State fires will affect some hunting opportunities

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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With storm systems coming from the south, lightning strikes have produced fire after fire throughout the north state this summer. Tens of thousands of acres have been affected.

While considerable media attention has focused on three wildfires — the Wye fire in Lake and Colusa counties, the Ponderosa fire in Tehama and Shasta counties and the Chips fire in Plumas County — there have been many more fires in the state.

Some were attacked and extinguished quickly. Others have burned as long as the more publicized fires but, because of their location, weren’t as vigorously fought.

There are plus and minus aspects to fires.

Air quality is adversely affected and, depending on prevailing breezes, smoke can cover a great deal of territory. Secondly, it’s heartbreaking to look over blackened terrain.

When a fire scorches a landscape, there are wild critters that have the ability to escape. Birds can fly away; bear and deer can run to safer ground. But, there are smaller and less-mobile critters that don’t have the ability to escape.

While fires may destroy millions of board feet of timber, not every form of wildlife can utilize trees. Squirrels and birds make their home in trees. Deer and bear will use timber areas for cover. But, most treed areas don’t provide a great food source for many creatures.

When a fire wipes out an area, the aesthetic beauty of the region is destroyed. Soon after the first rains, however, patches of green begin appearing. Creatures are attracted to the new growth.

Growth that was destroyed by fire held little nutrients for wildlife. The new growth is exactly what many wild creatures want and need.

The rash of recent fires is having an impact on hunting in the north state. The Department of Fish and Game is recommending the sage grouse hunt in eastern Lassen County be effectively canceled due to the Rush Fire.

Fires to the north are going to affect the pronghorn antelope hunt, as a good portion of the Lassen Zone has burned.

Hunters with archery tags for the X5b zone and the general deer seasons in the A9 archery zone will be affected, as a fire has burned an extensive portion of the zone.

Hunt the burn

One thing I discovered many years ago while hunting above Foresthill after a large fire was extinguished: Deer visit recent burn areas.

They’ll stay longer after rainfall and when fresh green sprouts of growth begin appearing.

Anybody who’s harvested their deer will attest to the fact that deer have ticks, sometimes a lot of ticks. When you flip the deer on its back, several ticks can be seen in the soft belly region, little black creepy crawlers.

Visiting a recent burn area is one way they can reduce their tick infestation. Deer will roll in the ashes, sometimes when the ashes are still warm. Ticks don’t like being coated in the ashes and will bail out.

If your hunt zone recently was affected by a fire, don’t look for a great deer population inhabiting the region, but look for them to visit the area. Take a stand and you can still tag your buck.

Current fishing

Sacramento River salmon: Action is up one day, down the next, depending on when the fish move in. They don’t stay in this region so it’s a waiting game, waiting for the school to move in and through. When they’re in, rods are doubling over with good salmon being netted.

The action gets better and better in and around Red Bluff, the upper reaches of their run. The fish will stack up. Because it takes the salmon longer to get to the upper reaches of the river, they tend to be darker than salmon caught closer to Sacramento.

American and Feather River salmon: Few salmon have turned into the American River. Let the river temperature drop, get a rainstorm from the north, and that will change almost overnight.

The Feather River is showing better action. Catching activity has been decent around Shanghai Bend, the mouth of the Yuba River, Gridley and the Outlet.

Saltwater: Top action news has been rock cod, sacks of them. The San Francisco Bay Area Fleet has been hammering limits of bottom fish along the Marin County coast, and the best news is that anglers also are limiting on the highly preferred ling cod. Some lings are hitting 20 pounds. It’s the same story for those going out of the Bodega Bay harbor. Don’t hope for a rock cod trip out of Fort Bragg. Bottom fishing came to a seasonal end Aug. 16.

Folsom Lake: There’s still some landlocked salmon getting hooked, but you’ll need to burn a lot of gas and put in a fair amount of time to find them. The main body of the lake in the old river channel is where you’ll mainly find them, and they’re down as much as 60 feet. The fish are in schools. When you get bit, work the same area and you could pick off another fish or two.

For bass, drop-shot plastics and jigs. Watch your scope and find submerged rock piles.

Lake Amador: Let a northern cooling rain make an appearance, and the lake will begin its winter trout planting program. It will come soon. In the meantime, bass are holding about 15 feet down and just about anything in a crawdad pattern will get you bit.

Camping? Throw out some stinky stuff as the sun goes down and you can get rewarded with a catfish. Take the kids and pick up a container of redworms or mealies. Bluegill are all around the lake.

Collins Lake: This wonderful lake behind Marysville is generally great for trout fishing but not right now with the current weather and lack of planting for a while. Catfish, though, are taking up the slack. Fishing around the dam, the beach region off the camping area and even the docks has produced stringers after the sun sets. If you’re persistent and bent on trout, they can still be had; some anglers are actually finding limits. Watch your scope carefully, stay in the channel in the middle of the lake, and get down 25-35 feet.

Contact George deVilbiss at