Lake Camanche was featured in The Stockton Record.
Taking a boat on Lake Camanche this week presents quite a quandry. Do you focus on trophy-sized trout, a plethora of wildlife or the gin clear water that fills 50 percent of the impoundment?
Hooking rainbow trout is tough to overlook, especially when one lucky angler boasted a four-fish stringer that weighed 21.77 pounds. Looking at critters also is appealing with close-up sightings of golden eagles, white pelicans, wild turkeys and the ubiquitous Canada geese an almost daily occurrence.
“We’ve got a lot more water than most lakes and our consistent trout plants have increased our angler use days,” said Izzy Guerrero, general manager of Camanche Recreation Company. “People are catching trout and, as a result, more anglers tried their luck in January than the previous year.”
There’s no doubt that weekly plants, with part of the load being trophies, have caught many an eye among trout chasers. A typical stock was an 1,800-pound release Monday into the main reservoir at North Shore, with another 600 pounds ticketed for the Trout Pond adjacent to South Shore. Rainbows, 4 to 6 pounds, have been logged recently, with the typical fish 14 to 17 inches.
On Feb. 17, the largest trout of the season, which opened in October, a 9.88-pounder, was caught by a troller pulling a Rapala lure near the dam. Plants will continue through May.
The easiest boat launching is at North Shore, and so is bank fishing access for bait tossers who score on Power Bait and Power Eggs. With the surface temperature 52 degrees in the morning, stocked trout tend to cruise the shallows along the shoreline for a period of time before they venture out into the main body of the lake, holding from the surface down to 15 feet.
Weekdays aren’t crowded. We encountered only seven boats on the water, working a pattern from Hat Island to the dam and along the old Mokelumne River channel that was inundated when the reservoir was filled. Others troll or anchor in the Narrows.
Vern Bava of Stockton trolled exclusively with Rapalas in the fire-tiger pattern to score rainbows to 4 pounds. Our boat managed football-shaped trout to 18 inches, also on Rapalas.
The fun of hooking fish, however, can seem almost secondary to the beauty of the verdant green foothills and the abundant avian displays against the backdrop of a cloudy sky. In the distance are the Sierra mountains capped with snow to complete the exquisite scene.
Black bass and crappie are options for anglers who work near submerged trees and rocky banks for the coveted warm water species. Habitat work by East Bay Municipal Utility District and the Department of Fish and Wildlife insure the perpetuation of big bass and crappie. This spring they’ll place thousands of bundled Christmas trees on the exposed shore and when the reservoir fills, fish will have plenty of escapement cover in which to grow and thrive.
If you aren’t an angler, there are plenty of options, such as camping and picnicking, as well as nature viewing. Hikers and horse back riders can enjoy a number of trails on the Pardee and Camanche Watersheds, including the China Gulch multi-use trail that begins at North Shore and winds its way to its eastern terminus near Lancha Plana Bridge (round trip is 9.8 miles). There also is a South Shore staging area for the trail that passes the Turkey Hill Equestrian Campground to the western end (round trip is 4.8 miles). A use permit is required.
Camanche Recreation Company also is encouraging outdoor adventurers to give them a try by cutting fees through April 30 for camping, housekeeping cottages, motel rooms, boat rentals and daily entry fees.
Bolstered by generous trout plants and tidy public areas, Lake Camanche continues to be a hidden jewel in a year otherwise marred by drought.
Contact outdoors correspondent Peter Ottesen at email@example.com.
Location: About 40 miles east of Stockton via Highway 88 to North Shore or Highway 12 to South Shore.
Facilities: Boat ramps, full service marinas with boat rentals, cottage and motel units, camping, RV parking, grocery and tackle markets, adjacent Trout Pond.
Off-season rates: Entry $7.50 per car or $13.50 for car and boat; fishing permit $5; boat rental $40; camping $16; cottages $115; motel $79.
Trail permits: (209) 772-8204.