36 Great Golden State Fishing Trips

Are you always at the right place at the right time? You will be when fishing in 2010 with our best-of-the-best list.

Mark your calendar to be on the

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for peak striper fishing in the fall.

Photo by Brian Sak.

To take full advantage of California's freshwater and saltwater prospects, you'll have to be at the right place at the right time. But being there when the fish are biting is only the first step. You'll also have to know what techniques are working, where the fish are and what offerings they're likely to eat.

Here are 36 suggestions, including where, how and with what, to help you make the most of 2010.

JANUARY
Rainbows, Lake Shasta
There's nothing more peaceful than the reflection of snow-covered mountains on glassy Lake Shasta on a frigid winter morning. And there's nothing more invigorating than the feel of a 3-pound rainbow trout pulling at your line. It'll be necessary to bundle up and fish around storms, but you'll have the lake, the fish and these sensations to yourself.

You'll need a boat to get to the fish, but with trout typically cruising the upper 6 feet of water, you can leave your downriggers at home. Concentrate your efforts on Shasta's main body, from the Interstate 5 bridge to the dam, and stay close to the shoreline.

For information, call Shasta Tackle & Sport Fishing at (530) 275-2278.

Other Choices
You'll find spotted bass on a feeding binge all over Lake Oroville this month if you're able to get out between winter storms. Set up on any rocky point and cast 4-inch soft-plastic worms on dart heads.

Rainbow trout anglers looking for action should try Baum Lake, where there are enough 8- to 14-inch fish to keep you busy all day. Be prepared to battle the occasional giant.

FEBRUARY
Steelhead, American River
As long as the weather cooperates, the American is one of the top-producing steelhead fisheries in the state. The key to success is adjusting to increasing or decreasing flows. The only time you don't want to go is when the area gets lots of rain over short periods. Excessive flows will ruin your fishing trip regardless of how much you adjust.

The best part about the American River is that the 22-mile reach below the Nimbus Basin can be fished from shore or boat. You'll catch lots of steelhead with hardware, but the largest fish are usually taken with roe.

For information, call Fisherman's Warehouse at (916) 362-1200.

Other Choices
Check out the trout-planting schedule at Casitas Lake and plan a trip for monster largemouths just after they stock. You'll need heavy gear to cast big rainbow imitations to 10- to 12-pound bass.

Assuming storms and reservoir releases don't blow out the Trinity River, you'll find steady steelhead action between the Lewiston Bridge and Rush Creek. Try red Copper Johns or No. 12 Golden Stones.

MARCH
Smallmouths, Lake Pardee
Sierra foothill reservoirs are not normally thought of as smallmouth bass destinations. But trophies from Pardee these last few years are changing that perception. Although most fish average just less than 2 pounds, bass in the 8- and 9-pound class are showing up on a regular basis.

For information, call Lake Pardee at (209) 772-1472.

Other Choices
Snow and ice can combine to prohibit launching at Donner Lake, but when conditions and eager locals willing to dig out the ramp provide access, you'll find some of the best mackinaw fishing of the year.

The Santa Cruz area, from Seacliff south to Rio Del Mar, provides excellent surfperch opportunities to anglers casting grubs or soaking pile worms. Look for rolling breakers sweeping over shallow points.

APRIL
Largemouths, Lake Del Valle
Del Valle offers outstanding largemouth fishing less than an hour from San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. But it goes unnoticed by most bass anglers. That's difficult to understand because the draw here are the monstrous fish that feed on trout that Department of Fish and Game and East Bay Regional Park District biologists stock from October through May.

There's plenty of productive habitat to target at Del Valle, including submerged weeds, tules and rocky banks. Old Christmas trees create additional cover at the southeast end of the lake.

Call Del Valle Marina at (925) 449-5201.

Other Choices
Lake Amador's cutbows look and fight more like wild trout than hatchery-raised fish. You'll catch them by casting spinners, trolling spoons or soaking PowerBait near the boat ramp, dam or spillway.

Smallmouth bass are on tap in April at Trinity Lake, where you'll take fish averaging 3 pounds on white or chartreuse spinnerbaits, grubs and small jigs tipped with pork.

MAY
Shark, South Bay
For a change of pace, try soaking squid or herring in South San Francisco Bay for sharks. The most common include brown smoothhound, spiny dogfish and leopard sharks. But put in enough time and you'll eventually be treated to one of the larger varieties. Sevengill sharks are king here, with some fish weighing in at more than 100 pounds. Sixgills are also taken on occasion.

You'll catch sharks from the shoreline or public piers, but boaters tend to locate the most productive spots.

For information, call Hi's Tackle Box at (650) 588-1200.

Other Choices
The Upper Klamath River provides outstanding native rainbow trout fishing once the salmonfly hatch takes off. Concentrate on waters upstream of I-5 with dry flies. Stimulators are an area favorite.

Lake Nacimiento's tributaries are prime locations for catching lots of white bass on shad imitations once you locate a school of bait.

JUNE
Yellowtail, San Diego
Ever hooked a speeding locomotive? You'll think you have when a yellowtail picks up your bait during a long-range trip out of San Diego. These torpedoes like to wreak havoc, including heading toward patches of kelp or the boat's anchor line as you try to adjust your reel's drag. Even when turned, there's no guarantee you'll land them.

Some of the best yellowtail action that Southern California has to offer

can be found when the fleet heads south to Alijos Rocks and the islands near Punta Eugenia.

Call Dana Landing Action Sports at (619) 226-2929.

Other Choices
You may encounter chilly conditions at Eagle Lake this time of year, but hungry rainbow trout are accessible in the shallows. Hotspots include the jetty, youth camp and the tules at the lake's north end.

American shad fill the American River this month, but call a local bait and tackle shop before heading out to pinpoint where they've concentrated.

JULY
King Salmon, Shelter Cove
With the demise of a group of undersized commercial salmon vessels known as the Mosquito Fleet, Shelter Cove has become the routine destination of a tiny armada of sportfishing boats. Huge king salmon swim close to shore along this protected portion of the Lost Coast, making this port ideal for small and large craft alike. The only downside is the treacherous drive to get here.

Locating salmon is the first thing you'll have to do, so take the time to talk with other anglers when you arrive. Spots that you'll hear mention of include the Old Man, the Hat and an area between the two called the Slot.

For information, call Lost Coast Landing at (707) 986-1234.

Other Choices
Drifting live bait during relatively small tidal swings is the secret to hooking halibut in San Francisco Bay. Popular places to try include Alcatraz, Angel Island, Berkeley Flats, Paradise and the Sisters.

Party boats out of Morro Bay typically score limits of rockfish this month, especially when there are live sardines available.

AUGUST
Largemouths, Clear Lake
Bass aficionados that know when to go, where to look and what to cast find plenty of largemouths willing to eat at Clear Lake. At what many consider the state's premier bass fishery, you can expect to catch lots of fish from 2 to 3 pounds. But one of the lake's many 10-pound-plus bass may hit at any time.

Concentrate on long tule points between the state park and Lakeport, both early and late in the day.

Call Tackle It at (707) 262-1233.

Other Choices
New Melones Reservoir is one of California's top kokanee producers. Schools of fish to 2 pounds provide limits for trollers using hot pink, red or white spoons and hootchies near the spillway and dam.

Expect channel catfish to be eating typical stink-type baits at Silverwood Lake. Soak your favorite offering in Millers Cover or near the rock quarry.

SEPTEMBER
Browns, Tuolumne River
The Tuolumne, downstream of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, is part of the National Wild and Scenic River system.

Although the entire river is fishable, access is difficult in many areas. Start by parking at the Early Intake trailhead and targeting the four-mile reach upstream of there. Special regulations here include the use of only artificial lures with barbless hooks. The limit is two trout per day. Maximum length is 12 inches.

Call Yosemite Village Sport Shop at (209) 372-0200.

Other Choices
If you enjoy a challenge, and don't mind losing tackle, try chasing largemouth bass using standing timber at Lake Sonoma.

With a predicted El Niño for 2010, and the warm currents that typically flow well offshore mostly eastward, North Coast day boats will be treated to explosive albacore action.

OCTOBER
Largemouths, Delta
DFG biologists rate the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta the No. 1 largemouth fishery in the state. When they start to bulk up for the winter, you'll want to be there. The system goes through its summer-to-fall transition in October. Most bass techniques take fish now.

For information, call Hook, Line and Sinker at (925) 625-2441.

Other Choices
Cooling water temperatures will have crappie schooling around structure at Lake Henshaw. You'll find fish all over the lake, but two areas to try are the boat docks and the dam. Use live minnows or pearl mini-jigs.

One of the most overlooked fisheries in the state is for yellow perch at Copco Lake.

NOVEMBER
Stripers, Delta
Largemouth anglers often boast of the appeal of stalking bass with topwater offerings. The thrill of successfully setting the hook is unrivaled. Now multiply that kind of excitement several times. That's topwater fishing for monster Delta stripers.

Fish the San Joaquin side of the system. Look for fast-moving water around the ends of islands. The best bite is just after the tide turns.

For information, call Hook, Line and Sinker at (925) 625-2441.

Other Choices
Limits of planted rainbow trout await you at Los Vaqueros Reservoir. Try using rainbow-pattern PowerBait, or casting inline spinners, around Cowboy Cabin Cove, Oak Point and South Cove.

Many consider sanddabs the best table fare in the Pacific, and they're easy to catch with light gear along the San Francisco coastline.

DECEMBER
Sturgeon, San Pablo Bay
Give yourself a holiday gift by heading out between storms to catch white sturgeon on San Pablo Bay. Although keepers falling within the 46- to 66-inch total-length slot, and pushing 100 pounds, are taken daily, most caught are shakers.

The key to catching fish is getting enough rain and run-off to push fresh water through the bay. Strong tidal swings also help, with incoming water better than outgoing.

For information, call Discount Mart's Bay Tackle at (510) 235-2032.

Other Choices
Late fall-run king salmon to 25 pounds will be in the Sacramento River, somewhere between the state capital and Redding. Back-bouncing spoons, plugs, jigs or roe is the technique of choice.

Catfish during the dead of winter? You'll become a believer when heading to Lake Isabella.

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.