The Golden State has plenty of easy access trout fishing. Here's a primer on where and how to catch California's trout the easy way. (April 2010)
California has lots of trout angling opportunities. Best of all it has a wide variety of trout fishing from the most difficult high mountain streams and lakes along the spine of the Sierras to the family-friendly "Fishing in the City" program that stocks many small lakes and ponds in urban areas. And there are also many good trout lakes maintained by private operators, so there's something for everyone.
This is Convict Lake in the Eastern Sierras. An excellent trout fishery, it has a campground, store and plenty of access.
Photo by Richard A. Bean.
Taking each area of the state, we've prepared an analysis on the best places to kick back for an enjoyable trout angling experience. It matters little if you're adept at flinging flies or like dunking bait for your trout, there's room for everybody and every technique on California's trout waters.
More dependent on fish planted by the state and by private hatchery sources than the rest of the state, Southern California looks forward to a great trout season. Actually, it's been good all winter. Many of the most popular waters are at low altitudes and get stocked with trout during the winter. This normally occurs November through April, when water temperatures will allow trout to thrive.
In the San Diego area, the best spring bets for good trout action are Lake Cuyamaca northeast of San Diego, and Lake Morena to the southeast, and both provide good to very good trout action for most of the spring. Both are high enough to offer excellent trout fishing right through the spring and summer. There are a number of other lakes in the San Diego area, but these are mostly at low to moderate altitudes and often don't have much in the way of trout angling once the heat of late spring arrives.
North of San Diego, springtime anglers should check out Lake Poway and two lakes in Escondido, Dixon and Wohlford. These waters are well known as trophy bass waters, but get trout plants until summer in most cases. Lake Jennings in Lakeside is also a good bass lake that doubles as an excellent trout fishing spot. For more information on these lakes, go to the San Diego Fish Web site at www.sdfish.com.
In the Inland Empire area, east of Los Angeles, look for Big Bear Lake to be excellent. A major trout derby is held in the spring. In addition to the multitude of trout already in the lake, some huge trout are stocked and most don't get caught during the contest. Another fine higher altitude lake is Lake Hemet on Mount San Jacinto. The DFG stocks trout there year-around, and it should be in ideal condition for the spring and summer. Lake Gregory, north of San Bernardino, stocks trout through spring and summer. Another important spot for trout anglers is Lake Silverwood near Hesperia. In addition to regular stocking, the number of trout that hold over through the summer in this deep, cool reservoir keeps the action going all year.
The same can be said for Lake Perris in Moreno Valley east of the city of Riverside. While Perris is suffering from a drawdown of its water because of an earthquake retrofit project for its dam, there is enough water for fair fishing, and anglers who know the score can expect to still be catching trout late in the summer. It's worth noting that Lake Perris and Lake Silverwood, both State Recreation Areas, will be closed two days a week. For Perris it is Tuesday-Wednesday, and for Silverwood, the closing is Wednesday-Thursday. Before fishing any State Recreation areas, anglers should check the State Parks Web site at www.parks.ca.gov.
While it isn't the easy-access kind of fishing offered by these other waters, trout anglers should not overlook giant Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet. This huge water (the largest reservoir in Southern California) has great trout fishing nearly all year long. It is deep and cold, and trout grow to a large size here. Shore-fishing is restricted to a modest length of the shore near the marina, but boat or kayak anglers can pursue trout over the entire lake. Trolling lures or streamer flies deep on lead-core line is a technique that has produced some huge rainbow trout in previous years.
One factor that may cause trout anglers a bit of annoyance is the quagga mussel. This invasive shellfish started showing up in Southern California waters a couple of years ago, brought in from the Colorado River via the Aqueduct, and now it has spread over much of the southland. Anglers with boats may have to get their craft inspected, and there are several protection schemes in place on local lakes. You might want to call ahead before you trailer your boat to Southern California lakes and see what the current regulation is.
WEST SIERRA AND CENTRAL VALLEY
There are a number of good trout waters on the west side of the Sierra range. These include Shaver Lake and Huntington Lake, and the two reservoirs, Cortright and Wishon. These higher altitude lakes are all east of Fresno on Highway 168, and getting to them early in the spring is often difficult. Other lakes worth noting in the same area are Edison and Florence at even higher elevations. Edison has been the site of a helicopter fly-in for anglers before Kaiser Pass is open in the spring. These are mostly late spring-early summer lakes, as they are high up in the Sierra. There are many other lakes at lower altitudes in this area, but most are thought of as bass and striper waters, and while they may have stocked trout during the winter, the upper lakes produce the best trout angling in the spring.
One hot tip was the stocking of brook trout in Lake McClure east of Modesto. It was noted that there would probably be a mix of brookies and rainbows stocked there. It was also shared that nearby Lake McSwain has been getting brook trout for a couple of years now.
Another salmonid opportunity in Region 4 is the stocking of chinook salmon at four lakes. These fast-growing fish, which can reach 7 or 8 pounds in three years, are raised from chinook eggs that are excess to the state's anadromous salmon program. They are now being stocked in 11 large reservoirs. Four of these are in Region 4. The most southern is Lake Isabella. The others are Pine Flat, Don Pedro and Lake McClure.
The streams on the west slope should be in excellent shape. The Kings River, the Kern (especially the wild trout section above Johnsondale Bridge), the Merced and a handful of other streams have excellent trout angling. There are so many smaller streams in the area it's impossible to list them all here. For more information, contact the DFG's Region 4 office at (209) 243-4005.
The "desert" side of the Sierra range will see its usual fine fishing in 2010. Despite concerns over New Zealand mud snail
s in the streams, the lakes, which are the most easily accessible waters, are primed to provide excellent trout action. In addition to Bridgeport Reservoir, which is almost sure to be good this year, Kirman Lake was very good in 2009 for fat cutthroat trout, and there's no reason why it should not be the same again. Also in the Bridgeport area are Upper and Lower Twin Lakes, which always produce good trout, including some large brown trout every so often. For the stream angler, the East Walker River has perhaps the best access of any stream in the area, and has good angling in both California and Nevada.
The multiple lakes of the June Lake Loop should be outstanding angling in 2010. June, Gull, Silver and Grant lakes are little gems in a beautiful setting. They get lots of fish from both the DFG and local private hatchery operations, and usually perform well all spring and summer. Rush Creek and Reverse Creek are easy accessed from paved roads, and overall, the fishing in the June Lake Loop will probably be as good as ever this year.
Of course, the star of eastern Sierra trout angling remains Lake Crowley in Long Valley south of Mammoth. This famous lake has a dual personality. From the spring opener the last weekend in April to July 31, bait and lures are used with the state standard five-fish limit, then from Aug. 1 to the end of the season on Oct. 31, it is a 18-inch minimum size, two fish per day, artificial lures with barbless hooks.
Nearby Convict Lake is another hotspot for trout. Lakes Mary, Mamie and George near the town of Mammoth are also good for hefty trout. Farther south at Bishop, Lake Sabrina, North and South Lakes and Pleasant Valley Reservoir are all very good. The newly re-watered section of the Owens River Gorge is under general regulations and has a fair to good brown trout fishery.
For stream anglers, the Owens River (above Crowley), Hot Creek and the San Joaquin River west of Mammoth in the Devil's Postpile area are probably the best known waters, but like the west slope, there are so many smaller streams of quality, plus the amazing number of high-altitude lakes accessible only by back-pack fishermen, there's just no room to mention them. For more information on eastern Sierra conditions, call the Bishop office at (760) 872-1171.
Eagle Lake should be high on everybody's list for 2010. Eagle Lake is near Susanville, and is justly famous for producing giant rainbow trout of a strain named for the lake. Water levels at Eagle Lake have been down in recent years, but overall, the fishing has remained good. Currently, it is estimated the lake covers 24,000 surface acres. Four launch areas cater to anglers, and the season opens in late May, until the end of December. The two giant lowland lakes, Trinity and Shasta, are a good bet for spring and summer trout angling, and Ruth Reservoir should produce some nice trout. All the reservoirs should be in prime shape.
There are a lot of medium and small man-made lakes in Lassen and Modoc counties in the northeast part of the state. Those places grow trout like crazy if they have water, and this year they may well have the water if the El NiÃ±o rains arrive as predicted. They grow fish as well or better than Eagle Lake. They are out there in the desert and most folks don't even know about them. One that was just great in the past is McCoy Flat Reservoir near Eagle Lake just off Highway 44.
Indian Tom Reservoir near the Oregon border gets Lahonton cutthroat trout and that's an underrated fishery. Also the "Alphabet" chain of reservoirs in the Devil's Garden area offers some good fishing in high water years. Try Reservoir C and Reservoir F. They are isolated and in great country near Alturas.
A main emphasis for the DFG in Region 2 is the effort to get anglers back to Davis Lake, which was treated several years ago to remove illegally introduced northern pike. Rainbows and browns were planted in large numbers to provide a quick recovery. At last report, the lake was doing very well. Frenchman Lake (treated to remove pike several years ago) got some additional plants too.
Northern California's urban anglers should also remember the DFG's Fishing in the City program stocks a number of smaller waters in the San Francisco Bay area and around the Sacramento area. More than two-dozen lakes are involved. For more information on these suburban waters, call (510) 530-2646 for the bay area, or (916) 355-0259 for Sacramento.