By Bob Kopernik, Lucky Grady Fishing Guide Service
Northern California could easily be considered a mecca for outdoor enjoyment and fun. For a variety of reasons, Lake Almanor and the surrounding area does not get the throngs of summertime visitors that some other areas do. Although this is not a good thing for our local businesses, it is great for outdoors people, especially fishermen andwomen who prefer a quiet hike alongside a stream in search of the perfect fishing spot or to fish the mostly vacant lake either from shore or a boat. A good topographical map like the Northern California DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer Map book shows all the small lakes and streams with available campgrounds. With a little exploring, you can find just the right place that suits your exact needs.
Almost all of the streams that run year round support natural trout and pound per pound, or rather ounce per ounce, these fish have more energy and fight harder than any planted fish that I know of. And for some reason they seem to taste much better. The Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks most of the streams near the major campgrounds. They post their recent and future plants on their website at https://map.dfg.ca.gov/fishing/
When considering tackle and bait for stream fishing think ultra-lite spinning or spin cast rods and reels. Because of the brush and trees along most of the local streams, leave the fly rods to the experts. Almost any live bait like red worms, meal worms or crickets work just fine. Our 9 year-old Grandson Alex doesn’t use anything other than Power Bait and he catches as many or more fish than most. When I was younger and enjoyed stream fishing a lot (before bi-focals) I almost exclusively used Velveeta cheese or red salmon eggs. I liked low stretch 4 pound test co-polymer line with a #16 treble hook and removable split shot sinkers so I could easily change them as the swiftness of the water where I was fishing changed. You need to get your bait near but not on the bottom or you will probably get snagged. To keep the Velveeta cheese on the hook, form a very small piece into a ball around the hook and immerse it into a quiet place in the cold stream for a short time. Cast your bait into a likely spot, all around a large boulder or into a pool below a small waterfall and slowly retrieve it. If you bring it in and your bait is gone, you had a bite. Stream fish are so quick, it really takes a lot of practice and patience to learn how to catch them. A bite feels like a slight “tick” on your rod tip. The secret is to always keep a tight line by fishing downstream and don’t get frustrated.
Fishing Lake Almanor is different. A detailed lake map could be worth its weight in gold. If you have a boat equipped with a sonar unit and a detailed GPS lake map it is worth even more- if you learn how to use it. Some of the largest fish have been caught from shore. Most of these have been caught at night or within an hour of sunrise or sunset. If you are going to fish from shore study your map and find an accessible place near deep water. Geritol Cove near the PG&E boat launch near the dam produces some very nice fish. There is a paved path with improved access places for those who are handicapped. Don’t pass up the rocky face of the dam even though I almost never see anyone fishing there. I would use an inflated night crawler or live crawdad above a pencil weight designed for stream fishing.
Good sources of current fish catching information are the three bait and tackle shops in Chester or any of the lake side marinas. Spend a little time chatting with these folks being respectful that they do need to take care of their other customers. If you are patient you could learn a lot of useful information that just might make your next day of fishing a great success. I post my weekly fishing report appropriately titled “You Should Have Been Here Yesterday Report” on my bulletin board next to my boat slip at the Plumas Pines Resort Marina store just north of Prattville. It is a short (truthful) synopsis of the latest fish catching info and current water column temperatures. I try to get it posted by early Friday each week to serve weekend fishermen. If you e-mail me a request, I would be pleased to add your name to my electronic distribution list … “free of charge.”
Fishing from a boat here at Lake Almanor offers a vast array of opportunities. Trolling with down riggers or lead core line is the most popular. Common lures are the Speedy Shiner and Needle Fish. Almost all color patterns work at different times but the Red and Gold Speedy Shiner or the Frog pattern Needle Fish seem to produce fish very consistently. Half a threaded night crawler behind a small Dodger or a set of Trolling Blades is excellent. Later in the summer Gulp Pond Smelt in the 2.5” or 3” size also work. And more recently I have been slowly trolling a meal worm behind a dodger with fantastic success.
For trolling, I would suggest starting out from 10 to 20 feet deep early or late in the day and 20 to 40 feet deep when the sun is high in the sky. I troll my dodgers at 1.0 to 1.3 MPH and the blades at 1.7 MPH. Lures seem to produce best at 2.3MPH but some successful fishermen troll them at 4.5 MPH. The most important thing to remember is if you don’t get a hit within 20 minutes…DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!
If you are not set up for trolling you can still fish using jigs or most any live bait. Look for several other boats and anchor a respectful distance away from them. If you don’t crowd them they will almost always share information on what has been working or not for them. Based on the number of 13 &14 inch Chinook salmon caught towards the end of last season I expect that these fish will be nearly 20 inches long by mid-summer this year. Salmon particularly like a fillet of anchovy slathered with Trophy Trout bait scent. When there is little or no wind, drifting live bait is another effective method that works very well. The down side is there are some areas of old stands of trees and a lot of brush on the bottom of the lake which often produces snags.
One last suggestion that I offer, if you are discouraged by not catching very many quality fish or just want to gain a wealth of knowledge about fishing this wonderful but sometimes frustrating body of water, consider hiring a professional fishing guide. (The price of eating two meals out including a bottle of wine for a family of four is all it will take.) The Almanor Fishing Association’s web site (http://www.almanorfishingassociation.com/lake_guides.html) lists about 10 professional guides offering a variety of options. Some have patio boats for larger parties and are well suited for youngsters who might do better still fishing. Others offer fly fishing or bass fishing. I specialize only in trolling using downriggers for trout and salmon. My boat the Lucky Grady accommodates two clients very comfortably, three gets crowded. Note that I also offer a discounted price for “Catch and Release” trips.
I and at least one other guide, offer a “Learn the Lake” outing that actually takes you to and explains where, how and why to fish five or six different areas of the lake. On this trip, I spend significant time on how to use a sonar/GPS lake map, selection and differences of rods and reels, basic knots for tying leaders, how I modify my lures and how I rig baits. I’m surprised how often “experienced” clients need help with how to set the hook with “authority”, play a big fish and coax it into the net. Depending on your personal needs this trip spends more time learning the 44 square miles of the lake than actually fishing. Be sure to clearly communicate with the guide that you choose exactly what your needs, desires and expectations are, being aware that even the most experienced fishing guides can’t guarantee that you will catch fish. (That’s really why we call this sport “Fishing” instead of “Catching”.)
Good luck and “THINK BIG FISH”.
Lucky Grady Fishing Guide Service
[email protected] • 408.515.1503