You'll be at the right place at the right time on every outing with advice for three spots for each month of the
year -- starting now! (February 2007)
Comedian George Carlin's "Seven dirty words you won't hear on TV" is a classic standup routine. But there are another seven words that anglers never want to hear before, during or after their fishing trip: You should have been here last month!
The good news for Golden State anglers is that there's always something biting someplace, regardless of season or region. The tough part is -- to quote an overused adage -- being on the right water at the right time.
To help you plan this year's adventures, here's a month-by-month assortment of quality 2007 destinations.
Steelhead, Mendocino County
On the North Coast, it's all about the rain -- too little, and the rivers and creeks remain closed to fishing. Too much rain turns them into unfishable torrents that take days to clear.
However, with just the right amount, the Albion, Big, Garcia, Gualala, Navarro, Noyo and Ten Mile rivers provide some of the best steelhead action in the state.
Drifting roe is the technique of choice on these coastal streams, although a variety of hardware, including local favorites like the X-4 Flatfish and the silver No. 3 Mepps, also take their share of steelhead.
Always call ahead to check on closures and the prevailing conditions. And be sure to familiarize yourself with California Department of Fish and Game regulations for the area.
For information, call Outdoor Pro Shop at (707) 588-8033.
Other Choices for January
San Diego County's Cuyamaca Lake is relatively small, but in terms of trout fishing, its reputation is huge. For rainbows averaging a pound, cast spinners with gold blades or soak scented dough baits. World-record-sized fish might also be lurking here.
January rains, and the associated high-water flows, should have big sturgeon moving out of the bays and into the Delta. Mud shrimp is the bait of choice here.
Cuttbow Trout, Lake Amador
For those who are less than enthusiastic about chasing hatchery fish in a reservoir, Lake Amador cuttbows offer an exciting alternative. These feisty fish -- a Swedish crossbreed of steelhead, rainbow and cutthroat trout -- are raised in Amador's own hatchery. And with their color, shine and condition, they are more akin to wild trout than hatchery fish. You'll be hooked after catching just one.
With weekly plants that typically range from between 2,000 and 5,000 pounds, only bad weather can dampen the fishing here. Anglers fishing from shore do well soaking bright dough baits or night crawlers near the spillway and boat ramp. Boaters find success trolling flashy spoons and small plugs around the main body just off the dam.
For information, call Lake Amador Resort at (209) 274-4739.
Other Choices for February
Smallmouths aren't the first species you think of when someone mentions the Sierra foothills, but they'll be at the top of many anglers' lists when Pardee Reservoir opens this month. Try small ripbaits upriver for starters.
The lower Smith River recovers quickly from drenching winter storms, making it an ideal coastal steelhead fishery. But it's still wise to check on conditions before you go.
Largemouth Bass, Clear Lake
The Golden State's largest natural freshwater lake is still the place to go for that creel of a lifetime. Though five-fish limits tipping the scales at 50 pounds are not unheard of at this time of year, those kinds of results do take effort. But expect to catch lots of largemouths in the 3-pound class, with a legitimate chance of at least one fish pushing 10 pounds.
Begin your search for big largemouths at the north end of the lake, where flooded tules concentrate fish. Avoid spooking bass by staying off the bank, targeting the outside edges with spinnerbaits, ripbaits and swimbaits. After working the outer areas, move in and pitch jigs to holes, cuts and isolated clumps of sparse tules.
For information, call Tackle It at (707) 262-1233.
Other Choices for March
San Francisco Bay Area anglers don't have to travel far for quality rainbow trout fishing. There are plenty of fish to go around when you soak bait or cast hardware at San Pablo, Lafayette and Shadow Cliffs reservoirs. The year's largest brown trout are also on tap at Lake Almanor in March. The key to success is getting out between storms and covering lots of water with mini-tube baits.
Bass, Santa Margarita Lake
Located between well-known bass factories to both the north and south, Santa Margarita is perhaps the most underutilized fishery in the region. That's too bad, considering that plenty of quality largemouths are swimming these waters.
An added benefit is that seven miles of accessible shoreline make this lake suited to bank-bound anglers as well as boaters.
Thanks to a DFG stocking program that runs through the end of this month, trout-pattern swimbaits are a good choice when looking for something to cast for big bass. Working frogs and buzzbaits over the grass beds that should be starting to flourish in the backs of coves is another good bet. Switch to soft-plastics when the reaction bite takes a dive.
For information, call Santa Margarita Marina at (805) 438-1522.
Other Choices for April
For a relaxing change of pace, anchor in any of Camanche Lake's quiet coves, drop a live minnow through submerged brush and load up with crappie. These scrappy fish are also suckers for small jigs.
As long as the krill show up, king salmon to 15 pounds can be found out of Half Moon Bay. Fish your favorite offering from the surface down to 40 feet.
White Bass, Lake Nacimiento
When voracious white bass move up the Nacimiento River and other creek arms to spawn, they'll tire you out long before they decide to stop biting. You'll catch the end of the annual ritual, and the exciting shallow-water action that goes with it, in early May. The whites should still be in the tributaries later in the month, but you'll have
to fish for them in deeper water.
When you find a school of white bass in only inches of water, cast an in-line spinner upstream past the fish and hop it back through them. Locate bass in deeper water with your fish finder and by watching for surface boils. Troll shad-pattern plugs for whites holding deep and burn ripbaits through the action when fish are working the surface.
For information, call Nacimiento Marina at (805) 238-1056.
Other Choices for May
Catch the end of the spring mackinaw season at Donner Lake this month, where monster fish are found feeding in the shallows. Most of the macks are taken by top-lining J-plugs and deep-diving minnow lures near the west ramp.
American shad provide aerobatic action for anglers letting the current carry mini-jigs along the bottom of the Feather River's deepest pools.
Surfperch, Morro Bay
Miles of sandy beach offer Central Coast surf-casters plenty of options, with the fishing often best between Morro Rock and San Simeon. If you're not eager to wade into breaking waves, you can use the public pier at William R. Hearst Memorial State Beach. Regardless of where you choose to try, experienced anglers recommend being there at the turn of an outgoing tide.
Barred and calico surfperch are common in the surf and just outside it, while walleyes and silvers can be taken further offshore. Both motor-oil and root-beer-colored plastic grubs, fished on small hooks about 2 feet below egg-shaped slip-sinkers, work well. Another popular technique is soaking live sand crabs and bloodworms on No. 6 hooks.
For information, call Virg's San Simeon Landing at (805) 927-4676.
Other Choices for June
Schools of shad fill the American River this month, providing action for anglers casting mini-grubs, darts or flies. Increase your odds by checking flows, asking locals about the hottest spots and fishing early and late.
Small but scrappy brook trout in the open area of Hat Creek take spinners, crickets and night crawlers. Late-spring hatches also keep fly-fishers happy.
Lingcod, Shelter Cove
The treacherous drive to this Lost Coast destination keeps the masses away, although those who experience its quality fishing tend to return on a regular basis. Sportfishing vessels dominate Shelter Cove. The draw here is the inlet's orientation -- the cove usually provides protection from the prevailing swell, making it ideal for the smallest of boats.
You'll find lings to 20 pounds on several shallow-water reefs in and just outside of the cove. You can catch them with typical bottom-fishing gear, but you'll increase the fun by using light tackle. Bring along your salmon-mooching setup and try jigging heavy spoons or bulky soft-plastics off the rocks.
For information, call Lost Coast Landing at (707) 986-1234.
Other Choices for July
You'll catch kokanees on the main body of New Melones Reservoir, but good electronics and downriggers are a must. Try trolling spoons, hoochies and kokanee bugs behind dodgers.
This month, 4-inch soft-plastics rigged weightless are deadly on frying pan-sized redear sunfish schooling around tule stands at Lake Hennessey.
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
Bass fishing on the Delta can be great all year, but the fun explodes exponentially with the frog bite that typically occurs this month. You'll be good to go with several days of stable hot weather, stout gear and a white frog imitation. Look for floating moss mats in areas with little current -- for starters, try sloughs running north-south, marinas and flooded islands.
When targeting largemouths under thick vegetation, your key to success is stealth. Move into areas quietly, make long casts and work your frog with a deliberate stop-and-go retrieve.
It's also important to be patient when fish take your offering. Don't set the hook until you feel a tug. Pitching a heavy jig to a fish that misses your frog often pays off, too.
For information, call Hook, Line and Sinker at (925) 625-2441.
Other Choices for August
Monster halibut move inshore along San Francisco's Coast in August, from the Golden Gate to Pacifica. Head out during a slow-moving incoming tide and drift live anchovies when they're available.
Anglers who enjoy night-fishing at a relaxing pace may want to try soaking mackerel or night crawlers for catfish to 15 pounds at Lake Casitas.
Rainbow Trout, Eagle Lake
You say you want quality? It's tough to beat Eagle's famed rainbows -- their superiority has resulted in transplants of the strain into reservoirs throughout the state.
And with temperatures beginning to drop this month, it's the perfect time for you to see what the hype is about for yourself. You can look forward to trout to 6 pounds as they move shallow to feed.
Boaters score when trolling dodgers or flashers followed by spoons, small plugs or flies. Bait-dunkers do well with inflated night crawlers, marshmallow-and-'crawler combinations or dough baits. Flyfishing also produces early and late in the day.
Whether you're fishing from boat or shore, popular locations worth trying include Troxel Point, Ranch House and Highway 139.
For information, call Eagle Lake Marina at (530) 825-3454.
Other Choices for September
The onset of autumn is a great time to chase trophy bass at San Vicente Lake, where fish more than 5 pounds are a common sight. Local hawg hunters here prefer mega-swimbaits and 12-inch plastic worms.
Head upriver and soak red worms or a small piece of chartreuse plastic worm a few feet under a bobber for hungry sunfishes at Lake Tulloch.
Yellowtail, Channel Islands
Are you looking for the fight of your life? You'll likely find all that you can handle from Santa Barbara south to Ventura, near the islands. Most of the action occurs in the lee of Santa Cruz and Anacapa, where sea conditions are calm and the trip from the mainland is relatively short.
For those who don't own a boat, several charter outfits work the area.
Near the islands, live squid are the bait of choice, but if they're not available, sardines will do. Rig the squid with a heavy-duty 3/0 hook near the tip of its head -- use a 1/0 hook in the nose for sardines. Cast either bait away from the boat, letting it drift to the bottom. Bites often come on the fall. Be ready to loosen your drag when the fish you've hooked makes the first of several runs.
For information, call Cisco's Sportfishing at (805) 985-8511.
Other Choices for October
Get to the Sacramento River before the sun's rays hit the water, and you'll catch your share of healthy rainbow trout. The problem here is limited bank access -- a drift-boat or jet boat is a necessity.
You'll also find the Pacific at its calmest in October, making this a great time to make the long run to the Farallon Islands for yellowtail and blue rockfishes.
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
Ocean-going stripers are back in freshwaters this month, and you'll load the boat with fish to 30 pounds on the Delta's maze of sloughs and channels. Expect bass to be on both the Sacramento and San Joaquin sides, hanging out where fast-moving waters whip around the ends of islands and bends. Popular spots are upstream of Decker Island and the mouth of the Mokelumne River.
Just after the tide turns, use big topwater plugs to attract cruising stripers, either slowing or speeding up the cadence to elicit strikes. You'll catch more fish by positioning your boat in deep water on one side of a point and casting to deep water on the other side -- work your offering back over the shallows and hold on. When the reaction bite slows, soak mudsuckers or sculpins on the bottom.
For information, call Fisherman's Warehouse at (209) 239-2248.
Other Choices for November
You're in for a treat if you've never fished Lake Shasta in the winter when spotted bass go on a tear. You'll have the place to yourself and catch lots of fish by targeting walls and dropoffs with spoons, crankbaits and plastics.
In Santa Monica Bay, schools of bonito should have the reels of saltwater fly-fishers smoking, if the weather cooperates.
Spotted Bass, Lake Oroville
Need a break from Christmas shopping, office parties and struggling to put lights on the house? Then pack up your gear, dress warm and head to Oroville for some of the fastest action of the year.
It really doesn't matter where you decide to wet a line, because spots will be eating all over the lake. Plan on catching lots of fish, but most will fall within DFG's slot-size limit.
Oroville's rocky points are a great place to spend your time -- look for a reaction bite first by slow-rolling spinnerbaits or cranking deep-diving plugs. If a more deliberate presentation is necessary, try dartheading 4-inch plastic worms or vertically jigging spoons. Dependable locations include Berry Creek, Spring Valley Cove and Canyon Creek.
For information, call Huntington's Sportsman's Store at (530) 534-8000.
Other Choices for December
Many consider sanddabs the finest table fare swimming the Golden State's coastal waters, and they're available to anglers targeting the sandy flats off San Francisco. Use light tackle to soak pieces of squid on drop-hook rigs.
To take home numbers of striped bass, make plans to visit Pyramid Lake before the holidays. There, casting plugs to surface boils or soaking anchovies in deep water will both produce.