OAKLEY Calif. – It’ll be a much cleaner, warmer – and probably fishier – California Delta that greets Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats anglers this week as they spread out onto the West Coast’s most prolific tidal river system for the third and final tournament of the 2023 Western Division Presented by Tackle Warehouse season. This California Delta event is presented by Psycho Tuna.
Unlike Western Division event No. 2 in mid-March – an event that was plagued by the cold, dirty water of one of the most frigid springs in over a half century – the Delta is starting to percolate into spring shape as waters gradually warm and clear for this April 19-21 derby, and the system’s largemouth play a game of catch-up with the spawn.
So says Ken Mah, the vaunted Delta sharpie with nine Toyota Series Top 10s under his belt on the fishery.
“Fish are biting much better and the field as a whole will probably enjoy better fishing overall than they did in March,” Mah said. “We’re still about three to four weeks behind what I would identify as ‘traditional April’ kind of conditions, where 16 to 17 pounds is pedestrian. The water temperatures are still keeping most of those fish back (from spawning), but they really want to go. It’s not in full swing, but it’s (improving).”
Water temperatures, clarity rounding into shape
Mah’s confidence in the Delta bite comes less than a week after the Elk Grove, California, native raised the champion’s trophy at a three-day all-star shootout on the Delta that he won with just over 61 pounds. Mah started that event by slapping 27 pounds on the scales on Day 1, easily the biggest bag weighed recently on the Delta.
“Most of those fish (in the 27-pound bag) weren’t beat up at all, no red tails – they were all fish that had moved up in the last few days,” Mah said. “Overall I’d still define it as an early prespawn bite. Typically in April you’ll have about 20% of the fish in spawn or postspawn, 20% spawning and the rest behind them still in prespawn. Right now I’d estimate that 5% have gone, 5% are going and the other 90% are still in prespawn and pre-prespawn mode.”
That’ll translate into a tougher April bite than casual Delta anglers are accustomed to, but while it won’t be the “anything goes” free-for-all of a traditional Cal Delta April where multiple patterns are in play, the field should still see plenty of action throwing vibrating jigs and squarebills, or flipping. Anglers who make the Top 10 and qualify to fish Friday might get some sight-fishing opportunities, according to Mah.
“Guys who make it to Day 3 are going to see 79 degrees and sunny,” Mah said. “If it gets that warm and the wind doesn’t blow, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sight fish. The water conditions are a lot clearer than when (the Toyota Series) was here a month ago. Back then it was 70/30, meaning 70% of the water was unfishable. Now I’d say it’s more like 10/90 and the water is getting back to its traditional color. There are still some areas with heavy stain, but there’s a good portion of the Delta where it’s getting that glowy green color and you can see 3 to 3 ½ feet down into the water.”