KERNVILLE, Calif. The Upper Kern River can be tricky to fish in the spring when runoff begins in the Southern Sierra. On the other hand, that runoff doesn't normally occur until late May and early June, leaving anglers with nearly two months of quality fishing.
The Kern River is open to general regulations from Lake Isabella to the Johnsondale Bridge.
For the most part, April can be one of the best months to target the Kern. While winter storms are still common, you'll usually see more sunny days and longer daylight.
The warmer water gets trout more aggressive. Their metabolism will increase with the water temperature.
Early in April the top bait on the river is Pautzke's Balls O' Fire salmon eggs.
Most anglers tend to use Green Label eggs, but with all those red eggs drifting down the river it's often those with Orange Deluxe or Yellow Jacket eggs that do best.
Second in line are crickets, a longtime favorite on the river.
Weather can play a vital role in the bite on the Kern. Throughout the drainage, if cold weather and below-zero temperatures have been common, then trout are going to go to the slower moving water. When this occurs it's best to target deep holes, shallow flats and long, slow runs.
On the other hand, when a few days of sun are strung together, it's time to break out the spinners and spoons. The trout will be more likely to chase down moving baits on warm days.
When it comes to finding a place to fish, there's no ideal location. DFG plants the river almost weekly from Johnsondale Bridge on into Kernville.
Historically, the best action comes in campgrounds and day-use areas; however, the entire stretch will harbor trout.
Most of the trout run 10 to 12 inches, but some fish to 3 pounds are caught weekly.
Salmon eggs and crickets are definitely the top choice, but casting spinners and spoons shouldn't be overlooked. Because of high flows and larger water than most Southern Sierra streams, on the Kern it's a good idea to use slightly larger-than-normal spinners and spoons.
Panther Martins, Blue Fox and Rooster Tails will work well, especially when you can get them off the surface.
A spinner that can work its way into the holes will enable you to catch more fish.
Anglers are allowed five trout per day year-round from Lake Isabella to Johnsondale Bridge.
Two trout may be kept per day between Johnsondale Bridge to U.S. Forest Service Trail 33E30 from the last Saturday in April through Nov. 15, with a 14-inch minimum size limit.
No bait is allowed. No fish may be kept from Nov. 16 until the late April opener.
Contact Bob's Bait Bucket (661-833-8657).
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