Heavy rains refill Golden State

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Torrential rains late last year caused plenty of havoc for California, but the influx of freshwater has also served to overcome the Golden State's drought conditions and refill many of its top bass fisheries.

 Maurice Roos, chief hydrologist for the California Department of Water Resources' Division of Flood Management, said the last quarter of 2010 provided a much needed boost to reservoirs still suffering from the 2007-2009 drought period.

 "Reservoirs on average have reached two-thirds of capacity," Roos added. He said that's an improvement of about 35 percent over the prior year, adding that the "snowpack situation" also looks good.

 Benefiting from the heavy rains are bass fishing hot spots such as Clear Lake, Shasta, Oroville and Berryessa. The California Delta's tidal waters have received increased flow as well.

 Bassmaster Elite Series pro Ish Monroe of Hughson, Calif., noted that the rain typically improves water quality and promotes more vegetation growth by washing nutrients into lakes. Also, high water levels give fish and their fry access to shoreline cover.

 Besides having good water quality and protected fry, you get a really good spawn, and that's good for the future of the fishery," Monroe said. "Bass are like people; when their environment is healthy, they seem to live a little better.

 "For anglers, it makes for better fishing because the fish are a little more accessible — especially the bank fishing that I like to do."

 While the heavy rains bode well for California fisheries, Roos cautioned that rainfall totals through the remainder of the rainy season will weigh heavily in the long-term outlook.

 We are about 70 percent ahead of average for this point in the season," Roos said. "But this large advantage could be eroded if the next months are dry, as has happened a few times in the past."