This calendar will put you right in the middle of the action, now and for every month of the year. (Feb 2009)
Saltwater and freshwater fishing were both exceptional last year, despite the well-publicized lack of precipitation. Though another dry spring may bring negative impacts on fisheries down the road, anglers can expect 2009 to be another great year.
But even with the assortment of quality destinations that California has to offer, timing is everything. Even more important than where to go is determining when to be there. These 36 recommendations compiled by California Game & Fish will help ensure that you're in the right place at the right time.
Look for wet winter storms and increased river flows to bring an abundance of food and hungry sturgeon to Susuin and San Pablo bays.
If the rains never materialize, don't waste your time. But if they do, dig out your tide book and plan a trip for the largest swing that you can find for that week -- incoming tides are more productive than outgoing.
Look for fish to 70 inches in Susuin Bay in the Honker and Grizzly areas.
In San Pablo Bay, try the flats between the rock wall and China Camp or near the Pumphouse. Fish right on the bottom with grass, mud or ghost shrimp rigged with a sliding sinker, wire leader and two 6/0 hooks.
Call Crocket Sportfishing at (510) 787-1047 for information.
In January, anglers have Shasta Lake to themselves. Spotted bass go on a tear off steep rocky banks and points. When water levels are dropping, try shad-pattern plastics and crankbaits, or blades when it's rising.
The main stem and South Fork of the Eel River can provide some of the best steelhead action in the state, but it's all rain-dependant. Call for up-to-date conditions before you go.
Near-shore areas along the South Coast offer plenty of surfperch prospects for pier anglers, beach-casters and boaters alike. Outer-coast piers at Pacific, Imperial and Ocean beaches are always good; any of several platforms in Mission and San Diego bays are can be excellent, too.
Surfcasting is superb in both protected and unprotected areas. Boaters tend to stick to the two bays. Regardless of your location, the key to a good day is soaking live bloodworms and sand crabs on No. 6 hooks.
For information, call Dana Landing Action Sports at (619) 226-2929.
It takes the right conditions to fool steelhead in Mendocino County's streams. But when things come together, you'll take fish by drifting roe in the Albion, Big, Garcia, Gualala, Navarro, Noyo and Ten Mile rivers.
Before you go, be sure you understand the area's special Department of Fish and Game regulations.
Add variety to your fishing this year by heading to Prosser Lake for a day of ice-fishing. It shouldn't take more than a few hours to catch a limit of rainbow trout to 14 inches.
Smallmouth bass in the Sierra foothills? They're not the first species that comes to mind, but Pardee has been pumping out some of the biggest smallies in the West. That includes the new state-record fish, caught in 2007, which shattered the long-standing Trinity record by almost 3/4 of a pound.
The steep rocky banks and points upriver provide ideal habitat. That's where you should concentrate your efforts. Cover lots of water with ripbaits and small crankbaits for numbers of fish. When the bass aren't cooperating, switch to small soft-plastics and jigs.
Though you'll sacrifice quantity for quality, you should cast big swimbaits when targeting trophies.
For information, call Lake Pardee at (209) 772-1472.
Monster brown trout are on tap at Lake Almanor for anglers able to get on the water between storms. Try white mini-tube baits around Hamilton Beach. Or still-fish Rocky Point and the dam with night crawler-marshmallow combinations.
Shadow Cliffs Reservoir gets little run-off when late winter storms blow through the Bay Area. That makes it an ideal destination for rainbow trout.
Try dough baits near the first and second docks.
Don Pedro Reservoir
This is one of the state's largest reservoirs, so it's more vulnerable than other California waters to the effects of consecutive dry years.
Though that could be a problem for anglers in the long term, low-water conditions actually make targeting Don Pedro's big Florida-strain largemouths easier in the short term.
Start your day of fishing here by putting on a pair of polarized sunglasses and cruising the shoreline -- keep track of each spawning fish. Go back to each one later, staying far enough away to avoid spooking them.
For information, call Escalon Bait & Tackle at (209) 838-6722.
Shaver Lake, where rainbows to 10 pounds are taken regularly, is the place to be if you're looking for trophy trout. Dough baits, crawlers, spinners and spoons all work when fished around the ramp and campground.
Largemouth bass, including plenty of fish to 12 pounds, should be in the shallows at Diamond Valley Lake. Everything from downsized plastics to bulky swimbaits will work.
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
Everyone wants to catch the fish that the rest of us talk about for the rest of the year. To do that, there's no better place than what many consider one of the country's top five largemouth fisheries.
The problem is that every inch of the Delta's maze of twisting rivers, sloughs and islands looks like it should hold multiple trophy bass.
But that's not the case. You'll narrow your search for big bass by looking for clear conditions and areas away from swift current.
Locations with relatively sparse weeds tend to be better, too. Start by casting crankbaits that just tick the top of submerged vegetation. Then pitch and flip jigs to thicker cover.
For information, call Hook, Line and Sinker at (925) 625-2441.
Lake Nacimiento's creeks are prime locations for catching white bass on live or imitation shad. The key is finding schools of bait being worked to the
surface by bass, then casting into the fracas.
It's illegal to possess live whites.
When trolling or mooching for 8- to 14-pound king salmon in Monterey Bay, you'll likely have to compete with marauding sea lions. But there should be plenty of fish to go around.
New Melones Reservoir
These small landlocked sockeye salmon are becoming increasingly popular in the West. New Melones is one of the premier destinations.
Limits of 2- to 3-pound fish are common, but you'll need a well-equipped boat to find and catch them. If you don't have the right gear, there are several guides in the area.
After locating a school with your electronics, use downriggers to get dodgers trailed by small spoons, hoochies or kokanee bugs down to the fish. Make sure you have an assortment of offerings in pink, orange, red and chartreuse.
For information, call Glory Hole Sports at (209) 736-4333.
American shad will put your reel to the test on the lower Feather River. Popular spots for casting shad darts or flies for fish to 6 pounds include the mouth of the river at Verona, Shanghai Bend and Vance Riffle.
Hat Creek brook trout may be small, but they hold their own when it comes to the battle they provide.
Use ultralight gear to cast spinners, night crawlers or crickets.
San Pablo Reservoir
Only minutes from San Francisco, San Pablo offers some of California's best angling for channel catfish. Fish average 4 to 5 pounds, but several in the teens get taken every summer.
And with miles of shoreline access, this is an ideal destination for non-boaters as well as boaters. But there is no access after dark.
From late afternoon through evening, the catches often exceed those during morning or midday, in terms of both numbers and size. Popular spots include the Preserve, Scow Canyon and the launch. When it comes to bait, the smellier, the better. You can't go wrong with anchovies, chicken livers, mackerel or sardines.
For information, call San Pablo Reservoir at (510) 223-1661.
Lake McClure's hand-sized panfish provide action for anglers dunking mini-jigs or live redworms around the perimeter of shallow coves.
Fishing vertically over submerged treetops from a boat works, too.
You'll add new meaning to the phrase "Fourth of July fireworks" when you hook into barracuda in Santa Monica Bay. The razor-toothed fish take live anchovies or jigs.
San Francisco Coast
There's no need for Northern California anglers to spend hard-earned cash on a long-range trip south of the border for backbreaking, wrist-aching, reel-smoking action. They can have it right in their own backyard toward the end of summer, thanks to schools of halibut moving north after they spawn.
Fish congregate on sandy bottoms near the mouths of streams and rivers, but look for areas with rocks nearby.
You'll take fish with artificials, but to produce the most consistent action, use live anchovies -- they're often available at Bay Area ports.
When choosing an anchovy, look for the liveliest and largest one you can find. For information, call Hi's Tackle Box at (415) 221-3825.
Santa Margarita Lake's abundant shoreline access offers plenty of opportunities for soaking mackerel or chicken livers for catfish to 20 pounds.
Popular spots include the boat ramp, the marina and Murphy's Bay.
For mackinaw at Lake Tahoe, deep is the way to go. But for a successful trip, you'll have to know where to fish. If you're not a regular there, it's well worth the expense to hire a guide.
Now that the kids have gone back to school and everybody's life has settled back into something of a routine, treat yourself to a break and head to Berryessa. You'll have the lake to yourself. The DFG will be stocking catchable-size fish, but it's the big holdovers pushing 24 inches that you'll want to target.
You'll find trout all over Berryessa, but if you're having trouble deciding where to start, try fishing from the Bureau of Reclamation office to the island or between the big island and Putah Creek. Trolling flashers and other hardware takes lots of fish here.
But you'll have a better shot at a trophy by drifting live bait. Minnows are the way to go.
For Information, call Spanish Flat Resort at (707) 966-7700.
As long as offshore waters around Catalina Island don't cool too early, live squid will take yellowtails to 25 pounds. If you're having trouble getting fish to bite, try smaller-diameter line and lighter hooks. Typically calm conditions make this a great time to target lingcod in shallow waters out of Half Moon Bay.
For those who cringe at the thought of chasing hatchery fish in a reservoir, this lake's unique cuttbows offer an exciting alternative.
Barring a late-autumn heat wave, Amador's intensive trout-planting program should be gearing up this month. And as its surface waters cool, the lake's largest fish get hungry, making this the time to be there.
And it doesn't matter what you cast -- spinners, spoons, small minnow plugs, dry and wet flies, night crawlers and dough baits will all take fish.
For information, call Lake Amador Resort at (209) 274-4739.
Falling water temperatures push San Vicente Lake's huge largemouth bass into the shallows where they looking to feed on something big.
For a bass more than 5 pounds, try casting 10- to 12-inch swimbaits.
Big Bear Lake lies less than 100 miles from Los Angeles, yet it provides some of the best high-elevation rainbow trout fishing in California.
Trolling along the western shoreline takes most of the fish here.
The 30-mile excursion from San Francisco Bay to the Farallon Islands may be longer than a coastal trip, but the quality of the fishing makes the added travel time worth a little less sleep in the morning.
Now is when the islands' largest lings start moving in preparation of spawning, and this is when you can anticipate fish to 20 pounds.
Live-bait dealers have closed up shop by now, but a couple of pounds of frozen squid and some shrimp fly rigs will do the trick. Hex bars and leadhead jigs with Scampi-type trailers also take fish.
Regardless of what you're using, keep your offering just off the bottom, slowly working it up and down to attract a fish's attention.
For information, call Berkeley Marina Sport Center at (510) 849-2727.
The San Joaquin side of the Delta provides adrenalin-pumping striper action if you're in the right place at the right time. For bass to 40 pounds, cast topwater lures to the ends of narrow tule islands at the turn of the tide.
Now that the water has cooled off at Henshaw Lake, limits of crappie to just over a pound will eat chartreuse, pink or white mini-jigs. Catch them off the fishing dock or near the dam
When you want a break from holiday shopping, hanging decorations or office parties, head to Oroville. This time of year, your arms will get tired before the fish do. Spots turn on all over the lake, and though you'll have to work through lots of slot bass that you must release, you'll still hook into some quality fish.
If you don't know where to start, try tapering rocky points. Be sure there's deep water nearby. Good locations include Berry Creek, Spring Valley Cove and Canyon Creek.
For information, call Huntington's Sportsman's Store at (530) 534-8000.
You'll catch striped bass by trolling broken-back plugs or soaking live minnows in the Sacramento River.
A productive spot is the mouth of the American River.
Give yourself an early holiday gift and head to Lake Cachuma for some cold-weather panfishing. You'll find redear sunfish by getting your bait down to as least 20 feet.