trolling may not always be an option due to the wind. I save the fast hardware for those days when you need more speed to maintain boat control. We had the best results again with patterns that looked more "bait fishy", the blue and silver, whites and cop cars all hit fish.
On the lake condition side of things i am cautiously optimistic. The Almanor basin began receiving good precipitation in the form of both rain and snow in November, a trend which has carried into December, including today. These storms have spurred a more than 6-inch rise in lake level in just one week's time, with more happening now and another system due in the end of this week. If you are coming to the area, be prepared road and water conditions can change quickly.
2022 marks the end of my 25th season guiding trips here in the Northern Sierras and plans for the 2023 season are already underway with some exciting new things coming at you, so stay tuned. Remember it is never too early to book your upcoming fishing trips and as they say. "the early bird gets the worm" especially if you have specific dates in mind. For some of the latest and most up to date information, pictures and videos please be sure to follow along on social media, Facebook and Instagram
I look forward to seeing you on the water.
The fight for Lake Almanor's cold water and fish that depend on it is in full swing. I have heard from many people that they thought this was over and done, indeed things were quiet on the thermal curtain front for a number of years. But as some of the signs used to say, "It's Not Dead Yet", you know what would be dead if this is allowed to go through, the World Class fishery for Rainbow and Brown Trout in Lake Almanor. The Lake, the basin, and the fish need your support.
Below you will find a YouTube video that i feel is one of the best presentations and explanations of both how the system works and the impacts this project would have if the California State Water Control Board is successful in mandating FERC put the cold-water thermal curtain in PGE's new operating permit for Lake Almanor. Please take the time and watch the video. Below that you will find pictures of a new letter highlighting the potential damages and concerns to the Lake Almanor Basin. So what can you do? Staying informed and making your voice heard are two biggies, and to that end, there are four pictures of the same letter addressed to our State Assembly Members, Our State Senator as well our US Representative. Please take a few minutes and print out each of them, sign them and mail them off. The more support we have, the better our chances of a favorable outcome.
The days are getting shorter, and the leaves are changing color everywhere you look fall is in the air. Fall is a great time to visit and fish Lake Almanor. This fall and winter the good people at Plumas Pines Resort on the west shore of Lake Almanor will have some additional lodging options available for you. During the month of November Plumas Pines will be keeping 3 cabins, 4 double rooms and Suite 11 open for reservations. The cabins will close down December 1st leaving the double rooms and suite 11 open through April 27 at which time the resort will resume normal operations. The Fisherman's discount, from November 1st until April 27th tell them you are fishing with Big Daddy's Guide Service and use code "Fish 10" at time of booking to receive a 10% discount on your lodging.
Well we have past the Labor Day holiday and the un-official end to summer, and what a summer it was. The water was a little lower and warmer but that didn't seem to slow the fishing down. Thankfully we were the recipients of multiple late season snow storms in April and even May, which helped to edge the lake levels a bit higher than originally predicted. Almanor was by no means full but every little bit helped as we made our way through the summer and the lake level began to drop.
These past few months saw epic aquatic bug hatches fueling this fishery, including the famed Hex hatch. It takes several factors to develop a fishery like we have here at Lake Almanor, one is good genetics and the other is food supply to enable the fish to reach their potential, and the waters of Almanor contain both. As spring rolls in to summer and the waters warm, sheets of these aquatic bubs begin to emerge from the bottom and make their way to the surface. The fish respond to this easy food source by flooding in to areas rich with these hatches. My over arching game plan includes following the food, almost more than the fish. That said I concentrated the fishing efforts in these bug laden areas running a variety of offerings that somewhat replicate these natural food sources, resulting in quality Rainbows and some really large Browns. I fished many more locations around the lake this year, than in years past which is a testament to just how broad and far reaching these hatches are around the lake.
As the summer moved on and the bug load began to diminish the fish turn their attention to the other major food source in the lake, the Japanese Pond Smelt or Wakasagi. These bait fish can be found just about everywhere in the lake but the schools diffidently prefer deeper open water, that is until they are discovered by the fish which may run them into shallow water as they feed on their thick masses. Which brings us up to current day, the trout and salmon are continuing to feed heavily on the pond smelt and will continue to do so for the rest of this year which means its time to look, smell and act like a pond smelt as far as the presentations go. Most of the fish are currently coming in the 25 to 35 foot range on pond smelt imitating baits. Rainbows in the 2-6 pound range, Browns from 3 to 8 pounds and even a few of the lake's King Salmon in the 2-3 pound class have been showing in the last week.
Summer's warm grip on Lake Almanor continued through last week with a brutal heat wave that saw a string of temps into the high 90's here at the lake which was a bit uncomfortable but thankfully no where near the 110-116 degree days the valley was experiencing. Then in the blink of an eye the heat was gone and temperatures returned to much more seasonal levels featuring cool mornings and pleasant afternoons, we even got a good dose of water thanks to a thunder storm last night. Let's hope that is the end of the high temps, I'm ready for things to cool down a bit including the lake water temps as we move into fall and more importantly fall fishing.
Fall is a great time to be here at the lake, the crowds of visitors have left and watersport enthusiast numbers dwindle leaving a quiet calm on the water as the lake returns to the anglers. The fish will continue to feed up on the smelt and move shallower in the water column as the water temps recede. If you haven't made your fall fishing reservations now is the time, don't miss out on this exciting time of the season. For the most up to date information about what is going on remember to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
I look forward to seeing you on the water.
It is common knowledge that most boats need to be registered in California with DMV and display the current registration sticker along with the vessel’s CF number on each side of the hull. Several years back an additional sticker, the Mussel Sticker, was required to be displayed next to the registration sticker. In 2012 AB 2443 authorized the Division of Boating and Waterways to require DMV to collect an additional Quagga and Zebra Mussel Infestation Fee effective December 31, 2013, on all vessels registered in the state. Many of you were surprised, even happy, when the cost of your boat registration for 2022 and 2023 went down and no Mussel sticker was included with your new boat tags. Did the program just go away? Not likely in California. Without mention of the new procedure in the boat registration paperwork, that began January 1,2022, many boat owners simply put on their new registration tags and went on their way displaying a green 23 registration tag and the now expired yellow 21 mussel sticker.
Make no mistake, there is a green 23 mussel sticker that is required to be displayed on all California boats that operate in fresh waters including inland lakes and reservoirs, rivers, wetlands and the delta. The change in procedure making the mussel sticker available separately stems from a 2021 revision by the California State Parks’ Division of Boating and Waterways of their rules to meet federal requirements. Boat owners are encouraged to purchase the mussel sticker online at www.dmv.ca.gov/musselfee and will no longer have the option to purchase them by mail or telephone.
Local PCSO boat patrols have been busy educating boaters about the need to obtain and display the current mussel sticker with only a few citations given out to boaters who choose to ignore previous warnings. The $16 fee is supposed to provide funding for infestation prevention and education through grant funding which is administered by the Division of Boating and Waterways.
Check out the latest Lake Almanor water storage level, and see how it stacks up against previous years. AFA's own Phil Datner put together this fantastic graph showing historic water storage levels from 2013 to April 30, 2022.
The take-away, we are above last year's level and continuing to rise but still below average. Some of the most recent storms have made things a little difficult out on the lake but thankfully they have deposited additional snow in the watershed and will help us out with higher lake levels and better water quality.
Well, 2022 is off to a rip-roaring start. Winter was looking promising as we closed out last year, giving hopes to an above average snowpack and lots of water for the lake, but January and February saw virtually no precipitation in the Almanor basin. A "Miracle March" never really happened with only limited amounts of moisture, so you can imagine my excitement when the recent "winter like" storms started lining up in the pacific and headed our way, these fronts possessed a solid amount of moisture but also high winds and unstable air, not the best for fishing in. Armed with that intel I made the choice to postpone a couple of days of fishing and let the fronts blow out of here.
Overall, the fishing so far this season has been what I would classify as pretty darn good especially when it comes to the quality of the fish, both Browns and Bows, and now some larger than average salmon have been starting to make an appearance. Even good fishing is not without its challenges here at Almanor and there have been a few slower days, some weather related, with wind not allowing us to fish the intended areas, and a couple of plain old "Almanor" days where mother nature and the lake conspire to let you know who is really in charge. That said, most of the trips have been fantastic.
February gave us a nice mix of fish with Bows topping 30 inches and Browns close to double digit weights. As usual it was all about the pond smelt and working areas that were holding bait was the key. Pond smelt numbers in the lake seem to be doing just fine, they are a vital part of the food chain, especially in winter, that keep the fish fed.
The "Miracle March" that didn't provide us with an abundance of rain and snow did manage to come through with a healthy supply of Browns. The numbers were impressive, but even more so was the average size with many 7 and 8 pound class fish in the mix as well as multiple fish over the double digit mark in weight. I believe we are seeing an upward trend in quality of these fish and myself as well as many others believe it is a direct result of catch and release efforts by the bulk of the anglers at the lake. Efforts by groups such as AFA as well as locals getting the word out about protecting our valuable resource have, and continue to make a difference. So remember #KeepAlmanorBrown and #BrownTroutLivesMatter, catch and release does work when done correctly, the proof is in the fact that we absolutely catch the same fish multiple times.
We are now deep into the month of April and finally getting that afore mentioned much needed rain and snow. The big Brown action continued into the fourth month of the year with a few more double digit weight fish and the Rainbow action started to pick back up following their spawn. The Smallmouth Bass started moving into the shallows and fish began to disperse throughout the lake as other food sources, mainly aquatic bugs, became available. Recently some of the lake's King Salmon have started to make a pretty good showing with "forked tails" as large as 7 pounds hitting the net. These fish are always fun on the light gear and I hope we see many more as the year progresses.
What will the months of May and June hold for us? Stay tuned, but things are looking good for more outstanding fishing here at Lake Almanor. For the most up to date in formation about what is going on remember to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
I look forward to seeing you on the water,
Capt. Bryan Roccucci
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