Winter stormsbuild snow pack levels

February 05, 2008 11:00 pm

By Andy Martin

For many Del Norte County outdoors enthusiasts, a spring or summer trip to Shasta, Trinity or Oroville lakes is an annual tradition.

For the past several years, Northern California's largest reservoirs have been far from being full. But the constant rainstorms that have soaked the Crescent City area have dumped plenty of snow in the mountains that feed the state's lakes and reservoirs, making it more likely they will be full by Memorial Day weekend.

Through Monday evening, Crescent City had received 14.4 inches of rain this year, including 2.6 already for February. The normal January rainfall is 9.9 inches.

The mountains of northern California and southern Oregon, meanwhile, have received snowfall amounts much higher than normal. Siskiyou Summit, about 100 miles east of Crescent City, had 65 inches of snow on Jan. 31, three times the normal amount 19 inches. It is the most measured at the site since records were first kept in 1935. The water content of the snow is 350 percent of average.

The 90-day forecast from the National Weather Service predicts wetter-than-normal weather and near-normal temperatures.

"With the amount of snow pack we have in the mountains right now, it's a pretty wet year," says Jay Stockton, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Medford, Ore. "January has been quite wet."

The wet weather is good news for boaters this summer, as well as salmon fishermen on the Klamath River later this year. Low, warm waterflows during the summer have caused fish die offs in the past.

At Shasta Lake, which is currently about 97 feet down from full pool because of flood storage, boaters are optimistic the reservoir will be full by May. When the lake is full, standing timber is flooded and coves are full of water, making great conditions for bass anglers.

Smith River steelhead

Steelhead fishing on the Smith River has been hampered by frequent rain in Del Norte County, which has kept flows high for most of the season. Plunkers were out in force early this week, but more rain was expected by Wednesday.

The peak of the season is here, so expect fishing to be good when the river drops a little. With lots of snow on Oregon Mountain and in the hills above Gasquet, any warm rain could create flooding on the Smith. Flooding also is possible on the Klamath, with a substantial snow pack in the Klamath Basin and in Happy Camp.

When the Smith is in good shape, expect a mix of fresh hatchery and wild fish, and spawned out steelhead making their way back to the ocean. This is the time of year anglers can experience double-digit catches, especially when making back-to-back trips from the Forks to Ruby

Half of a night crawler fished with a Puff Ball is an effective way to fish later in the season, as steelhead moving downstream are aggressive feeders. Be sure to release spawned out steelhead, often called downers, because they are poor table fare.

Outdoors writer Andy Martin, a former editor of Fishing & Hunting News, runs a halibut charter boat in the Gulf of Alaska during the summer and guides on America's Wild Rivers Coast during the winter. His Web site is www.wildriversfishing.com.