California has thousands of lakes, rivers, streams, and reservoirs within its borders, along with an 840-mile-long shoreline and over 400 public beaches. So it’s no wonder fishing is a favorite pastime in the state. Some of the most popular lake fish to catch are trout and bass, but there are dozens more you can look forward to. Check out these best fishing lakes in California and discover the amenities and types of fish you can expect.
1. Clear Lake
This is the largest natural freshwater lake entirely within California. Clear Lake is also the oldest lake in North America, dating back 2.5 million years. With 100 miles of shoreline, Clear Lake is a popular recreational area in Northern California. Apart from fishing, many people enjoy swimming, sailing, jet skiing, water skiing, and wakeboarding. It is also an excellent birding and wildlife-viewing region. Clear Lake has large populations of largemouth bass, bluegill, carp, crappie, and catfish. But a large majority of the fish caught in the lake are largemouth bass, including record-breaking bass. The lake features almost a dozen free boat launches, boat rentals, fishing tournaments, and nearby wineries.
2. Lake Cuyamaca
Lake Cuyamaca is a 110-acre reservoir in eastern San Diego County in the Cuyamaca Mountains. The dam at the lake was built in 1888 to supply drinking water to San Diego. And over the years, improved infrastructure has created a reliable source of water. Lake Cuyamaca is also a popular spot for recreation, such as boating, fishing, hiking, camping, picnicking, and birdwatching. This reservoir is well-stocked with diverse fish, especially trout, which amounts to 38,000 pounds a year. And it gets stocked with trout year-round, unlike other reservoirs. You can also find smallmouth bass, channel catfish, Florida bass, crappie, sturgeon, and bluegill.
3. Lake Shasta
This 30,000-acre reservoir is the largest in the state and is located in Northern California. With 370 miles of shoreline and views of Mount Shasta, Lake Shasta is a summer haven for vacation and recreation. Other than an excellent fishing spot, this lake offers boating, water sports, camping, birding, hiking, and plenty to do in the nearby town. Head to the lake during spring and early summer for excellent bass, catfish, and crappie fishing. You can specifically find spotted bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, white catfish, and bullheads.
4. Lake Almanor
Lake Almanor is another large reservoir in California. This lake is in the northeastern part of the state in Plumas County. The dam is 130 feet tall and is located on the North Fork of the Feather River. The dam and reservoir are used for hydroelectricity and recreation, such as fishing, swimming, boating, water sports, hiking, and camping. With 28,000 acres of water, Lake Almanor has plenty of space for fishing and other activities. It is a premier spot for smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, and brown trout, including trophy-sized fish. The lake has a 90-foot max depth and stays cold year-round. So you can also find Chinook salmon.
5. Lake Berryessa
Formed after the construction of Monticello Dam in the 1950s, Lake Berryessa is the largest lake and reservoir in Napa County. It resides in the Vaca Mountains and features 165 miles of shoreline, as well as supports a 2,000-acre wildlife area on the lake’s east side. This reservoir and dam provide flood control and water supply for irrigation and several cities. Resorts and marinas dot the shoreline. And visitors enjoy fishing, swimming, water skiing, boating, kayaking, hiking, biking, birding, wildlife viewing, and picnicking. The most popular fish in the lake include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, and landlocked salmon. There are also bluegill, crappie, catfish, sunfish, crawfish, and clams.
6. Castaic Lake
Located in the Sierra Pelona Mountains, Castaic Lake is a reservoir in northwest Los Angeles County, outside of L.A. It is one of the largest reservoirs and recreational areas in California, especially in southern California. Castaic Lake is a trophy largemouth bass destination, with the best time to fish in early spring. The Department of Fish and Game stocks the lake with trout each year from fall to spring. And you can also catch bluegill, striped bass, bullhead, channel catfish, sunfish, and crappie. You are permitted to fish from the docks, dam, or rent a boat. Check the shallow coves during spring and fall. And fish in deeper water during summer and winter.
Summary of the Best Fishing Lakes in California
|Rank||Best Fishing Lakes in California||Type of Fish in the Lakes|
|#1||Clear Lake||largemouth bass, bluegill, carp, crappie, and catfish|
|#2||Lake Cuyamaca||trout, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, Florida bass, crappie, sturgeon, and bluegill|
|#3||Lake Shasta||bass, catfish, and crappie fishing. spotted bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, white catfish, and bullheads|
|#4||Lake Almanor||smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, brown trout, and chinook salmon|
|#5||Lake Berryessa||largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, landlocked salmon, bluegill, crappie, catfish, sunfish, crawfish, and clams|
|#6||Castaic Lake||trout, bluegill, striped bass, bullhead, channel catfish, sunfish, and crappie|
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