A day trip to Lake Shasta is just about at the limit of my willingness to go up and back for a single outing; yet, when I was offered the chance to fish it last Saturday with a friend I hopped on it.
Shasta is the largest reservoir in the state, with a whopping 30,000 acres of surface water. The dam is the ninth tallest in the country and is vital to providing electricity and irrigation water to millions of Californians.
There are eight separate marinas on the lake along with many other boat ramps. Besides the wide open areas for house-boating and recreational boating, the lake is a worldwide destination for bass, kings and trout.
We launched at the dam around 7:30 a.m. and headed up toward the bridge on I-5. Reports were that fish were hitting big Optimizer spoons at depths of 80-100 feet and pulled at a very fast 4 mph.
To hit a depth of 100 feet when a boat is moving that fast, we had to let out 130 feet of wire to compensate for the blowback from the 12-pound downrigger weights. To say it’s a challenge is an understatement.
We fought false releases all morning and while we did get several strikes, all the fish came off. I eventually had a very nice fish on and, while battling it to the boat, some guy in a speed boat ran across my line and broke it off. A few curse words were let loose, but we continued to move around the lake trying this technique.
At one point I had to spend some time working on my line, as it had developed a really bad twist. My friend Gary picked up a nice fat king salmon and I caught a couple of bass. I did have a trout up to the boat, but he got off while trying to net him.
As the afternoon wore on, we switched what we were doing and tried a more traditional approach. Gary went with a hootchie/sling blade combo and I tied on a couple of rapalas. We slowed down to 2.5 mph and bingo; I landed a respectable 16-inch trout.
We were starting to work the areas around the boat ramp in front of the dam and – wham – I had another very nice trout that measured 17 inches and weighed over 2 pounds. Gary had a few more hits, but no sticks.
By then, it was nearly 6 p.m. so we bailed out and started for home. The ride back sure seemed a lot longer than the ride up.
A lake the size of Shasta will “turn over” once the cooler air brings up the cold water from the bottom. During that phase, fishing is usually pretty spotty until the water settles and oxygen gets spread more evenly though the water column. After that, this lake will be on fire!
I suggest anyone with an urge to fish it to get up there and give it a try. I will definitely be back!