West Coast Hot Spots

Sacramento¿¿¿San Joaquin Delta

Largemouth and striped bass, sturgeon, king salmon, shad, catfish

Something fishy has been going on as real-estate development has rampaged up and down the Sacramento River drainage upstream from San Francisco.

"Salmon and striped bass took a hit, but almost everything that's bad for those fish in the Sacramento¿¿¿San Joaquin Delta has been an advantage for largemouth bass," says Dennis Lee, California's warmwater fisheries manager. "I'm amazed at how many people don't know there are tons of bass out there. The Florida-strain largemouths that were stocked in the 1980s are ranging to 18 pounds, and I don't think they've peaked."

Anglers still find salmon and sturgeon action in the delta, which sprawls through five counties.

Conservation measures are also rebuilding striped bass numbers. Striper fishing can be excellent in April when they stack up at the mouths of spawning tributaries, and again in June, when stripers go on the feed as they drop back into San Francisco Bay.

But as any of the region's bass anglers will confirm, largemouths rule the delta. "For largemouths, it's absolutely the best fishery around for average size," Lee says.

Sweet Spot: Big Break, a few hundred acres of flooded farmland near Oakley
What's Hot: Yamamoto Senko
Local Advice: "You must tune into the tides," says Don Payne of Delta Bait and Tackle in Manteca. "A 6-foot tide could turn the morning's hot fishing hole into a mud bank by noon."
Prime Time: Late February through March for big largemouths
Record Fish: 18.62-pound largemouth bass, a delta record, caught in January 2002 near Little Mandaville
More Info: California Delta Chambers and Visitors Bureau, 209-367-9840; www.californiadelta.org (weekly fishing reports)