California lakes often hold a lot of interest to anglers east of the Mississippi River. For me, Clear Lake has to be my favorite. The lake is known as the “Bass Capital of the West”, supporting large populations of bass, crappie, bluegill, carp and catfish. By far the majority species is the largemouth bass, however on rare occasion, you could catch a unicorn smallmouth. People can fish Clear their entire life without catching a smallmouth. I feel blessed that not only have I caught one, I caught two in one day! Let me share some info about this great Cali lake.
Clear Lake is located north of Napa County and San Francisco. With 68 square miles of surface area, Clear is the largest natural freshwater lake wholly within the state. This is wine country and there are nearby wineries with tasting rooms include Guenoc and Langtry Estate Vineyards, Ployez Winery, Steele Wines, and Wildhurst Vineyards. The geology of the site has changed, but experts believe that a lake has existed on the site for at least 2,500,000 years, potentially making it the oldest lake in North America. The average depth is 27 ft. with a maximum of 60 ft.
There was a time when Clear Lake was even bigger than it is today. Volcanic eruptions and landslides have changed its shape and surrounding landscape dramatically. Archaeological excavations have led scholars to believe that the area around the lake was occupied by Native Americans for at least 11,000 years. There is a good deal of evidence that the lake habitat was home to abundant fish and wildlife creating an oasis amongst the harsh conditions of Northern California’s mountains. When Spanish missionaries came to California, they documented Native Americans living in the Clear Lake Basin, \
More settlers arrived starting around 1845 beginning a time when the native people were abused and exploited, including the notorious Bloody Island Massacre of 1850. A United States Army contingent under Lieutenant Nathaniel Lyon cornered approximately 200 Pomo natives, slaughtering most of them- including women and children. An historical marker can be seen on Highway 20. The Federal Government set aside small “Rancherias”, but only a few Pomo people chose to live on these tiny reservations since many left to attempt to blend into society. Clear Lake was used as a seaplane base for during World War II and the early years of the cold war. Flying boats could land on Clear Lake when landing conditions were unsafe on San Francisco Bay.
Clear Lake was recently ranked by Bassmaster Magazine as one of the top ten bass lakes in the country and the #1 bass lake on the West Coast. The record largemouth from Clear was 17.5 pounds. The streams feeding Clear contain Sacramento pike minnow,and California Roach– all good forage. There are a variety of baits you can use to fish this lake. My favorite season is summer when they are on deep rock piles- perfect for deep cranking. I caught my personal best this way. Summertime also calls for flipping, punching and top water so don’t let the deep structure keep you from trying your favorite jig presentation. Clear has hosted some big tournaments, such as the FLW event that launched FLW pro Aaron Britt’s career.
Fish caught in Clear are believed to be prone to having toxic levels of mercury. Nevertheless, Clear hosts abundant wildlife with year-round populations of ducks, pelicans, grebes, blue herons, egrets, osprey, and bald eagles, as well as sizable populations of deer, bear, mountain lion, and other animals.
If you have the opportunity to fish here, you will find 11 free launch ramps around the lake open to the public. Individuals may rent boats and personal water craft from many businesses around the lake. There are numerous fishing tournaments and derbies are held through the year. Boaters entering the lake are warned that Dreissenid mussels, a type of zebra mussel, are a threat to Clear Lake. Boats are required to be inspected before launching. There are a number of local businesses licensed to carry out the inspection. There are also extensive efforts to control hydrilla in Clear Lake.
iBass360 Pro Staff Roslyn Elaine Villalpando, from Yuba City CA, has a “reel” passion for fishing, a sport enjoyed by her entire family. Along with her life and fishing partner Chris Huff, she gets out on various Northern California lakes as often as possible, including various local tournaments. As if running a household of young children and maintaining all her angling interests are not enough, Roslyn owns Southern and Belle, a country style boutique specializing in unique, even one of a kind products. Roslyn is back in full swing with her fishing after both opening a retail outlet for Southern and Belle, and adding a new little one to her family in the past year. We are pleased to feature Roslyn’s third article on the iBass360 Blog.