Fishing Lakes in California

Clear waters of Lake Tahoe California. Snow capped mountains in the background
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Prepare to be captivated by the allure of California’s breathtaking lakes, where fishing enthusiasts can indulge their passion. Whether you’re an avid angler seeking the thrill of catching trophy bass, a dedicated trout fisherman drawn to the tranquility of mountain streams, or simply someone who appreciates the serenity of casting a line amidst stunning natural beauty, California’s lakes offer a wealth of opportunities to satisfy your fishing desires. From the iconic Lake Tahoe to the renowned Clear Lake and beyond, immerse yourself in the unparalleled fishing experiences that await you in the Golden State.

Best Fishing Lakes in California

Here are some of the best fishing lakes in California:

  1. Lake Tahoe: Known for its pristine waters and stunning mountain scenery, Lake Tahoe offers a variety of fish species including trout, kokanee salmon, and bass.
  2. Clear Lake: Located in Northern California, Clear Lake is renowned for its excellent bass fishing. Anglers can also catch catfish, crappie, and bluegill in this picturesque lake.
  3. Lake Shasta: With its expansive surface area and diverse fish population, Lake Shasta is a favorite among anglers. It is home to various species such as bass, trout, salmon, and catfish.
  4. Crowley Lake: Situated in the Eastern Sierra region, Crowley Lake is famous for its trophy-sized trout. This reservoir attracts fly fishermen from all over who seek the challenge of catching large rainbow and brown trout.
  5. Don Pedro Reservoir: Located in the Sierra Nevada foothills, Don Pedro Reservoir is known for its abundant kokanee salmon and rainbow trout. The lake also provides opportunities to catch bass and catfish.
  6. Lake Almanor: Nestled in the Lassen National Forest, Lake Almanor offers excellent fishing for trout, bass, and salmon. Its serene surroundings make it a perfect spot for anglers seeking a peaceful fishing experience.
  7. Lake Berryessa: This reservoir in Napa County is known for its productive bass fishing. It also offers opportunities to catch catfish, trout, and kokanee salmon.
  8. Lake Mendocino: Situated in Mendocino County, Lake Mendocino is a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts. It is stocked with bass, catfish, trout, and sunfish, providing a variety of fishing opportunities.

These are just a few examples of the best fishing lakes in California. The state is home to numerous lakes and reservoirs, each with its own unique fishing opportunities and scenic beauty.

Fishing Lake Hemet

Species of Fish Can You Catch While Fishing California Lakes

While fishing in California lakes, you can catch a variety of fish species depending on the specific lake and its characteristics. Here are some common fish species that you can target:

  1. Bass: Both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are prevalent in many California lakes. They are popular game fish known for their strength and aggressive behavior.
  2. Trout: California is renowned for its trout fishing. Rainbow trout, brown trout, and brook trout are commonly found in lakes throughout the state. These fish are prized for their beautiful colors and delicious taste.
  3. Salmon: Certain lakes in California, particularly those with access to the ocean, offer opportunities to catch salmon. Chinook (king) salmon and coho (silver) salmon are the primary species sought after by anglers.
  4. Catfish: Catfish are abundant in many California lakes. Channels catfish, blue catfish, and flathead catfish are commonly caught. They are bottom-dwelling fish known for their size and tasty flesh.
  5. Panfish: Various species of panfish can be found in California lakes, including bluegill, crappie, and sunfish. These smaller fish are popular targets for anglers, especially those who enjoy pan fishing or fishing with kids.
  6. Kokanee Salmon: Kokanee salmon, a landlocked form of sockeye salmon, can be found in certain California lakes. They provide exciting fishing opportunities and are known for their fighting abilities and delicious taste.
  7. Sturgeon: Sturgeon can be found in certain lakes and rivers in California, particularly in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. These prehistoric-looking fish are prized for their size and challenging fight.

It’s important to note that the availability of fish species can vary depending on the specific lake, season, and fishing regulations. It’s always a good idea to check local fishing regulations and consult with local fishing experts or guides to get the most up-to-date information on the fish species you can target in a particular California lake.

Best Time of Day and Months for California Lake Fishing

The best time of day and months for California lake fishing can vary depending on several factors, including the specific lake, the target fish species, and the prevailing weather conditions. However, here are some general guidelines that can help maximize your chances of success:

Best time of day:

  1. Early Morning and Late Evening: Many anglers find that the early morning hours just after sunrise and the late evening hours before sunset are prime times for fishing in California lakes. During these periods, fish are often more active and feed near the surface.

Time of year:

  1. Cooler Months: In general, the cooler months from late fall through early spring can be excellent for lake fishing in California. The water temperatures are cooler, which can increase fish activity and feeding. Additionally, fishing pressure tends to be lower during these months.
  2. Spring: Springtime can be an exciting season for lake fishing in California. As the water temperatures begin to rise, fish become more active and start moving into shallower areas to spawn. This can create excellent fishing opportunities, especially for species like bass and trout.

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and local conditions can vary significantly from lake to lake. It’s always a good idea to research and gather specific information about the lake you plan to fish, including local fishing reports, talking to local anglers, or consulting with fishing guides in the area. They can provide valuable insights and help you determine the best time of day and months for fishing in a specific California lake.

Winter Lake Fishing For Bass

Best Gear for Fishing California Lakes

When it comes to fishing in California lakes, having the right gear can greatly enhance your fishing experience. Here are some essential gear items to consider:

  1. Fishing Rod and Reel: Choose a fishing rod and reel combination that suits the type of fishing you plan to do. For general lake fishing, a medium to medium-heavy spinning or conventional rod or bait caster is versatile and can handle a variety of fish species.
  2. Fishing Line: Select a high-quality fishing line appropriate for the target species and fishing conditions. Monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided lines are commonly used for lake fishing. Consider the line’s strength, visibility, and sensitivity.
  3. Hooks, Weights, and Rigs: Have a variety of hooks and weights in your tackle box to adapt to different fishing techniques. Depending on the species you’re targeting, you may need different hook sizes and weights for live bait fishing, lure fishing, or bottom fishing.
  4. Tackle Box: Organize your fishing tackle in a sturdy tackle box or bag. This will help keep your gear organized, easily accessible, and protected from damage.
  5. Fishing Accessories: Don’t forget to bring essential fishing accessories such as needle-nose pliers, line clippers, a landing net, and a fish grip tool. These tools will assist in handling fish, removing hooks, and cutting lines.
  6. Polarized Sunglasses: Invest in a pair of polarized sunglasses to reduce glare and improve visibility in the water. They will help you see fish, structures, and potential fishing spots more clearly.
  7. Fishing Apparel and Sun Protection: Wear appropriate clothing for the weather conditions, including a hat, lightweight and breathable clothing, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. Also, consider bringing a rain jacket if needed.
  8. Fishing License: Ensure you have a valid California fishing license before heading out to fish. It’s essential to comply with local fishing regulations and requirements.

Remember, the specific gear you choose may vary based on your fishing style, target species, and personal preferences. It’s always a good idea to research the specific lake and fish species you plan to target and consult with local anglers or fishing experts for more specific gear recommendations tailored to your needs.

Best Baits and Lures for California Fishing Lakes

The best baits and lures can vary depending on the target fish species and specific lake conditions. However, here are some popular baits and lures that have proven effective in many California fishing lakes:

  1. Plastic Worms: Soft plastic worms, such as Senkos or Roboworms, are versatile and work well for targeting bass in both shallow and deep waters. They can be rigged Texas-style, Carolina-style, or on a drop shot rig.
  2. Crankbaits: Crankbaits are effective lures for bass, trout, and other predator fish. They come in various sizes, shapes, and diving depths. Choose a crankbait that matches the depth and color of the lake you’re fishing.
  3. Spinnerbaits: Spinnerbaits are excellent for enticing bass and other predatory fish. The spinning blades create flashes and vibrations, attracting fish. Experiment with different blade colors and sizes to find what works best.
  4. Jigs: Jigs are versatile lures that can be effective for bass, trout, and other species. They can be used with various trailers, such as soft plastic crawfish or creature baits. Jigs are often fished by hopping or dragging them along the bottom.
  5. Swimbaits: Soft plastic swimbaits mimic baitfish and are popular for targeting bass, trout, and other predator species. They can be rigged on a swimbait hook, jighead, or used as a trailer on a spinnerbait or jig.
  6. Live Bait: Live bait such as nightcrawlers, minnows, or leeches can be highly effective for a wide range of fish species in California lakes. They are particularly popular for trout and panfish fishing.
  7. PowerBait: PowerBait is a popular choice for trout fishing in stocked lakes. These scented dough baits come in various colors and flavors and can be molded onto a small hook or fished on a specialized floating rig.
  8. Topwater Lures: Topwater lures like poppers, buzzbaits, or walking baits can be thrilling to use when targeting bass or other surface-feeding fish. They create surface disturbance and mimic injured prey, attracting fish from below.

It’s important to consider the specific fish species you’re targeting and the fishing conditions in the lake you’re fishing. Local tackle shops, fishing guides, and experienced anglers familiar with the area can provide valuable insights and recommendations on the most effective baits and lures for a particular California lake. Additionally, always check local fishing regulations regarding the use of certain baits and lures in specific lakes or areas.

Bass Fishing Dixon Lake

Best Guides and Charters for Fishing in California Lakes

When it comes to finding the best guides and charters for fishing in California lakes, there are several reputable options available. Here are a few well-regarded guides and charters that offer fishing experiences in California lakes:

  1. Bass Fishing Guide Service: Specializing in bass fishing, Bass Fishing Guide Service operates on various lakes in California, including Clear Lake, Lake Berryessa, and the California Delta. They offer guided trips and have experienced guides who can help you target bass and improve your angling skills.
  2. Sierra Trout Magnet: Sierra Trout Magnet provides guided fishing trips for trout in the Sierra Nevada region of California. They offer trips to lakes such as Lake Tahoe, Crowley Lake, and the Eastern Sierra lakes, focusing on fly fishing and light tackle techniques.
  3. Clear Lake Guides: Clear Lake Guides offers guided fishing trips on Clear Lake, known for its excellent bass fishing. They have knowledgeable guides who can help you navigate the lake’s waters and provide insights on fishing techniques and strategies.
  4. Ken’s Custom Tackle and Guide Service: Ken’s Custom Tackle and Guide Service operates on several lakes in Northern California, including Lake Almanor, Eagle Lake, and Collins Lake. They offer guided fishing trips targeting a range of fish species, including trout, salmon, bass, and catfish.
  5. The Fly Shop: The Fly Shop is a renowned outfitter based in Redding, California. They offer guided fly fishing trips on lakes and rivers in Northern California, including Hat Creek, Fall River, and the Pit River. Their experienced guides can provide instruction and assistance for anglers of all skill levels.
  6. Trophy Trout Trips: Trophy Trout Trips specializes in guided fishing experiences for trophy-sized trout. They operate on lakes such as Lake Almanor, Lake Davis, and Eagle Lake, focusing on catching large rainbow and brown trout.
  7. Captain Mike’s Fishing Guide Service: Captain Mike’s Fishing Guide Service offers guided fishing trips on various lakes in Southern California, including Diamond Valley Lake, Castaic Lake, and Lake Perris. They target bass, trout, and other species and cater to both beginners and experienced anglers.

These are just a few examples of reputable guides and charters available for fishing in California lakes. It’s always a good idea to research and read reviews, check their availability, and discuss your fishing preferences with the guide or charter to ensure they align with your interests and expectations.

Popular Fishing Tournaments and Events in California Lakes

California is home to numerous fishing tournaments and events held in its lakes throughout the year. Here are some popular fishing tournaments and events that take place in California lakes:

  1. WON Bass California Open: The WON Bass California Open is a highly anticipated bass fishing tournament held on Clear Lake, one of California’s premier bass fisheries. Anglers compete for cash prizes and the chance to qualify for the WON Bass U.S. Open.
  2. FLW Toyota Series: The FLW Toyota Series hosts tournaments on various California lakes, including the California Delta, Clear Lake, and the Sacramento River. These tournaments attract competitive anglers from across the country and offer substantial cash prizes.
  3. WON Bass U.S. Open: Considered one of the most prestigious bass fishing tournaments in the country, the WON Bass U.S. Open takes place on Lake Mead, which borders California and Nevada. Anglers compete for a chance to win significant cash prizes and the coveted U.S. Open title.
  4. WON Bass Northern Open: The WON Bass Northern Open is held on various Northern California lakes, such as Lake Oroville and Lake Shasta. This tournament series offers competitive bass fishing opportunities for anglers in the region.
  5. American Bass Association (ABA) Team Classics: ABA hosts team tournaments throughout California, with the ABA Team Classics being highly regarded events. These tournaments provide an opportunity for anglers to compete as teams and showcase their fishing skills on lakes like Clear Lake, Lake Berryessa, and the California Delta.
  6. Trout Derbies: Many California lakes hold trout derbies, particularly during the colder months when trout fishing is at its peak. These events often feature cash prizes and categories for different age groups, attracting anglers of all skill levels.
  7. Youth Fishing Events: Various organizations and local communities host youth fishing events in California lakes. These events aim to introduce young anglers to the sport of fishing and promote conservation awareness. They often include fishing clinics, competitions, and educational activities.

It’s important to note that specific tournaments and events can vary from year to year, and new events may emerge. Stay updated by checking local fishing organizations, tackle shops, and event listings to find the most current information on fishing tournaments and events in California lakes.

Trout Fishing Silverwood Lake

Fishing Regulations and Licenses for California Lakes

When fishing in California lakes, it’s important to be aware of the fishing regulations and licensing requirements to ensure compliance with the law and contribute to the conservation of fish populations. Here are some general guidelines regarding fishing regulations and licenses for California lakes:

  1. Fishing License: A valid California fishing license is required for anyone 16 years of age or older to fish in California’s lakes. Licenses can be obtained online through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website or from authorized license agents throughout the state. Different types of licenses are available, including annual, one-day, and two-day licenses. Special permits may be required for certain species or areas, such as salmon or steelhead fishing.
  2. Fishing Regulations: Fishing regulations in California include restrictions on catch limits, size limits, and specific seasons for certain fish species. These regulations are designed to protect fish populations and ensure sustainable fishing practices. The regulations can vary depending on the lake and the species being targeted. It’s important to review the current fishing regulations specific to the lake you plan to fish in. The CDFW website provides detailed information on fishing regulations, including any special restrictions or exceptions that may apply.
  3. Special Fishing Zones: Some lakes in California may have designated special fishing zones or protected areas where additional regulations apply. These areas may have specific catch-and-release requirements or restricted access. Make sure to familiarize yourself with any special fishing zones or protected areas in the lake you intend to fish.
  4. Invasive Species: California lakes are also subject to regulations aimed at preventing the spread of invasive species. It’s important to follow guidelines to prevent the introduction of non-native species, such as cleaning and drying your fishing gear and boat to remove any aquatic plants or organisms before moving to another water body.
  5. Report Card Requirements: For certain species like steelhead or sturgeon, anglers may be required to possess a report card in addition to their fishing license. These report cards must be filled out with specific information about each fish caught and returned to the authorities by a specified deadline, even if no fish were caught.

To ensure compliance with fishing regulations and licensing requirements, it’s recommended to visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website or contact the local CDFW office for the most up-to-date and specific information regarding fishing regulations and licenses for the particular lake you plan to fish in.

Best Places to Stay for California Lake Fishing

California offers a wide range of accommodations near its picturesque lake destinations, providing convenient and comfortable options for anglers. Here are some popular places to stay for California lake fishing:

  1. Lake Tahoe: Lake Tahoe is a renowned fishing destination, offering a variety of accommodation options. South Lake Tahoe and North Lake Tahoe are popular areas with resorts, hotels, vacation rentals, and campgrounds available. Look for accommodations in towns like Tahoe City, Incline Village, or South Lake Tahoe for convenient access to the lake’s fishing opportunities.
  2. Clear Lake: Clear Lake is a popular bass fishing destination in Northern California. The lake is surrounded by towns like Lakeport, Kelseyville, and Clearlake, which offer a range of accommodations including hotels, motels, vacation rentals, and RV parks.
  3. Shasta Lake: Shasta Lake, known for its excellent bass and trout fishing, is located in the northern part of the state. The nearby town of Redding is a convenient base for anglers, offering a variety of lodging options, including hotels, motels, and vacation rentals.
  4. Lake Almanor: Lake Almanor in Northeastern California is known for its scenic beauty and trout fishing. The area around the lake has several resorts, lodges, vacation rentals, and campgrounds. Chester and Lake Almanor Peninsula are popular areas to consider for accommodations.
  5. Lake Berryessa: Lake Berryessa, located between Napa and Sacramento, is a popular spot for bass, trout, and catfish fishing. There are campgrounds, RV parks, and vacation rentals available near the lake, as well as lodging options in nearby towns like Napa and Winters.
  6. Lake Oroville: Lake Oroville, situated in the Sierra Nevada foothills, offers a variety of fish species including bass, trout, and salmon. Oroville and nearby towns like Chico provide accommodation options including hotels, motels, and vacation rentals.
  7. Bass Lake: Bass Lake, located near Yosemite National Park, is a popular destination for bass fishing. The lake has a range of accommodations, including resorts, cabins, vacation rentals, and campgrounds. The nearby town of Oakhurst offers additional lodging options.

When planning your fishing trip, consider factors such as proximity to the lake, amenities, and availability of boat ramps or fishing access points. It’s advisable to book accommodations in advance, especially during peak fishing seasons or holiday periods, to secure your preferred lodging option.

Clearlake Fishing

Tips and Tricks for Successful Fishing in California Lakes

Here are some tips and tricks to enhance your chances of successful fishing in California lakes:

  1. Research the Lake: Before heading out, gather information about the specific lake you plan to fish in. Learn about the fish species present, their behavior, preferred habitats, and feeding patterns. Understanding the lake’s structure, depth, and potential hotspots can greatly improve your chances of locating fish.
  2. Check Fishing Reports: Stay updated on fishing reports for the lake you intend to fish. Fishing reports provide valuable insights into recent catches, techniques, and bait/lure recommendations. They can help you make informed decisions about your fishing approach.
  3. Use Local Baits and Lures: Familiarize yourself with the local baitfish and forage in the lake, and select baits and lures that mimic their appearance and movement. Matching the prey can increase your chances of enticing fish to bite. Seek advice from local tackle shops or experienced anglers who are familiar with the lake.
  4. Vary Your Techniques: Experiment with different fishing techniques, such as casting, trolling, or jigging, to find what works best in the given conditions.

Remember to be patient, adaptable, and persistent in your fishing efforts, as each day on the lake can bring new challenges and opportunities for success. Happy fishing in California’s beautiful lakes!


In conclusion, California offers a diverse range of beautiful lakes that are ideal for fishing enthusiasts. Whether you’re targeting bass, trout, catfish, or other species, there are plenty of options to choose from. From the stunning Lake Tahoe to the bass-rich Clear Lake, each destination offers unique fishing opportunities. When planning your trip, consider the specific needs and preferences of your fishing style, as well as the available amenities and access points near the lake. By selecting the best place to stay near your chosen California lake, you can ensure a comfortable and convenient experience, allowing you to make the most of your fishing adventure. 

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