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36 Awesome California Fishing Trips

36 Awesome California Fishing Trips

The best fishing '-- and the best locations '-- for every month of the year. (February 2008).

Brian Sak.

Freshwater and saltwater fishing were excellent in the Golden State during 2007. But some anglers remain uncertain about the effects of the lack of water on fishing in 2008.

Biologists, however, predict that there's nothing to worry about. One dry year doesn't constitute drought conditions, they said.

A second consecutive year with little rain and snow may hurt launch conditions at some lakes and reservoir, and the timing of the best bites.

But there should be more than enough quality fishing opportunities.

Whether you're looking for limits of fish or trophies in 2008, here's a month-by-month assortment of adventures to put you in the right places at the right times.


Spotted Bass


Lake Shasta

On a cold winter morning, the reflection of snow-covered mountains on glassy Lake Shasta offers a surreal setting for a great day of fishing.

Add the exhilarating feel of a scrappy spotted bass pulling at your line, and you'll feel like you've gone to heaven.

You'll need to bundle up and fish around storms, but you'll have this piece of paradise to yourself.

The key to nonstop action during this time of year is adjusting your approach to the conditions.

Fish slowly with downsized pig-and-jigs or 6-inch soft-plastic worms when the lake level is falling.

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

Other Choices

Fishing pressure often makes American River steelhead difficult to catch, but they remain your best bet when winter storms blow out coastal streams. Start by drifting roe below Nimbus Basin.

Big sturgeon will be feeding in San Pablo Bay if the region gets enough rain to increase Delta outflow.

Try the flats between the rock wall and China Camp during a strong incoming tide.



Smith River

The great thing about the Smith is its ability to clear quickly following a typical late-winter storm.

As long as heavy rains don't blow it out, you can expect these flowing waters to provide plenty of steelhead averaging 10 to 15 pounds.

Be aware, however, that too little rain can also be a problem: Officials could close the river to angling.

Boaters and bank-anglers take fish along a 15-mile reach below the Forks. Top-producing areas include Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, where there's adequate bank access, and Peacock Bar downstream from there. Side-drifting roe is the method of choice here.

For information, call John Klar's Salmon & Steelhead Sportfishing at (707) 442-1867.

Other Choices

Throughout the month, you'll catch surfperch along San Diego's coast by soaking live bloodworms and sand crabs on No. 6 hooks.

Target sandy beaches for barred perch and jetties for walleye surfperch.

Tahoe can be bitter cold this time of year, but there will be plenty of big mackinaw awaiting anglers prepared for the conditions.

Fishing deep is a must, so hire a guide if you're unfamiliar with the lake.



San Francisco

Looking for a change of pace? Head to the beaches and piers that surround San Francisco on three sides and cast for barred, redtail and walleye surfperch. Challenge yourself by leaving the heavy surfcasting gear in the garage '-- try a sturdy 9-foot steelhead rod.

Baker and China beaches and Fort Point are some of the most popular spots. Local anglers prefer fishing with live bloodworms and sand crabs on drop hooks.

You'll usually find an incoming tide is better than falling water, with the turn of the tide being prime time.

Bring a large ice chest when you go, and expect to load it with 1/4- to 1-pound perch.

For information, call Hi's Tackle Box at (415) 221-3825.

Other Choices

Trinity Lake smallmouth fishing can be hit-or-miss, regardless of when you go. But if you're after a trophy, this is the month to be on the water. Deep-water crawdad patterns take the biggest bass here.

You'll have to be a Wilderness Unlimited member to fish Lake Margaret, where monster brown trout will be cruising for an easy meal. Try twitching minnow plugs just below the surface.

Brian Sak.


Largemouth Bass

Clear Lake

Clear Lake remains the largemouth capital of the West, despite the steady pounding it takes. For numbers of 6- to 10-pound fish, there isn't a more productive body of water this side of the Rockies. California's largest natural lake owes its reputation to lots of forage and an abundance of cover in the form of weedbeds, tules, rock walls and docks.

A variety of typical bass lures work at Clear Lake, but you should bump up the size if you're after that fish of a lifetime. Some of the most effective include hitch-pattern swimbaits, brown and orange pig-and-jigs, white crankbaits and dark ripbaits.

For information, call Tackle It at (707) 262-1233.

Other Choices

Diamond Valley Lake's trophy largemouth bass should be spawning in the shallows, where everything from drop-shot plastics to swimbaits will work. Once you locate a huge fish, patience is the key.

Lake Amador's cuttbows act more like wild fish than hatchery-reared trout. Soaking PowerBait or trolling small spoons and spinners near the boat ramp, dam and spillway are all proven tactics.


Largemouth Bass

The Delta

Considered by some to be one

of the top bass factories in the nation, the maze of rivers, sloughs and channels that form the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta offer more fishable cover and structure than any other body of water in the state.

Here, you'll catch lots of largemouths and have a legitimate chance at a trophy. The difficult part about fishing these tidal waters is eliminating unproductive areas.

Start by looking for clear conditions. Concentrate on north-south running sloughs and channels away from the main river. Use crankbaits to just tick the top of submerged vegetation, then pitch and flip bulky soft plastics to holes in the cover.

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

Other Choices

You'll have to compete with sea lions for king salmon pushing 15 pounds in Monterey Bay, but there should be plenty to go around. Call to see where the hot bite is before deciding where to launch.

Your arm will tire before the white bass stop biting at Lake Nacimiento, where there's no size or creel limits. Target the major creeks, using live or imitation shad.



American River

Catching a dozen aerobatic shad in an hour is reason enough to head for the American River this month. Flow is the only thing that may stand in the way of high-flying action.

Call before you go to make sure that discharges are low enough for you to get on the water, especially when fishing from the bank.

Shad hit small curlytail jigs or shad darts worked along the bottom with reckless abandon. The fastest action occurs both early and late in the day.

Fly-fishers can get in on the fun casting No. 4 or No. 6 fluorescent Teeny Nymphs.

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

Other Choices

Limits of kokanee to 18 inches are common at Indian Valley Reservoir for anglers trolling dodgers followed by hoochies or kokanee bugs.

Good electronics and downriggers are a must for success.

Brown trout are the draw at Silver Lake as they become increasingly active in response to rising water temperatures. Concentrate on depths of 10 to 30 feet, trolling lures over dropoffs.

Brian Sak.


Rainbow Trout

Crowley Lake

Crowley is considered one of the nation's best fly-fishing rainbow trout lakes, in terms of both numbers and quality. The trout here are often so easy to catch that this has become a popular destination for novices and experts looking to perfect their skills.

The single drawback to Crowley is that it's not conducive to fishing from shore. To hook fish successfully here, you'll need a float tube to reach trout cruising along weedy edges along the bank.

For information, call Culver's Sporting Goods at (760) 872-8361.

Other Choices

The tough drive to Shelter Cove is worth the effort, considering it's one of the best places to take king salmon pushing 40 pounds. Try trolling between the Hat and Old Man.

Only minutes from Oakland and San Francisco, San Pablo Reservoir offers some of California's best channel catfish action. The downside here is that the lake closes from sundown to sunup.



Lake Tulloch

End the kids' summer vacation at Tulloch, where sunfish, crappie and juvenile smallies provide non-stop action. Head to the back of any cove with submerged grass, and you'll get away from the skiers and also find plenty of fish.

Another popular area is up against the steep rocky banks


Tie a No. 6 hook a few feet below a bobber, thread on a 1/2-inch piece of night crawler and cast to the shallows. Small plastic curlytail grubs will catch panfish, too, if your kids feel squeamish about live bait.

For information, call Fisherman's Warehouse at (209) 239-2248.

Other Choices

Channel cats tipping the scales at 20 pounds will gobble up mackerel and other smelly baits near the boat ramp, the marina and in Murphy's Bay at Santa Margarita Lake.

Easily accessed from Channel Islands or Ventura harbors, the Ventura Flats provide quality sand bass fishing to anglers soaking squid. Metal jigs worked just off the bottom are also worth a try.

Largemouth Bass

Lake Don Pedro

Waters were noticeably lower at Don Pedro over the past year. Though that could be a problem in the long term, this fall it should make targeting this huge reservoir's Florida-strain largemouths easier.

This is the time and place to go for that trophy-class bass that you'll be boasting of for the rest of the year.

Stick to rocky points with bulky pig-and-jigs, buzzbaits and large top-water lures early and late in the day.

When the sun is high, move deeper on the same points, slowly dragging 6-inch soft-plastic curlytail worms.

For information, call Escalon Bait & Tackle at (209) 838-6722.

Other Choices

Falling air and water temperatures mean it's time to chase rainbows at Eagle Lake, where trout to 6 pounds move shallow to fatten up for the winter. Live bait and hardware both work well here.

Target the east side of Lake Cachuma with mealworms, redworms or cut night crawlers for non-stop redear sunfish action. Soak whatever bait you're using at a variety of depths until you locate fish.

Brian Sak.


Rainbow Trout

Big Bear Lake

When most people hear the name "Big Bear," they think of the area's motion-picture-making history (the original "Frankenstein" was filmed here) or wintertime recreational opportunities. But this high-elevation lake that's less than 100 miles from Los Angeles offers some of the region's best rainbow trout fishing.

Although there are several places to wet a line from shore, trolling takes most of the trout at Big Bear. You won't need a downrigger or other special

gear this time of year, with most of the fish cruising near the surface. The western shoreline produces most of the rainbows.

For information, call Big Bear Sporting Goods at (909) 866-3222.

Other Choices

Shallow reefs off Pacifica and Moss Beach have an abundance of big lingcod, and you'll take your share with heavy jigging spoons.

You may want to increase the fun by switching to light tackle.

To get your adrenalin flowing this month, cast for yellowtail with live squid or sardines from Santa Barbara to Ventura, with the best fishing often in the lee of Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands.


Striped Bass

The Delta

You'll no longer wonder why anglers pay top dollar to chase bonefish and peacock bass once you hook into one of the Delta's monster stripers on topwater. The hardest part about this kind of fishing is holding back as you watch a fish's tail trailing your offering for what seems like an eternity before pouncing on it.

The action never lasts long, and the conditions have to be just right, so before heading out, make sure you know what to look for.

The first step is to find fast-moving water whipping around the end of an island.

And being there just after the tide turns is critical. Position your boat in deep water on one side of the point and cast to deep water on the other side '-- work your plug back over the shallows.

For information, call the Tackle Box at (530) 898-9761.

Other Choices

Limits of big crappie will eat white, pink or chartreuse mini-jigs at Henshaw Lake now that the water has cooled off. Good places to try include the fishing dock and the dam.

Shadow Cliffs Reservoir doesn't look like much, but this old quarry turned fishing hole pumps out lots of rainbow trout for boaters and bank anglers alike.

Try rainbow PowerBait for starters.



Farallon Islands

Looking for a big sack of tasty fish for the dinner table? Then head out to the Farallons on one of several Bay Area party boats targeting the area. You'll need to keep track of the weather to get out between storms, but the great fishing is worth the effort.

Mixed limits of yellowtail and blue rockfish often tip the scales at more than 50 pounds.

Much of the fishing here takes place in deep water, so be prepared to reel in fish from 300 feet.

Trip regulars favor traditional 3-hook shrimpfly rigs, with red-and-yellow a popular color combo.

For information, call Berkeley Marina Sport Center at (510) 849-2727.

Other Choices

Give yourself an early Christmas present this year and head to Lake Oroville for some of the best spotted bass action of the year.

Find any rocky point and fish small soft-plastics on dart heads.

End the year right by heading out on Suisun Bay during a strong incoming tide in search of sturgeon to 100 pounds. You'll need a sensitive rod, wire leader and 6/0 hooks baits with shrimp.

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