Smallmouth bass invading local waters
Trout fisherman must fish very hard to find decent fishing during the heat of the summer months. As an alternative, many have gone after the area’s burgeoning smallmouth bass population.
Due to illegal introduction, these fish began appearing in Prosser and Stampede reservoirs at least four or five years ago.
Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolumieu) was first brought to California in 1874 from Lake Champlain, Vt., and the St. Joseph River in Michigan. The first fish were planted in the Napa River and Alameda Creek. They have subsequently been introduced into many waters in Central and Northern California.
They prefer lower temperatures ” about 70 degrees ” and adapt to swifter currents than largemouth bass. They do best in clear, boulder-strewn streams with large pools and in clear lakes with scant vegetation and rocky shoal areas for spawning. They are the earliest spawning bass, beginning in the spring when water temperatures reach 55 to 60 degrees.
Prosser and Stampede provide some great habitat along their rocky dam faces for smallmouth bass. As a result, catching bass along the dam has gained popularity.
Many anglers consider the smallmouth to be the best fighting fish pound for pound. A 2- to 3-pound fish can give an angler a real battle.
In Prosser and Stampede, fish in excess of 5 pounds have bee caught, and some say that there may even be fish in the 7-pound range.
Catching a good-sized smallmouth is not easy, primarily because there are so many juvenile fish to take your offering. The last time I fished off the face of Stampede Reservoir I caught at least 20 bass that were 3 to 4 inches in length and three that were around 7 to 8 inches. A 7- to 8-inch smallmouth pulls like a trout nearly twice its size.
Many anglers catch smallmouth while targeting trout. An outing a few weeks ago for local anglers Steve Zell, his son Kyle and their friend Tom Knudson proved to be one of those times.
As Steve related the story to me, the three of them were fishing on Prosser in a boat and had been fishing all day with no activity. About 8 p.m. Kyle hooked what he thought was bottom while using a Roostertail lure with a worm trailer on an ultralight spinning rig next to the dam.
He handed the rod to Tom to help clear the snag. Tom realized that the snag was moving and played it for about 20 minutes before they boated a beautiful smallmouth bass that they estimated to be nearly 5 pounds. It’s a great story and one that a surprising number of people have had happen to them while fishing for trout.
When they cleaned the fish at home they found a whole crayfish in the stomach. Crayfish are probably the favorite forage for smallmouth bass and Prosser and Stampede have been known to have many of them.
Smallmouth can provide some great sport in the warm water of summer. Anglers have mixed emotions about the smallmouth, however.
On one hand they provide some great sport during the slow summer months for trout. On the other hand, they compete with the trout for food and many feel that they will have a negative impact on the trout fishery.
Apparently, someone has also introduced them into Martis Lake because anglers have caught them there in the past couple years.
Let’s hope that whoever is spreading these fish illegally will not continue to do so and put our trout fishery at risk. Smallmouth is a great fish, but this area historically has been trout water.
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.
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