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Go deep when fishing North State Lakes

By Gary Heffley
09/01/16 -- Are you looking to catch trout or salmon in the large lakes of Northern California? My best advice, to paraphrase Horace Greeley with a little change is, 'go deep young man.' As noted many times, there are two key factors that will help anglers in having consistent angling success during the dog days of summer and both factors are still present: Locating and understanding the thermocline, and having the ability to fish effectively at depth.

Lake Shasta and Whiskeytown, where current fishing for trout and Kokanee is respectively outstanding, is for those who have mastered both. The thermocline is easily identifiable for those boaters with even modest depth/fish finders.

Concentrations of baitfish, schooled and individual, will be seen below a certain depth consistently. Study the depth patterns presented as the trout, salmon, and baitfish will concentrate at a depth where the highly oxygenated, cooler water band exists. This pattern will hold until later in the fall when the lakes will “turn over” and the cooler oxygenated water will be on the surface as will the fish.

Understanding this the next factor is getting to the fish, and this is where downriggers present the best option. Some try trolling with lead-core or big banana trolling sinkers and if all you want is something for the ice chest these can work marginally. But to enjoy a 2 pound hard fighting holdover trout or some of the 14 – 15 inch Kokanee being taken currently, being able to use a light set-up where when the downrigger releases it, and it's just you and the fish, is awful nice.

Some areas of Shasta such as around the Gooseneck of the Sacramento Arm where large trout are taking shad minnow imitations in hard plastics and spoons at 80 feet are being very productive. As it is reported that many of the trout are gorging on shad, spitting them up as they come to the net, locating bait concentrations will greatly enhance catch rates.

Whiskeytown Kokanee anglers are still enjoying the outstanding success that has held since mid-spring. The only difference is the kokes are a little deeper and getting consistently bigger. Many anglers are trolling about 50 to 80 feet near the dam, the cold water curtain in the Northeast corner, and near the 299 bridge, the normal trolling locales.

Gary Heffley has been a valued contributor to MyOutdoorBuddy for over seven years serving as manager, sales representative and reporter for much of Northern California. He is an avid outdoorsman and loves to fish and write about his adventures. He has long history in the Sporting Goods field and is presently managing the Gift Bar and Camping Department at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Redding.


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