Most anglers I talk to are intimidated by what they are presented with here, everything looks the same. “Every inch of this Delta looks bassy!” “Where, along the banks of this River, can’t ya’ catch fish?” “I get lost on where to start.” These are some of the comments I hear as a guide on this 1,000+ miles of waterways. Take into consideration each waterway has two sides of bank. Now ya’ got 2,000 miles of shoreline right? Let’s not stop there, how many tule islands are out there in these waterways? Okay, just for the sake of reasoning, let’s estimate that we’ve got another 500 miles to add to that bringing our total fishable miles of shoreline to 2,500 miles. That’s like starting in San Francisco and driving to NY. Yeah, that is intimidating all right, so, where do we begin?
Most anglers begin fishing shallow, right on the bank or along the tules. In most cases they are fishing in depths of 1-4 feet, they do this for two reasons. First, this is where they see the most visible cover. Secondly, this is where they caught their fish last time, never mind that most of them weighed less than three pounds. They had a spell there, when they knocked em’ good for 35 minutes. They came back the following week, and couldn’t catch em’, why? Because the tide was on the opposite change and there was no water up in the trough they were fishing. Rather than adjust to where the tide moved the fish, they commit the ultimate fishing sin and run from their fish. They are now looking to duplicate that tidal experience on the other side of the Delta, just gotta’ have the high tide!
A couple of things are being missed here. First, the vast majority of fish in the Delta live in 5-12 feet of water year ‘round. In some areas, they can be caught as deep as 20-30 feet. Secondly, the quality fish that most of the tournament anglers are looking for don’t go running up to the shallows as often as all those fish under 3 pounds do. The reason is, a bass’ biology does not afford him the comfort to be running up and down the bank 3-4 times a day as the tide rises and falls, it’s not their nature to do so. They like to lumber, suspend and be lazy, picking the spots that are advantageous to them. Having to move just because the water left, is not their way of life, so most of the large bass on this river system reside in deeper areas. A bass that is hunkered down in 5-12 foot of water on the low tide never has to move, when the tide rises, he’s now in 9-16 feet and virtually uncatchable by the vast majority of anglers that visit the Delta. Remember, deep here is relative. It always amazes me that guys will go to our lakes, especially places like Don Pedro and fish for largemouth in deep water from 60-90 feet deep yet they never look deep here on the Delta, which is only 8-30 feet. Why not? A bass is a bass is a bass, right?
Okay, so now I got yer’ mind thinking: “Wow, this really make sense! But where do we find this deep water? It just seems so difficult to find”. Actually, it’s not that difficult, instead of looking at 2,000 miles of shoreline, start looking at the weed lines. In particular, the outside weed line. Start looking at points. What’s the first thing we do when we hit a lake? We launch and go to the nearest point. Guys don’t think about fishing points on the River like they do on a lake. Think like you’re on a lake. Ya’ know how ya’ look at the bank, follow it up the hill to the tree lines, then try to visualize it as it reaches out below your boat? We do this at Shasta, Oroville, Folsom, Pedro and Mead. Start doing that on the Delta. Look at the rock levee walls. Look for those points along those walls like ya do on a lake. Pay close attention to the tule islands. Visualize what that tule islands look like under the water. Every tule island out there is comprised of two points that drop off into deep water on both sides.
When you’re in the flooded islands, think of them as miniature lakes. Let’s take Franks Tract for instance. The fish want to migrate in and out of this big lake during the year. And they do so the same exact way fish in the lakes do. They follow contour lines; they follow shad in and out of the creek channels. The creek channels for Franks are: Piper Slough, Sandmound, Dutch Slough, Taylor Slough, Washington Cut, Holland Cut, Connection and the San Joaquin River. Fish that move in and out of Franks to spawn, use these channels to find deeper water that ALL bass frequent at some point in the summer and winter. This concept can be applied throughout the river system.
Fishing deeper to catch bass is nothing new to western anglers. It is an overlooked concept by many who to fish the California Delta. Fishin’ deep on this river is relative and since none of us would hesitate to fish 8-20’ deep at ClearLake, Berryessa, Melones, Folsom or Oroville, you should give it a try on your next trip to the Delta. You will actually find that fishin’ in this zone will narrow your fishing areas on the Delta tremendously. For me, it sure makes it a lot easier to pick my daily fishing spots.
Keep a tight Line, and may all yer Bites be Monsters! Cooch
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