Many people think that California is known for Los Angeles and Disneyland, but we have some of the best year round camping and fishing in the United States. I have been fishing and camping in California my whole life, and wanted to take some time to share the top 12 fishing lakes we have in northern California. The list below provides a wide range of lakes and areas that provide great fishing as well as fun activities for the entire family.
Enjoy the list, and if you choose to visit one of the lakes on the list, also check out our recommended activity in the area!
Jenkensin Lake in El Dorado, CA
This lake is nestled just a few miles outside of Placerville and is great for trout fishing all year. While it does get snow in the later months, you can still fish both dams for some decent sized trout. You are allowed to take boats on it, and there is a channel where you can get some huge trout in the morning and late afternoon when they bite. They also have a great campground, where you camp less than 100 feet from the lake it some spots. They have a trail all the way around it, and if you take it far enough, there is a seasonal waterfall that is great to fish. I grew up fishing this lake and it is a perfect spot to get away for the day or camp for few. With an elevation of 3400 feet, it is cool, but not so cold you have to layer.
Favorite Non-Fishing Activity to do in the Jenkensin Lake Area
Placerville is a small town, but there are a few attractions for the family. Boa Vista Orchards is one of the places to check out if you have time before or after fishing. It is open all year around, and boasts fresh fruits, different festivals, baked goods, and more!
Shasta Lake in Shasta County, CA
Shasta Lake is located in Shasta County CA and has a huge shore length of about 365 miles, so there is a ton of shoreline to fish. This lake is huge and has over 700 boat slips which a lot of people take advantage of during the Summer. Shasta is also one of the most popular spots for renting houseboats in the spring and summer, but be careful it can get hot. People have even seen deer and bear swimming across it, so if you go, watch out for all the wildlife. The fish habitat includes rainbow trout, brown trout, chinook salmon, largemouth bass, spotted bass, smallmouth bass, black crappie, and bluegill. With this many species, there is something in there for everyone to catch.
Favorite Non-Fishing Activity to do in the Shasta Lake Area
North of Shasta Lake there are beautiful waterfalls called Mossbrae Falls. Technically you have to do some trespassing to get to the falls, so venture out at your own risk! Finding the falls can be a little confusing so make sure you take time to do your research to find the falls.
Eagle Lake in Lassen County, CA
Eagle Lake is at a higher elevation which is around 5100 feet and is in Lassen County, which is roughly 15 miles north of Susanville. This lake is quite a bit shallower than most with a max depth of 85 feet. It is the second-largest lake that is entirely natural in California. This lake is known for its Eagle Lake trout, which is a breed known for living in the highly alkaline water and weigh over 11 pounds. There is camping there, but be ready to bundle up at that elevation. Along with the Eagle Lake trout, you can find other fish like Tui Chub, Tahoe sucker, and Lahontan Redside. If you love catching trout, this is the lake for you.
Favorite Non-Fishing Activity to do in the Eagle Lake Area
Many of the recommended activities in the Susanville area are outdoors. If you have the energy to do some hiking after fishing, check out Biz Johnson Trail. Take your bikes to ensure you get to see as much as you can!
Lake Oroville in Butte County, CA
Lake Oroville is located in Butte County CA and gets its water from the Feather River. It is known for its spotted bass, coho salmon, rainbow trout, brown trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and channel catfish, but is most well known for its trophy-sized bass in it. This lake offers year-round boating and great campsites, and also is known for its floating campsites and equestrian campsites they offer. If you want to camp in the summer, hunt for a really good spot because it can get very hot.
Favorite Non-Fishing Activity to do in the Lake Oroville Area
If you love fishing, then the Feather River Fish Hatchery is a must-see. It is a fun place to get up close and personal with Chinook salmon and steelhead.
New Melones Lake in Calaveras and Tuolume County, CA
New Melones is located in both the Calaveras County, and Tuolumne County CA, and is fed by the Stanislaus River in the foothills of central Sierra Nevada. With over 300 campsites, boat launches, and equestrian trails, this lake sees a lot of visitors all throughout the year. Known for black crappie, largemouth bass, bluegill, smallmouth bass, and channel catfish species, there is something for everyone here, which is why it is so popular. It also has a museum and visitor center for you to visit if you are camping, which is why my family loves to camp here.
Favorite Non-Fishing Activity to do in the New Melones Lake Area
If you or someone is a history buff in your family, check out Angels Camp Museum and Carriage House. This museum is close enough to the lake to check it out before or after your fishing trip! The museum is located on a historic three acre mine site. There is a lot of gold mining and local history that is shared at the museum!
Donner Lake in Nevada County, CA
Donner lake is situated about 20 miles north of the much bigger Lake Tahoe and has an elevation of around 6000 feet, so bundle up if you are going there anytime other than the Summer. It is known for rainbow trout, brown trout, sockeye salmon, lake trout species because of its cold water. The lake is roughly 240 feet deep and does get snow in the winter. This lake only has around 154 campsites but offers a ton of hiking trails on it, so this lake will be the most popular for people looking to get out and move around. This lake does have a boat launch and is known to get windsurfers, so be careful if you take your boat out.
Favorite Non-Fishing Activity to do in the Donner Lake Area
Being in the Lake Tahoe area, there are plenty of things to do and see if you visit Donner Lake. If you are in the Nevada City area and have time, check out the Crystal Hermitage Gardens! The gardens boast beautifully and perfectly flowers that are difficult not to love.
Ice House Reservoir in El Dorado County, CA
I grew up camping at Ice House Reservoir, so it holds a very special place in my heart and is one of my favorite campsites. While it only has 81 campsites, it is one of the most popular lakes for camping and fishing in the foothills. It is located just 80 miles from Sacramento and has an elevation of 5500 feet. This lake is planted with rainbow and brown trout every other week from May until September, so there is always fish for you to catch when you go. This is definitely a must-see attraction if you live anywhere close to Sacramento but call ahead as camping is almost always booked solid.
Favorite Non-Fishing Activity to do in the Ice House Reservoir Area
There are plenty of lakes, creeks, and rivers in the area, so there are plenty water-related activities to do. Check out one of the whitewater tour companies in the area around the reservoir. Tributary Whitewater Tours is a popular option.
Lake Tahoe in Several Counties in CA and NV
Lake Tahoe is by far one of the most famous and popular lakes in Northern California. This lake borders of both California and Nevada, and has a whopping depth of 1645 feet which makes it the largest alpine lake in North America and the second deepest in the US. With an elevation of 6225 feet, this lake does get a lot of snow and can be cold all year round. The species of fish in this lake include Lake Mackinaw, brown and rainbow trout, as well as a self-sustaining population of Kokanee salmon. With campsites, cabins, and tons of beach shoreline, it is a great place to visit, but not just because of the lake. There are casinos, ski resorts, and tons of site seeing in South Lake Tahoe which brings many people every year.
Favorite Non-Fishing Activity to do in the Lake Tahoe Area
There are simply too many activities to do, towns to see, and sights to see in the vast area surrounding Lake Tahoe to just pick just one. One of the most unique experiences I have found, but have yet to try, is taking a ride on the M.S. Dixie II. This is one of a few options for a beautiful boat ride on Lake Tahoe!
Union Valley Reservoir in El Dorado County, CA
Union Valley is a lake located in El Dorado County at an elevation of around 4800 feet is about 20 miles north of Placerville CA. The main fish species for this lake are rainbow trout, brown trout, largemouth bass, sockeye salmon, smallmouth bass. It has campsites and lots of hiking areas around it, but be careful, some of these campsites are dry camping, so be prepared to bring in water and a generator if you want electricity. This is another lake I grew up camping around, It is really close to Ice House reservoir, so if you get bored, you can take a small car ride to another lake right down the road.
Favorite Non-Fishing Activity to do in the Union Valley Reservoir Area
I already mentioned Boa Vista Orchards above, which is also near the Union Valley Reservoir. If you just want to relax, take advantage of camping next to the lake. Sunset Campground is a great camping area along the eastern side of the reservoir!
Clear Lake in Lake County, CA
Clear lake is another natural freshwater lake in California just north of Napa County. with a max depth of just 60 feet, and an average depth of 27 feet, you can fish off the bottom almost everywhere. Fish species include largemouth bass, hitch, white bullhead, channel catfish, brown bullhead, so if you are bass fisherman, and live near the city, this is the place for you. It is also the oldest lake in North America with a spry young age of 480,000 years old. If you are looking for a lake to visit in the Summer, this is right up your alley with an average temperature of just 76 degrees!
Favorite Non-Fishing Activity to do in the Clear Lake Area
Away from the hustle and bustle is Harbin Hot Springs. This is a hot spring retreat and workshop center in Lake County. The establishment has slowly come back to life after the Valley Fire that occurred in 2015. There are saunas, pools, and hot springs to enjoy!
Camanche Reservoir in San Joaquin Valley, CA
Camanche is an artificial lake that is completely man-made and is located in the San Joaquin Valley in CA. It is located in both Amador and San Joaquin counties and has a max depth of 150 feet. The fishing species is rainbow trout, largemouth bass, bluegill, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, so anyone who loves bass or trout fishing this is the lake for you. They do offer boating, camping, and hiking, so there is stuff to do for everyone while there. This lake is known for having monster bass, and also trophy-sized 8-pound trout. It is also planted twice a year so you will never go without.
Favorite Non-Fishing Activity to do in the Camanche Reservoir Area
Like all of the areas mentioned on this list, there are plenty of fun activities and sights to check out in the Camanche Reservoir Area! One great option for adventurers or the entire family to go to is the Moaning Caverns Adventure Park. This park boasts the largest single cave chamber in California.
Lake Berryessa in Napa County, CA
Our last lake is Lake Berryessa, which is located in Napa County and has a max depth of 275 feet. This lake is most known for its 72 foot wide open mouth spillway called the glory hole, which brings people all over the county to see. Because it is so close to Napa and San Francisco, it is known to be packed with boaters in the Summer, so if you want to catch fish, you have to get out early. The most common species of fish are rainbow trout, largemouth bass, Kokanee salmon, and is widely known for its monster size largemouth bass. The lake does have campsites and tons of winding roads for motorcyclists that want to get out for a beautiful ride.
Favorite Non-Fishing Activity to do in the Lake Berryessa Area
Outside of seeing the glory hole at the lake, an easy recommendation would be to check out a winery, but that is too obvious. Take time to check out the Monticello Dam, which is why the lake exists in the first place. Most people do not know that there used to be a town called Monticello where the lake is now located!