A couple times a year, fishing in California is absolutely free and Saturday, July 1st is one of those days! It’s part of a partnership with TakeMeFishing.org and a great chance to get out and toss your line in the water without having to buy a license.
Well, the California Dept of Fish and Game has a “Fishing in the City” program that keeps certain ponds stocked with trout and/or bass. It’s great for beginners and children and often there are experts on hand to teach some of the basics, like tying hooks, baiting line, casting, etc. For more on that, click here.
Or you can set out on your own–which you may already be doing for the long holiday weekend. From my own experience as a fisherman, one of the best places for a good shot at nice trout from shore is Donner Lake. The area around the boat ramp, and all the docks along Old Donner Pass road are open to the public and the lake is kept well-stocked with rainbow trout. Plus, since the lake was unfishable most of the winter due to snow and ice, there’s a good chance of some nice holdover fish. Donner also has a good population of mackinaw. For information, call or stop into Mountain Hardware in Truckee… (530) 587-4844. The folks in their fishing department are awesome and can tell you about Donner but also other spots up there too, including the Truckee River, Boca and Stampede reservoirs and the grand dame of the Sierra, Tahoe.
Closer to home, Folsom is a tough lake right now for trout fishermen– I know, my buddies and I have put in enough fruitless hours and it’s definitely been better. But it can be very good for crappie and bass. Granite Bay state park is the largest park on the lake and has lots of fishable shoreline. One thing that could cause problems: lots of wood debris from winter storms. Much of it is still in the lake and has collected along the shorelines so you might have to search a bit to find clean water. Contact Wild Sports near where Greenback and Madison meet for information on lures or bait that might do the trick. (916) 989-8310
Stream fishing is also fun. While there are plenty of places you can fish along the Sacramento river, I’d recommend the cooler, clearer waters of the lower American below Nimbus dam-where you could catch trout or, right now, shad (basically a large herring that is a blast to fight) and its various forks up in the foothills. Just be careful, especially if you’ve got young children; the water is moving quickly and a person can get into trouble fast if they don’t know what they’re doing. A life jacket on a child is a must and if you’re unsure of yourself, it might be best to wear one too, or stick with a lake. If you’re going to try the lower, again, Wild Sports would be a good place to start. In the foothills, try Will Fish tackle (530) 887-0839.
For more information about free fishing day, click here. And for more information on fishing throughout Northern California, check out the website of Fishsniffer. Weird name for a publication but great for tips on where to go and what to use. Good luck!