California Family Fishing Adventures

by Jeff Walters.

The Golden State offers fishing fun and adventure for the whole family — close to home.

The Golden State offers fishing fun and adventure for the whole family. California Game & Fish Magazine has put together this list of eight family fishing destinations that will give your family the chance to find someplace close by where they can fish and everyone can have fun together.


Lake Cachuma is a "no body contact," fishing only lake. With campgrounds for tents and R.V. trailers, along with restrooms, swimming pool, playgrounds and a bait and tackle store, this place has it all. There are rental cabins available here as well.

The lake uses trout stocks from Calaveras Trout Farms and stocks over 25,000 pounds of rainbow trout each year. This is the first year that the trout stocks have been supplemented by Santa Barbara County Parks Department with trout stocks from the Chalk Mound Trout Hatchery out of Nebraska. The lake also supports largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish, carp, bluegill and sunfish. With 42 miles of shoreline to fish from, you will always have a place to cast your line. Trolling for trout works well with Arrowhead Island being a good spot. Use shad-pattern lures like Needlefish, Krocodiles  and Jointed Rapalas.

Camping prices start at $20.00 for basic tent, and R.V. cost is $30.00. The entrance fee is $8.00 per car. Hikers and bikers cost $5.00, dogs are an extra $3.00 and must be on a leash, and large commercial bus access is $35.00. Boat access is $13.00 after a quick invasive species check and steam wash, if necessary. Remember when having your boat inspected, everything must be clean and dry, no standing water anywhere, no damp running boards, no water in the outdrive, coolers, ballast; on any equipment anywhere at all or you will be turned away and not be able to launch your boat. For more information, call (805) 686-5055 or log onto

To get there from the city of Santa Barbara, take State Highway 101/1 to State Highway 154 and go 18 miles. The lake entrance is on your right. Having Lake Cachuma as a "base camp" is another great way to see and fish the rest of the area. The Santa Ynez River, which feeds into Lake Cachuma, is stocked with trout in the spring and summer and is a fantastic place to fish, swim and wade. To get there, simply turn left as your leave the lake and go about 6 miles to Paradise Road. Turn left and keep going. You will start to see the river soon enough. There is one overnight campground that is close to the river called Upper Oso Campground that fills up rather quickly. However, it is worth the visit, with primitive camping only and huge open spaces. For more information on this area, contact the Los Priestos Ranger Station at (805) 967-3481. You will need a Forest Adventure pass to park in the National Forest.

Carpinteria State Beach is also in Santa Barbara County and has camping for both tent and R.V.s. There is a general day use-only area, with showers and changing rooms, that is closed at dusk. Fire pits, picnic tables, restrooms and showers are all available to campers. There are over 200 camping sites available. However since this area is so sought-after, your best bet is to make reservations by calling (800) 444-7275 or logging onto

Wonderful surf fishing is found all along this stretch of beach, with big surfperch, leopard shark and other shore-bound fisheries.


Not far from the coast and the beaches, you have the inland areas of Ventura County and The Rose Valley Lakes Campground, which is in the Los Padres National Forest and 50 miles from the town of Ojai. This small campground is quiet, with spaces for smaller R.V access. There are no amenities at this campground, nor is a fee required to camp; just an Adventure Pass.

There are three small lakes here that are stocked by the California Department of Fish and Game, so there are always fish to be caught. The lakes are fed by Rose Valley Creek, which flows out of the Pine Mountains and forms a spectacular 300-foot waterfall that seems to just erupt out of the hills. There is a hiking trail that takes you the 1/4 mile to the falls. PowerBait, Kastmasters, nightcrawlers and fly-fishing all seem to do well here, with bait-fisherman stealing the show.

All the lakes allow float tubes, kayaks and canoes. No motors are allowed, except electric trolling motors. There are hiking, biking and horseback trails all throughout this area with the Sespe River Trail not too far away.

To get Rose Valley Lakes Campground, take State Highway 101 South from Santa Barbara to State Highway 33, towards Ojai. For more information on this area, call the Ojai Ranger Office at (805) 646-4348. This area is first come, first serve, and you will need a Forest Adventure Pass to park in the National Forest.


Buena Vista Lakes Campground is off of State Highway 119/Taft Road in Kern County, near Bakersfield. To get there, simply take Interstate 5 past Bakersfield, go east onto Taft Road and go five miles, then go south onto Buena Vista Lakes Road.

This campground offers two lakes. Lake Webb is larger, with boats, skiing, P.W.C. -- the usual summer fare of watersports. Lake Evans is a fishing-only lake that is smaller, with trout stocks in the winter only.

At Lake Evans, late afternoons towards dusk and into the early part of the night is the best time to target the largemouth bass and crappie bite. There are largemouth, smallmouth and striped bass, crappie, trout, catfish, carp, bluegill, sunfish and shad in both lakes. Live bait, such as minnows or shad, is your best bet. Plastic worms, crankbaits and other baits work well in the morning and evening.

The big surprise is the appearance of all the restrooms surrounding both lakes. All are new and completely tiled, from floor to ceiling. They're very clean, fully-stocked and taken care of. Going out the backside of the park, you will come to a gate that is marked "Exit Only." As you exit the park, you will come to a couple of canals and then the aqueduct system for L.A. County. This is where a lot of people go to fish for striped bass and catfish. You can see people lined up all along the banks. Just remember that you are in Kern County and the size for stripers is 18 inches or larger, with a two-fish limit.

The entrance fee is $6.00 per car; dogs are $4.00 each (limit of two and they must be on a leash). Primitive tent or fully contained R.V. camping away from the water is $26.00; the same near the water is $32.00 a night. R.V. spaces with full hook-ups away from the water are $34.00 and on the water are $39.00. Private boats, P.W.C.s and other's cost to launch is $7.00, with no invasive species check. Float tubes, kayaks, canoes are charged no launch fees as of yet, however, that may change. Both lakes are water-contact lakes, however, a pair of waders are strongly recommended, if using a float tube. Buena Vista Lakes is part of the Kern County Parks Department and can be reached by calling: (661) 763-1526 or log onto


Lake Hemet is located in Southwest Riverside County in the San Jacinto Mountains. To get there is not hard; you first want to get to Hemet, Calif., which is about a one-hour drive from the Los Angeles area. Then take State Highway 74 North-East towards Mountain Center,  then turn right on State Highway 243, which will take you to the lake. The average distance from L.A, Orange and San Diego counties is just over 80 miles. Owned and operated by the Lake Hemet Water Authority, the lake provides drinking water to the cities of Hemet, Idyllwild, San Jacinto and others. There are 150 campsites available, with R.V spaces as well. The lake is stocked with trout from California Fish and Game and receives over 25,000 pounds of trout each year. There is a strong and stable population of hold-over trout with largemouth bass, catfish, carp, bluegill, red ear sunfish, black and yellow bullhead catfish. There is a resident pair of bald eagles and ospreys that live here and you are sure to see and interact with the local wildlife.

The entrance fee is $12.00 per car and $4.00 per person that is fishing. Dogs are $3.00 and are to be kept on a leash. Campsites for tent or pop up trailers are $21.00, R.V. with electrical, water and sewer costs $27.00, and partial use of just water and sewer is $24.00. There are vault toilets throughout the campground, but no showers. Boat launch is $7.00 after invasive species check, so make sure your boat is clean and dry. As Lake Hemet is another "no-contact lake" and float tubes, canoes and other watercraft are not allowed. Kayaks are allowed after you've received safety certification from the water district. Most people shore-fish this lake using PowerBait, nightcrawlers or other live bait. Boaters mainly fish the open water by trolling lead-core line using Needlefish, Krocodiles and other colored spoons, with the best color being fire tiger. Boat rentals are available, however, prices are changing, so for more information call (951) 659-2680 or log onto


Lake Shasta is one of the biggest reservoirs in California, with over 365 miles of shoreline and holding over 6 million acre-feet of water. It is surrounded by the Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Forest with numerous camping destinations all around the lake. There is so much area around the lake it is nearly impossible to name just a few choice locations. However, there is a source of information that is not only extensive but current and can be found at There are many fish species to go after, with rainbow trout, chinook salmon, brown trout, largemouth, smallmouth, spotted bass, crappie, bluegill, carp, sturgeon, catfish, squawfish and the Sacramento sucker fish, just to name a few. Trout and salmon are the most sought-after species here with many anglers using boats to troll down deep for the trout. Using downriggers and side planers to get the lines out deep or wide is the best method. When trolling deep, flasher blades are the norm, followed by Rapalas, Krocodiles, Needlefish and Cop Cars all working very well. The best colors to use are fire tiger, silver minnow, shad or rainbow trout.

With this much water and this many campgrounds, shops and stores, you may wonder why go anywhere else. Well, for starters, you can tour the dam, take pictures from the vista center, or take a tour to the Shasta Caverns. In the town of Redding you may want to stop by the famous "Sun Dial Pedestrian Bridge." Go at night so you can see the lights and the clear Plexiglas floors light up. There are various prices charged for the numerous campgrounds, boat launches and other activities, so having the correct information handy will help. Here are a few phones numbers to call that may help with that. U.S. Forest Service: (530) 275-1589. Shasta Dam: (530) 275-4463. Shasta Boating Pass Info: (530) 275-8113.


Only two hours away from the Bay Area and less from Stockton you have the best fishing lake around in Lake Amador. Take Interstate 205 to Interstate 5 North into Stockton. From Stockton, take State Highway 99 North to State Highway 88 East. Go for what seems like forever, passing Lake Camanche and turning south on Jackson Valley Road. From there you will see signs directing you to the lake. At 400 acres when full, this medium-size lake has it all. That includes 150 campsites at $25.00 and 73 R.V. access sites with full hook-ups at $30.00. Entrance by car is $9.00, each person fishing is $8.00, boat launch is $7.00 and boat rentals start at $60.00. There is a "Lodge and Restaurant," tackle store, lots of shade trees, a marina and fully-stocked and clean restrooms. It's a perfect, quiet get away for the entire family,  with large campsites and lots to do for the kids.

Lake Amador has its own trout hatchery, so stocking is not a problem, and stock they do with 5,000 pounds going in every October and stocks going in every week after that. The lake has a huge population of Florida-strain largemouth bass with the record being over 17 pounds! With crappie, bluegill, catfish and other species, you will always have something to fish for. The trout are not the only big attraction at the lake. How does 4-pound crappie sound? Well, they are here and so are giant bluegill, all feeding off the massive amounts of shad that live in the lake.

Making reservations is suggested for camping. Call the reservation line at (209) 274-4739. Lale Amador is open all year long and has plenty of fish to go around for the entire family. You can find out more information by logging onto Nearby you have Lake Camanche, Lake Pardee, Mokelumne River and New Hogan Lake.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

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