International Sportsmen’s Expo opens Thursday

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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It’s always a crowded event. The annual International Sportsmen’s Expo at Cal Expo couldn’t come at a more ideal time, when most outdoors-oriented people are wracked with cabin fever.

It also appears the storm doors are finally going to open and bring much-wanted and needed rain to the valley and snowfall to the Sierra at the time of the event.

Depending on how much rain falls and when, the outdoor displays would take the biggest hit. Just don the raingear, as it can be a fair distance from the parking lot to the entry gate, and then to the first exhibit building.

There also can be lengthy lines at the gates, but you can avoid them by purchasing tickets online. Go to, click on “Sacramento,” and then click on “Buy Tickets Now Online.”

Tickets cost $15 for adults. Entry is free for active military and kids 15 and under. Parking costs $10.

Show hours are: Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Current fishing

American River: If you stood shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of other anglers during the Jan. 1 opener, you could go out today and pretty much have the river to yourself. It’s still running super clear and low, conditions demanding light gear. The catching is far from hot, but there are nice steelhead to be found throughout the system. I caught my first steelhead on the American on a night crawler. Fresh roe generally is a hot bait to use, and lightly cured roe works well. You want to drift anything that emulates their favorite foodstuffs: salmon roe, so salmon eggs will work well and any lure that looks like salmon eggs that may have drifted free from the nests where the salmon attempted to lay them.

Deep Water Channel: There’s a fair population of stripers roaming the channel region and turning basin. Shore access has become restrictive, but there are places you can access near the turning basin and channel. Those with boats are doing fairly well, but it’s still mainly schoolie-sized, smaller bass. Jigging a variety of hardware, trolling minnow imitators such as a Rapala or HairRaiser and drifting jumbo minnows are all getting bit. Just watch the tides carefully. The Port region is heavily affected by the tides, and the outgoing tide always produces a better fishery.

Caples Lake: Generally, this lake is going full bore for those boring holes through thick ice and fishing for trout. The stringers can get really heavy with hefty trout. While ice fishing was happening for a short while, ice on the lake isn’t sufficient to be declared safe for fishing right now because of the lack of snowfall and higher temperature. Hopefully, with storms in the forecast, the conditions will change.

Lake Oroville: The lake is still at more than 70 percent. Great news for this summer. The main body is stuffed with bass, but the main problem is the water is crystal clear. Early mornings are proving to be good for a bite, and some bucketmouths you can hook can weigh more than four pounds. Plastics, tubes and jigs are working best, but as just about everywhere, the bass are holding deep, as much as 60 feet. There’s a mass of hungry silver salmon throughout the lake, and they’re grabbing the bass offerings.

Rollins Lake: It’s a water recreationalist’s lake in the summer, and right now, anglers pretty much have it to themselves. Troll around the dam, hauling a threaded crawler behind a dodger or small flasher blades, and you can hook some trout.

Camp Far West: Still no problem launching at the North Shore ramp. Not much traffic, and those working the rocky areas in the main body are finding bass — nothing of any bragging size, however. Most are small.

New Melones: The wintertime trout fishery here is legendary, and the bite is red-hot now. Shore-bound? Limits. Trolling? Limits. For those on shore, Power Bait and even Power Eggs are enticing bites, and cast-retrieving a variety of lures and spoons are accounting for big-time takedowns. For those putt-putting in trolling mode, Ex-Cels, Needlefish and other lures are being bit. The fish are shallow, so top-line. To avoid scaring the fish, let out a good 100 feet of line behind the boat. You’ll find it makes all the difference in the world.

S.F. Bay Fleet: Party boats headed out under the Golden Gate are rewarding everybody on board with limits of crab and generally limits of a variety of bottom fish. So long as north winds don’t blow, it’s an easy ride out on the open water of the Pacific.

Sierra Lakes: Amazing. Absolutely amazing. Lakes generally well snowed in right now and inaccessible until late spring are generally available by vehicle without using four-wheel drive. Additionally, most mountain lakes are still in wonderful conditions with higher-than-usual water levels because of the late spring storms in 2011.

Hell Hole? Accessible. Stampede Reservoir? Accessible. Loon Lake? Accessible. Jackson Meadows? Accessible. And just about every other lake you can think of.

However, it appears those conditions could radically change this week with, finally, incoming storms. If you’re planning a trip to the high country, just know many of these lakes could become inaccessible overnight.

Contact George deVilbiss at