April at Yuba Reservoir can mean walleye that haven't spawned (pre-spawn), spawning walleye and spawned-out walleye (post-spawn). Whatever the spring activity stage, these fish are going to be in a negative (not feeding) or a neutral to only slightly aggressive mood. Water temperatures will range from the low 40's to near 60 degrees. April still means spring fishing for walleye. With these cold temperatures the fish's metabolism is still slow. They are not actively feeding and because their energy needs are low they don't have to feed very often. After the rigger's of spawning they need a little time to rest and recuperate.
When and where to find April walleye: During the pre-spawn and spawning periods (early to mid-April) the walleye in Yuba tend to bunch up in two key areas. They are found along a rather long stretch of shoreline from the cliffs southeast of the dam northwest to the sandy bluffs north of the campground. The other main area is in the vicinity of the island at the mouth of the narrows. They bunch up in these two locations mainly because of the rocky substrate they spawn over. There are a few other small rocky areas where some fish may be found.
Peak activity will occur from sun-down to sun-up. This is when the fish will be most aggressive and anglers will experience the best and fastest fishing success. In the evening the fish will migrate into the shallows for spawning and/or feeding. Fish may be in only inches of water right up against the shore or out in a few feet of water on the brush lines and drop offs. Fish can be caught throughout the day but catch rates (fish/hour) will be low. I have caught a few fish quiet quickly in the morning and then fished almost all day for one or two more fish. During the day the walleye will be deeper. Most of my daytime success has come along the main drop off from about 12 feet to 25 feet. I plan my spring fishing to either arrive before daylight and fish until mid-morning or arrive mid-afternoon and fish until dark.
Techniques and tricks for catching April walleye at Yuba: Although walleye can be caught from shore at Yuba, shore access is limited and it's best to fish from a boat. Other than casting jigs or maybe still fishing with a night crawler, your fishing options are limited from shore. A boat gives you greater mobility. When fish are 10 feet or deeper you can use a fish finder to help locate them.
Walleye at Yuba in April can be caught with a variety of techniques. Casting with a perch or light colored jig is probably the best single technique. I usually tip my jigs with 1/2 a night crawler. Try a variety of jig fishing techniques from casting and hopping the jig on the bottom to swimming the jig or just slowly dragging it across the bottom. When the fish are aggressive they will hit the jig on the fall, right after it hits the water and before it can get to the bottom. Watch your line as the jig is falling and you'll see it jerk or pop near where it enters the water. You may even feel a tap. If there are two or three fish together, a fish may hit the jig and take off with it trying to keep its catch from others in pursuit. In this case you may see your line take off sideways or really feel the fish jerk. Vary your jigging techniques until the fish tell you what kind of mood they are in and then continue to fish using the technique that caught the first fish or resulted in a strike. Remember to bend your hooks out slightly and keep them razor sharp. As always when jig fishing, if something doesn't look right or feel right, set the hook immediately.
If the fish are in 8-10 feet of water or deeper and scattered you can slow troll to locate and catch them. By "slow troll" I'm talking about every thing from barely moving up to about one mph. This type of fishing is best done by either drifting or slowly moving with an electric motor. Remember the water is cold and the fish are sluggish. You can either slow troll a single jig or a pair. Drag one jig on the bottom and have another, on a dropper off your main line, a foot up off the bottom. This allows you to use different colors, different tail types, different baits, as you experiment to find out what the fish want. You can also lose jigs twice as fast. You can also put a sliding sinker in front of a barrel swivel with a 2-4 foot leader behind the swivel and put a crawler on a plain hook or on a floating jig head. Or, you can use a bottom bouncer sinker and fish a spinner rig or a monofilament leader and a crank bait.
By dragging a crank bait behind a bottom bouncer you can fish a crank bait that would normally run just under the surface and keep it just off the bottom in 20 feet of water. Early in the year you want to fish stick baits (like the original Rapala) or medium action baits like Shad Raps and Berkley's Frenzy. Sometimes early in the year a lure with a rattle in it will out perform one without a rattle.
Using a bottom bouncing sinker or a heavier jig allows you to move faster, covering more water and presenting your baits to more fish. But the fish may not want a fast moving presentation. If you're seeing fish on your fish finder and not getting any hits then slow down or stop. Change techniques and baits. Slowly work a small area. Sometimes just sitting over a fish and hanging a bait (jig or baited hook) in it's face will get a fish that normally wouldn't bite.
For jig fishing and slowly moving a jig or baited hook behind a sliding sinker, I prefer to use spinning tackle. Use a 6 to 6-1/2 foot, medium-to-medium-light spinning rod rigged with 6-8 pound line. For dragging bottom bouncing sinkers with spinners or cranks I like a casting outfit. I use 6-1/2 to 7 foot, medium or medium heavy rods and 10 pound test line. A casting reel with a flipping switch is really helpful. With the flipping switch you don't have to engage the reel after letting line out. Set your drag just hard enough to set the hook. Walleye aren't known for their fighting ability but big walleye have a reputation for making short, fast runs when least expected. If the drag is set too tight either the hooks pull free or the line breaks. The walleye in Yuba have been in such good physical shape that they tend to fight harder than walleye from most other waters.
I have given you a lot of suggestions for ways to catch April walleye in Yuba. Remember, the best times to fish are early or late in the day. Experiment with a variety of these fishing methods and have fun. Mastering a variety of techniques will mean more walleye in the boat no matter what time of year it is.