What are the best fishing lakes in California? Well, let’s just take a look…
My extremely unscientific formula to come up with these rankings took species diversity, average fish size, aesthetic value, length of season, proximity to other attractions and available facilities into account.
I also employed the very technical and complex system of Rock, Paper, Scissors when there was a tie. So, without further adieu, here’s my list of Northern California’s 5 Best Fishing Lakes (feel free to chime in, complain or add your favorite in the comments section below).
1) Lake Shasta
This one was a no-brainer. The lake received high marks for diversity — king salmon, rainbow and brown trout, largemouth, spotted and smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish, sturgeon, bluegill, readear sunfish, green sunfish… well, you get the idea. Not only does Shasta host many varieties of fish, but often produces excellent action. Browns can get huge in here, the rainbows are often fat and the kings can reach impressive sizes. Lunker largemouths have been taken out of Shasta, though smaller spotts seem to be the most dominant bass species now.
Due to its relatively low elevation, Shasta fishes well year-round. Like most lakes in California, summer time scenery isn’t the greatest, but it’s beautiful fall through spring — especially when you get views of a snow-capped Mt. Shasta. Plenty of ramps and marinas make Shasta an easily accessed lake as well. And if the fishing peters out, you can always hit the Sacramento, McCloud, Pitt, Fall and Rising rivers for trout, Whiskeytown Lake for a bunch of different species or head east towards Burney for lots of other fishing opportunities.
For more info: Shasta Tackle Co.
2) Lake Tahoe
What can I say? The surrounding scenery here is unmatched (duh!). Snowy peaks on all sides and that oh-so-blue water. Certainly, a trip on Lake Tahoe is well worth the price of admission without ever wetting a line — but it does kick out some amazingly good fishing, too.
The mackinaw bite all year long here and can reach some impressive sizes – the lake record is 37 pounds! Big rainbows and brown trout to over 10 pounds are also an option for topline trollers who work the rocky shorelines in the spring and fall. And then there’s the kokanee fishing which can be off the charts some seasons. In recent years, however, the koke fishery seems to be in a bit of a down cycle but you can still get fish spring through fall. And oh yea, there’s always something to do in the area if you get off the water early — skiing, gambling, mountain biking, kayaking, rafting, etc. Tahoe’s a truly wonderful destination and fishery, though boat launching is expensive!
For more info: The Sportfisher
3) Diamond Valley Reservoir
From the get-go, this new reservoir near Hemet has been managed to be a truly great fishery. DFG biologists have been working on the lake – even before it was filled – to make sure the trout, bass, catfish and panfish planted here had the best possible living conditions.
Apparently it’s working as largemouth to nearly 17 pounds have already been taken here and the trout population is doing extremely well.
For more info: Diamond Valley Marina
4) Lake Almanor
Another beautiful lake with lots of cool fishing diversity! Into landlocked kings? Almanor is your place. How about chunky rainbows and braggin’ sized brown trout? Lake Almanor’s got plenty of those, too. As a sweet little bonus cherry on top, the lake also plays host to a very nice population of smallmouth bass.
Generally speaking, the trout fishing is best in the spring, winter and fall, though the action also heats up in early summer when the Hex hatch comes off. Speaking of that, fly anglers have been finding that the dry fly smallie fishing is also very good at that time. The scenery here is also a big plus and there are lots of amenities in nearby Chester — not to mention plenty of cool things to do in the surrounding area. A great spot for a family vacation!
For more info: Big Daddy’s Guide Service
5) Clear Lake
I know, I know, this lake can be as ugly as sin in the summer and the heat can be miserable. Some of the towns around Clear Lake aren’t exactly what you’d call 4-star resorts (to say the least!), but it’s a different world here in the spring when the hills are green and the fish are biting. Clear Lake has been on an absolute tear the past couple years and tournament guys were getting 40-pound sacks last spring. Amazing!
The lake’s world class crappie fishery has been going great guns the past several years as well and there are some absolutely huge catfish out there to boot. You can catch fish here all year long, though the spring and fall are the peak seasons. If you get tired of hauling in huge bass day in and day out, try your hand at trout fishing at nearby Blue Lakes.
For more info: Clear Lake Guide Service
Lake Berryessa, Trinity Lake, San Pablo Reservoir
Top 5 California Kokanee Lakes
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