The Windiest Month of the Year – Don’t you turn on that Red Light …

Saturday June 17, 2023 – A few weeks ago, my friend Steph and I had an amazing day  fishing on the lake, and ever since then, I’ve been eager to get back out there almost every day. Today was the first day in three weeks that the “Red Light” warning for the lake and Forebay was off, so I made sure to seize the opportunity. I arrived at the main lake at 7:00, and despite the presence of whitecaps everywhere, there was no red light signaling closure. However, I hesitated and decided to launch at the Forebay instead, becoming the 22nd to launch there.

The Forebay Launch greeted me with a tranquil calmness with the foothills shadowing the wind in contrast to the Forebay Kiosk where the flags were fiercely flapping straight out,   so I headed over to the powerhouse where I had success on my previous fishing trip. Unfortunately, a significant amount of muddy water was flowing in from the powerhouse, creating a noticeable mud line where the current mixed with the Forebay. I anticipated fish to be in and out of the current and mudlines, but to my disappointment, I didn’t get any hits or register any fish on my sonar. By noon, I had thoroughly fished all my regular spots without any luck or signs of fish on the sonar. I remained clueless about the whereabouts of the fish in the Forebay.

Around noon, it seemed like the wind had died down, so I made the decision to check the lake again or face returning home fishless.   As I arrived at Dino, I noticed the absence of whitecaps and the presence of six boat trailers in the parking lot. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one suffering from a desperate desire to catch  fish despite challenging conditions. I launched my boat and headed straight for the trash racks, hoping to find those sizable schools of small stripers in front of them (three-year-old fish measuring around 16-17 inches).

As I made my way to the racks, the wind and chop increased due to the winds blowing over the foothills and onto the water. By the time I reached the racks, it became challenging to maintain balance in the boat. I decided to take refuge from the winds in the wind shadow of the trash racks and focus my fishing efforts on the sides of the pillars. There was only one spot where I could Spot Lock and cast to large schools of stripers, and I took full advantage of it. After three hours of fishing that same spot, I had successfully caught over 25 small stripers, with a few good-sized fish measuring over 20 inches. Unlike my previous outing, I couldn’t explore beyond that sheltered area to search for larger fish since the lake was too rough to stand in the boat elsewhere. I discovered that the bigger fish  in my spot were deeper, around 40 to 50 feet, and I caught them by counting down my fly.

Around 3:00, it felt like the wind was shifting and intensifying. I made my way back home, directly facing the wind waves. This took longer compared to riding the waves toward the racks, but having just caught ten fish per hour, including a couple of nice ones, it was a far better outcome than getting skunked in the Forebay.  It was worth the long slow ride home against the wind.

June has the windiest days and the most closed days of any month of the year on San Luis Reservoir and Forebay.  Roxanne at the  Forebay Kiosk informed me that the waterways had been closed for the last two weeks with Red Light Warnings.  I pleaded with her not to “turn on the Red Light”  even though it appeared that the winds were already approaching 20 mph as I pulled up with my boat in the morning.   It always amazes me how different the wind conditions are between the Lake and Forebay when the wind blows North East.   The calmer conditions in the fishless Forebay gave me enough courage to try the lake again at noon.

If you’re uncertain about whether the lake is open for fishing, the best way to confirm is by calling the O’Neill Forebay Kiosk. ((209) 826-4714) and inquiring. I’ve noticed that in June, most of the wind prediction apps tend to be inaccurate about the wind conditions over Pacheco Pass. During this month, it’s not uncommon to experience average wind speeds below 10 mph with gusts reaching 25 mph. If you observe gusts over 15 mph, it’s a good indication that whitecaps will be present on the lake. The Forebay serves as a viable alternative when the lake is hazardous, as it is shielded by the foothills when the wind blows.

Reasons why June is considered a great month for Stripers.-

  1. Spawning Season: In many regions, striped bass spawn during the spring, and the spawning activity typically peaks in May and June. During this time, striped bass migrate from coastal and estuarine areas to spawn in rivers, tributaries, or other suitable freshwater environments. This concentration of fish provides an excellent opportunity for anglers to target them.
  2. Feeding Patterns: After the spawning season, striped bass tend to be in a post-spawn phase, during which they are actively feeding to regain energy and replenish their reserves. They are more likely to be actively searching for prey, making them more responsive to flies.  Fish in San Luis and the O’Neill Forebay start feeding in shallow water and fly fishermen can target them easier that when they school in the deep water.
  3. Water Temperature: By June, the water temperatures have usually warmed up significantly, The forebay water temp was in the 70’s and the lake today was 62 degrees.  Striped bass are cold-blooded creatures, and warmer water temperatures stimulate their metabolism and increase their activity levels. As the water warms up, striped bass become more active and are more likely to feed near the surface.  The livescope showed that the fish around the trash racks were up from 40 feet to 20 feet.
  4. Bait Availability: June often marks the beginning of an abundant food supply for striped bass. The warming water temperatures support the growth and abundance of baitfish and other prey species, such as Delta and Wakasagi smelt,  Threadfin Shad and American Shad  which are essential food sources for San Luis and and O’Neill Forebay striped bass.

2 thoughts on “The Windiest Month of the Year – Don’t you turn on that Red Light …

  1. Nice report Meng. Glad you got some on the Big Lake.

    I was planning to go on Saturday as well, but the Super Forecast for the morning jumped from 3 MPH to 10 PMH and I decided to wait and check the real time data in the morning – which was 10-12 when I woke up at 7:00. So I bailed out and worked on maintenance on my boat and cleaning up the garage, etc. Now I’m all set for the next low-wind day.

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