Meandering Angler: Excellent trout opener

Sometimes you have to go that extra mile to find good fishing, especially in a drought year, which is why lifelong Sonoman Bill Fernandez drove 250 miles east last weekend, across the Sierras to find excellent trout fishing on opening day at the Bridgeport Reservoir.

One would think that Bridgeport, which is on the eastern side of the Sierras along Highway 395, would be even drier than our part of the state. But Bill reports that not only was there plenty of water, the fishing was outstanding. At an elevation over 6,000 feet, Bridgeport was a chilly 18 degrees when Bill first put his boat in the water on opening day.

But he forgot about the cold when he started catching trout, including several over five pounds. His biggest rainbow weighed in at over six pounds, and he currently sits in second place in the Bridgeport angling derby. After a great day Saturday, a big wind storm blew in on Sunday, driving everyone off the reservoir so Bill and a bunch of the local anglers drove up into the nearby mountains to the Virginia Lakes, a series of small alpine lakes, all above 9,000 feet, between Lee Vining and Bridgeport. It was still winter there, snow on the ground and the water frozen over. Not to be denied, they cut holes in the ice, dropped in their lures and started pulling lots of tasty, pan-sized brook trout from the lake.

Bill returned to the Bridgeport Reservoir the next day and caught more rainbows before driving back to Sonoma.

He is an avid angler and makes the 4.5-hour drive from Sonoma to Bridgeport several times during the season. He said that the overall water conditions on the east side of the Sierras near Bridgeport are good now, and he plans to return for more fishing as the weather improves.

Slightly closer to Sonoma (a 3-hour drive) the lower Sacramento River between Redding and Anderson is providing some of the best trout fishing for fly-fishers in the north part of our state. Fair to good water flows allow for good fishing now on the Fall River, Hat Creek, McCloud River and the Upper Sacramento River now.

Closer to home, halibut fishing in San Francisco Bay along the Marin Shoreline continues to be the best in several seasons according to Keith Fraser at Loch Lomond Bait Shop in San Rafael. Keith carries the best (and only) live bait that halibut love and his customers are catching lots of keeper-sized halibut right off the levee near his shop. There is also good fishing off McNear’s Pier in Marin. Call Keith at 415-456-0321 for the latest information and for tips on where to fish. Better yet, visit his shop, buy some bait and have him direct you to a spot to fish.

Heavy northwest winds have kept most ocean fishing boats tied to the pier this week, but Capt. Rick Powers of Bodega Bay Sportsfishing managed to get out in-between blows a few times. He found full limits of rock fish for all on board, and managed to average fairly good salmon catches as well, although well short of full limits for everyone. He says that there are a lot of salmon out there and all that when the wind dies, the fishing will improve. Predictions are that conditions this weekend will be better. He has plenty of room on his boat for combo trips that include salmon and rock and ling cod. Call Rick at 707-875-3344.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife this week finalized the rest of the 2022 ocean salmon season based on recommendations from the Pacific Fishery Management Council. For the San Francisco Management Area, of which the Sonoma Coast is part, the current segment of the season, which opened April 2, will run until May 31. Then there will be a pause, and the second phase will run from June 23 to October 31. The minimum size limit is 24 inches until May 15, then drops to 20 inches thereafter.

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