Trout and salmon anglers come from across the country to the Sacramento area with rods, reels and lures in hand, trying to snag a West Coast trophy of their own.
Though there are opportunities to fish throughout the year in the Central Valley, the fall is the height of the season, with hundreds of thousands of fish coming upstream from the ocean into rivers to spawn.
Lakes in the Sierra Nevada also hold populations of landlocked trout, and the ocean offers a variety of sport fish. Many guide services offer the knowledge and equipment needed to land the fish that make California a fishing mecca among American anglers. While state officials might still move to ban some fishing due to this year’s drought, the streams, rivers and lakes around Sacramento this fall are expected to hold a wide variety of aquatic life, from salmon and trout to bass and catfish.
“California is incredibly diverse,” said Tim Goode, author of NorCal Fishing News, an online publication that specializes in the Northern California fishing culture. “It’s ideal for a fisherman.”
Goode recommended some of the best fishing places for Sacramento-area people during the fall. Some of his recommendations are more suited for serious fishermen and others are doable for the whole family.
Two hours from downtown Sacramento, Caples Lake is home to brook, brown, rainbow, and lake trout.
This mountain lake is what trout lovers dream of. With high conifer trees lining the shoreline below mountain peaks and plenty of fish,, it’s perfect a weekend trip.
“(Caples) Lake is full of trout,” Goode said. “They have big trout, too.”
With 10-pound Mackinaw caught regularly and a bounty of other trout, stocked by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Caples Lake is a favorite for those looking for aweekend getaway.
A campground and resort make it possible to fish all day, either from a boat or from shore, and spend the evening enjoying the quiet, cool mountain air.
A four-person cabin will run you $220 at the Caples Lake Resort for Friday through Sunday, or you can pitch a tent at a campground for $24 per night.
While renting a boat might make it easier to access the trout, it’s not necessary.
Caples Lake Resort offers a bait shop with tackle, food, boat rentals and a boat launch.
Less than two hours from downtown Sacramento, Lake Tahoe is home to brown, rainbow and lake trout and kokanee salmon.
Tahoe holds a large population of kokanee salmon, a smaller landlocked version of the sockeye salmon, which turn a dark pink or red color before heading upstream to spawn.
During the fall, particularly in September, thousands of these fish will congregate on the west shore before swimming into their spawning streams.
“Lake Tahoe is overlooked,” Goode said.
Goode recommended that people get a guide for the salmon and trout fishing in Tahoe, as many of the fish lie in 80, 90 and 100 feet of water before moving into the streams.
In addition to the kokanee, Tahoe holds populations of large lake trout, some of which can reach more than 30 pounds.
Other species include brown trout and rainbow trout, which can be caught throughout the fall, even when the kokanee have moved into the streams.
It’s about two hours from downtown Sacramento for ocean fishing around San Francisco and Berkeley that can yield feast-level amounts of rock cod, a tasty fish that puts up a good fight.
“You can have a heck of a feast, a heck of a barbecue,” Goode said. “If it’s calm, you know, if you don’t get seasick, it’s a great trip.”
A trip with one of the Bay Area sport fishing companies can be a great afternoon for the family, with good chances of a successful hull of rock cod.
There’s also the chance for some salmon in the fall, Goode said. The biggest salmon stay out in the ocean and eat longer than others, so the fish still in the ocean in September and October are likely to be trophy-sized.
“You might have your chance at the biggest salmon,” Goode said. “The ones that have been out there longer have eaten the most.”
Sacramento area rivers, the American, Feather and Sacramento, are home to some of the best trout and salmon waters in the country, with king salmon, Chinook salmon and some steelhead trout making their way through Discovery Park in the fall to spawn.
In addition, the Sacramento River in Redding holds renowned trout waters.
“The fall fishing on the Sacramento River is probably the best trout fishing on the West Coast,” Goode said.
But even if the 2.5-hour drive to Redding from downtown Sacramento seems too far, there are still opportunities to land trophy fish without leaving the borders of Sacramento.
King Salmon will run through Discovery Park in October and November, and populations of Chinook salmon and rainbow trout will be present throughout the fall.
About 40 minutes from downtown Sacramento, Folsom Lake holds rainbow trout, king salmon, largemouth bass, spotted bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill and crappie.
In a season focused on trout and salmon, Folsom offers a number of warm-water fish including bass, crappie and catfish. These bass will bite throughout the fall, but they’ll be in deeper water, so renting a boat or a guide is recommended.
“When there’s water, there’s good bass fishing,” Goode said, referring to the drought, which has caused Folsom Lake to drop about two feet every week.
Folsom is also known for its population of landlocked salmon and trout, which will move up from deeper water in the fall.