Rainbow trout is known as the wildcard steelhead trout. They are common in most water tributaries located on the West Coast. Furthermore, they spend most of their time in the Great Lakes or the ocean before returning to smaller freshwater tributaries to reproduce. If you’re planning to catch rainbow trout, you should learn the best techniques beforehand.
In California, rainbow trout fishing is one of the most popular among anglers of any age and experience. With the brown and brook trout varieties, anglers develop unique strategies to predict the best fishing areas, the right bait, lure, and line, and the best weather conditions to fish.
Rainbow trout can be found in shallow to deep lakes, oceans, and rivers. It is incredibly abundant in the Great Lakes, where they have a lot of space and food to grow larger. Most trout may be seen feeding on tiny fishes in deep lakes and raid salmon spawning beds. Keep scrolling for more techniques on rainbow trout fishing in California.
Rainbow Trout Fishing in California Streams and Rivers
Rainbow trout are primarily found in cold water running up and down rivers and streams. You can catch this type of trout all year round, but we recommend waiting for ideal water and air temperatures to increase your success.
Regardless of where you fish, it would help if you always waited until the waters were warm to get the best results. Start fishing during the early morning or late evenings when the water is not too cold and not too hot. Rainbow trout bite during feeding time when they look for bugs and mosquitoes in the water.
In California, expect warm weather from July to September. This is the best time to get out and fish but check out local fishing regulations before you do. Local laws change from time to time, so be sure to clear these up before you fish. And as a rule, the more remote the part of the river or stream, the more likely you’ll find trout swimming in shallow waters.
Rainbow Trout Fishing in California Lakes
One of the most popular waters to catch rainbow trout is in large and deep lakes. In these areas, water and air temperature are very important but don’t forget to consider cloud cover as trout lack eyelids to protect themselves from bright lights. This is why most trout remain in shaded areas of lakes as well as in deep dark waters. But once the sky becomes clear with enough cloud cover, rainbow trout will begin to come out and feed.
Rainbow trout stay in deep waters during summertime. Most fish remain in 53-degree Fahrenheit waters. Anglers use a depth finder to set up their lures in the best parts of the lake. Place your lure in between 0 to 10 feet deep when you’re fishing right after wintertime.
Place the bait in between 35 to 45 feet when you’re trying to catch rainbow trout during the middle of spring. Set up your lure from 50 to 65 feet during late springtime.
Most anglers prefer morning time to catch rainbow trout, while some say it’s best to hunt in the evenings. However, there is no right or wrong answer as hunting for rainbow trout in lakes depends on the season, the availability of food, the trout species, and other factors.
According to Freshwaterfishingadvice.com, the early morning, during hours right after sunrise, is the best time of the day to hunt all kinds of trout, whether you’re fishing in lakes or rivers. The reason for this is that trout are mostly ravenous after not being able to feed overnight. Also, these fishes can see better when lighting is reduced as they have no eyelids to cover their eyes.
The second best time of the day to go fishing for rainbow trout in lakes is during the late afternoon. This is when most insects reach their highest point of activity, and thus, trout have more food to eat. Avoid nighttime fishing and midday fishing. But if there is a lot of moonlight and insects in the area, then trout may stay up to feed.
Best Rainbow Trout Fishing Lakes in California
California has abundant rainbow trout fishing grounds. Bestfishinginamerica.com has curated a comprehensive list of the best lakes that will surely boost your fishing success.
- Shasta Lake
With an area of 30,000 acres, Shasta Lake is one of the biggest artificial lakes located in the northernmost part of the Central Valley along the upper Sacramento River. This lake offers rainbow trout and bass fishing plus Chinook salmon and German brown trout.
It’s a challenge to fish in Shasta Lake because of its size, so it’s best to start along the Sacramento River. Check out Big Backbone Creek, Little Squaw Creek, and Dry Fork, where large rainbow trout populations converge. The best time to fish in Shasta Lake is late summer near the dam.
- Crowley Lake
Located in Eastern Sierra, Mono County, this lake is known as one of the best for rainbow trout anglers. Crowley Lake has native trout and stocked rainbow trout, so you’ll always end up with a good catch.
Crowley Lake is an artificial body of water with oxygen-rich waters. Rainbow trout love its waters because it’s cooler and perfect for spawning. You can start at the Crowley Lake Fish Camp or South Landing, where you’ll find massive success.
- New Melones Lake
New Melones Lake is an artificial reservoir where the Stanislaus River terminates. It is more than 12,000 acres wide and is very deep, which is why you’ll catch huge rainbow trout weighing 5 to 6 pounds. Most fishes move to the shallow parts of the lake since it gives them lots of worms and insects to eat.
- Eagle Lake
Eagle Lake is the second-largest lake in California and is perched at 5,098 feet along the mountains of Lassen County. This lake is home to the famous Eagle Lake rainbow trout, a sub-variety of rainbow trout that prefer high-alkaline waters.
Rainbow trout love the lake’s shallow areas near Troxel Point and Rocky Point, especially during late spring and early weeks of summer.
Best Rainbow Trout Fishing Rivers and Streams in California
Rainbow trout are found in rivers of Northern California from Redding to the state border of Oregon. It’s also abundant in Central California, from Redding to San Francisco. The following are top rivers to check out.
- Upper Sacramento River
This river is 447 miles long and empties Lake Shasta. Anglers love its crystal-clear waters, so it’s effortless to find large numbers of rainbow trout and brown trout. The Upper Sacramento River provides an excellent catch-all year-round but avoids springtime as heavy runoff disturbs the water.
- Klamath River
Klamath River flows into California, making it the best river for steelhead and salmon fishing. Rainbow trout is also abundant but only in areas where water is clear and warm.
- Smith River
The Smith River is known for its beauty and high trout population, which is why large numbers of anglers are found almost everywhere. But if you want a peaceful area, try the upper areas of the river, where you’ll mostly find fewer but larger rainbow trout.
Best Time for Trout Fishing in California
According to Takemefishing.org, the best time to fish for rainbow trout in California is in warm months. Trout will actively feed when waters are from 34 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually, feeding starts to increase when the water temperature rises just a few degrees above 40 to 49 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why you should always check the water temperature to get the best results.
Rainbow Trout Fishing Regulations in California
In California, you can’t fish for rainbow trout without a fishing license. You must also be 16 years old or older. In some areas like Lake Isabella, fishing is allowed all year round but with some restrictions, such as a 5-fish limit for trout.
In the Kern River, different regulations apply along with the other areas and tributaries of the river. These regulations may change, so be sure to check these out before you head off. Some rules can be as tedious, including the type of lures and hooks to use, fish size, and daily limits.
Rainbow trout fishing in California is mainly during the warmer months of July to September. This is when trout prefer to stay closer to shore as there is abundant food along the area. Rainbow trout is plentiful all year round, but warmer waters help them find more food.
There are plenty of great fishing spots in the state. Lakes make excellent areas to fish as stocks of rainbow trout are often found here.
Meanwhile, rivers and streams offer a perfect place to find rainbow trout, especially upstream, where there are only a few anglers. Always follow fishing regulations and make sure to check updated rules before you head off.
Rainbow trout fishing is a fun and good sport. With time-tested techniques and a lot of patience, you’ll indeed find tremendous success. Have fun fishing in the best California rainbow trout spots!