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Shasta Lake: Bass and trout fishing at its best

By Gary Heffley
Shasta Lake draws more visitors to Shasta County than any other single attraction. While it is often a challenge to fish, it is more likely to produce stringers of fat trout or spotted bass. Trout to four and five pounds are caught here routinely, but large bass are rare and hard to find. There is usually plenty of action provided by 11-14 inch spotted bass or sometimes larger smallmouth or bigmouth bass are caught. 

While many bass tournaments are held here, the anglers do all in their power to release their catch in good condition after the weigh-in. This leaves many legal-size bass (minimum 12 inches in length) for those who come to catch dinner. 

Spotted bass have become the predominant bass species in the lake. The spots are best suited to reproduce in this lake due to the water level fluctuations. There are many areas throughout the lake of sheer rock walls, large boulders,  submerged islands and long points that will attract and hold fish.

Lake Shasta,
Many stumps, exposed roots, overhanging limbs, submerged and semi-submerged trees found at full pool provide bass with shade, an active ambush point and hiding place. 

Bass will also hold in areas where water and feed enters the lake in the backs of coves. Bass will often orient themselves to primary and secondary points, suspending at differing depths throughout the season. The Pit River Arm is unique as it has a vast area where the timber was not cleared prior to the filling of the lake. Bass are naturally drawn to these stick-ups and is a favorite for many lunker hunters; however, the bass are spread out in the lake and many tournaments are won in the other arms, including the Squaw Creek, McCloud and Sacramento arms. The primary food sources for bass in Shasta are Threadfin Shad, Crawfish, small fry and minnows. Larger bass will also eat small trout, salmon and other fish, such as bluegills.

There are many ways to fish for bass successfully on Lake Shasta. Some fishermen are happy soaking night crawlers, crickets and minnows under a bobber. This is extremely popular with families and was how I was taught to fish as a youngster on this lake. Drifting a minnow can be a very productive method of fishing along rock walls, across points or along washed out banks. Another method for families or groups is to troll crank baits along the shoreline contours -- See Potluck Fishing Lake Style

Shasta Lake,

Most ardent bass fisherman come well prepared with a full arsenal of rods, reels, and with various line strengths and tackle boxes full of everything under the sun. 

Being a deep lake, using various techniques of fishing plastics work especially well. Dart head, shaky head, drop-shot, wacky, Texas and jigging tubes are very popular and productive presentations. Most bass caught will be in the 11-14 inch range but a few tournament anglers catch fish over seven pounds. Shasta can also produce a very good top-water and crank bait bite.

For the best information on the lake’s fishing stop by or contact, Phil’s Propellers at (530) 462-3917 or Strictly Fishin at (530) 241-4665. The new Sportsman’s Warehouse opening in early 2012 at the site of the old Gottchalk’s Center just off Hilltop Drive in Redding will also be a great source of current information and supplies. A stop or call to these locations will start you in the right direction for Shasta Lake fishing.

Rainbow Trout, Lake Shasta,
Native and stocked rainbow and brown trout populate the lake as do stocked king salmon. Many anglers come to Shasta just to target these species in search of large holdover fish.

Gary Miralles of Shasta Tackle Co. has fished most of his life on this lake, has guided the lake and developed lures and systems that have proven to be consistent producers. His instructional DVD on downrigger fishing was produced on Shasta Lake and the rules he applies in the video can help any trout angler have a very successful fishing experience. Shasta Tackle’s Cripplures and Humdingers have always been great producers on Lake Shasta.

The key to trout and salmon fishing on Lake Shasta is locating the bait and understanding the principle of the thermocline as it relates to the depth the fish will be holding. During the late fall, winter and early spring months the trout are located just below the surface and can be caught with most trolling methods. During the warmer/hot late spring, summer and early fall the trout and salmon are deep and must be targeted using depth control devices like downriggers.

Lake Shasta,
There is also a program in place at some of the marinas and resorts that are pen-raising trout right in the lake. 

Harold Jones of Sugarloaf Cottages has one of the pens at the end of his dock and has raised rainbows to over seven pounds before their release. The pens are built by the US Forest Service and the fish are provided by the DFG. Funding and food is supplied in part by Kokanee Power and others to help establish a true trophy fishery where anglers have a real shot at a five-pound plus rainbow.

Trout can be caught trolling standard flashers and worms, Kastmasters, Daredevils, Needlefish, Cripplures and Humdingers. Small to medium crank baits like Rapala Shad Rap, Jointed Minnows and Countdowns work particularly well. Minnows, crickets and PowerBait also get good results. Mooching an anchovy tail or minnow is also an effective method for catching salmon.

Crappie, Lake Shasta,

Shasta is not limited to bass and trout in its depths as bluegill, carp, catfish, crappie and even sturgeon have fishable populations in the lake. 

Catfishing is popular at night for house boaters in the backs of coves on hot summer nights. All types of commercially purchased catfish bait work well. A piece of hot dog left over from the wiener roast also works.

Limits of five bass and trout are easy to catch at Lake Shasta from early spring until late fall or even in the dead of winter if the weather is not severe. The lake becomes extremely challenging even for those who fish it regularly at times but thanks to its enormous size there are endless numbers of coves, points and sharp drop-offs, any of which can quickly provide enough fillets for the bar-b-que or skillet.

Have a good time, but please practice good conservation. Keep only what you need or, for example, fish that are bleeding, otherwise injured or severely stressed. If you intend to release your catch, keep the fish in the water, remove the hooks with care and help the fish, especially trout, recover without excessive handling. Fish released in good condition can live to be caught another day; those that are injured are quickly spied and caught by eagles and osprey. These predators are quite efficient and do not need any help from anglers to fill their bellies. Enjoy your day and come back often!


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