Fishing in Yuba-Sutter
by Abbey Anderson
The fishing in the Yuba-Sutter region is some of the best in California! Going on your own is great, as well as utilizing one of the many guide services that charter trips in the area. The New Bullards Bar Reservoir offers year-round fishing for a majority of species, including bass, kokanee salmon, trout, bluegill, crappie, and catfish, and guide services will accompany you onto one of the many rivers in the area in search of sturgeon, shad, and multiple types of salmon and trout.
The New Bullards Bar Reservoir is a 47,000-acre reservoir that offers a multitude of species and allows for year-round fishing. Although there are a wide variety of species that can be caught in the reservoir, the majority of anglers tend to visit for bass; in fact, the world record of the largest spotted bass ever caught was at Bullards Bar. It was caught in 2017 and weighed in at 11 pounds 4 ounces. The spotted bass is a great wintertime catch; the large ones are typically seen in January and February. This differs from the largemouth and smallmouth populations which tend to be found as summer turns to fall. There are substantially more largemouth bass to be found in the reservoir than smallmouth, but you’re bound to see both.
Bass can be found throughout the lake, but there are some things to keep in mind when trying to find the bigger ones. Pay attention to the wind when you get to the lake; the wind pushes phytoplankton to one side of the lake, which drives small kokanee salmon to that side, a favorite dish for large bass. They will congregate in that area in search of food, making it easier to catch them. Bass will be tricked by many different kinds of baits, but a particularly effective option is using small swimbaits that mimic kokanee salmon. Another thing to think about is that Bullards Bar doesn’t have a large shad population, so imitating them with crankbaits doesn’t work as well as in other places. Bass also tend to fall for grubs, jigs, and creature baits at the reservoir.
Bullards Bar Reservoir is one of the best spots in California for kokanee salmon fishing. This species of landlocked salmon typically max out around 12 inches and weigh slightly less than a pound, but not in Bullards Bar. The kokanee salmon in the reservoir grows slightly bigger, reaching over 15 inches long and weighing as much as two pounds. Kokanee fishing starts to ramp up in the early springtime, as the fish tend to increase as the winter-stocked salmon grow over the year. By mid-summer, they usually stay in the deep water as far below the surface as 70 feet. That said, they return to the shallows around late fall for spawning when the water cools down again. Most fishermen catch the salmon by trolling in deep water with spoons and spinners of different colors.
Rainbow and brown trout are not as popular as the many species of bass and kokanee salmon. However, they are still caught frequently in the reservoir. They are most common during the colder months and can typically be found in relatively shallow water. Trout can be caught trolling with spoons and spinners similar to the kokanee salmon in the reservoir, so many people will catch both when intending on one or the other. The North Yuba River that feeds into the reservoir is where brown trout go in the fall, getting ready for spawning, and rainbow trout go in the winter. The river has more space for wading and fly fishing, so if you’re looking specifically for trout, this may be the spot for you!
There are many other species that are not sought out quite as much but still have a large population in the reservoir. Bluegill are popular among families since they typically will fall for a simple live worm under a bobber. They tend to stick to shallow water, around 15 feet deep at most, and they congregate among docks, wooded cover, and reed-filled areas. These fish rarely get over 8 inches in length but still put up a good fight on light tackle. Crappies typically spend their days in shallow water, staying around 10 feet below the surface or less. Spring is the best time of year to catch some crappie, so keep that in mind when planning to visit the area! They are a tasty variety of panfish that can usually be caught with small jigs and live minnows. The reservoir is also home to tons of catfish. People don’t typically fish for them at Bullards Bar because they like to stick to the deep holes and only come out to shallower water to hunt as the sun goes down. On warm summer nights, though, they tend to hunt in the reservoir's shallow coves, so it is the perfect time of year to go looking for them!
Not only are there great fishing opportunities for you to experience on your own but there are also many different fishing guides in the area if you are looking for some advice along the way.
Photo Credit via Instagram: @tuckersguideservice
Tucker’s Guide Service
Tucker’s Guide Service offers guided fishing trips for 4 different types of fish. Trips to catch Sturgeon are offered in February and March, striper can be caught from March through May, shad trips can be booked in June and July, and trips to catch salmon can be booked from August to October. Quality rods, reels, and tackle are provided on each of their charters so you can have the best experience possible. Their charters also include fish cleaning, processing, and techniques for catching the specific fish you are looking for.
Photo Credit via Instagram: @rh_guideservice
RH Guide Service
Along with year-round striper trips, RH Guide Service also offers charters to catch sturgeon, king salmon, shad, and steelhead trout. Visit their website to read fishing reports for all the different species they offer trips for.
Photo Credit via Instagram: @norcalflyguides
NorCal Fly Guides
Are you a fan of fly fishing? NorCal Fly Guides lead groups of fly fishers to multiple rivers, including many in the Yuba-Sutter Area.
One of the rivers they frequent is the Feather River which they fish year-round although the best fishing is from September to June. They also guide fishing trips at the Yuba River, and through the river is home to many species, including steelhead and king salmon; most fly fishermen target the wild rainbow trout that are abundant there. The river houses rainbow trout year-round, reaching up to 20 inches long.
The Yuba-Sutter Area is home to many different species of fish. Come discover the hidden gem of fishing opportunities nestled in the breathtaking beauty of Yuba-Sutter. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a first-time fisherman, the pristine waters offer an unforgettable fishing experience like no other.