By JAROD BALLARDO
Fishing during the months of August and September can be frustrating for a lot of anglers. Mostly due to the sometimes-unbearable heat that is expected during those months. Admittingly, as a young man there were many days when I forced myself to stay out there in the blistering heat. As far as sun protection, all I ever had was an old baseball cap. I can still hear the voices of those older than me saying that I needed to protect myself from the sun. Their voices didn’t really resonate with me until later into my teen years.
Several years ago, I started fishing for kokanee in some of our local lakes. I learned pretty quick that the Kokanee bite was the best early in the morning and slowed down considerably around noon. The earlier I arrived at the lake, the better. I figured that if I could have my boat in the water by 5 a.m., I could get in eight hours of fishing and be off the water by noon. The best part about it was that around that same time most pleasure boaters were just arriving. I had no problem leaving the waterways to the jet skiers and wake-boarders when the fish stop biting and the day was at is at its hottest.
For bass fishing, I started doing the opposite. I started arriving at the lake or Delta between 4 and 5 p.m. and fish until 10 or 11 p.m. As soon as the sun started going down it was like I had the whole place to myself and the fishing was a lot better and more enjoyable than fishing during those high traffic times. If you’ve never been out on the Delta right as the sun is going down, it’s definitely worth trying out. Some of the most explosive topwater bites that I’ve ever had were during the summer, right as the sun was going down or during that first full hour of darkness. Granted you’re going to have to endure a few hours of heat, it doesn’t last too long, and the chance of catching a big fish is greater than usual. As an added bonus, all the traffic at the boat ramp will also be gone. You have to be careful though, some of the unguarded or unmonitored launch facilities can be risky, especially if you have valuables stored inside your vehicle. Because of that, if I know that I’m going to be staying late out on the water, I always launch where there is some type of security present and I make sure that everything of value is out of my truck.
Lake New Hogan is a sleeper pick for me during the late summer months. It’s located in Valley Springs which makes it a favorite destination for pleasure boaters looking to get their boats in the water at a fraction of the cost of nearby lakes. For less than $5 a day you can have your boat in the water in one of the cleanest and nicest places in the 209 area. The lake is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If you know anything about the military, you know that its grounds are impeccable. The trick to fishing the lake during the summer is to arrive as early as you can. The lake closes at sunset to boaters and opens at sunrise. New Hogan is one of the only lakes I know of locally that has four species of bass. There are several areas on the lake that are designated 5mph zones. Those areas are safe retreats for those who are looking to get out of all the main lake boat traffic. I prefer to fish as much of the main lake as I can during the morning hours and once the pleasure boaters show up, I usually either head home for the day or head towards those 5mph zones. As far as fishing for bass, topwater baits, crankbaits and all your traditional bottom baits will work. Sometimes you can even find a school of spotted bass on your fish finder that can be fished for with a drop shot set up, Ned Rig, or Shaky Head. I also always make sure to have a topwater bait tied on as it’s not unusual to spot a school of striped bass feeding on shad. The key to catching them is to wait for them to start feeding before tossing your bait into the school. If you try and coax them into striking your bait a lot of times you will spook the school and they won’t bite.
Lake Camanche has quickly become one of the most underrated of all the local lakes. I’m not sure what has changed about the lake but the bass fishing has really improved. The cost to fish Lake Camanche is around the same as Lake Pardee. They do allow pleasure boaters, which can be a problem for those trying to fish during the day but like New Hogan there are designated 5mph zones that offer relief. With the use of electronics, anglers have found out how to find and fish many of the offshore islands. This has resulted in a lot of larger fish being caught. It’s not uncommon to hook into a 5-pound bass while fishing a sunken island out in the middle of the lake. As far as baits, topwater baits during the morning and Shakey Heads during the day. Anglers are also doing well on under-spins and umbrella rigs fished right off the bottom. The lake isn’t planted with catfish as far as I know of, but there’s usually a decent catfish bite at night by those fishing from the bank with anchovies and stink baits. There is also a good population of bluegills cruising the shallows making Lake Camanche a good place to take a youngster learning how to fish.
Lake Amador has always been a special place to me. It’s where I learned to fish for bass, and it’s where I spent most of my summers camping while growing up. Lake Amador is another fishing-only lake. It’s one of the smallest lakes but can produce some of the biggest fish. The cost to fish Lake Amador is slightly higher than the cost to fish Lake Pardee. What I save in fuel costs makes Lake Amador worth going to over some of the other larger lakes. Over the years lake management has been stocking the lake heavily with trout during the cooler months and with catfish during the summer months. I’ve never really fished for catfish on Lake Amador but I’m pretty sure as a result of them stocking the lake with catfish the bite must be pretty good around the boat launch area and the dam while using traditional catfish baits. I prefer fishing the lake at night during the summer months. The lake is small enough where I don’t have to worry about getting lost at night and the bass usually don’t disappoint. Most anglers fishing for bass at night prefer to use large Power Worms or creature baits. I prefer to fish with spinnerbaits or buzzbaits that are primarily black in color. There is also usually a good topwater bite right as the sun is starting to go down and as the sun is begging to rise.
Lake Pardee is another great place to visit during the summer months. The lake has a very strict no body contact rule on the water, making it a favorite destination for anglers wanting a fishing-only lake. The water is usually crystal clear making it an excellent trout and kokanee fishing destination. Like New Hogan, Lake Pardee opens at sunrise and closes at sunset for boaters. When the fishing is really good, you may have to wait in line for the front gate to be opened in the morning. The cost to fish Lake Pardee is between $20 and $30, depending on how many people are fishing, and if you’re planning on fishing from a boat. During the summer, most of the trout being caught are by those fishing from the bank with Power Bait. It’s really a hit or miss type of bite for a lot of anglers. Those fishing for kokanee are most likely searching the main lake, while using their electronics towards helping them locate large schools of fish. Once they find them they’re trolling through those schools with the help of downriggers. Most anglers are trolling with a Sling Blade with about a foot-long leader with a pink or purple hootchie tied on. On the back hook of the hootchie they usually add a kernel of shoe peg corn. Some will use the corn right out of the can while others will scent and dye their corn the night before. I usually dye my corn red or pink and soak the corn in the oil from a can of tuna. For bass fishing, Lake Pardee fishes a lot like New Hogan. You can catch them a lot of the same ways. The difference is that there are no striped bass in the lake. I’ll usually have a topwater bait tied on in the morning but as soon as the sun is high, I’m most likely fishing bottom baits like small jigs and worms. One of my favorite ways to fish for smallmouth bass during the summer on Lake Pardee is with crickets. You’re going to have to search around for a place that sells crickets anymore but it’s usually worth the search. A cricket threaded on a small hook with a split shot placed about a foot up the line is sure to get a lot of bites. As an added bonus, you’re likely to not only catch bass, but an occasional bluegill and maybe even a catfish.
Admittingly, I have a love-hate relationship with the Delta during the summer months. At times the fishing can be phenomenal and at other times it can be tough. The cost to launch a boat on the Delta varies from site to site with the average being between $10 and $15 depending on the day and the location. The Delta is also the place where I had the wheels to one of my previous boat trailers stolen. I’ve since learned to choose my launch sites wisely, especially if I’m going to be out late. As far as fishing, I gave up several years ago trying to fish during the high traffic times of the day. I usually fish as early as I can or show up right as everyone is starting to head in. The bluegills are plentiful on the Delta making them easy targets for anyone just looking to catch fish or wanting to teach someone how to fish. It’s hard to beat wax worms, night crawlers or red worms fished beneath a bobber around any of the Delta’s marinas. For catfish, it’s a little trickier but one of my favorite baits to use is a piece of a prawn that can be purchased in the seafood area of most local grocery stores. I usually buy a half pound of prawns, take the shells off them and put one on a hook behind a sliding sinker fished on the bottom. Some of the best areas for catfish are around the bends in the river where there’s a current break there’s usually a few catfish around. Bass fishing is a little more difficult, especially if you’re searching for a big fish. There are plenty of smaller fish willing to bite moving baits like rattle traps and crankbaits. The biggest fish are most likely going to be caught by those fishing with topwater frogs or spooks. There are also a lot of big fish to be caught by anglers flipping or pitching creature baits in the grass or around tules. Then you have the all around “Delta Killer,” which to me is the 5 or 6-inch Senko fished wacky style. I personally can’t stand fishing with a Senko but it consistently catches fish when nothing else seems to be working.