Winter Fishing the Delta..

The Last couple weeks has been mayhem and its been 3 weeks since Ive fished the Delta.  Work is seasonally busy, and its been a challange  supporting my wife and father in law with some pressing health issues.  And with Christmas around the corner, its been busy.   Judging from the Delta Reports these last rainy weekends,  its been tough and I was wondering why every one was leaving Sugerbarge till next year.   Is the winter fishing that bad?   Checking the weather reports for the last week,  I finally saw an opportunity on Sunday to fish  given that there were no emergencies to keep me home.   I drove  up Saturday night late and was worrying about the boat being in the water for so long without me checking on it as well as the state of the Motorhome sitting at Sugarbarge hopping it hand’t been over run by raccoons or mice.   I went straight to the boat,  and to my surprise,  Blanton’s and mineI were the only boats left in the dock.   The boat was covered in spiderwebs and It looked like some birds started using it as a bathroom.    I cleaned the boat up and bilged out quite a bit of water from the boat.  The rains must have filled it. Started it up, and went through the checklist–all was well for an early morning start.    The tides were ok,  no rain predicted,  water temp 58 degrees, and a good solonar period around 2 PM.    I like fishing that  falling tide and though the slack on the way up in the middle of the day.

IMG_5578IMG_5577I left the Dock at 7am and decided to look for clear water in the tract.   It was pretty foggy — visability 50 feet–  and there was a ton of hyacinth nearly blocking my shortcut out of Pipers Slough.  The main tract was about 30 percent weed blocked and it was tricky doing the slalom over to Roundhouse where I wanted to start.   I concentrated my efforts on the north wall of Frank Tract.   The fishing till about 11am was pretty slow with a few dinks here and there,  nothing showing and no birds.   I tried topwater,  but nothing happening.   Having never fished the Delta in December,  I figured it was probably the norm.   Around 11:00 things picked up in a big way,  I started catching some nice fish along the walls and shallows.  I also started using some bucktail yellow and chartreuse size 1/0 closers that Bill Siler turned me on to.  I forgot how good (and different)  bucktail flies move in the water compared to artificial hair like slinky flash.  Len Bearden only used bucktail flies even though he had access to all the synthetics.    I picked up a dozed keepers by noon and one over ten.    The fog never  burned off all day, but the winds stayed very light.    I would say that it was a pretty good day compared to December fishing in San Luis with no fish all day.  I think its going to be alright fishing the Delta till April even if am alone,  with Dan leaving at the end of December.

I ran into Vaughn Willet,  near Washinton Cut.  I hadn’t seen him for a year.   We always seemed to end up at the same places as I on San Luis a couple years ago.  He told me that there were a lot of big fish being caught on terminal tackle in the Main Lake this last week.  Several Fish over 20lbs.  Also,a patient told me that he was catching big stripers in the early morning at Del Valle reservoir at sunup on plugs and surface lures.  There sure is a lot of big fish being taken in December this year.   Hopefully the rains will help the fishing now and later–it usually does.

Wayne won the ebay auction for Eagle Canyon opening day and was gracious enough to invite  Mark and I,  I hope to shoot a lot of Drone footage.  Big Trout in a small ponds.  The whole Syn clan is back for the third time….


I noticed after posting these pictures to Dan’s forum, that there were Sea Lice on one of the fins.

Posted by Meng Syn on 2014-12-09 13:48:44

I noticed on some of the Delta Stripers I was catching last Sunday – sea lice. I fished a High percentage spot with no grabs for a couple hours waiting for the right tide and then within an hour caught a bunch of fish . Do you think they are always there and don’t feed till the tide pushes bait out? Are the fish coming in from the ocean fresh and stopping there for a short time? Or do they migrate in and hang for a couple days feeding only when the tide is right? I think if I did the typical “cast ten times and move” I might have missed it. Does the sea lice on the Stripers tell me how long they have been in freshwater?

This answer from Mike McKenzie is interesting and informative.

Posted by Mike McKenzie on 2014-12-12 21:24:01 in reply to Delta Stripers with sea lice posted by Meng Syn on 2014-12-09 13:48:44


With the current export pumping, between the Banks and Jones pumping plants, they’re sending about 9100 cfs south as of today but on Sunday they were somewhat below that and ramping up.

The last time I was out west (a couple of weeks ago) there was saltwater almost up to Jersey Point (mouth of Dutch Slough) on the incoming tide. Not much true outflow right now so nothing to push the salt back toward the bay. Also given that freshwater is not as dense as saltwater, who knows how much further up river the saltwater is under the freshwater. Anyway, I doubt if that has changed much given the present pumping rate.

That considered, depending on how much further up the San Joaquin you were fishing, those fish were probably within a day or so from saltwater. How long they hung around in the West Delta is anybody’s guess.. There are a lot of their favorite things to eat out there.

The one thing for sure about striped bass, is that they are a pelagic fish and being thus they are always on the move. They go up river or back down river but always on the move.

They may stay in an area for a tidal cycle or two and move on, depending on the prey of the day so to speak. The fish that folks find in the HPS’s are not necessarily the same school that was there the day before or after.

The HPS’s are places that meet the requirements for the stripers (water conditions, temp and oxygen, food, etc).

One school moves out, another moves in if the conditions are still right.

At tidal turns conditions change from a pelagic fish’s point of view, stripers have to either be swimming on the move or facing current.

Generally they’ll feed when ever opportunity allows during and just before tidal turns and again once the tide starts moving good as their prey species are affected by the different tidal currents and or water levels. A good for instance is when they are keying on Crawfish in the Rip Rap on the levees as they move down the bank during an outgo….

The thing that makes fishin’ interesting and fun is the game we play tryin’ to think like a fish. Stripers give us just enough so that we stay in the game and think we’ve got them figured out! Only stripers (and other fish) really know what they’re doing and we will always think that we know too! 🙂




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