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By STEVE MERLO, Contributing columnist
Isabella Lake Bass — It's difficult not to report good bass fishing just because our local waters are drought impacted, even though the fishing remains excellent. Isabella Lake, our 'local' Kern River Valley impoundment, continues to put out a ton of largemouth bass to anglers willing to put in a little time.
Last weekend's American Bass Tournament at Isabella is a case in point, with the winners bringing in an astonishing 36.40 pounds to the scales. That's a better than 7-pound average for each of their five fish and few, if any, lakes in the entire U.S. can boast such scale-sagging weights. Even the vaunted bass angling down in Old Mexico can't compare with the numbers of big fish being caught.
So why are the big fish up and biting? First of all, less and less water forces the fish to concentrate into new areas that have not been available to them since the lake began to fill back in the late 1950s. Along with the dropping water, the lake is stratifying into different layers, some of which are almost devoid of life-sustaining oxygen. Other areas are so full of carp, squawfish, crappie, shad and other species that they're using up most of the 'good' water's oxygen. That forces the bass to seek other aerated locations -- in this instance -- within the top 2 to 10 feet of the surface, and that's exactly where they are being caught.
Spinnerbaits, swimbaits, plastic worms, crankbaits and jigs worked slowly through the branches throughout the lake's emergent "Old Kernville" trees are taking lots of big fish, with some individual largemouth weighing over 12 pounds. Anglers seeking their fish of a lifetime may well invest some time at the lake, because an awful lot of 10-pounders are also hitting the decks.
Launching a boat up there can be tricky, but by no means is it impossible. The South Fork ramp has plenty of water to launch, however, boaters may have to get their feet a little wet to get into their crafts, which is no big deal. A gracious someone even built a small wooden ramp beside the concrete ramp to facilitate stepping into a boat without getting wet.
Salmon fishermen score big
No need to go to Alaska this year to get a load of great eating and canning fish. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife counts, more than 750,000 king salmon are either set to enter or have already entered the Sacramento, Feather, and Oregon's Klamath and Rogue River systems, sparking some of the best fishing in years. Limits have been the rule for most guided anglers, with freelancers taking their fair share of the bonanza. Quality fishing remains available as the fish move up each river and guides are available simply by going on line.
Fun twist for the NRA
Instead of shooting guns for cash and medals, the Delano Friends of the NRA are dealing cards while hosting a 'No Limit Hold 'em Poker Tournament' tonight (Sept. 20) at the Aviator casino in Delano beginning at 5 p.m. Benefitting the Friends of the NRA shooting programs for youth, women and several local pheasant hunts later this year, the event promises a fun night of cards and gambling. Cost for the gala evening is $100, which includes their buy-in and dinner buffet, with $20 re-buys and add-ons available. Contact Duane Spickler at (661) 331-8090 for more info.
For those who would like to learn how to play, lessons will be provided 30 minutes before the tournament starts. The Casino is located at 1225 Airport Drive in Delano.
'Sportsman's Night' announced
Don't forget to set aside Nov. 26 for this year's "Sportsman's Night." Held at the Kern County Fairgrounds, the event is the largest outdoor related fundraiser in the county. Tickets will be out in the next two weeks. For information, questions, or donations of prizes contact Jim Roberts at (661) 805-5766.
API Fall Fun Shoot
The American Petroleum Institute is pleased to announce that their upcoming event on Oct. 4 at Five Dogs Shooting Range is sold out. However, interested parties can still participate in raffles, donations or buying tickets for the popular shooting affair. Contact Jim Roberts at (661) 805-5766.
The "2014 Women in the Outdoors" event at Tejon Ranch has been cancelled. Promoters have had a difficult time getting enough volunteer workers to assist in the popular outdoor program for ladies only and have shelved the 3-day instruction-laden, fun-filled weekend until 2015. Committee members are hopeful that more people will come forward to assist and they will have a complete team in May of 2015. At least 400 women have participated in each of the last several years at WITO, and as the popular outdoor based event grew, the volunteer base did not. Contact Coleen Morris at (661) 331-5273 for more information.