September 29, 2010
Looking for trout action? Make a plan to fish these lakes, rivers and reservoirs in 2008. (April 2008)
By Chris Shaffer
A rolled shad 12 feet deep took this 4-pound rainbow at Tulloch Lake.
Photo courtesy of Danny Layne.
Throughout 2008, the entire state of California will provide excellent opportunities to catch trout.
Trollers, float-tubers and bank anglers should expect to find quality action from Mexico to Oregon and the Pacific Ocean to Nevada.
Here's a breakdown of some of the state's best prospects.
In the spring, anglers will find adequate action across the region. If you don't mind the crowds, all of SoCal's pay lakes -- Irvine, Santa Ana River lakes, Laguna Niguel -- will provide good, if somewhat overcrowded, experiences for anglers looking to fish with others in search of farm-raised trophy trout. These fish sometimes have no fins, dull colors and little fight to them. However, Ventura County offers excellent conditions for trollers at Lake Piru, as does Los Angeles County for shoreline anglers at Castaic Lagoon and float-tubers at Elizabeth Lake.
Early spring also marks the beginning of the traditional spring and summer trout season in the San Bernardino Mountains. Due to the devastating fires that swept through the region, anglers at Green Valley Lake will experience some sort of silt runoff that could affect fishing.
Call ahead for updated conditions. The number is (909) 867-2009.
Higher up the mountain, Big Bear Lake will just be starting to open its marinas. According to Alan Sharp of Big Bear Marina, the lake will provide excellent action for trollers working Needlefish, Rebel Minnows and Rapalas doused with Pautzke Liquid Krill. Sharp said that water levels that have been higher than normal in recent years will make for great fishing this spring in the vicinity of Observatory Point.
Spring tends to be the best time to troll at Lake Jennings, said ranger Hugh Marx. He added that trout tend to migrate from the shoreline to deeper portions of the reservoir as water warms in April.
Trollers can work various spoons in 10 to 20 feet of water to cash in on 1- to 2-pound rainbows. In the mountains above San Diego County, Lake Cuyamaca was again spared by wildfires, and the lake's inventory of rainbows is higher than it's been in years.
Private stockings, in addition to plants by California Department of Fish and Game, give anglers the best chance in the county to catch limits of trout easily.
Ranger Willard Lepley said the way to consistently catch trout here is to fish Lone Pine Tree and the T-Dock. Inject Liquid Krill into night crawlers and use an 18- to 24-inch leader with a sliding sinker to float the bait off the bottom.
KERN RIVER DRAINAGE
Historically, the Kern River can be a chore to fish in May, June and July. High runoff from the Kern River Drainage plagues trout fishing here.
According to Ken Walton of Bob's Bait Bucket in Bakersfield, anglers headed to the Kern need two things: Salmon eggs and crickets.
Natural baits rule and help anglers nab easy limits from Kernville to the Johnsondale Bridge, he said.
Lake Isabella could fish very well this year. If it stays low, expect to find trout concentrated near the dams. Troll with Cripplures and Thomas Buoyants to bag a limit. Another method is to simply float a night crawler off one of the adjacent points.
Eastern Sierra's trout season opens April 26. It's primed for another excellent season. Water levels are never an issue here, and trout plants come almost weekly.
Gary Olson of Bishop Creek Lodge said 2007 was one of the best trout seasons on record in the South Fork of Bishop Creek. Olson said 2008 should provide the same to anglers fishing from the lodge to Weir Pond with Orange Deluxe and Gold Label salmon eggs, crickets and Woolly Buggers. South Lake never filled last year, but May and June will provide limit-style action for anglers working the inlets at the back of the lake.
Anglers tossing red and gold Thomas Buoyants, small mini-jigs and worms -- all vying to catch half- to 1-pound bows -- will dominate at North Lake, Intake II and Lake Sabrina.
Let's pushing north. Jim Reid and Rick Gieser of Ken's Sporting Goods in Bridgeport agreed that fresh plants of trout in the West Walker River, Robinson, Buckeye and Green Creek pave the way for quality trout fishing for day-users and campers who work salmon eggs in small pockets and pools.
Even when low water hits, the drainages will fish well in spring and summer. As for the lakes, Upper and Lower Twin and Bridgeport Reservoir are benefiting from private stocking programs that have been raising brown trout in recent years.
Even as fishing pressure increases, anglers have seen catches of browns hold steady.
Plan to fish the lakes in May while temperatures are still cold and browns could still be close to the surface. Your best bet is dragging large Rebel Minnows, Bomber Long As, Castaic Soft Trout swimbaits and J-Plugs along dropoffs.
This spring, the Western Sierra is a question mark. After a dismal winter and spring in 2006 and 2007, many of the lakes and reservoirs are approaching drought conditions.
Lake Success and Kaweah had been down to 3 percent of full pool. Pine Flat wasn't much higher, and the prognosis for a speedy recovery is grim. The same can be said for Edison Lake, Wishon, Courtright, Huntington, Shaver and Florence.
Regardless, in the spring Chiquito Creek, Dinkey Creek, Rancheria Creek and the South Fork of the San Joaquin River will be heavily stocked and perfect for anglers looking to cast Panther Martins, Mepps, Rooster Tails and salmon eggs into pools and holes. In the lakes, trolling a set of Cow Bells, Ford Fenders or a Sling Blade with a night crawler will yield limits of 12- to 16-inch rainbows.
In the fall, you must check out sleeper fishery Tulloch Reservoir, said guide Danny Layne, who makes a living catching Tulloch's 3- to 6-pound rainbows in the winter, spring and fall. Layne rolls dead shad in 10 to 20 feet of water to lure in the football-like 'bows.
Layne can also recommend Lake McClure. In recen
t years, 3-pound rainbows have been common, and there's no reason that won't happen again this spring for anglers trolling near the dam.
Monte Smith of Gold Country Sport Fishing puts New Melones near the top of his list. Most anglers will hit Melones for its kokanee. But those who look for big, fat rainbows should have no problem stumbling upon them. Smith said the explosion of the kokanee fishing here would improve the rainbow bite because the 'bows haven't been targeted as significantly as the kokanee have.
Trolling the main lake river arms or sitting on the shore, dunking bait near the Glory Hole Recreation Area, can yield action. On the other hand, Smith continues to drag most of his clients to Don Pedro Reservoir where quality rainbows, enormous inland chinook and kokanee are available.
Don Pedro can be a ghost town in the spring, even though fishing is consistent. Smith will roll shad near Jenkins Hill, the dam, and in front of the marina to score easy action on 'bows.
Chris Cantwell's management at Lake Camanche keeps this lowland reservoir poised as one of the Motherlode's most consistent fisheries. Bank-anglers could target the South Shore Pond or North and South Shore Marina in the spring or hop on a boat and troll Hat Island, near the dam or in front of the Speece Cone for a chance at 'bows to 10 pounds.
Springtime is a great time to target the Bay Area, said Pete Alexander, biologist for the East Bay Regional Parks District. Alexander sees no downfall in this year's trout action and recommends Shadow Cliffs Reservoir and Quarry Lakes early in the spring when muddy runoff might slow the fishery at Lake Chabot and San Pablo Reservoir.
Float-tubers, shore-anglers and trollers are welcome. Steve La Russa of Coyote Bait and Tackle isn't thrilled about the trout options available in many of the South Bay's larger reservoirs.
Anglers will probably have to hit small park lakes such as Sandy Wool, Cunningham, Cottonwood and the Campbell Percolation Ponds to find more consistent trout fishing.
Fabulous management by the lake concessionaires makes Los Vaqueros, Chabot and Del Valle some of the Bay Area's top waters. Los Vaqueros is boasting heavy plants of trout, light fishing pressure and a surprise excellent bite on inland chinook, even from the bank. Anglers fishing with dough baits and spoons in the vicinity of the marina have no problems bagging limits.
At Del Valle, trollers dragging Needlefish, Hot Rods and small Coyote spoons through the top 10 feet of water near the dam and in The Narrows will score easy limits. But keep an eye on your trout. A resurgence in the striper population has them on the lookout and afraid of getting eaten.
Lake Chabot doesn't allow private boats, but anglers who rent one can find productive fishing near Raccoon Point and around the inland, said lake staffer Stan Wong of Lake Chabot Outfitters.
For the last half decade, guide Mike Nielsen of Tahoe Topliners has made a name for himself promoting Lake Tahoe's impressive rainbow and brown trout fishery.
But with more and more anglers top-lining for them, Nielsen cautions anglers to catch and release those species to ensure that the population will thrive for years to come.
This spring, dragging Cotton Cordell Grappler Shads, Rebel Minnows, Bomber Long As, Silver Hordes and Krocodiles through the top 30 feet of water will generate strikes on browns to 14 pounds and rainbows to 10.
This summer, anglers will also find a great bite on lake trout when jigging Crippled Herrings and Buzzbombs in 100 to 200 feet of water.
While Tahoe will be on fire again, Boca, Prosser and Stampede could teeter either way. All three suffered from low water in '07. This spring, bank-anglers will find success near the dam and at the inlets with Panther Martins and fly-and-bubble combos.
Donner Lake could be a sleeper for lake trout, browns and rainbows, said guide Rick Kennedy of Tight Lines Guide Service. He recommends that anglers target the lake in spring before the summer crowds arrive.
Kennedy also is keen on Jackson Meadows Reservoir where quality 12- to 18-inch rainbows can be had by trollers working the face of the dam.
Anglers might want to avoid fishing Lake Shastina for trout. After years of poor water, the trout fishing isn't flourishing. However, guide Guy Ives of Sis-Q Guide Service said that he expects Siskiyou and McCloud to impress anglers looking for limit-style action and an array of species including rainbows and browns.
Trollers and float-tubers have a place at both reservoirs when dragging flashers and worms, Krocodiles and small FlatFish. Shore-anglers can work the inlets with worms, crickets and grasshoppers.
Hit both reservoirs prior to summer and you'll dodge the summer crowds that swarm both waters.
Beautiful Eagle Lake was closed to fishing for five months, but anglers will have their chance at trout beginning May 17 when the lake reopens -- to high expectations from anglers. With at least average precipitation to the Modoc Region, anglers at Eagle should expect one of the most productive years in recent history.
"I think the fishery has been improving for the last several years, and a lot of it has to do with water quality and management," said Paul Chappell, a recently retired Fish and Game biologist who now operates Snowbear Guide Service exclusively on Eagle Lake. "We are having more fish carry over now. We are seeing bigger fish."
Chappell attributes the increase to a cooperative effort from the California Inland Fisheries Foundation, Fish and Game Department and Project Eagle Lake Trout. Private organizations pay to rear fish longer at Fish and Game's Crystal Lake and Darrah Springs hatcheries. Each year, roughly 90,000 pounds of half-pound trout are stocked into Eagle Lake.
The new agreement enables some of those fish to be grown to 1 to 2 pounds before they're stocked. Anglers are likely to see an increase in larger fish caught in 2008.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Shaffer has fished more than 1,200 waters in California and is the author of three books on fishing the Golden State. To purchase "The Definitive Guides" series, log on to www.fishingcalifornia.net.
Find more about California fishing and hunting at CaliforniaGameandFish.com