April 19, 2016
From north to south, the Golden State has a plethora of family-oriented fishing destinations, catering to angling styles ranging from dunking bait, retrieving lures or flicking flies.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife provides catchable trout in many of these waters, bolstering ingredients for memorable outings. To assist with trip planning, the CDFW site, www.nrm.dfg.ca.gov, lists up-to-the-minute, statewide planting schedules.
The following locations possess exceptional facilities, a variety of additional activities and great fishing for multiple species.
UPPER HAT CREEK
A network of underground aquifers deep inside the bowels of Mount Lassen generates icy, yearlong flows, creating Hat Creek. Abundant food sources and a prodigious amount of hatchery trout make this Eastern Shasta County stream an ideal family summer vacation spot.
Campground sections and roadside turnouts are heavily infused with rainbow and brook catchables, with a few up to 4 pounds in each shipment.
Moving-water enthusiasts routinely fool gullible planters using a light-action spinning rod matched with 4- to 6-pound monofilament and split shot to drift red salmon eggs through deep holes and swirling pockets. Steep gradients amid thick pine and alder cover dictate wading, short line presentations and weighted nymphs for fly-anglers.
The slow-moving, gin-clear flows of Cassel Forebay, 20 miles downstream, are popular with dry fly and lure anglers alike.
Baum Lake visitors plying the moving inlet waters from the Hat 1 Powerhouse below Cassel will find congregating browns and rainbows. The Hat 1 footbridge provides excellent casting avenues for young and old, alike.
The two-mile section of Burney Creek above the falls is not only a popular venue for 'bows and brookies but a major tributary to Lake Britton. This man-made impoundment offers swimming, water skiing and wakeboarding, plus an angling change of pace. Plugs worked deep along its rocky
structure can produce feisty largemouth and smallmouth bass; children suspending a worm under a bobber along brushy shoreline or docks can enjoy bluegill and crappie action.
Along the Way
Hundreds of campsites and picnic areas abound along Highway 89. For those preferring cabin comforts, Rim Rock Ranch Resort is located in Old Station. The town of Burney contains motels, RV Parks and rental cabins. Contact the Burney Chamber, www.burneychamber.com, or Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association, www.shastacascade.com.
Nearby attractions include Subway Cave at Old Station, Lassen Volcanic National Park, the Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery, the Pacific Crest Trail and McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park.
UPPER SACRAMENTO RIVER
Emanating from Mount Eddy, the Upper Sac begins as the North, Middle and South forks, which converge prior to entering Lake Siskiyou, a 430-acre impoundment created by Box Canyon Dam.
From Highway 5 in Mount Shasta City, take the turnoff to Siskiyou. Turn left onto W. A. Barr road and follow it three-miles to North Fork Road. Framed by Mt. Shasta, Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort, (530) 926-2618, has tent sites, RV hookups and cabins. Boat rentals, tackle and an excellent swim beach make for a perfect family camp setup.
Remaining full all summer long, its underwater structure, bountiful nutrients and icy water temperatures are ideal for put-and-grow rainbows and brook trout.
Boaters trolling green-hued spoons or Rapala plugs through the submerged creek channel or parallel to the steep, rocky shoreline can entice trout or smallmouth bass.
Below Siskiyou, the Upper Sac is a world-renowned, native rainbow fishery, tumbling over a steep gradient for 40 miles before entering Lake Shasta.
The five-mile section between Dunsmuir and the Castle Creek entrance is heavily garnished with catchable rainbows, augmenting healthy native populations. Numerous access points exist within Dunsmuir and points downriver.
No matter where accessed, the river's character remains fast. Its treacherous, churning flows not only test water-reading skills but necessitate aggressive wading, concentration and high sticking a tandem of weighted Bird's Nest or Copper John nymphs under a strike indicator.
The Fly Shop (800) 669-3474, www.flyshop.com, is a valuable source of angling information on the entire drainage.
Along the Way
Forest Service campground information is available at Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Mount Shasta Ranger District (530) 926-4511, www.fs.fed.us. Side attractions include a visit to the Railroad Park Resort in Dunsmuir, Mossbrae Falls, and Castle Crags.
Though cherished by ski enthusiasts, this Eastern Sierra destination located on the eastern slopes of hulking Mammoth Mountain maintains a cluster of 10 lakes brimming with trout. This former volcano not only accounts for scenic vistas but also ideal growing conditions, making the Lakes Basin a bona-fide trout factory.
From Highway 395, follow Highway 203 through the town of Mammoth Lakes, bearing left on Lake Mary Road.
Sitting within the Inyo National Forest boundary just outside city limits, Twin, Mary, Mamie and George house some elusive browns and are the recipients of stocker rainbows of varying size.
Since the trout at these lakes tend to school and cruise, shiny Panther Martin or Vibrax spinners worked parallel or perpendicular to the shoreline are ideal. However, in order to fool the larger "college graduates," rig Thomas Bouyant or silver/blue Kastmaster spoons doused in scent four to five feet behind a clear plastic bubble work well. Power Grubs or Power Worms bathed in krill scent, rigged on a sliding sinker and floated beyond the littoral zone are also effective for bait-and-wait anglers.
Guarded by the Mammoth Crest, hike-to, upper basin still waters Horseshoe (brook), McLeod (cutthroat), and Crystal (golden) lakes carry the potential for completing a five-trout "Sierra grand slam." Here, a 9-foot, 4-weight fly system presenting tiny, size 14-16 dry or nymphal offerings works best. Rick's Sport Center, Kittredge Sports, and The Troutfitter, cater to all anglers and offer information, tackle and guides.
Along the Way
Numerous U.S. Forest Service campgrounds adorn the five main lakes. The Mammoth visitors center, located at the entrance to town, provides local information as does the Mammoth Lakes Visitors Bureau, www.visitmammoth.com. Also, the Mammoth Lakes Pack Outfit, www.mammothpack.com, will ably assist with horseback rides or backcountry travel via the John Muir Trail. Nearby attractions include the Devils Postpile National Monument and Hot Creek Fish Hatchery.
BISHOP CREEK FORKS
Tucked against the serrated spine of the Sierra Nevada Crest and collecting its snowmelt, South, Sabrina and North lakes feed the South, Middle and North forks of Bishop Creek. Some amazing trout fishing is available amid the arid landscape's dramatic vistas and crystal clear waters. From Bishop, follow West Line Street (Highway 168) for 18 miles to the forks.
The South and Middle forks are not only recipients of abundant stockers, but private Adopt-A-Creek Foundation implants, ranging up to 8 pounds.
While roadside pools hold large concentrations of gullible rainbows, bushwhacking to lesser-visited sections of creek will yield the occasional brown. Probing salmon eggs with just enough split shot to allow movement through brushy pools and frothy pockets is a highly successful ploy. Fly-anglers will find a 3-weight system ideal for presenting dry Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis and Green Mosquito or subsurface Zebra Midge and Caddis Pupa.
On the trio of headwater lakes, shorebound anglers soak PowerBait or fling hardware along their dams; boaters troll their deep channels or near inlets for success. Sitting adjacent to Highway 168, tiny Intake II is very popular with float tubers trolling black, cinnamon or purple Woolly Bugger streamers.
Trailheads route day-hikers or backpackers into numerous John Muir Wilderness destinations for wild trout. After a four-mile ascent brought grandson, Domenic, and I to a stark, rockbound lake near 11,423-foot Piute Pass, his initial cast was met with a fierce strike. Kaleidoscopic arrays of lemon yellow and flaming orange set the crystalline water afire before he completed his audience with the rare golden trout! You can visit Culver's Sporting Goods to stock up on tackle.
Along the Way
A series of Inyo National Forest Service campgrounds grace the shorelines of Bishop Creek. Contact White Mountain Ranger District (760) 873-2500. Both Rainbow Pack Outfitters, (760) 873-8877 and Bishop Pack Outfitters, www.bishoppackoutfitters.net, cater to day rides or backcountry junkets.
Keough Hot Springs, Laws Railroad Museum, and the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest are nearby.
Set in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Lodi, 325-foot elevation Camanche covers 7,700 acres, with 53 miles of shoreline. Although very popular for water-skiing, wake-boarding and personal watercraft, rainbow trout, largemouth bass, catfish, bluegills and crappies have also carved a niche.
From Stockton, follow Highway 88 to Clements. Just east of Clements, bear left on Highway 88 and drive six-miles to the lake.
During summer months, bass and panfish can provide excellent sport for angers working the shoreline with medium action spinning rods, six-pound fluorocarbon and split-shotting tiny plastic worms. Bass will also attack deep-diving, shad-imitating crankbaits and spinner baits.
Though systematic trout plants occur during winter months, surviving fish scatter, go deep and grow larger. During summer, slow-trolling Cop Car-shaded Needlefish, silvery Kastmaster or Speedy Shiner spoons over the deep riverbed, along the dam, off the mouth of China Cove or the bridge area can produce some hefty holdovers.
The South Shore Trout Pond, stocked with a wide, size-range of trout, is a popular kid hangout. A selection of gaudy lures and spinners or PowerBaits on a sliding sinker, offer the best bets.
Along the Way
Two major campgrounds exist at the lake: Camanche Lake South, and Camanche Lake North.There also is an equestrian campground with five miles of hiking and equestrian trails. Wine tasting is offered at several local vineyards, and Fall Cast and Blast opportunities, combining trout fishing and pheasant hunting, are available.
BIG BEAR LAKE
A favorite vacation destination for many Southern Californians, 6,738-foot elevation Big Bear Lake sits high in the San Bernardino National Forest, covering 2,971 acres with 22 miles of shoreline.
Follow Highway 30 from San Bernardino to the Highway 330 junction. Follow Highway 330 for 28-miles to the lake.
Slow trolling a flasher/nightcrawler combination or a wobbling spoon in deep water between Boulder Bay and the northwest shore can entice a holdover 'bow. Patient bait soakers can score along the west shore.
Largemouth bass frequent shoreline reeds where poppers twitched along cover or floating Rapala plugs will often create topwater action. Willing bluegills around docks and pilings provide plenty of action for young folk.
Along the Way
There are numerous Forest Service and private campgrounds near Big Bear. Contact the San Bernardino National Forest, Mountaintop Ranger District, Big Bear Ranger Station/Discovery Center, www.fs.fed.us. You can also visit the Big Bear Chamber of Commerce website, www.bigbearchamber.com, for additional information.
A bike park, golf course and trailheads to the Pacific Crest Trail are nearby. Side trips also include the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, tram rides at the Snow Summit Ski Resort, www.snowsummit.com, and guided tours by Big Bear Off-Road Adventures.