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Fishing occasionally goes to the birds

Bruce Ajari

When fishing is on the slow side, you tend to notice more of what is going on around you. One of the most interesting things that you will notice is the important role that birds have in the scheme of things.

While fishing, I have watched osprey, loons, cormorants and white pelicans feeding on fish. Osprey are probably the most interesting species because of their spectacular method of catching dinner.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) are large fish-eating hawks which resemble small, white-breasted eagles. They hover high above the water and dive into the water to capture their prey. If you are not watching one and it dives in the water close by, you may jump right out of your waders or boat. Watching an osprey fly off with a large trout is quite a sight; I never tire of seeing these birds work.

While fishing at Martis Lake recently, I watched white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) swim back and forth in their fishing mode. These birds are huge and spectacular in flight, with a wingspan that covers eight to 9.5 feet.

Watching four of these pelicans, my attention was turned skyward by the whistling of a glider returning to the Truckee-Tahoe Airport. Looking up, I noticed two large flocks of pelicans circling in the thermal currents above the ridge to the south. This was a great sight.

Loons and cormorants are also found in many of our mountain lakes. These birds look somewhat similar and both capture fish beneath the surface of the water.

Other birds that fish in our region include, but are not limited to, bald eagles, mergansers and blue heron.

This impressive list of birds includes species that are probably better fishermen than humans. Watching them makes for an interesting pastime, whether fishing is good or bad.

Some birds, such as blackbirds and swallows, can be quite helpful if you are a fly-fisherman. The presence of these birds around a lake or stream indicate that a surface hatch of some sort is in progress. When they are absent, the fish will typically be feeding under the surface of the water.

Anglers can greatly improve their chance of catching a fish if they follow the working birds; similar to ocean fishermen who look for birds locating schools of baitfish (and the gamefish that feed upon the baitfish).

Watching the swallows work over a hatch of mayflies, you wonder if any insects could ever survive. They are very efficient. Watching blackbirds sitting in the vegetation along the shore of a lake during a damselfly hatch is also a sight to behold. As the damselflies migrate to shore and crawl out on the vegetation to emerge into their adult stage, the blackbirds wait and feast upon them.

You can learn a lot by watching our feathered friends. Observation is really the key to improving your odds when it comes to fishing in general. Bird watching can be an additional component of the complete angler.

It is always fun to watch the interaction between natures’ participants. When it can assist your fishing efforts, it is all the more rewarding.

Fishing Report

Boca Reservoir – Boca is at 34,708 Acre Feet. Shore fishermen are doing fair to good. Some nice trout are being taken on inflated nightcrawlers. Rainbows are taking power bait, salmon eggs or nightcrawlers as well. Trollers are catching some kokanee using flasher and Kokanee Bug combinations. Most others are still concentrating on the shallower water with minnow type lures or a flasher/worm combination for fair fishing for the rainbow and brown trout. Fly fishermen are doing fair to good using woolly buggers, nymphs, or midges near the inlet.

Donner Lake – Shore fishermen are taking planted rainbows, and a few nice brown trout. Most are dunking nightcrawlers, power bait, or salmon eggs near the boat ramp or west end beach. Trollers are taking some nice mackinaw. Recent plants of catchable rainbows has made fishing for Mackinaw a very good choice. Most are using a minnow imitating lure of some kind. Jigging for mackinaw has also produced a few as well. Topliners should try the shallower water with flasher/worm combinations or minnow imitating lures.

Lake Tahoe – (6228.86 Lake Elevation) Mackinaw fishing remains good. Some are being found in shallower water, but the majority are still being taken in water over 200 feet deep. Topliners are taking a few fish, but overall it is still pretty slow right now. Most fish are in the three to five pound range. Not too many shore fishing, but some rainbows are beginning that have already spawned. Most use inflated nightcrawlers. Tributaries to Lake Tahoe are not open. They open July 1 and close September 30.

Martis Creek Reservoir – Martis is a zero kill lake – catch and release fishing only with only artificial lures with barbless hooks. No bait is allowed. Fishing should improve as the weather warms up again. Fishing has been fair for most. A variety of nymphs, midges, and streamers have been successful. Try woolly buggers, bead head nymphs, midges, and emerger patterns. Blood midges were good prior to the recent cooler weather. Fish are on small midges or caddis in the evenings.

Prosser Creek Reservoir – Prosser is at 23,894 Acre Feet. Fishing has been fair for shore fishermen. Most are using power bait, nightcrawlers, and salmon eggs. Trollers are having some success. Most are trolling flasher/worm combinations or minnow imitating lures. Flyfishermen are having success with olive or black woolly buggers, nymphs and midges.

Stampede Reservoir – Stampede’s lake level is 191,181 Acre Feet. Shore fishermen have been taking some rainbows and browns. Most are using nightcrawlers, power bait or salmon eggs. Some nice fish have been taken. Kokanee fishing still remains the main draw this time of year for trollers. The traditional flasher/wedding ring and white corn combination has been the top producer recently. Fish have been scattered this past week with all the water. Fish to 17 inches have been reported. Look for this to slow down as the water. Fish to 17 inches have been reported. Look for this to slow down as the water begins to warm with the weather. Flyfishermen have been taking a few fish on woolly buggers, nymphs, and midges near the inlet streams.

Truckee River – The Truckee is looking good and the fishing has really begun to show improvement through the Wild Trout section below Truckee. The section between Truckee and River Ranch has been fair to good. Bait and lures have accounted for most of the fish. Water has been lowered significantly. Some very nice fish have been caught. The Wild Trout Section below Truckee has been improving as well. Try standard nymphs such as the Pheasant Tail, Hares Ear, Prince, Birds Nest, and Zug Bug. For dries and emergers try an Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, Humpy or Quigley Cripple. Soft hackles can also be very effective.

Other Waters – The Little Truckee River has been fair to good. Most success has been by the fly fishermen working nymphs, streamers, and some sporadic dry fly action. Frenchmans Reservoir and Davis Lake are fishing hot and cold. Both are experiencing good fishing at times, but it has not been real consistent for most. The road to Jackson Meadows has been closed due to flood damage from the January 1 event. No word on exactly how long it will take to repair, but the initial estimates are for a long closure.


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