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Where to fish in the North State

By Gary Heffley
04/25/13 -- With many visitors coming to the North State for the first time here is a general overview of angling opportunities available near the Redding and the many other waters this region has to offer.

Note!! Always read, understand and carry the current California DFW fishing regulations with you at all times. Many waters in the area are under special regulations!

The use of guides to explore new waters can be a valuable tool in learning the area techniques and provide the best opportunities for success. We can recommend a number of outstanding guides for your angling needs.

Sacramento River: (In the immediate Redding Area) Rainbow Trout fishing is great year round and this great river is best fished from a drift boat or by utilizing a guide if you are unfamiliar with the river and techniques utilized. There is limited shoreline access and wading is limited to a few locations and those are only available in the late fall, winter and early spring. Fly fishing with indicators and nymphs is very popular. There is some seasonal dry fly action on the river. Conventional lure and bait fishing is allowed but remember that special regulations are in place for size and limit. Remember as well that barbless hooks must be used.

Sac River king salmon taken by Jim Mundell. Photo by Dave Jacobs Guide Service

Sacramento River below the Deschutes Rd Bridge south of Anderson: Salmon can be taken in season south of this bridge (check regulations for dates) Trout is very popular. Seasonal runs of shad (May- June) and Striped Bass (April – July) are also available in lower stretches from Red Bluff area south.

Upper Sacramento River above Shasta Lake: There is great trout fishing here. Many Special Regulations exist on the river so make sure to read about the stretch you are on before fishing anywhere on the river. There is a special brood trout stocking program that occurs within the Dunsmuir City limits during the open Stream and River Trout season. Fly fishing is very popular as is using spinners and spoons. Night crawlers, crickets and dough bait are also popular in some areas. Spotted and smallmouth bass can often be taken in the lower stretches above Shasta Lake.

Redding Area Creeks: Cow Creek and Clear Creek are open during the stream and river trout season but no Salmon can be taken or targeted. Some smallmouth bass are available along with the trout. Special Regulations are in place.

Redding Area Ponds: There are many ponds that have public access in the Redding area such as the Kapusta River Access off Hwy. 273 and River Ranch Road south of Redding and the ponds at Anderson River Park. Bass, crappie, bluegill as well as an occasional catfish can often be caught in these ponds.

Keswick Lake: Good Trout fishing from boats or prams. Drifting baits or trolling deep seems to be the best method of take. There is very limited shore access on this steep banked lake so this lake is best fished from boats.

Frank Galusha with Shasta Lake Spotted Bass
Shasta Lake spotted bass caught by Frank Galusha. Photo by author

Shasta Lake: This is the center for great water sports, house boating, camping and fishing in this region. Bass and Trout are the most popular fisheries. Bass will take a wide variety of live baits throughout the year ranging from live minnows, crawdads and night crawlers. A wide range of plastic and techniques will produce well. Large crank baits, spinner-baits, topwater, jigs, A-Rigs and swimbaits also produce. Everything depends on water temperature, water levels and the seasons.

Trout are found shallow during late fall, winter and early spring where trolling or drifting baits produce well, usually from the surface to 25 feet. After the lake turns over the trout will be located in the Thermocline and found usually 55 to 100 feet deep. Trolling with the use of downriggers or leadcore line is a must and good electronics are summer-time keys to finding the fish. Some of the more popular trout lures are Humdingers, Cripplures, Wiggle Hoochies, Kastmasters and Rapalas.

Landlocked King Salmon are available to trollers and mooching which is popular in the Dam region. Catfishing is very popular at night in the backs of coves and where fresh water enters the lakes, especially when during the summer months. Crappie, bluegill, sunfish, carp and even sturgeon can be caught in this vast lake.

Whiskeytown: This is a very popular Kokanee fishery in the late spring, summer and early fall. Most are taken by trollers working 40 to 80 feet deep with Apex, Humdingers, along with Pee Wee and Wiggle Hoochies behind Sling Blades. The most popular areas are in front of the Cold Water Curtain, in the channel along the Dam and in the channel along Whiskey Creek on either side of the Hwy 299 Bridge. Downriggers or leadcore line are needed to get down to the salmon.

Trout fishing is popular around the Carr Powerhouse outlet for both boaters and bankers. Spinners, spoons, night crawlers, salmon eggs and dough baits are popular.

This is a sleeper bass fishery with some large bass to be had but the anglers here are secretive so unless you are adventurous Shasta and Trinity Lakes are better bass options.

Trinity Lake: A great bass, trout and land locked King Salmon fishery. The state smallmouth record was held for over 30 years at this lake and bigger still exist. There are also double digit largemouth bass to be had. The dredger tailings at the North end of the lake are a popular spring time location using crankbaits, tubes and other plastics. Late spring and summer trophy bass hunters use big swimbaits around stumps, cuts and rocky points.

Trout fishing is usually good around the dam area, up some of the arms and in areas where fresh water flows into the lake such as Stuart’s Fork and the East Fork arms.

Land locked Kings are caught usually trolling deep. Apex lures and Wiggle Hoochies are very popular. Downriggers and good electronics are an important key to locating the salmon. They are often found below Kokanee schools which are also in strong fishable numbers, as the kings often feed on the smaller kokes.

Lewiston Lake: A Forebay below Trinity Dam, Lewiston is an outstanding trout fishery as cold water is a constant and a generous stocking program keeps catch rates up. There is shore and boat access and with a 10-mph speed limit on the lake it is a perfect place for kayak, pontoon and float tube fishing. Bait, lures and flies are all popular options.

Trinity River: A popular and productive steelhead and salmon river below Lewiston Dam depending on the season. There are no trout plants other than steelhead smolts released from the hatchery but some brown trout have acclimated to the river and are in fishable numbers with some large trout often caught in the upper stretches. Special Steelhead and Salmon Cards are needed to fish this water so again be sure to check the regulations. Fly fishing for steelhead is very popular as is bouncing roe, drifting jigs, and back trolling plugs. Salmon anglers usually use conventional tackle bouncing roe, tuna balls or back bouncing plugs like Brad’s Killerfish or Kwikfish with a sardine wrap.

Hat Creek, Brookie, Where to fish in the North State

Upper Hat Creek: Open only during the stream and river trout season. Along with the middle Hat Creek located around Cassel this creek is one of the most stocked and productive put and take trout fisheries of the region. Both rainbow and brook trout are planted and there is a sprinkling of naturally reproducing browns to keep anglers happy. Night crawlers, crickets, salmon eggs and dough bait are popular as are small spinners and spoons. Most any roadside turnout along Hwy 89 as it follows the creek is a good spot as are the picnic areas and campgrounds. The area around Cassel provides some good access for those with limited mobility as the creek is channelized. The levee can offer some drive to access where you can plop a chair down right outside of the car and fish.

Baum Lake: This year around fishery is part of the Hat Creek system and provides good trout fishing opportunities for rainbows, brooks and browns with double digit caught yearly. With the Crystal Lake Hatchery next door this lake gets some good unannounced bonus plants. No gas motors are allowed but a pram, pontoon, canoe with an electric motor or just oars is perfect. Fly fishing is very popular but conventional means such as baits and lures are also popular.

Other regional trout streams and waters
McCloud River
….Revered the world over for quality fly fishing. McCloud Rainbows were introduced the world over and provided many fabled rainbow trout fisheries their start. Brown trout are also in the mix. The upper reaches of the river around the McCloud Falls are planted heavily and offer great family trout fishing opportunities as well as great hiking vistas to the three different cascades.

Lake Almanor fishing, Where to fish in the North State
Lake Almanor is home to land locked Kings, trout and smallmouth bass such as the one above. There is also a significant hex hatch, usually in early June as does nearby Butt Lake. Photo courtesy of Bryan Roccucci, Big Daddy's Guide Service

Pit River: Rugged fly water. Always check the flows for wading conditions.

Fall River: The Hex hatch of late May and June brings anglers from all over the world to do the Fall River Twitch. This is a legendary rainbow trout fishery with limited public access; it is best accessed through guides or local lodges.

Wild Trout section of Hat Creek: Fabled trout waters which while down in productivity Hat is still considered one of Northern California’s best.

Klamath River: Known for steelhead and salmon fisheries.

Linda Tower, Trout fishing, Where to fish in the North State
Linda Tower of Shingletown holds a nice Eagle Lake trout. Photo by Harry Tower

Eagle Lake: Home of the famous Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout is only open from the end of May to December 31rst, check regulations.

Feather River: Hosts runs of salmon, steelhead, striped bass and shad. Always check the regulations for seasons and closures.

Manzanita Lake: In the shadow of Mt. Lassen and within the boundary of Lassen National Park this is a great fly fishing only catch and release fishery for rainbows and browns. Great place to fish peacefully from a non- motorized float tube, kayak or pontoon.

Upper Battle Creek Reservoir: Out of the way but a great trout fishery once the snow clears as this lake just northwest of Lassen Park sits at about 6,000 feet.

*There are also numerous private lakes, ponds and stream sections which for a fee can provide world class and once in a lifetime experiences.

Other popular lakes in the greater Northern California area:
Iron Gate Reservoir:
Iron Gate is one of the few spots in California to catch Yellow Perch, which are available in great numbers. This is also a sleeper bass fishery just below the Oregon border.

Lake McCloud: There is some outstanding trout fishing for both bait drifters and trollers on this beautiful lake in the Mt. Shasta area.

Lake Siskiyou: Lake Sis is another lake in the shadow of Mt. Shasta. Besides the beautiful vistas easy access off of Hwy 5 and a great seasonal family resort, trout and smallmouth bass fishing can be outstanding.

Lake Britton: Britton is a very popular crappie fishing destination near Burney, as well as a sleeper smallmouth bass fishery. Do not miss the adjacent Burney Falls as they are worth the trip itself.

Burney Creek: Feeds into Lake Britton and provides some excellent trout fishing with reduced limits. Check the regs for details.

Lake Orovile spotted bass. Photo courtesy of Ron Gandolfi Guide Service

Lake Oroville: A great bass fishery, providing angler’s good numbers of bass for all popular bassing techniques. Currently also producing some land-locked Coho Salmon for trollers and moochers.

Black Butte: While off the radar this can be a good bass and crappie lake.

Bullard’s Bar: This lake is getting a reputation for quality sized spotted bass. Has trout and kokanee as well.

Clear Lake: Besides the California Delta, Clear Lake is the home to some of the biggest bass to be found in Northern California with many double digit fish produced yearly. Popular with tournament anglers from all over the country including BASS and FLW this lake can produce both numbers and size. A few years back, the winning bag was over 120 pounds for a 4 day, 20 fish limit. Crappie, catfish and archery carp shooting are also popular here.

Collin’s Lake: A great well managed and stocked family lake with great shore and boat fishing for trout in all but the hottest months. Then attention turns to bass, crappie and catfish which can be caught in size and numbers.

There are also many other lakes both big and small to explore in the region.

Gary Heffley is a correspondent for but is also the Fishing Department Manager at Sportsmen’s Warehouse in Redding. He is also an outstanding angler with a penchant for keeping his tackle at the ready in case he happens to be traveling near a stream, creek or lake.

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