It is the lure of the Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout that brings outdoorsmen to this northeastern region of California. Known for it’s exceptionally fast growth rate, trophy proportions, acrobatic drag-testing battles and excellent table fare, the Eagle Lake Trout is a highly sought after game fish.
From Eagle Lake’s Memorial Day weekend opener until the seasonal closure at year’s end, anglers will discover exceptional opportunities for this rare species of rainbow trout. Anglers can expect to find trout ranging in size from recent planters of 14-16 inches, to the large holdover population of fish in the three to six pound range. There are even larger trout prowling the depths of the lake and each year ‘bows from five to eight pounds are caught by lucky anglers fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. The current lake record is an 11 1/4 pound rainbow taken in 1988. Native only to this prehistoric lake, this strain of rainbow trout has adapted to the highly alkaline waters.
During Spring and early Summer, angler’s find the bow’s feeding actively in the shallow, early season feeding ground, of the lake’s north end where waters average only 15 feet in depth. As Summer temperatures warm the shallows fish move to the deeper, cooler, spring-fed waters at the southern end of the lake. Downridggers or leadcore line are almost a necessity for trollers to get offerings the the required depths this time of year. During fall and early winter periods some of the largest fish of the year are intercepted by anglers as trout begin to drop their defenses. Cooler temperatures alert the bows that winter is coming and they begin to feed heavily to store the needed reserves of fat to sustain them through the cold months ahead. They scatter to all areas of the lake concentrating off points and rocky areas where they can gorge themselves on the lakes population of natural food sources. Ideal water temperatures at this time of year give these fish a distinct advantage of extraordinary endurance which often testing the angler’s skill, dedication and tackle.
Eagle Lake trout fight like no other trout. They are bright, colorful, alert, acrobatic and possess stealhead-like fighting qualities. Whatever technique an angler prefers to subdue one of these trophy fish, proper presentation and tackle are vital. Rods of six to seven feet in length designed for fish from 2-8 pounds are just right for the task. Whether your choice is spinning or casting reels, it is a good idea to light line in a 4-8 pound test range. The water is very clear and the fish become leader shy. For the first time angler, it would be prudent to hire a guide. These experienced individuals who can teach a beginner more in a couple of hours what it might take years to learn on your own. The lake takes awhile to learn because of it’s size and of course, wind, weather and moon cycles play important roles.
Anglers utilizing the proven texhniques of stillfishing, flyfishing or trolling will find their greatest success in many of the lake’s usual “hot spots” The shoreline in many areas is dotted with tules and rocky areas that provide shelter to much of the natural food sources. Tui chub, red-side suckers, leeches, freshwater shrimp and aquatic and insect life find these areas ideal habitat and trout feed heavily both early and late in the day.
At Eagle Lake’s north end, rainbows are routinely found near Troxel, Rocky and Buck Points, but the heaviest fished areas are the Airport Tules, Lassen Youth Camp and Pelican Point. The Springs, Eagles Nest, and the breakwater at Eagle Lake Marina all produce good numbers of sizeable fish. Whether anchored or fishing from shore, the preferred tactic is casting a nightcrawler/bobber combination or simply letting a bare nightcrawler slowly drift and sink. Wildcat Point is another favorite for stillfishermen. This rocky outcropping located along the southwestern shoreline holds an abundance of insect and aquatic life for the rainbows to feed upon. Shrimp Island is a rocky outcropping located along the southwestern shoreline holds an abundance of insect and aquatic lifefor the rainbows to feed upon. Shrimp Island is a rocky underwater peninsula that traditionally holds good numbers of big holdover fish. Trolling is the preferred method here as the area is dotted with natural springs that attract trout and baitfish to these cool, highly oxygenated waters. Rainbows can be caught in the early morning, tight to the shoreline in as little as two to three feet of water but as the sun rises they will move to deeper safer waters.
Small flashers, a threaded nightcrawler or bright colored lures are the preferred method for trollers. Small minnow imitating lures like Needlefish, Pro Secrets, and Triple Teasers in pearl white, flame red, bright pink, or silver are good bets for the big bows. Large trolling flies in red and black, cinnamon, white or olive are remarkably good producers. They imitate the lake’s natural baits and fool some of the largest fish caught each year. Fast trolling (2-3 mph) Rapalas or Speedy Shiners is another effective technique. Fly fishermen and float tubers should work the tules and shallows on the western shore. Wooly buggers in brown, black or olive produce well.
written by: Sep & Marilyn Hendrickson “California Game & Fish Magazine”