Nestled in the canyon of the mighty Mokelumne River, Pardee Reservoir is quite impressive, but in the glow of early spring, it’s more like spectacular. Willie Mehrer and I saw and heard moments in nature that brought relaxation and pleasant thoughts as we fished for kokanee.
Sounds like the calls of the birds that live along the canyon kept us tuned in; often we saw birds hit the water diving for fish. We were especially delighted to see an osprey up close as it darted at bullet speed into the water, disappeared for a moment, then emerged in flight, but with empty talons.
It’s music to the ears hearing small streams babbling between the canyon walls. Each contained a decent level of water, a common sight during a good rainy season. Large outcroppings of boulders loom and attract the eye, too, of every shape, some as big as small buses. They seem to defy gravity as they hang like ornaments along severe verticals of pure stone. The bright deep greens of the hills and trees, painted with splashes of seasonal wildflower color are welcoming. Our morning of March trolling was good for the senses.
Willie and I set out trolling for kokanee. The season’s still early – wait till May and June for the big action – but I heard anglers were catching a few and I wanted to see for myself. When we got to the lake, at least four other boats were being launched, but we had no wait and enjoyed a comfortable launch.
Pardee was closed for eight months and reopened in March. In September, the water level was reduced so that work could be done to the recreation area. I was happy to see the lake near full capacity.
After motoring at 5 mph past the final recreation buoy, I opened the throttle to 5,500 rpms, trimmed the boat and to the narrows of the Mokelumne River arm we headed.
It was a cool morning and we could see fog lifting from the water. We trolled from the floating restroom to the buoy line first, fighting a headwind that required me to drop my trolling plate on my outboard engine rather than rely on the electric trolling motor.
I packed an assortment of kokanee lures and dodgers, beaded spinners, wiggle Hoochies, bugs, slender spoons; we would try them all before the day was done.
At the buoy line, Willie indicated the surface temperature of the water was a cold 45 degrees. Kokanee like cold water, so this seemed good to me. We tipped all of our hooks with shoepeg corn that was soaked in garlic for scent. The troll to this point looked good for fish, but we weren’t rewarded with any strikes from early-season kokanee.
After turning around, the wind was at our backs. To save fuel, I dropped the electric trolling motor, which meant we could troll our lures closer to the boat. By the time Willie and I passed under the “Indian head” rock formation, we had only one strike on a wiggle Hoochie that was behind a 4-inch dodger. By this time, Willie and I were exchanging comments like, “The worst day fishing is better than the best day of work!”
Then, all at once, Willie jumped up and grabbed the second rod he had with line straight off the stern. As he cranked the reel, the fish broke the surface about 30 feet from the boat. Willie fought it and lifted his rod tip to swing a plump, 11.5-inch kokanee on board. There were nothing but smiles as we high-fived in the thrill of a success.
Tip of the week – Pardee Recreation Co. owner Richard Cooper told me a large plant of 8,500-pounds of trout will happen at the lake in April. Willie’s kokanee hit the rod that was set with a small sidekick-dodger followed by a bug lure. Small presentations near the surface worked best on this particular day.
On the water:
Don Pedro – The Fleming Meadows, Blue Oaks and Moccasin launch ramps are open. The lake level is 53 percent of capacity and rising. The trout will be in the shallows, but can be found chasing shad in the deep. Bank anglers float PowerEggs on sliding-sinker setups. Trollers find luck with needlefish and speedy-shiner spoons. The bass, catfish and crappie bites are fair to good.
New Melones – The water is slowly rising enough to open the courtesy ramp with a dock at Glory Hole Point. Boat traffic has increased as anglers fish for bass, trout, crappie and catfish. The lake is at 25 percent capacity.
New Hogan – At 43 percent capacity, there are now two launches available. The striper are the target fish for most anglers, but bass, crappie and catfish are here, too.
Camanche – The north and south shore launch ramps are open and more than 35,000-pounds of Mount Lassen trout have been planted throughout the lake and South Shore Trout Pond. The trout are scattered all over the lake; the favorite areas for anglers are the dam, north shore, the narrows and the trout pond. The bass action is good.
Amador – The lake spilled recently, meaning launching is wide open and there are more places to catch lunker-sized trout along the banks. A huge carp weighing more than 51 pounds was recently landed near Jackson Creek on PowerEggs by Bill Chiarello.
Reach William Heinselman at solidgoldfishing.com.
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