Shasta Lake Retains “Angler’s Paradise” Tag

Sept 20, 2004

With summer behind us and fall setting in, Lake Shasta has returned from a boater’s paradise to an angler’s paradise. Despite the recent Bear Fire that destroyed homes, hillsides and blanketed the region with smoke, Shasta’s fishery is in excellent shape and offering great opportunity to anglers fishing for bass and trout, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) reports.

“The Bear Fire didn’t affect the fishery at all,” said Larry Hanson, an associate fisheries biologist for the Northern California-North Coast Region. “Some of the fire burned right down to the water and there will be some accelerated erosion from it, but the amount of lakeshore that was affected was minor. We have 365 miles of shoreline up there!”

Shasta is widely known for its great spotted bass fishery, but most anglers are unaware of the consistent action it yields in the fall.

“It’s not just a spring game for spotted bass on Lake Shasta. It’s a year round fishery. In the fall, bass are looking to bulk up to make it through the cold winter,” Hanson said. “Those bass are active. They are keyed in on bait this time of year as opposed to being keyed in on habitat as they are in the spring. It’s not uncommon to catch 20 to 30 bass a day.”

In September and October, anglers can target bass with topwater action. The bass are suspended in deep water, yet oriented to the surface. They are coming from deeper water to ambush shad. “Bass are on the surface and hitting topwater,” Hanson said.

While bass can be found all over Shasta, the mouth of the Sacramento, Pit and McCloud rivers are prime locations. These are common spots where bass are found chasing bait. Anglers should fish where the moving water meets the still water, and they can expect most spotted bass to run 1½ to 2 pounds, although there are larger fish available. Trout and chinook salmon fishing is also excellent, but anglers will need to fish from 60-120 feet to be successful.

“You need fairly specialized equipment to get to the trout. You have to have downriggers right now,” Hanson said.

Both bass and trout anglers can look forward to the traditional turnover that occurs in late October or early November. This is an annual event where the surface temperature gradually cools day by day, while the bottom temperatures remain the same. The bottom is relatively warmer than the surface. Then the surface water gets colder and colder because of its exposure to the air and the lake goes through a reverse stratification process where the surface temperature ends up colder than the deeper water.

“When this happens, the trout are free to swim through the entire water column. They become more surface oriented when they are feeding on bait,” Hanson said. “Basically the bass follow the opposite of what the trout and salmon do. Once the lake turns over they retreat to the depths to find warmer water.”

In November it’s best to look for bass in 30-70 feet, although some bass go as deep as 90 feet. Several methods are effective, including drop shotting, slow jigging and dragging worms. “The bait you use to catch bass remains the same, but the presentation is slowed way down. There’s no more run and gun,” Hanson said.

Once the turnover takes places, trout fishing should be excellent.

“Once this happens the trout fishery gets red hot,” Hanson said. “As we get into the turnover the trout come up. They are a lot more accessible to anglers and you don’t need downriggers to get them. It’s a fishery everyone can enjoy.”

Trout can be found all over the lake from the surface on down to 100 feet, but the best action comes to anglers trolling spoons and night crawlers with flashers. If trout are spotted rising to the surface to chase bait, it is very productive to cast silver spoons to cash in on the surface bite.

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