Boating, fishing, camping: Memorial Day weekend approaches

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Memorial Day weekend is approaching, when families enjoy three days to get away, camp, fish and have fun.

Campgrounds near and far, from the refreshing salt air coastal regions up to the highest elevations of the Sierra, should be brimming.

Most campers will have boats in tow. It won’t be a prime fishing weekend because of the traffic on the water.

Nearby lakes that can easily fulfill your want for waterside enjoyment include Camp Far West, Folsom, Lake Pardee, New Hogan, Camanche and Amador.

Just be aware that competition for campsites is going to be fierce. Making a reservation or arriving well before the crowd are ways you’ll get a campsite.

At Lake Camanche, reservations are required for an overnight stay on major holiday weekends — Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Lakes such as Folsom and New Hogan are heavily attended by water recreationists. Others, such as Hell Hole and French Meadows, are basically attended by fishermen.

With a lighter-than-normal snowfall, some areas generally still deep in snow may be clear by this time. I wouldn’t expect Jackson Meadows Reservoir to be open yet, however.

One lake that never has water recreationists, at least around Memorial Day weekend, is Lassen County’s Eagle Lake. I recently talked with George Walker, owner of the Eagle Lake General Store at Spaulding Tract, and they’re gearing up for the opener.

While the Eagle Lake Guardians were successful forcing the Bureau of Land Management to permanently close the valve at the Bly Tunnel, they can’t get any response from the BLM on what might be done about ground seepage through the tunnel.

Walker reported that the water level in the lake is low. To prove the Bly Tunnel valve closure was successful, with a recent rain, the lake rose two inches.

However, because of the low lake level, it’s the third year in a row George and husband Rudy are unable to put their docks in the water.

She reported that launching at Spaulding Tract will be no problem until possibly late fall. A low water ramp was installed at the south end of the lake last year so that should make the lake fishable until its closure Dec. 31.

However, with one or more dock units not being installed, that’s a considerable amount of pressure on the launch ramp, launching and re-trailering, along with the added parking lot traffic of tow vehicles with trailers.

Fishing is expected to be wide open and hot opening day — Saturday, May 26. You’ll hear boats racing to their favored spots long before the first crack of light.

As a general rule, we never went down to our boat until about 7 a.m. I still don’t think you have to go out long before daylight. We generally limited before 10 a.m. going out later than many others.

Many methods will get you bit at Eagle Lake, trolling and anchoring. Those at anchor, around tulles and along the rocky shoreline of the Youth Camp, do well. Suspend a night crawler under a bobber, and set the crawler about half the depth of the water.

I troll with lead core and downriggers. I use the downriggers only because I can guarantee what depth the line is set. I use 50 feet of six- to 10-pound monofilament line below the lead-core line.

Eagle Lake is shallow, so generally you only let out one or 1½ colors of lead-core line and maybe four feet down with a downrigger.

Some use meat — night crawlers — with a great deal of success. Sure Catch puts out a series of lures that work great at Eagle — Red Dog, Watermelon and Brown Trout. I’ve never had the success with these lures at any other lake than I’ve had at Eagle.

With the ability to use two rods each, we’ve had four Sure Catch lures on and hooked up four trout at one time.

Some top areas will be the tulles around the airport and the mouth of Pine Creek, trolling around Pelican Point and throughout the straights of the Youth Camp while dodging those at anchor, and around Bucks Point, Troxxel and Little Troxxel Points.

The limit at Eagle Lake is two fish per day, and getting your limit on opening weekend is pretty easy because the fish have received virtually no fishing pressure since its closure Dec. 31.

Current fishing

Lake Camanche: The fishery is always good this time of year with bass on their beds and usually more than willing to attack an offering near their nest. Crappie can be found in and around structure. Catfish are biting. And there is always trout to be found, either trolling or dropping anchor and soaking Power Bait.

Lake Almanor: The springtime fishery at this large lake can be phenomenal. In the spring, we generally take nothing but king salmon and German brown trout with few rainbows in the mix, whereas in the late summer, the catch is primarily rainbows. Almost all salmon and brown trout range from 3-5 pounds, and a couple of years ago I nailed a king salmon that hit seven. Look for a report coming soon.

Suisun Bay: There are bunches of small stripers at the upper end of these waters, which could bode well for river triers as they make their way up into the system. Those soaking bullheads around the Benicia Bridge are nailing great keeper stripers. There also has been a good sturgeon bite around the Mothball Fleet for those using the various shrimp baits.

Lake Amador: The pay-to-play can be somewhat softened when the fishing is hot. And it is. Bass are hard on their beds, and good numbers are the rule with bass to five pounds being hooked. With all this fair weather, however, you’ll find plenty of competition back in the coves. Senkos work great. Trout catching remains good, but if this warm weather continues, the lake will warm and planting will come to a halt. Fish the top three feet of water. Crappie off the docks after the sun sets remains a good bet, too.

Contact George deVilbiss at