MATTHEWS’ PICKS OF THE WEEK
1. The lower Colorado River bite in the Blythe to Yuma stretch took off in the past week with very good action on largemouth bass and the flathead catfish are also turning on. The bass in the backwaters are already fanning out beds in the shallows and the bite is on. Bass at 11.8 and 6.9 pounds were reported in the Blythe region, and flathead to 43 pounds were caught in the Palo Verde stretch. Havasu is also pretty good for bass. For an update on this lower river action check with B&B Bait in Blythe at 760-921-2248 or Walter’s Camp in the Palo Verde region at 760-854-3322 Thursday through Monday.
2. Diamond Valley Lake, besides producing a new lake record redear at 4 1/2 pounds early this week, is having a very good largemouth bass bite with a lot of nice fish showing on trout-like swimbaits – and with a DFG plant this week, that bite is just going to get better. You could also pick off one of the big stripers searching out the trout. Check with the staff at Last Chance Bait and Tackle in Hemet for an update on this bite at 951-658-7410.
3. The striped bass action at Willow Beach has been really perking along for the past two weeks with a lot of fish from 10 to 25 pounds caught by anglers hurling big, trout-like plugs somewhere between mile markers 49 and 52. The weekly trout plants are keeping this stretch of river stocked with the bass candy and the bite is breaking open. For an update, call the Willow Beach Resort at 928-767-4747.
FRESHWATER HOT SPOTS
TROUT: Trout action is about as good as it gets throughout Southern California with action at all of the stocked waters hitting the mid-season stride that translates into lots of limits of nice fish, along with the chance at a trophy fish. Top bets are western Riverside County’s Corona Lake, the Orange County trio of Laguna Niguel Park Lake, Irvine Lake, and Santa Ana River Lakes and both the High Desert waters of Hesperia Lake and Jess Ranch. In San Diego County, Poway, Jennings Cuyamaca, Morena, Dixon, and Wohlford are all pretty good bets. Other top bets include all the San Bernardino County Park Lakes. Check the water-by-water reports for details, but the bites are good just about everywhere trout are planted now. The sleeper pick remains the Colorado River from Laughlin to Big Bend where this season’s plants and holdover fish to six pounds are showing in good numbers. Another good bet is the fly action in the Eastern Sierra’s year around waters – especially the Upper Owens on fish up to five or six pounds and the East Walker River where some big browns are being caught.
BLACK BASS: It’s starting. Most of the lakes in the region are moving into a pre-spawn bite very early this year, and the action is getting very good, very early. Two patterns are predominate. First, the warm weather has some fish up in less than 10 feet of water cruising around with some actually fanning out beds. This is especially true in lower-elevation waters like Lower Otay, Perris, Diamond Valley, Casitas, and the whole lower Colorado River. Cachuma and Santa Margarita have also been improving. The early fish are usually bigger fish, too. Second, in lakes getting trout plants there are some bigger bass on trout-like swimbaits. This is best after DFG plants (because these trout are usually smaller than the fish from the private hatcheries). The lower Colorado is probably the best bet, but closer to home Diamond Valley is hot with the fish in four to 20 feet, mostly feeding on cruising rainbow trout or sculpin right on the bottom in good cover.
STRIPED BASS: The striper bite has been fair at Diamond Valley this past week mostly on big swimbaits. Elsewhere, the striper bites all are very spotty right now. There are still fish showing at all the usual places -- Castaic, Pyramid, Skinner, and Silverwood -- but there are two types of action. There are some bigger fish up chasing trout in the top 20 feet of the water column or in water from 40 to 80 feet hanging on structure or under balls of bait. It’s usually bigger fish on the trout and smaller, school-size fish in deep water where they are showing on cut baits. Keep an eye on the trout plants and fish within the first two or three days after a plant. A sleeper pick would be the California aqueduct near Taft, which has been producing a decent number from four to eight pounds and this bite has really improved this past week. On the Colorado River, there has been a flurry of quality fish to 25 pounds or better at Willow Beach, and this may be the best bite going right now. Havasu is very slow in the main body of the lake and toward the dam and the fish are still focused on shad in a fair bite.
PANFISH: The Salton Sea tilapia bite was improving this week and many anglers were having 20-plus fish days. If the weather holds, this should be cooking by the weekend. Top picks for crappie in a scanty field are Cachuma Lake, with a slow to fair bite on quality fish over a pound, and Lake Silverwood off the marina docks. Henshaw’s crappie also turned on a little this week and are worth noting. The Perris panfish bite is tougher again this week, but the redear anglers are still getting fish. Few other panfish bites are of note in this region. On the Central Coast, Lopez and Santa Margarita have been producing some quality crappie, but no big numbers.
CATFISH: The flathead catfish bite on the Colorado River seems to be tuning up early this year with several fish from 20 to 43 pounds reported from Blythe south this past week. The channel cats are also on a pretty good bite. Outside of the river, most of the action has been very spotty.
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