Lake Berryessa trophy kokanee hot, bass fishing is a challenge

NICE BERRYESSA PAIR – Jase Stergion with a pair of trophy koka- nee caught with Captain Troy Barr of T-Roy’s Guide Service. He was pulling an Uncle Larry’s spinner or a Koko Leaf behind a RMT 5.5- dodger at 70 to 90 feet.

WINTERS – It’s all about size at Lake Berryessa as this is trophy time at the lake as the numbers of kokanee remain limited to a few large fish. The lake has more water than most in Northern California, and it won’t be long before those trolling for the Eagle Lake-strain rainbows or mooching for king salmon arrive. Bass fishing remains limited to small fish with a variety of techniques.

Troy Barr of T-Roy’s Guide Service said, “If you are looking for numbers, the months of April, May and June are the time, but right now, we are hitting trophies. If you are able to put in 8 to 10 kokanee for three guys, you are doing very well right now. It’s that time of year to hunt the big bottom dwellers. The big kokanee are on the bottom ready to bite. With all the water coming out the other side, it makes fishing tough some days, but if you stay with it and know how to fish, the pre spawn limits are possible. The last past week, we’ve been picking the fish off vertical or flat structure or suspended just off the bottom with Silver Skalez Koko Leaf Spoons, Apex lures, Uncle Larry’s Spinners, or Rocky Mountain Tackle’s spinners tipped with Pautzke’s Fire Corn behind a RMT 5.5-dodger at depths from 70 to 120 feet. The majority of fish are in the south end of the lake from the middle of the Big Island south, and you have to use big lures such as Apexes to entice a strike from these big fish. You literally have to run the lure right in their face. There are huge amounts of shad in the lake, and we landed a 19-inch rainbow that was just spitting out shad on the deck. There are some marks up higher, and we have also landed a few crappie on the troll. The rainbows are mixed in with the kokanee, and I expect the fish to go on a tear through the middle of September. The males still have their jaws, and they still have their scales.”

Sep Hendrickson of the California Sportsman’s Radio Show has been trolling the lake on a weekly basis, and he confirmed the tough overall bite for numbers with less than a 5-fish limit on all trips.

Rob Reimers of Rustic Rob’s Guide Service has been learning the lake over the past month, and he said, “I have been finding a few rainbows at 50 feet with the kokanee at depths from 75 to 90 feet. The kokanee are holding deeper and moving towards the Narrows. This has been a challenging lake to learn, but I am not giving up.”


Alan Fong, manager of the Fisherman’s Warehouse in Sacramento, will start taking exploratory trips to the lake to see if he can find the schools of king salmon that were so prevalent last spring. The weather has been getting colder at night, and cold weather is needed for the kings to start schooling.”

For bass, Luke Lipinovich of Sweeney’s Sports in Napa said, “I have been on the lake three times this past week, and it has been a tough bite. I have been working over the grass on the east side of the lake with topwater lures or LV 500’s, and if you find bait, you will catch fish. I found bait in two stretches of the grass as it comes out 100 feet off of the shoreline, but the water is only 15 feet deep. Small bass have been the rule, but sometimes at this time of year, you can get on big fish. There is still plenty of water in the lake, and I launched out of Steele Park with no problem as well as the dirt ramp at Spanish Flat. The launch at Markley Cove has been extremely crowded, particularly on the weekend.”

Anglers are requested to complete the kokanee survey at upon the completion of every trip to provide accurate information to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.