Breaking down the delta by seasons Spring, summer, fall and winter and how the fish migrate and relate to current, weeds shade and other structure can potentially help you catch more fish and bigger fish.
It all starts with time on the water. Get out as much as you can. If you don’t stay on the bite, the fish will change or move on you and it can be very difficult to get back on them. If you can’t spend the time on the water read all you can. Places like Calbassin.com and my website mikeandrewsfishing.com are good places to read up on what’s happening on the delta at any given time.
Mike Andrews is one of the Top Anglers on the California Delta
The Delta is a big place and can be very intimidating. The best way to start fishing the Delta is to break it down in 4 sections. Get a map and mark out sections, North. South, East and West. The middle Delta holds the best numbers of fish, so that’s a good place to start. Pick a section and learn it. Learn how the fish relate to current, shade, weeds and learn the deep sections. That will help you make the Delta fish smaller.
Right now, December 2009, the Delta is still fishing tough. It has been that way pretty much all year. I’m not sure of the reason, but it has definitely been a down year for one of the best fisheries in the country. This year my best day was about 28 pounds. Last year I had 8 days over 30 pounds including a 35 and 36 pound limit in tournaments. I sure hope it rebounds next year.
Mike is a featured speaker at many Nor Cal Venues.
Here Mike speaks at the 1st annual Bass Jam in Cotati California
I fish the delta differently on days when I am just out fishing and days I am in a tournament or pre-fishing for a tournament. When I am just out fishing I like to experiment with new baits and techniques. These fish see allot of baits so you need to think outside of the box and change up to keep them on their toes. When I am pre-fishing for a tourney I check all of my go to areas looking at water color and try to get a bite or two to see if anyone is home. I’m not like a lot of other tournament fishermen, I always hear, “I’m swinging for the fences” or “Go big or go home”, I hate those sayings. I fish for the most bites as I can get. If I’m catching 50 fish a day, 5 of those fish will be good ones, and I’ll take my chances with those 5 rather then throwing low percentage baits and hope that I get 5 big bites and get them all in the boat. I hate doing bad in tournaments and its that fear of failure that keeps me near the top of the standings.
Right now on the delta we are getting into the winter stage. The water temp is in the high 50’s now and the fish are starting to pull out of current and heading into the back of dead end sloughs and marinas. They will be feeding on shad for the next couple of months until the shad die off. This is the only time out the year I throw shad baits. During every other month of the year I throw crawdad imitation baits, but during the winter months they really get on a shad bite. My favorite way to catch them this time of year is ripping a Lucky Craft pointer 100 in sexy shad. I use a 705cb Dobyns rod with 10 pound fluorocarbon line. On high tide I throw it over the weed beds and on low tide I parallel the weed lines and throw into the lanes in the weeds. I will vary my retrieve until I find what they want; rip-rip-pause, rip-pause or rip-rip-rip. Keep changing the cadence until you find what they want as it will change from day to day or even hour to hour. Another great way to catch numbers is by drop shotting. I use a Dobyns 703dx spinning rod with 20 pound power pro braid. I tie the braid to a swivel and utilize 10 pound mono from there to a 2/0 ewg hook and a 6” Roboworm. MMIII is the best color for me and I use it about 80% of the time, but I like Salt River Craw and the Peoples worm from Roboworm also. I pitch it up under and around docks and weed patches and shake it for 1 to 3 minutes. The fish really like to burry themselves in the weeds in the winter. You will find on most days you will get more bites staying close to the weed lines and clumps. For big fish in the winter you can flip a jig or throw a swimbait.
In the afternoon the rock walls will warm and the big bass will move up and lay in that sun to warm up. This is a great time to catch a toad! I like to pitch a Bobby D jig up on the rocks or I pull the boat right up on the bank and parallel cast a Weed Slinger up to them. Black Dog has a new version of the weed slinger out now and it is killing them, stripers too. I use a Dobyns 795 Mike Long rod with 25 pound fluorocarbon for the Weed Slinger. I use a Gamkatsu G-mag hook in the weed slinger and fish it right on the bank. I’ll start fishing it in 2-3 feet of water and work my way down until I find what dept the fish are holding at. By throwing parallel to the bank, you keep the bait in the strike zone longer and can cover the water more effectively.
As we move into spring and the water temp starts to come back up, the fish will move out of their winter spots and start staging near spawning grounds. This will happen during the first week of sunny weather usually around the beginning of March depending on how cold our winter was. Deep water around flooded islands is a great place to find the fish. Jigs rule this time of year. The fish will be bunched up on the breaks and steep walls around the flooded island such as Big Break, Sherman, Franks Tract, Mildred, and Little Mandeville and when you find them, you can really catch some good fish.
When the water temperature gets into the low 60’s the fish will move up into the flats in the flooded islands. This is when they are the easiest to catch. Senkos rule this time of year. Get into the sparse tulles and flip/pitch a 6” or 7” watermelon/red (208) Senko on a Dobyns 765c with 20 pound fluorocarbon and hold on. There are lots of 10 pound plus fish caught this way every year. This will work all the way through the spawn. After the spawn the fish just move right back to the places you caught them during the pre-spawn. The fish will want to be in or near current when they are done spawning. Look for tulle points and breaks in the islands with current to position the fish. This is when the wakebait/swimbait bite gets really good. I like to take a Black Dog Baits Go-2-Minnow and swim it through the cuts and tulles. I usually swim it down about 1-2 feet. I throw it on a Dobyns 795 Mag Topwater rod and 50 pound power pro braid. This time of the year can be a blast catching good numbers and big fish. It is a blast to watch a 8+ pound bass dart out and smash your bait.
After the spawn the fish move into their summer pattern which means weeds and shade. They well either go into the weed beds or under the floating weeds. This time of year you have to go in and get them. Punching is a great way to find them as is swimming a Go-2-Minnow or the new Black Dog Baits Billed Mini-Shellcracker down the edge of the floating pennywort. Use a 805 flip/punch rod with 65 pound power pro, a 1 ½ ounce tungsten weight a 5/0 ewg hook, a Paycheck baits punch skirt and a double wide Sweet Beaver. Flip it up into the thickest, ugliest floating weeds you can find. Shake it until it drops through and hang on. Most of the strikes will be violent so be ready to cross their eyes when they hit it. The other place they will be is the vast weed beds in the flooded islands and shallow banks with deep water nearby. Top water works well on these fish. A Lunker Punker will call them up out of the weeds. Throw it on the Dobyns 795 Mag top water rod with 65 pound braid. I always like to put a drop of super glue about 10” up my line and let it run down to stiffen up the line. That will help keep the line from getting hung up in the hooks during a cast. A buzzbait will work well on these fish too, as will pitching a Senko into the holes in the weeds. This pattern will hold all of the way into fall when the water temp starts to drop.
In the Fall I like to throw crankbaits. I’ll take a Dobyns 705cb, 14 pound monofilament line and a Rat-L-trap or Lucky Craft BDS3 in crawdad color and get on rock banks and cover a lot of water. The fish will be in groups but, the groups can be miles apart. Once you catch one slow down and work the area over. A Bobby D chatter bait is deadly on these fish too. If you find a group of fish, you can also pull out a drop shot and load the boat. Top water will get you a few big bites too, but remember that is a low percentage bait and when I am fishing tournaments, I like to keep the numbers in my favor.
Those Fall Crankbaits can land one of the Delta Giant Stripers
Good fishing and good luck with the new tournament season.
Mike Andrews is sponsored by The Hook Line & Sinker, Dobyns Rods, Black Dog Baits, Russo’s Marina and Bobby D’s Baits