Eagle Lake Best Fishing Locations Depths

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May 23, 2017
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PRELIMINARY FISHING SUGGESTIONS AND OBSERVATIONS AS I SCOUT THE LAKE BEFORE OPENING WEEKEND!! I'll be updating observations and suggestions as I get around the pond this week!  Stay Tuned.  Eagle Lake opener is next Saturday!!
TROLLING:  Scouting South Basin May 20 and 21:  See Lake Conditions page for surface temps.  The last two days I have scouted quite a bit of water.  With surface temps starting out in the high 50's already and reaching 60-61F by noon, the fish that are meandering the shoreline are moving out to deeper water (20 to 60ft deep) by mid morning.  The fish I am scoping have been in small pods as high as 6 to 7 ft deep to 17 to 22ft deep later in the morning.  The water is pretty clear but gets a little cloudier just south of Shrimp Island.  We still have a week of warmer ambient temps which may push surface temps to the low 60's over the depths early in the morning.  This might push the upper zone of fish down a foot or two by opening.  But regardless, I will be running a topline early and will probably keep one in all day long, but I will be having my leadcore on hand just in case I need to drop a line deeper later in the morning.  We are going to have to fish the lake before we know where the active levels are.  But, typically, running a line in the upper 10ft of the water column will pay off.  There are some areas that have spotty algae and weeds on the surface but all in all, there's a lot of nice water.  Fish appear to be scattered.  Small pods in several locations.  I had a decent number off Gallatin Beach and Camp Ron McD out over 30ft+ of water, 7 to 10ft deep and 17 to 22ft deep with a few at 24ft deep later in the morning.  On the east side, fish were in small pods and very scattered.  By mid morning most pods were out off the ledge 30-55ft of water but still holding relatively high.  We'll have to find the active level once the sun has been on the water for a few hours.  Off the west side, fish were in the shallow rock piles early but moved out to the second ledge 15 to 30ft deep and eventually ended up off the deeper ledge but still scoping at similar depths but the zone dropped a little from 7 to 12 ft deep and 22 to 24ft deep by 10-11AM.  The challenge to fishing this lake is that our trout are migratory by nature and move from place to place, sometimes overnight.  Not a lot of surface activity on the hatches but some here and there.  I imagine they are easting suspended zooplankton at those depths....keep at least one lure/trolling fly in florescent orange down there as these are perfect water temps for the shrimp to spawn and it suspends on the thermoclines.
I don't think we will have to go too deep to get them early.  Probably stay in the upper 10ft of the water column even if they move out.  But it isn't uncommon at all to find them deeper later in the morning 21-24ft....not often much deeper but well have to see where they are active.  On the east side off Eagle's Nest 28 to 30ft deep late in the morning can find some nice fish...especially drowning a crawler from a bobber. I generally stagger lines on the east side this time of year as Ususally fish at depths below 40ft are tui chub and they stack up on your scope and can blacken your screen.  They school differently than the trout and can live in much lower levels of dissolved oxygen.  If you see a blackened screenful of fish between 7 and 47+ft in the south basin, chances are good it's not trout.  Been there, done that.  We have a lot more tui chubs now than we have seen historically.  Trout come and go, ours live about 12 years, tui chub live over 30 years have have no predators as adults.  They will begin spawning in a few weeks.  We should see more spawning north of Pelican Pt later this summer so fall might be pretty good fishing up this way.  Up of Miners Pt, Pelican Pt, Slough Pt and Biology Station I generally bump brown or cinnamon leeches off the bottom in 12 to 15+ft of water before I move out over deeper water and suspended.
Scouting North Basin between Spalding and Youth Camp:  Fish have been moving towards the Youth Camp for a couple weeks.  I started seeing them visually once I hit 8ft of water and more.  Once I was over 20ft+ off YC I started seeing more fish on my scope.  Most all were scoping at 7 to 10ft deep.  Once surface temps hit 65F in the shallows, these fish high tail it towards the Youth Camp where they have more choice of depths and cooler temps, as well as cover from osprey and eagles.  The south side of Pelican generally holds fish for a few weeks too.  Remember, it's still shallow in spots so be very careful.  I often find the trout on the bottom in 10 to 14ft of water over the rocky ledges once they move out from the shallows on the south side of Pelican.  They really like brown leeches off Pelican, but I would start off with florescent or burnt orange along with brown leech pattern trolling flies before changing out to anything else.  Trolling naked nightcrawlers has also been a good bait to troll, especially when nothing else seems to work.
Out of Spalding on 5-23: I launched my kayak early in the morning off Spalding.  Surface temp off the ramp held pretty solid at 64.4F, once I was down by the airstrip I had 62.2F.  This time I hung real shallow checking out the weed beds and tules.  There are a lot of tules that haven’t risen out of the water yet.  They are mostly underwater in 3 to 4.5ft and about a foot from the surface.  As with everywhere, there was algae on the underwater tules too.  On my tour, I was in 2.5 to 4ft of water.  I did see trout in fair numbers in the shallow tules early in the morning, but they scattered and went out to 7 to 9ft of water later in the morning on my way back.  Some wore battle scars from being in Pine Creek, others were in much better shape.  Surface temps were holding around 66.6F by noon and I only saw 2 in shallow that late in the morning. 
Most of the trout I visually saw were holding in the tules just under the surface, not so much in the other weeds, but the new tules.  I started seeing fish just off the intersection stop sign of Spalding Road (Lakeview down there) and The Strand.  The point and gravel bar off the Lakeview Inn had several pods moving around the underwater tules and gravel bar.  The pelicans were standing on rocks well out on the point.  I stopped seeing visuals by the time I was out from the last house on The Strand at the south end of the airstrip.  
I toured all the way to the corner on the north side of Pelican Pt.  That used to be a nice sandy cove where the fish would go to rest.  It now has a lot more tules but there is still a slight cove with the rocky points still jutting out…still a rock pile or two exposed as well. By the time I got there, it was warming up.  So I went out off the north side of Broccoli Tree and came back over deeper water.  The fish were more scattered by then whereas early they were in groups of 15 to 20 and I visually saw about 60.  Water was still quite clear. I can sneak up within a few feet of them without spooking them in my kayak so in a boat, you could move them and have to wait quietly for a few minutes before they come back towards you.  A big motor will kick up a silt trail so I don’t really advise trolling in less than 4 1/2ft of water.  I could get my little motor in as long as I wasn’t over the weeds.  But, once there are silt trails from boat motors or wind caused, the fish will go investigate to see what might be stirred up, I used to run the outer edges of the silt lines and pound em late in the morning.
These fish, if the water temps hold in the low 60’s, will be tough to fish for.  Lures, bait and even flies will sink so if you do try to target them, use floating lures, inflate or float nightcrawlers with powerbait or fly fishermen use only floating line and may need an indicator to keep from fouling on the algae that is on the tules, rocks and weeds.  I did see several rise to flies on the surface, but the others were suspended and cruising through the tules and it looked like they were being opportunistic.  There was a lot of little critters swimming in the water today, so a food supply doesn’t appear to be any problem.  
As a note, I had a pretty clean surface going out and staying shallow, but when I came back in late morning there was quite a bit of algae on the surface, too much for trolling, but once you get a little further south it was cleaner.  A wind can clear that off or at least clear channels.  The south basin had some areas of surface algae, but not to the degree I saw today up north.  The water is still pretty clear, algae and all & I could still see 8 ft down pretty well.  See today’s photos in the Gallery.  We have three more warm days ahead before opener.  The water temps could easily rise enough to push the trout out of the weeds and into 8 to 10ft of water with the others early Saturday morning. 
It would be tough float tubing the tules, mostly because of the other weeds hanging up on fins (heck, they hung up on my transducer about 7” below the surface as well as my paddle in some areas) and it’s hundreds of yards before you could clear flippers, this area is also soft bottom…sink up to your knees in some areas.  But a kayak or pontoon could be done pretty easily, even easier than a motor boat. If you drive down past the airstrip and launch a kayak or pontoon off the old fence, be very careful, it is soft there and the fence line runs well out into the water and can damage any inflatable, or even flip a kayak if you weren’t watching out for it.  I don’t know if the fish will still be there opening weekend but there was a pretty fair number in there Tuesday, it’s all going to depend on the water temps. Watch for the osprey diving…that will be the best indicator if there are still fish along the airstrip.  
There is plenty of aquatics, flies, snails and even the damsels and dragon flies were mating and dropping eggs in the water today.  The water was full of life.  The flies are probably the most plentiful….on that note, don’t breathe through your mouth, several species were hatching at the same time today and they were crawling all over me.  Thankfully, they aren’t the biters like early morning or evening mosquitos.  I had more mosquitos down south in the morning than up north.  

We do have new tules quite a way out from the old tule line, once they rise above the surface (in a few weeks) we will see a new tule line and hopefully by fall, we will still have a little water in them.  I believe we have some areas that will provide for some minor grebe nesting. The tui chub should do well spawning this summer so fall might be productive, pending launching feasiblity.  Even though some of the new tules are spindly, there are thick patches and should have a couple of feet of water under a nest in August when they hatch.  At least, it’s going to be a little different tule line once we do get water back (and we will get that water and we are making a lot of progress on getting the Super Ditch filled in and water back to the creek channel starting this summer).  So the future is promising and I won’t let this project fail to bring back the north basins habitat.  I have always said, start fixing the problem and Mother Nature will respond.
WHAT TO USE:  Well, orange is always a good color to start with.  I always start out with one aggressive color and one passive color and see what happens.  The water being very clear in the upper 10ft could make a difference. For orange: Red/prism needlefish, Florescent orange Sure Catch in Red-Dog or Goldie Locks (available at Eagle Lake Marina and Eagle Lake General Store), trolling flies florescent orange or Jay Fairs Hot One (it’s a little darker).  We won't know what size of lures they will like until we fish for em but generally a large Red-Dog (medium double jointed or Large single) is a good place to start and #2 Needlefish.  I like the single Goldie Locks in medium size, Little Cleo's (1/8oz drops 5 to 6 ft deep at 2mph; 1/4oz drops to about 8ft at 2mph (orange/gold and orange/silver have been catching me fish on other lakes with similar temps and depths of fish).  We do have a good toad population so Red-Dot frog patterns would be my next lure color in the water and I consider it to be more passive.  Firetiger patterns do well in overcast conditions or cloudier water but its an aggressive color.  The water is pretty clear right now but I would still keep a firetiger in the line up. Baby Simon lures have done well up here too.  Mostly combinations of orange or pinks have caught us the most fish, but other colors have worked under different conditions.  I don't use many natural minnow imitations until the tui chub minnows begin to hatch later in summer, but florescent orange and german brown rapala's got attention early in the season last year, firetiger and german brown double jointed had their moments.  We may have to throw the tackle box at them again this year.  Never seen so many days of "one hit wonders" than we did last year.  Nickel and pearl bikini needle fish should also be in line.  Usually smaller #1's to start but sometimes bigger #2 or even #3's in this selection can trigger the fish.  I generally start out smaller than larger and work my way up.  Z-Rays: Red-dot gold has been a good lure, I generally troll these at 2.8 mph....keep the rod tip dancing.  Little Cleos, Pheobies, Z-Rays, SureCatch and rapala's all keep your rod tip dancing at the right speed.  No dancing at any speed indicates a fouled hook.  We generally speed up over slowing down our troll.  I like 2.5 to 2.8mph but I have often had to ramp that up a bit to 3.2 to 3.4.  So vary your speed, you will find a sweet spot. Normally, this lake is a pretty fast troll for anything but nightcrawlers.  If you use a dodger, shorten up your leader up here.  Wiggle discs ahead of grubs or trolling flies work well. 
Trolling threaded nightcrawlers is also an Eagle Lake standard.  When all else fails, troll the live bait.  Generally, we can get away with using flashers later in the season when the chubs hatch.  If you do like to use flashers, shorten up your leader.  These fish can come up behind a flasher in fall fast…real fast.  If your leader is too long, you get lots of strikes but no fish hooked.  That’s because they miss your offering and hit the flasher.  14” is about all you need.  3 to 4 ft of leader & 9 out of 10 times they pass it up before hitting the flasher.  LoL. Attractants can also help.  I generally use attractants in cloudier water, but they have proven themselves up here.  Garlic seems to be a favorite, Krill, trophy trout next up.  If you have sunscreen on your hands or used any type of hair product before heading out on the lake such as a gel or fragrant oil on your hands, you may need to cover up your scent on bait. I use stick sunscreens, that way I don't get it on my hands and don't have to worry about touching any bait, lure or fly.  This can be a critical tactic in clear water.

TROLLING FLIES:  I will be starting out using florescent orange or burnt orange on one line and a brown or cinnamon leech on the other before I start changing out. One passive, one aggressive color.  One thing is that along the west side rock piles, the brown leeches have caught me more fish in clear water than any other fly in my box. Olive leeches can do well off Pikes Pt and off Wildcat Pt sometimes as do black/red leech patterns or dubbed wooly buggers.  So that will be in the line up.  If we see cloudy water or skies (who knows?) I would keep a Jay Fair All Around Best on hand too.  Don't discount smaller flies for trolling, especially burnt orange, brown or olive wooly buggers.  Smaller versions are available at Eagle Lake Marina, ask at the counter as they are in the case along with Jay Fair wiggle tails (wiggle tails are slightly weighted) and various other flies.  They have a very good selection of flies; just ask to see what they have.
GRUBS: Generally, the same colors of grubs work as trolling flies.  One of the grubs I really like is a pumpkin seed, but it’s beige with a hint of orange and smaller than most.  Berkley.  Hard to find but can be found online.  Orange, watermelon, brown, rootbeer, black are good to start out with before going to the crazies…but we can find some crazier colors to work when nothing else does.  Trolled slow and hooked correctly, the grubs have a nice wiggle, but on faster trolls a wiggle disc or dodger will give it some needed action on a faster troll.  
STILL FISHING FROM ANCHOR:  I always suggest running a freeline.  No weight just the weight of the worm.  Give it a toss, leave your bail open and make sure your line doesn't hold up in your guides, let it drift naturally for several minutes, eventually it will sink to the bottom.  I generally start out with a 5 to 7 minute drop, then relocate.  Stagger bobbers.  Fish I have scopped below 7-8ft have been holding at 17 to 22 ft deep and as deep as 24.  That doesn't mean that they are real active at that depth, but we won't know until we fish it!!  The east side fish generally can be active deeper than those on the west side early in the season. Find the ledges and look for the pods.  I saw quite a bit of empty water before finding the pods on the east side, so we're going to have to look for the pods....or hope they swim by eventually.  On the west side from Wildcat Ot Slough Pt we can find them in shallower water but closer to the bottom.  Often on the second ledge that drops from 15 to 35ft deep before the next ledge that drops to 50ft+....at that point they are usually suspended again.  Opening day is always a pot shot, we just look for what we see, and fish it till we find out!! LoL
SHORE FISHING:  Anywhere there is rocks, you probably won't get too many weeds on your line or hang up on reeling in.  But in some areas, one will have to have a good cast to get out of them.  However, on a good note, I am moving some fish out of the weeds in my kayak early in the morning.  They are moving throughout the weeds before moving out to deeper water.  For bobber fishermen, you may have to set a shorter leader or slightly inflate a nightcrawler or use a little powerbait to keep your offering towards the top third of the weeds.  Shore fishing may be spotty and will depend a lot on water temps next week.  As of 5-21, I visually saw fish in 2 to 5 ft of water cruising in tight and shallow through the weeds, but they moved out a little further later in the morning.  It will depend on how much pressure they get too.  Trollers out from the shorefishermen can easily move the fish back in close at odd times of the day as long as water temps stay below 65F.

FLY FISHING:  Lots of small flies hatching early.  Misquitos, Midges and various Chronies (#16 to #18) early and spinner & minnow mayflies later.  If wading, along a weedy shoreline, you may have to use an indicator to keep your fly from dropping into the weeds and fouling.  If you walk out to 3 ft of water or more, you probably will be outside the weedy stuff and into the rocks and areas that have had water over the last few years.  The historic moss beds are doing well out in 6ft of water or more along the west shoreline.  From the east side, the ledge that drops from 12 to 40+ft deep is further out than it was over the last few years.  So it will take a good cast to get over that deeper water this year.  We do have fish moving in tight and shallow right now, but how long they keep doing that will depend on keeping the surface temps from rising over 65F.  The fish have been moving out over deeper water, but I'm still seeing a lot holding 7 to 10ft deep even after mid morning.  Some have dropped 17 to 22ft deep later.  But we do have to fish before we know how active the deeper fish are.  I suspect we will have a decent window of catchability, but once it warms up after mid morning, we may have to have a boat, tube or kayak to reach em.  I will probably start out with a florescent orange a brown leech on (smaller 8 and 10 size), especially by mid morning. But the burnt oranges, bloody black/red, and olive leech patterns will be in the line up. (Available at the Marina Store, generally behind the counter and available in a pack of colors, as for Val's pack)  The Eagle Lake Marina store has a very good selection of flies behind the counter, just ask.  Jay Fair Wiggle Tails are there too (wiggle tails are weighted, good for drifting in tube or kayaks when there is a breeze).
All lake elevations are also posted on Lake Conditions page going back to 2012 so it is easy for you to compare.  All launch ramp photos are posted in the 2017 ramp album for you to view.  All surface temps for areas are also located on Lake Conditions, even though I add a few here 
Thousands of cows grazing along highway 139 thru mid January so we can safely assume some heavy nutrient loading as the water is gradually coming up covering all the cow patties.  We believe that the heavy nutrients led to our massive blue/green algae problem last season.  Rotting weeds from recently being covered in water contribute to the nitrate loading too.  I doubt I will waste much time scouting the north basin early this season after seeing water temps rising an only starting to see a few fish off Spalding once reaching 7 to 8 ft of water.  As water temps rise, the fish will move towards the Youth Camp which was already beginning to happen on 5-10-17.  It was pretty clear of surface weeds closer to the Youth Camp but there were still a few scattered about. Anything can happen but a week of warmer weather will cause water temps to rise in the shallows really quick.  We are already seeing patches of algae on the surface out of Spalding along the airstrip towards Rocky Pt but there were still some clearer channels further out.  We could see it increase if the next few days are warm and water temps rise higher.  It’s a catch 22. 
Plenty of folks didn't believe me about the silt and water pump problems in the low water conditions in the shallow basins.  But they do now.  So just be watchful, this isn't the best lake to have your motor seize up or overheat on early in the season when winds and cool weather are still prevalent.  Once or twice isn't the killer, it's the repeated launching day after day that can get you.  So we are doing better than the last 4 years, but we still below 5097ft elevation on the pond.  I'll still be launching down south at the low water ramp this season. 

In spite of seeing a few larger fish in 2016 season, the numbers of fish caught were dramatically decreased. I requested the creel data from DFW but Paul Divine had not compiled last year’s data by April 2017 and I still have not received the info.  For the first time in my 55 years, the lake was green and massively cloudy all 2016 season.  Dissolved oxygen dropping below sustainable levels for trout below 22ft deep.  I took a video camera down into the water column and was totally amazed as to the water quality.  At that time DFW chose not to perform more water testing.  I expect to see similar condition’s this season in spite of getting a little water back in the lake; 99% of that water is going to bring heavy nutrients from covering up millions of cow patties left in the north basins from grazing along the lake thru mid January as well as from Pine Creek.  I do see some blue/green algae forming along the shoreline, but so far the water has been clearer than I have seen it in a while.  I expect to get through opening weekend clearer but once the green hue comes back and visibility drops, we will know what is going on and try to adapt to it.  Cautiously optimistic, but we haven't even started yet.  We'll see what happens in the coming weeks.  We have seen a lot fewer trout in the tributaries.  Papoose creek has had up to a couple hundred, Merrill Creek just a handful.  Both of these tributaries have traditionally had well over a thousand fish in them, even in years with less water.  Pine Creek finally drafted a little over 1000, not all were spawners but DFW had to close the gate and prevent free passage upstream for a while, until they got every ripe hen they could which was in violation of the conservation plan for free passage for the native spawn.  Then had to resort to electro-shocking in the lake for as many more as they could get.  I don't believe they got their entire target number of eggs.  It took well over a month  of flow before any trout had come up Pine Creek and DFW had to work through the first week of May.  Generally eggs collected that late in the season aren't as viable as earlier eggs.  Time will tell.  SEE TROUT PLANTINIG AND MARKINGS FOR YEARS PLANTED HERE.  100% OF THE PLANTED FISH ARE NOW MARKED BY FIN OR TAIL TRIMMING.
Trout come and go with catching and mortality of release in the summer months. Tui chub (other than the hatch of the season) have no predators and live over 32years.  They stay in the lake regardless. Tui chub are highly concentrated in the depths of the south basin, leaving little room for much else.  The chubs scope differently than the trout do and are pretty easy to determine on your screen.  Generally they stack up and are very thick in zones of the lake that have dissolved oxygen levels too low to support trout. When they spawn, they blanket the bottom, often 4-5ft thick. We caught some chubs 22" long in 2016.  Huge monsters for chubs so they are doing very well....maybe too well considering the biomass and fewer trout being planted.  I expect to see my scope very cluttered with tui chub in 2017 season. 

Various zooplanktons have also become very prolific to the point of fowling lines and downriggers...and when thick enough, can plug jet pumps.   The biggest change in the fishing occurred in less than one year.  From catching and releasing tons (20-40+ per day) of 2-3+ lb fish to being lucky to get one or two was a dramatic shift in Eagle Lake in less than one year.  We may have seen some 4+lb fish but their numbers being caught were few and far between.  Over 50 years of eating these trout, the best quality of meat comes from a 2-3lb trout.  Meat of the bigger trout  of 4 +lbs is generally grainy, mealy and soft.  Everyone wants to catch a big fish, but the quality of the meat is not nearly as good as smaller fish.  Consider that.  I rarely keep a fish over 4lbs as to me, it is a waste if it doesn't eat as good as a smaller fish...most of us consider them to be "smokers".  
Content of this website is copyright protected 2003-2017 by Valerie Aubrey.  Any reuse of the content must simply be authorized by asking.  Unauthorized use or lack of crediting content will be considered for legal action. Opinions on this site are not necessarily the opinions of our sponsors or people we work with.  Our opinions are based on over 50 years of fishing Eagle Lake and nearly 30 years of living here full time.  Through the El Nino's of getting 24ft of snowfall and through several droughts.  We have been there and done that.  We know that a lot of the local county info on the lake elevation in the past has been doctored due in part to not having an official actually checking lake elevations in the 1990's...1993 200 residents of Spalding witnessed the lake rising nearly 8ft from the local snowfall of 24ft over that winter.  Despite our efforts when the lake chart was updated a few years later with incorrect numbers "to make the chart look historically accurate" not actually accurate, it remains inaccurate during those years as there was no water m.  Our explanation from BOS was "No one will know when you are all gone".  So we don't believe everything that Lassen County says.  That is the honest to God truth and there are still many of us old timers around that know that.