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Best Fishing Lakes in California

Although California is on the ocean, many anglers in the state and visitors like to go after freshwater fish.

a california fishing lake

Luckily, there are many excellent fishing lakes in California where anglers find large quantities of trout, bass, salmon, and much more.

But finding the best fishing lakes in California can be difficult, as only true locals know where to find the best fish.

The top twelve California fishing lakes are reviewed and detailed below to help Cali anglers and Cali tourists find the best fish. 

Many of these lakes were made by the California government to bolster populations of certain species.

girl fishing at a lake in california

But anglers can still fish as long as they acquire the proper license and permits that each county requires. 

Rather than waste time with a line in an empty lake, check out the best fishing lakes in California for seasoned and casual anglers. 

Top 12 California Fishing Lakes 

  1. Clear Lake
  2. Lake Cuyamaca
  3. Lake Shasta
  4. Castaic Lake
  5. Lake Almanor
  6. Lake Berryessa
  7. Lake Gregory
  8. Lake Tahoe
  9. New Melones Lake
  10. Perris Reservoir
  11. Diamond Valley Lake
  12. Lake Crowley

Clear Lake 

Clear Lake is one of the shallower lakes that people love to fish in. Anglers often have luck catching largemouth bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, black crappie, white crappie, bluegill, green sunfish, and white perch, usually taking out boats to cast their lines. 

Clear Lake 

The lake is only 59 feet deep but is still one of the best fishing lakes in California due to how well the fish bite.

The lake is more than 43,000 acres with a 100-mile shoreline, meaning there is plenty of space for all to fish.

There are beautiful mountains nearby you can hike, as well as state parks you can explore. 

Lake Cuyamaca

Lake Cuyamaca is the perfect spot to fish if you want to catch a few and also enjoy another activity.

Lake Cuyamaca

There are museums, wineries, and more right around the area of this small 110-acre lake.

It has a depth of only about twelve feet, but it is San Diego County’s only year-round trout fishery, allowing anglers to catch trout during all seasons. 

Aside from the trout, the lake holds a large population of bass, but there are limited species that live in this small lake.

Most people set up on the long shoreline to relax and cast their line casually. 

Lake Shasta

Lake Shasta or Shasta Lake is a 30,000-acre reservoir that boasts a depth of more than 500 feet and enchanting bluish-green water.

Lake Shasta

This lake is one of the best fishing places in California but also is a haven for people looking for a refreshing dip in the water.

The shoreline is 365 miles long, offering plenty of space for people looking to enjoy the stunning lake.

Anglers can expect to catch lots of fish, including rainbow trout, brown trout, chinook salmon, spotted bass, bass, black crappie, bluegill, and carp.

Fishermen also sometimes catch Sacramento sucker, riffle sculpin, blackfish, hardhead minnow, sturgeon, squawfish, threadfin shad, white catfish, brown bullhead, golden shiner, and green sunfish.

Castaic Lake

Located in the Sierra Pelona Mountains of upper Los Angeles County, Castaic Lake is a beautiful fishing spot for anglers looking for striped bass, rainbow trout, catfish, and crappie, with trout being the main catch. 

Castaic Lake

The lake takes up 11,200 acres with a depth of 330 feet, offering plenty of water to boat on and cast a line.

The 100-mile-long shore also features a pier designated for fishermen. But many people often fish on the shore, as the fish in Castaic Lake don’t congregate too far in the lake. 

Lake Almanor

Lake Almanor in Plumas Pines is a popular vacation spot for those that love fishing. People have great luck catching rainbow and brown trout, king salmon, and smallmouth bass in impressive quantities here. 

There are resorts and state parks nearby to complete an outdoorsy vacation, but most people spend a good chunk of their time on the gorgeous 28,000 acres of water.

Anglers often stroll around the 55 miles of the often-empty shoreline, offering some peace and relaxation.

The relatively shallow depth of 90 feet holds plenty of fish that are easy to catch even for less-experienced anglers.

Lake Berryessa

Lake Berryessa has a range of species, including catfish, brown trout, rainbow trout, largemouth bass, bluegill, and kokanee salmon, to name a few.

Experienced anglers in this area highly recommend using nightcrawlers to lure the fish into this 275-foot-deep body of water. And the lake is more than 20,000 acres. 

There are plenty of spots to set up and cast lines from the 165-mile shoreline. Plus, Berryessa is right in Napa Valley, so you can roam through the beautiful vineyards and taste some of the best wine in the entire world. 

Lake Gregory

Lake Gregory is in the San Bernardino National Forest, so there are plenty of lands to hike through and explore when taking a break from fishing.

Locals recommend fishing with live worms in this area, which can help anglers catch rainbow trout, largemouth bass, and lightning trout that swim around in the 84 acres of water. 

The lake depth is only about 80 feet with a shoreline of about 2 miles, making it one of the smaller lakes on this list. But it is in a quiet area of the county, making it a peaceful place for locals and few tourists to visit. 

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is one of the best fishing lakes in California and one of the best shoreline fishing spots in the US.

People can easily cast lines right from the shore and catch all kinds of species, like lake mackinaw, brown trout, rainbow trout, and a massive population of kokanee salmon.

The lake is massive, covering 105,000 acres and having a depth of more than 1,600 feet. Even though the lake is huge, it is a hot spot for tourists and locals who vacation in the area.

So don’t expect the 70-mile shoreline to be desolate, as many people use the lake for lounging, swimming, boating, paddleboarding, and more.

New Melones Lake

The New Melones Lake is a 12,500-acre lake nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills inside Calaveras County.

It is a popular and quiet spot for local anglers with a depth of 568 feet and a 99-mile shoreline.

Anglers are most likely to catch bass, but the lake also contains trout and salmon. This area is a popular place for long hikes through the foothills, offering scenic views of the mountains.

Many people love to have picnics here, and people often cook up the fish they catch on camping trips. 

Perris Reservoir

Perris Reservoir is stocked with fish yearly, offering large populations of Alabama spotted bass, Florida bluegill, channel catfish, rainbow trout, and crappie.

So for anglers looking for species that are not native to California, this 100-foot deep reservoir is a prime fishing location.

The man-made lake is between Moreno Valley and Perris, two places few tourists visit. 

Anglers that want to avoid the crowds and competing anglers can find solace in this often empty area.

The reservoir is 131,400 acres with a shoreline of about ten miles, but some parts of the shore are inaccessible t the public for conservation reasons. 

Diamond Valley Lake

Located in Hemet, California, Diamon Valley Lake is a 4,500-acre man-made body of water.

The lake is one of the newest and largest reservoirs in lower California. It has a shoreline of 26 miles and a depth of 260 feet full of fish. 

Most anglers catch black bass, bluegill, sunfish, rainbow trout, blue catfish, and channel catfish.

Almost all fishermen in the area recommend using nightcrawlers as bait and have incredible success with this type.

The area is also known for its wide variety of wildflowers that appear along common hiking trails, creating a colorful and enchanting landscape. 

Lake Crowley

Lake Crowley is another man-made lake; it is in Mono County and offers breathtaking views of the mountains nearby.

Many natural attractions are nearby, such as the Stone Columns and Hilltop Hot Springs. Lake Crowley is about 5,300 acres with a depth of 100 feet. 

Anglers frequently find various trout species, plus scrappy Kamloops and Colemans. Most people use hot lures in this area to attract the fish from a spot along the 45-mile shoreline.

Lake Crowley is an excellent spot for fishing in California but not ideal for swimming or other water activities. 

Final Thoughts

The anglers that don’t want to cast their line in the ocean can still find plenty of fish in the lakes of California. 

There are natural lakes and man-made reservoirs, but both offer loads of fish of all species and sizes. In addition, the man-made lakes are often supplied with fish populations yearly, offering a guaranteed abundance.

Nightcrawlers seem to be one of the most popular types of bait for these areas, so stock up before visiting one of these lakes.

But all of these lakes have something different to offer anglers, but they all share the beauty that California nature offers visitors and locals alike. If you’re going to be spending time near Michigan, though, you may want to take a look at this guide instead!

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