Water, sunshine bring out stripers, shad

By: J.D. Richey Journal Outdoors Columnist
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It’s amazing what a little water will do for ya!
All the Central Valley rivers are still running extremely high at the moment and that has been an absolute godsend for our fish.
All this wet stuff is good for future generations of salmon and steelhead (sturgeon, too) as it gives the juvenile fish a much safer passage downstream to the saltwater. It’s also great for broadcast spawners like stripers and shad, which lay their eggs on the surface of the water. In high flows, the fertilized eggs have a much higher chance of survival — which obviously bodes well for the future!
But enough of that. How about the present?
Well, the striper fishing continues to be out of this world on the Sacramento system. From Sacramento to Colusa, the fishing has been downright epic for the past several weeks and I’ve been out landing 40-70 fish an outing!
And as you could see by that picture last week that I ran of client Dale Milam and his 40-pounder, there are some jumbo bass in the river. In fact, that same day a guide buddy of mine sent me a picture of a 50-pounder one of his clients caught.
Water temps are closing in on the 58-degree mark with all this hot weather and that means the fish are going to start spawning. When they do, they’ll quickly start heading back toward the saltwater for the summer so this ridiculously good fishing probably won’t last a whole lot longer. Sure, there will be fish in the system all summer long — just not in such huge numbers.
Fortunately, shad fishing is just starting to heat up and that should help ease the pain of the stripers heading back downstream. It’s anybody’s guess as to what this year’s shad run will look like but we typically see very good fishing in the American River during high water years.
I’ve been so focused on stripers that I have not yet been out but there are reports of guys whacking them down on the Sac at Freeport, so it’s clearly time to start trying. I know there were fish in the American as early as mid-April (I saw the sea lions tearing ‘em up) but I didn’t spend a whole lot of time fishing for shad because the water temps were still a chilly 50 degrees.
Shad aren’t great biters until the water warms up into the high 50s, so things should really start popping now!
If you’re interested in shad fishing, I’d start looking in the lower American this weekend, from Discovery Park to Watt Ave. I’m sure there are fish further upstream, but the action is typically best down low in the early going.
As the month progresses, there should be a massive pile of them on the Upper Sunrise Flats and fishing up there typically rages on big water years well into June. In fact, I’ve had some great fishing on the Fourth of July weekend in that stretch.
Not the do-it-yourselfer type? You can always go the guided route for stripers and shad. I’m booked pretty solid for the next month straight, but if you have a date you’d like to fish, send me an email on my website ( and I’ll check the schedule.
J.D. Richey is a 1986 Placer High graduate whose outdoors pieces have been published nationally. His column runs Friday in the Journal.