Lewiston Lake
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Lewiston Lake, simply beautiful

By Gary Heffley
There is something about waking up in the morning watching the mist slowly rising above the water, seeing deer quietly sip from the lake just feet away while trout jump and dimple the surface as they feed. Picture a cool crisp morning where geese, ducks, osprey and eagles soar above the lake. This idyllic setting is not part of a dream sequence or the setting for a romantic novel although it could be. It’s just a normal morning on Trinity County’s beautiful Lewiston Lake.

There is peace and tranquility to be found here, just far enough from the major cities and really, an afterthought for many who flock just miles north above Lewiston to the water sport and angling rich diversity of Trinity Lake.  But for those who appreciate a slower pace both in fact and metaphorically as Lewiston has a lake wide 10 mile per hour limit for boat traffic, the lake is the perfect quiet getaway.

Lewiston Lake
Lewiston Lake has two personalities, the north end of the lake below Trinity Dam resembling a spring creek with the south end maintaining a more lake like appearance. Photo courtesy of Pine Cove Marina

Lewiston is fed from the cold waters behind Trinity Dam. The waters are in fact drawn from the lower lake levels, insuring the delivery of cold water into the Trinity River which flows below Lewiston’s Dam. Cold water is also pumped from the dam over Buckhorn Mountain via pipes to generate electricity at the Carr Powerhouse at Whiskeytown Lake and to supplement water delivered into the Sacramento River which in turns supplies much of the needed agricultural water for the state. No matter what time of year or outside temperature this lake remains cold mostly in the not over 50 degree range and that is even on the hottest summer days.

A little side story -- Lewiston Lake was the reason I purchased my first set of waders. On a hundred degree day the trout activity was just past the reach of my lure. No matter the lure I was 20 feet short of the fish on the cast. The bank I was fishing from was a gentle slope so as I had shorts on I ventured in. The cold hit right away and it was not until I was to my belly button that I began to catch fish.  To the belly button means over course everything below the waist was subject to the cold. For some who might remember the episode in question --  it was a Seinfeld moment. Despite catching fish, every 5 -10 minutes I had to emerge from the water and move about making sure blood was flowing everywhere. Even the people in the boat across the canyon were talking about the crazy guy in the yellow shirt who while catching fish  ( envy) was only wearing shorts (questioning profanely my sanity). After about an hour where I caught and released seven nice rainbows did I go for the towel and the warmth of dry clothes. The next day I was the proud owner of thick neoprene waders.

So as I said this lake is cold which may not be good for swimming and wet wading but is great for trout and trout anglers. It is a perfect lake in fact to fish from patio boats, small car top boats and all means of personal or paddle powered canoes, kayaks and pontoons or float tubes.   Kayaking on this lake for recreational purposes is gaining great popularity.

Lewiston Lake, Pine Cove Marina
There is a fee ramp below Pine Cove Marina where boats can be launched and Pine Cove Marina has a fleet of rental boats available ranging from canoes to patio boats.

The lake has two very distinct sections that provide for differing fishing experiences. Just before the outflow releases of Trinity Dam the lake is more like a freestone river with the releases controlling both the speed and flow of the current.  Many people take a boat as far upstream as possible and side drift flies or night crawlers down. Some boats will anchor in the current and fly fish stripping leech and wooly bugger patterns.  Others will match the hatch using emergers and dry patterns and using midges under an indicator is always popular and productive.

One of the best areas is right in front and the areas adjacent to Pine Cove Marina. One of the reasons is that here are trout rearing pens where trout are raised prior to releasing them into the lake. Some of these trout are released as 3-5 pounders and up. Pellets that released as feed often escape the pens to be gobbled up by free swimming trout downstream. All manner of angling works well here flies, bait lures and trolling from boats.

The lower section of the lake begins where the current dissipates and the lake broadens. Trolling and bait fishing dominates this section that run all the way to the dam. But fly fishing to rising trout provides excellent sport in this area as well. The bluff on the east bank across from the 10 mile per hour sign, just past the last of the islands is an excellent spot.

Fly anglers especially enjoy Lewiston as an excellent stillwater opportunity. Fly anglers in personal pontoon boats, float tubes and prams often dot the lake’s waters.

Bait anglers also do well drifting night crawlers, crickets and salmon eggs just off the bottom, Bank anglers often employ the “Lewiston Cocktail “consisting of two red salmon eggs topped with a white Power-egg.   The white Power egg provides a little floatation so be sure to use an egg sinker rig when fishing. An inflated nightcrawler, PowerBait or scented marshmallows can also be floated off the bottom for success. Remember that the bait should be presented just above any visible underwater grasses to be effective. A leader of 24 to 36 inches is recommended.

Trollers do well with many standard trout trolling techniques with spoons, spinners and minnow bait doing well. Downrigger use is only viable in the lower part of the lake towards the dam. And by all means don’t forget the old standard. Garden hackle as some know it works well on this lake, a good old worm behind a set of attractors can be deadly here.

Another nice aspect for those fishing on Lewiston is there is some great shore access as the road to Trinity Dam follows much of the shoreline and numerous campgrounds and turnouts lead to great fishing. There are also a good number of “Handicapped Fishing Docks” along the lake for families and those with limited mobility to wet a line.

While fishing does dominate the activities at Lewiston this is a great spot to watch wildlife and birds. This is a lake were eagles and osprey do soar above the waters looking to dive upon their next meal. Numerous species of bird flit about in the grasses and reeds that line the shore and trees. Deer often come out of the brush just feet from you as you are bank fishing or walking along the bank to drink at the lakes shore. Waterfowl are a constant with many resident birds calling the lake home. The lake is also lined with black berry bushes making a family visit to pick a bucket a favorite activity. (But as with much of the area in the north state there is chance for a rattlesnake encounter so watch carefully where you step and reach).

There are many public fee campgrounds on the lake and even during the busiest holiday weekends sites can be found.  Some provide quiet sites right along the lake’s shore.

There are also a couple of privately held properties that provide camping, RV or camping sites. There are often some open sites for RV camping at Pine Cove Marina which also offers a number of boats for rental. They have basic aluminum boats with motors, canoes as well as patio boats for rent. The store there also provides a good selection of refreshments as well as locally productive tackle and bait. Pine Cove Marina also hosts a family friendly Trout Derby during the month of July, which is a lot of fun.

LakeView Terrace Resort offers a great selection of RV sites and cabin rentals. The rustic cabins all fully appointed and offer full amenities away from the noise of television. A place where deer often walk right through the cabin sites on the way to the lake’s shore. LakeView also has a number of boats that those staying with them can rent to enjoy a day on the lake. Horseback riding, hiking and lounging by the pool complement the fishing and wildlife viewing. This is a very popular family destination where a family stay is often a yearly event.

Another great aspect of Lewiston besides its own inherent beauty is the lake’s proximity to other attractions. Just below Lewiston Dam is the Trinity River Fish Hatchery, where steelhead are raised. Daily tours are available. The Trinity River below the dam is a world class Steelhead and Salmon fishery with just enough trophy brown trout available to keep things interesting.  The Trinity River is also a great rafting and kayaking river. There are numerous rental and tour outfits in the region.

The old town of Lewiston has some very interesting and historical building and sites and well worth a stroll through the many shops. Lewiston is host to many annual events and if visiting during one of the many make sure to drop in. Nearby Weaverville also provides quaint shops and historic buildings including the Joss House, a religious site built by Chinese emigrants who came to the California and provided some of the back breaking labor force who built the roads and rail beds, working in the mines and gold fields.

 Another very popular sport in the region is touring the many roadways by bicycle. The roadways are peaceful and with caution can be travelled safely in most all areas. The traffic is such that there are no stop lights in the entire county, which is a shock for anyone from the urban areas of the state.

Trinity Lake as mentioned is just a couple miles above Lewiston with some of Lewiston Lake in the actual shadow of the massive earthen Trinity Dam. Campgrounds, water sport activities and great fishing are all available here. The fishing for largemouth and especially smallmouth is world class. The old state record smallmouth was held by Tim Brady of Trinity Outdoors in Weaverville for over 30 years and the current state record for landlocked King Salmon is from Trinity. Couple those record fish with outstand trout and Kokanee fishing and it is easy to see why Trinity is a great destination to visit.

If you are looking for peace, quiet and tranquility and an escape from the noise and commotion of everyday home life and work I can’t think of a better spot than Lewiston Lake to spend some quiet, reflective time.

Photos by Stew Stewart, Shasta Trinity Fly Fishers and Louise Bigham, Pine Cove Marina


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