By Stacy Fisher
Photos provided by Doug Willmes, Jr.
At an elevation of 5,098 feet, Eagle Lake is the second largest natural lake entirely in the state of California. The lake is 15 miles long by 1.8-2.5 miles wide, and during normal years averages 16-20 feet deep, up to a depth of nearly 98 feet in some areas.
Despite the lower water levels this year due to the severe drought conditions, Eagle Lake still has some great fishing opportunities for those who enjoy the sport, says Doug Willmes of Susanville.
Doug, who recently retired, has been an avid fisherman from an early age. “I started fishing when I was a young kid, probably six or seven years old. I was never much interested in anything else but fishing, with the exception of riding dirt bikes when I was growing up. I would get up at dawn to head out to the fishing spots with my dad.”
Just recently he and his wife, along with a few of his neighbors, were up at Eagle Lake several times to fish.
“You can still easily access the boat ramp at the Eagle Lake Marina on the south shore,” he says. “The dock is still in place, and it’s absolutely possible to have a good fishing day, weather permitting. Everybody I saw on the lake had fish. The stores remain open and so are the fish cleaning stations,” when he visited late October. Boat rentals are available seasonally, he says, and can be rented for a half-day or full day.
Eagle Lake rainbow trout is the only species available in the lake. They average between 18 and 20-inches, and typically weigh 2½ to 3 pounds. “I caught one once that was over 4 pounds,” although some may exceed 10 pounds.
Doug says other lakes in the region continue to provide good fishing opportunities, too, such as Lake Almanor and Antelope Lake. Both feature easy access and boat ramps. “One can still launch even if it’s a little harder without a floating dock in place because of the water level.” He says they usually don’t pull the ramps out until the water starts to freeze.
It’s beautiful at the lake, but people need to plan ahead carefully and have a California fishing license for inland use. “The best thing to do before heading out is to check the weather. It’s always best to pick a calm day this time of year. You don’t want to go on a day when you have to fight the wind. It takes all the fun out of the experience. There are plenty of nice days even during the winter months. I’ve even been up at Eagle Lake the last day of December fishing when it hadn’t yet frozen over completely.” Many enjoy shore fishing too in November and December. Fishing is a fun activity; the pursuit itself is the best part of the experience, Doug insists. “The main thing about fishing anywhere is to not get discouraged too easily. Spend the time to talk to people. It’s not that hard to find out how to fish. People do well at the lake, despite the drought.”