OFF THE HOOK: Lake Camanche offers great trout fishing
Lake Camanche, nestled in the rolling Mother Lode foothills northeast of Lodi on the Mokelumne River, was renowned for years as a quality bass fishery with plentiful underwater structure.
Since regular rainbow trout plants began in 1989, the East Bay Municipal Utility District water supply reservoir has also become known throughout the north state as an outstanding trout fishery.
The lake management, the Camanche Recreation Company, stocks trout in October through May every year. The concessionaire plants both the lake on the north and south shores, as well as in the South Shore Pond, offering fishermen a variety of angling experiences, ranging from trolling and shore fishing on the main lake to float tubing in the South Pond.
The concessionaire plants about 75,000 pounds of rainbow trout every year, with half going to the north shore and the other half going to the south shore. Of the fish planted on the south shore, half go into the lake and the other half into the pond. In addition, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly the Department of Fish and Game) stocks 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of rainbows every year
Ten percent of the fish stocked in the lake and pond are trophy fish three pounds and over, including some real lunkers. The concessionaire plants only "triploid" fish — infertile fish incapable of spawning — since EBMUD biologists don't want the rainbows mixing with the native run of steelhead in the Mokelumne River below Camanche dam.
Mark and Mike Seaters of Lodi teamed up to catch the lake record rainbow of 19.42 pounds while fishing a brown plastic worm near the dam on Aug. 4, 1998. On March 28 that year, Ray Miles of Woodbridge shattered the South Pond record by catching a 19.37-pound rainbow on a Kastmaster.
When the lake is windy or rough, the South Pond offers anglers a sheltered area where anglers can catch big, bold rainbows.
Bob Simms, host of the KFBK Radio Outdoor Show every Saturday morning from 5 a.m.— 8 a.m., loves to fish for trout, bass and crappie at Lake Camanche.
"Bank fishing can be good at Camanche because trout follow the shoreline, " said Simms. "For trolling, I like long shallow coves with stick-ups. I troll as close as I can to the stick-ups. The trout are feeding on the small aquatic snails they get out off the stick-ups. If you get close to the stick-ups, you get close to the trout."
He also likes to troll shallow diving Rebels and Rapalas on the surface. In addition, he employs Needlefish, Ex-Cels and Vance's Slim Fins, along with orange plastic grubs with Power Eggs in front of them.
"I'll always try fast trolling with Ex-Cels," he said. "I put a small ball bearing snap swivel about four feet up my line. I will catch some of the bigger fish while trolling fast."
Simms noted that bait fishing from a boat is an overlooked fishing method at the reservoir. "Fish 25- to 35-feet deep with Power Bait off the bottom — it can be best way to catch fish at times," he disclosed. "Trolling with Power Bait on a size 10 treble hook is also worth a shot."
He also uses a boat to access good spots to bank fish with bait, such as the points by the dam on the north side. "If you don't hook any fish by noon, it doesn't mean anything," he disclosed. "Sometimes the bite will turn on for 1-1⁄2 hours around 1:30 p.m."
Rainbow trout aren't the only salmonids that have swam in the fertile waters of lake Camanche. The Department of Fish and Wildlife planted kokanee salmon in 1994 and '95, creating a fabulous fishery for several years.
The Department hasn't planted the landlocked sockeyes in recent years, but there is a sleeper population of kokanee found in the lake that are believed to be fish that spill over from Lake Pardee.
The Lake Camanche Recreation Company, Kokanee Power and other angling groups are currently attempting to get kokanee planted in the reservoir again, according to Izzy Guerrero, the company's general manager. However, the DFW has not approved the planting of kokanee in Camanche and has no plans for a plant in the immediate future.
The lake also hosted a great king salmon fishery in the early 2000s, courtesy of DFW chinook plants. However, king salmon plants were suspended over concerns by EBMUD biologists that the fish would inter-breed with fish below the dam in the Mokelumne River.
The lake also hosts robust populations of spotted, smallmouth and largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie and bluegill.
For more information, contact: Lake Camanche—North Shore, 866-763-5121, or Lake Camanche—South Shore, 866-763-5121.