Is using a guide ever worth the expense?

By: George deVilbiss
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Hunters, especially those headed to areas outside of California, commonly utilize the services of guides. The reasons are simple: they have knowledge of the area, they’re familiar with the critters of their region, and they oftentimes have exclusive use of certain regions. Usually the monies spent, whether you bag your critter or not, are well spent. We’re extremely lucky in California, especially when it comes to fishing. Throughout a 12-month period throughout the year, there is some kind of fishing going on and much of it can be great. However, I often hear complaints from anglers that they simply don’t experience a great deal of success when they go fishing, even in areas where the rod-bending action is good. The age-old adage that 10-percent of the anglers catch 90-percent of the fish is probably pretty close to true. I’ll be the first to admit that it is terribly frustrating to see other anglers regularly dipping a net into the water to net fish while your rod just sits there, idle, untouched. Some years ago I was a licensed guide, guiding deer hunts, upland game, waterfowl and yes, even fishing, specializing in both striped bass in the Sacramento River and steelhead in the American River. Rarely did I get skunked while others around me caught little to nothing. Striper and steelhead runs aren’t what they use to be in the local rivers and you’ll rarely see me out there even trying for them like I did then. And, I gave up my guide license a lot of years ago now. Do you count yourself amongst the many that finds it difficult to catch fish while others are downright whacking and stacking the numbers? You can remedy that. Every waterway, especially lakes, each has their uniqueness. There are areas of lakes that fish will commonly be found and other areas in the same body of water where hardly a fish can ever be found. What they prefer to chew on, what depths, and even what trolling speeds can all vary. And learning each lake’s uniqueness can be very frustrating. I beat the waters of Lake Almanor, seemingly every inch of it, and never catching a thing. It’s a big lake, the second largest man-made lake in California. I finally utilized the services of a guide, even using him a second time a few years later. I’ve learned how, when and where to find fish. For just about every lake throughout the state you can find a fishing guide. They have the expertise for that particular waterway. You’ll use his/her boat, his/her equipment and his/her knowledge. Don’t ever hire a guide just to fill up an ice chest with fish. I haven’t found a guide yet that isn’t chatty. Talk it up with the guide. Pick his brains. In the time you’re out on the water with the guide, find out not only about the fishing while you’re out with him but also how it may vary during different times of the years. Most are more than happy and willing to share all the information they have about the particular fishery. Without notes to refer to, do you think you’ll remember everything you learned a year later? Once you’re done for the day with the guide, it wouldn’t hurt to write up a diary for future use of all the knowledge you learned. If you’re tired of going fishing and rarely see the rod move, strongly consider using a guide. Save up your nickels and dimes. The dollars spent in using a guide, believe me, is money usually very well spent. There is a caution, though. There are good guides and not-so-good guides. Do your research and get recommendations. But when you do go out with the right guide, a good guide, you’ll not only get fish but you’ll have enough knowledge to go out and do it yourself after that. Current fishing Sacramento River: Stripers are moving into the region around Rio Vista. Watch the tides, as the outgoing tides will always be the best time to drop anchor and get your bait down. Most of the bass are still on the small side, the larger ones hitting maybe 10 pounds. Lake Oroville: The lake is down but the lake level is remaining pretty consistent, which means the fish are holding in the same regions. Dunk minnows or toss plastics off drop-offs and main points and you can find a pretty steady bite. Clear Lake: As temperatures drop, the bass fishing is totally busting loose and 10-15 pound catfish are nothing uncommon this time of year. If you don’t like continuously casting retrieving just about any bass set up, buy a bunch of minnows. Bass this time of year cannot only be good but you can nail some lunkers. Soak cut bait or even use minnows for the big cats. A crappie bite could very well be starting about now, too. Any questions, comments or concerns, contact George at