36 Great California Fishing Trips
September 29, 2010
If you're a sports nut like I am, you're just as primed for the Super Bowl as you were for last fall's World Series. But even with those dates reserved, there are lots of open dates for fishing.
Fortunately, California has more fishing opportunities than any other state in the nation. Regardless of where people like to fish, their favorite methods or the species they target, our state has something for everyone.
The 36 picks below are a month-by-month assortment of what California has to offer you in between sporting events in 2005.
Spotted Bass: Lake Shasta
Don't be fooled into thinking that you should only chase bass during warm months. Spotted bass go on a tear at Lake Shasta in the dead of winter. One-hundred-fish days are common here if you catch the right weather. Glassy waters and spots to 3 pounds will greet you between storms.
Fluctuating lake levels occur regularly in January, so adjust your approach accordingly. Spots will generally be deep, but their positioning depends on the direction the lake is moving. Fish move shallower with rising waters, where they'll attack fast-moving crankbaits, ripbaits and spinnerbaits. Target deep structure and creek channels with soft plastics and jig-and-pigs in falling water.
For information, call Shasta Tackle & Sport Fishing, 530-275-2278.
The South Fork Eel River is one of the best steelhead streams in the region, as long as sufficient rains move fish in but stop so the water drops and clears. Call for conditions before you go, and bring plenty of roe.
Rainbow trout pushing 20 inches are on tap for Bass Lake anglers dressed for the cold. The spillway is a great place to soak Power Bait from shore.
Steelhead: Mendocino County
You'll find concentrations of wild steelies to 14 pounds in the Albion, Big, Garcia, Gualala, Navarro, Noyo and Ten Mile rivers, but conditions have to be right. It all comes down to rain -- too little and DFG closes these streams to fishing, while too much and everything gets blown out.
When steelhead do make it into the rivers and water conditions become fishable, anglers in the know drift roe. There are occasions, however, when a variety of hardware will also take fish. Make sure you understand special DFG regulations for Mendocino County before you go.
For information, call the Outdoor Pro Shop, 707-588-8033.
You'll have to weed through 3- to 5-pound striped bass at San Luis Reservoir to find larger fish, but that's the fun of it. Try Portuguese Cove, Dinosaur Point and the Trash Racks.
While muddy waters spoil most fishing trips, they'll wake the Delta's largest sturgeon. Head to the Rio Vista Bridge, Decker Island or Montezuma Slough with pile worms or shrimp and fish both sides of the tide.
Largemouth Bass: Clear Lake
California's largest natural lake gives up more largemouths in the 10-pound class than any other body of water west of the Rockies. Clear Lake can be finicky, however, with bass biting one week and not the next. Stubborn cases of lockjaw are often due to muddy waters. (Note: The south end of the lake clears fastest following heavy rains.)
Tournaments, which are held here every weekend this time of year, are also to blame for slowdowns in fishing, making Monday through Thursday the best days to go.
Largemouth bass here will be getting ready to spawn this month, so focus on edges leading to shallow water. Try casting spinnerbaits, ripbaits or crankbaits parallel to tule points, ledges, rock walls and docks. If those don't work, look for isolated rock piles or downed trees, and fish slowly with big jigs and soft plastics.
For information, call Tackle It, 707-262-1233.
Fishing can be hit or miss for Trinity Lake smallmouths, but this is the time to go for a trophy. Concentrate on deeper waters with spinnerbaits, crankbaits and small grubs.
Crappie fishing should break wide open this month at Camanche Lake, with slabs to 3 pounds providing most of the action in Causeway Cove.
Spotted Bass: Lake Berryessa
Although there are still plenty of largemouths and smallmouths in Berryessa, spotted bass are quickly becoming the dominant species. Fifty-plus fish days are not unheard of, with spots averaging 2 pounds.
Target rocky points in the main lake, beginning with small white crankbaits, but be ready to switch to soft plastics if fish aren't aggressive; drop-shot and split-shot rigs with white, chartreuse or cotton candy plastics work best.
For information, call Walton's Pond, 510-352-3932.
Largemouth bass, including lots of fish weighing 10 to 12 pounds, should be in the shallows at Diamond Valley Lake. Everything from drop-shot plastics to swimbaits will work.
Lake Amador's cutbows act more like wild trout than hatchery-reared fish. You'll catch them by soaking Power Bait or trolling hardware near the boat ramp, dam or spillway.
Shad: American River
There's no need to spend your cash for a trip to the Florida Keys to catch acrobatic tarpon because you'll find plenty of high-flying action catching shad on our own American River. They're a kick on light tackle.
The fishing here is often best early in the morning or just before sunset, when shad hit small curly-tail jigs or shad darts worked along the bottom. Color is important to these finicky fish, so make sure you have a selection that includes champagne, chartreuse, pink and white. Although shad congregate in the same holes each year, check local fishing reports before you go.
For information, call Fisherman's Warehouse, 916-362-1200.
The average king salmon coming out of Monterey Bay should be pushing 15 pounds in May. Try trolling or mooching at such places as the Soquel Hole and Soldier's Club.
For non-stop white bass action, cast in-line spinners in any of Lake Nacimiento's larger creeks. Move deeper and switch to shad-pattern plugs if you don't get bit after 30 minutes.
Rainbow Trout: Lake Margaret
There's a lot to be said for pay-to-play lakes, the least of which is phenomenal fishing. Lake Mar
garet, managed by Wilderness Unlimited, is outside of Burney and offers some of the best still-water trout fishing around. Although you'll need to purchase an individual or family membership to fish here regularly, current members with guest privileges can take you along on a trip to experience what Margaret has to offer.
There's shoreline access around the lake's perimeter, but these waters fish best from a boat, canoe or float tube. Gas-powered craft are not allowed, but you'll appreciate an electric motor in the afternoon wind. Troll spinners just below the surface to find rainbows. Switch to your favorite tactic once you locate the fish.
For information, call Wilderness Unlimited, 800-498-9818.
Good electronics, downriggers, chrome dodgers and a variety of hoochies will put a limit of kokanee to 18 inches in your boat at Indian Valley Reservoir this month.
Troll plugs on the north side of Bucks Lake Dam for brute brown trout. Start the day close to shore, moving deeper only if you must.
Kokanee: New Melones Reservoir
Whether you're new to kokanee fishing or a full-fledged expert, Melones is the place to be for limits of 2- to 3-pound salmon.
Fish hang out in relatively deep water, so a boat equipped with electronics and downriggers is a must. Melones kokanee stay in the main body of the reservoir, usually in 50- to 55-degree water, with the dam and spillway areas consistent producers. Dodgers trailed by small spoons, hoochies or kokanee bugs are popular rigs. Make sure you have lures in red, pink, orange and chartreuse, and for tough bites, put a kernel of shoepeg white corn on each hook.
For information, call Glory Hole Sports, 209-736-4333.
Potluck party boats heading out to Bay Area beaches will target salmon and stripers, but 40-pound halibut will really get anglers talking. Make reservations out of San Francisco, Berkeley, Emeryville or Sausalito.
With flows in the 300- to 500-cfs range, the upper Kern River provides ideal trout fishing conditions. Look for rainbows with spinners, salmon eggs, night crawlers and crickets.
Panfish: Lake Tulloch
School will be here before you know it, so grab the kids and head to Tulloch for non-stop bluegill, crappie and juvenile smallmouth bass action. You'll find all three species along the edges of any cove, but the best fishing is against the steep rocky banks upriver.
Tie a No. 6 hook a few feet below a bobber, thread on a piece of night crawler, and cast to the shallows. Set the hook gently when the bobber disappears. Small plastic grubs will catch just as many fish if your kids are squeamish about night crawlers, but you may have to shorten them if you're missing too many fish.
For information, call Fisherman's Warehouse, 209-239-2248.
You won't have a problem staying awake through the night in anticipation of the next catfish at Lake Casitas. Try soaking mackerel or night crawlers in shallow water.
Deep is the name of the game for mackinaw at Lake Tahoe. You'll go home with a limit if you know where to fish. My advice is to hire a guide.
Largemouth Bass: California Delta
Biologists, guides, touring pros and local anglers say the Delta is the top largemouth fishery in the state, and is the place to be after Labor Day.
Miles of rivers, channels and sloughs, all loaded with cover, provide countless opportunities for catching lots of bass. And this is one place where it's best to show up with heavy-duty gear, because you never know when one of the Delta's trophies is going to take you for a ride.
Because of the Delta's size, it can be tough to decide where to start. Try fishing both the inside and outside of the sloughs surrounding Big Break, Frank's Tract or Mildred Island.
Cast topwater lures wherever you find current flowing around points, white spinnerbaits to sparse tules and orange crankbaits parallel to rock levees. Flip soft plastics and jigs to holes in the weeds during tough bites.
For information, call Hook, Line & Sinker, 925-625-2441.
Try trolling or soaking night crawlers for Eagle Lake rainbow trout. Both the Jetty and Eagle's Nest areas produce, especially in the morning.
As long as the water doesn't cool too early this year, live squid are the way to go for Catalina Island yellowtails to 25 pounds.
King Salmon: Sacramento River
Salmon anglers will find plenty of action in the Sacramento River. It's tough to predict the timing of the run, so you'll need to keep close tabs on the progress of fish to know what part of the river to target.
There will be no shortage of kings in the 30-pound range, with a fair number of 40-plus-pound salmon. A variety of techniques take fish, but most guides prefer back-trolling plugs or drifting roe.
For information, call the Tackle Box, 530-898-9761.
With cool weather, the trophy largemouth bass fishing heats up at Eastman Lake. Make sure you're aware of special DFG regulations here. Work red crankbaits or drop-shot dark worms over structure.
You'll catch lingcod over shallow reefs off Pacifica and Moss Beach jigging heavy spoons, but it's more fun with soft plastics and light tackle.
Striped Bass: California Delta
Have you ever watched anglers battling the Amazon's peacock bass on television, wishing that you could be there to experience the excitement? You'll enjoy the same type of thrill watching monster Delta stripers trail a topwater bait for what seems an eternity before pouncing on it.
Fish the San Joaquin side of the system, looking for fast-moving water whipping around the ends of islands. The best bite is just after the tide turns. Position your boat in deep water on one side of a point and cast an oversized topwater plug to deep water on the other side, working your offering back over shallow water.
For information, call Hook, Line & Sinker, 925-625-2441.
As long as the weather cooperates, schools of bonito will have the reels of saltwater flyfishers screaming in Santa Monica Bay.
Lake Almanor's brown trout will be cruising in search of food, trying to put on weight before winter. Try roe or night crawlers at the Power House or in Cardiac Cove.
Sturgeon: San Pablo Bay
Catching sturgeon is like taking a step bac
k in time, and although most of the fish hooked in San Pablo Bay are shakers, every encounter is worthwhile. With strong tides and enough rain to flush fresh water through the bay, you'll also have a decent chance at a keeper pushing 100 pounds.
You'll need a sensitive rod rigged with wire leader and a pair of 6/0 hooks. Bait the setup with herring or shrimp and check it often to make sure that crabs or bullheads haven't stolen your offering.
For information, call Berkeley Marina Sport Center, 510-849-2727.
Winter storms may keep you off Lake Oroville more than you'd like, but when you can get out, a slow presentation usually results in non-stop spotted bass action.
Limits of planted rainbow await you at Los Vaqueros Reservoir. Try soaking Power Bait in Cowboy Cabin Cove, Oak Point and South Cove.