By Tom Mailey
Anyone who knows me know that at any given time, in any given place, I would rather be fishing.
Like right now.
But, since I’m stuck at a keyboard, I can at least still write about it. And maybe in the process I can help you, too. Fishing is a great thing to do with your kids, friends or just by yourself, and you don’t need a boat and thousands of dollars in gear to do it. You do need a license though so make sure you get that before you do anything else (although kids under 16 can fish free). And make sure you know the regs ahead of time.
One of the best ways to get fish (and learn some technique in the process) is by hiring a guide. My buddy James Netzel runs Tight Lines Guide Service and fishes for everything from striper and salmon on the Sacramento river to kokanee at Stampede lake up near Truckee. This isn’t an endorsement, and there are LOTS of other guides and most all of them are good. But I can vouch that James is very good and he doesn’t mine sharing tips and secrets–which some guides won’t do so willingly. If you’re interested, find out more about his service here.
Bottom line (no pun intended) though: you won’t catch anything if you don’t drop a line in the water, so here are six easily accessible places, in no particular order, to flip a spoon or soak some Power Bait without needing a boat or any sort of specialized gear.
6) Folsom Lake
Catch some very nice bass and crappie, and the occasional rainbow trout at the closest lake to most of us. While a boat definitely helps, there are still lots of places on Folsom you can cast from shore, including Granite Bay State Park. In fact, the areas on either sides of the boat ramps can be pretty good because that’s where Fish and Game plant, and it’s also where bass guys will often release their catch after bringing it in for a tournament weigh-in. Another good spot–the Cavitt-Stallman trail that parallels the shoreline has some nice little coves to plunk, especially if, like right now, the lake level is high.
5) Rancho Seco Park
This 160 acre lake on the site of a former nuclear power station (don’t worry, it’s shut down and the fish don’t glow) is only 25 minutes from downtown Sacramento and stocked with trout from October to March. There’s plenty of shore access or you can rent a small boat. There is an entry fee, and reservations are needed to camp. More? Click here
4) Crystal Basin Wilderness
A beautiful collection of small lakes in the high country off Highway 50 near Echo Summit. There’s plenty of camping, shore access for fishing and fish: everything from rainbow trout to german brown trout to feisty (and delicious) kokanee (landlocked sockeye) salmon. Ice House Reservoir is the most well known, and also the busiest. For a little more peace and quiet, and a trail that allows good access to most of the lake, drive on til you reach Wright’s Lake, which you can find out more about here
3) The Coast
Ever been on a charter boat? Seasickness aside (pro tip: NEVER go into the cabin unless it’s to use the head. And definitely don’t stay in there), an ocean trip can provide memories of a lifetime. There are charter services in the marinas of virtually every California coastal town from Eureka to San Diego that will take you out for everything from salmon to bluefin tuna. Prices can range from $85 for a half day bottom fishing trip to hundreds of dollars for multi-day trips for exotic fish like wahoo or albacore. Figure out what you want to catch, how far you want to travel, how much you wanna spend, then call ahead. And don’t forget the Dramamine.
2) Collins Lake
This little lake east of Yuba City is a great, fairly close getaway that also offers up camping, boat rentals (including houseboats!) and cabins. Keep in mind the concession on the lake is privately run, so there are additional access and fishing fees, but it can be worth it because Collins is privately stocked regularly with trout, bluegill and bass. And some of the fish are ridiculously large. More? Click here
1) Donner Lake.
Whereas public access at the nearby and much larger Tahoe is very limited, all the docks along Old Donner Pass Road are open to the public and fishing at Donner is just better. If I was going to recommend one place for someone to go with just a rod, a reel and a lure or some bait, this would be it. The lake is cold, it’s deep, and it is stocked regularly with trout and kokanee. In addition, the lake has some monster mackinaw, or lake trout, and a few big brown trout too that sometimes feed close to shore on those trout and kokanee. Plus, it’s beautiful. My suggestion? Stop into Ace Mountain Hardware in Truckee and go to their outdoors section. They can tell you what’s biting and sell you what they’re biting on. Or, check their website, here
Now get out there, and good luck!