Access to Port of Sacramento can be had, but it will take awhile

By: George deVilbiss
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Many years ago, there was unrestricted access to the Port of Sacramento by several methods.

About 40 years ago, a fishing partner and I would launch my boat around midnight at Miller Park along the Sacramento River. We’d go across the river where the locks were located. Located near the locks was a military-type field telephone attached to a pole. Regardless of the hour, you cranked the handle and somebody in the locks tower would answer the phone. All you had to say was, “Please open the locks,” and they would immediately allow you through to enter the port. The process took about one hour.

Later, use of the locks went by the wayside. They haven’t been operated for many years now.

Vehicle access to the port was simple. There were numerous roads that led to the levee system along the south side of the port. You could fish or hand-launch a small craft from the shore.

At some point, a launching ramp was built on the south side of the channel closer to the locks. At certain times of the year, the parking area around the ramp would be clogged with vehicles and boat trailers. I used the ramp many times. It gave boaters access to the port and Deep Water Channel.

Over time, the concrete of the boat ramp deteriorated and the area was blocked off. Yet, it was common to see the south side of the port and channel shore lined with vehicles. There were numerous access points along the route, and they were all used by anglers.

From the mid to late 1980s, four of us would go to the very upper Deep Water Channel on Friday after work and not leave until Sunday afternoon, camping out and fishing.

The Port of Sacramento and the channel is well known for its catfish population and was a popular fishery. You couldn’t buy a bite during the day, but once the sun set, fishing was outstanding. Those who could get a boat on the water knew the winter striped bass fishery couldn’t be beat. The region also is home to a good black bass population and tremendous crappie population.

There have been major changes to the port area since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Vehicle access on the south side and a small area on the north side has been shut down. Some of the best striper, catfish and crappie fishing was tying up to a big post at the docks and fishing under the docks. Not anymore. You aren’t allowed within 100 feet of the docks now.

Access now is granted only to members of three clubs chartered by the port: the River City Rowing Club, a sailing club and the Lake Washington Outboard Club. If you’re a member of the latter, you receive a sticker for your tow vehicle, a membership card and, most importantly, a key to the private gate that will take you to a ramp that will handle boats up to 20 feet.

Would you have an interest in joining the organization? It can be done. The LWOC is limited to a membership of 600. The waiting list is long, but new members are brought in each year.

The group’s requirements are simple: You must own a boat (no, it doesn’t have to be powered by an outboard motor, as the name implies), and you must attend no fewer than two meetings a year.

The organization hosts an annual striper derby in November and numerous barbecues and other dinners throughout the year, none of which you have to attend.

If you’re interested in joining, you’ll have to attend a meeting and fill out an application. The LWOC holds meetings at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at the VFW Hall, 905 Drever St., in West Sacramento. It’s strongly suggested that you arrive an hour early to fill out the application.

Just know it could take five to seven years to actually get the call. If you move, update your change-of-address and contact information with the LWOC.

When your number finally comes up, you’ll receive a call to attend a meeting, where you’ll be introduced to current members and give a brief statement of why you’d like to become a member. The membership will vote on whether to allow you in.

Once admitted, you’ll pay your fees and receive your sticker, membership card, key and rules and regulations of the port.

OK, it takes a long time, but look at it this way: If you wait to apply, it just delays how long it will be before you do become a member. It will happen, and you’ll pretty much have unlimited access to the Port of Sacramento, something only a small segment of the population has now.


Current fishing


Lake Camanche: Despite heavy storms, the lake was planted with trout. The South Shore Pond received 600 pounds and the main body a like amount. These came from a private hatchery near Red Bluff. Additionally, the DFG unloaded 1,500 pounds, mostly those that are considered catchable. The lake has turned over, so you can essentially see your rod double over by simply toplining. Shore fishing from numerous points at the North Shore can be outstanding.

Folsom Lake: The lake has risen with the heavy rainfall. Yet, as far as I know, only the launching ramp at Brown’s Ravine currently is useable, and the 5-mph speed limit is still in effect. Troll the river channel from the dam to Brown’s Ravine, and you can get into a fair salmon-trout bite.

Contact George deVilbiss at