EAGLE LAKE FISHING REPORT
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7-24-14 Fishing Report Summary: The surface temps dropped lightly over the depths of the south basin this week. This morning I showed surface temps between 68.5 and as high as 70.0, The west side slightly cooler than the east side by about 1 degree according to my depth finder. We are expecting ambient temps to warm up again so the lake should hold around 70F on the surface this weekend.
We have seen cooler ambient low temperatures as low as 38F in the basin this morning. We found the bite just a little tougher the last 2 days but folks continue to catch limits of fish 24 to 35 ft deep (for leadcore users that still 4 to 5 colors in the water) over water depths of 25 to 60+ ft deep. Orange continues to be the best color but firetiger patterns are also working well. Pearl bikini (#1) color patter has picked up a few this week as well as watermelon and brown grubs. It is still a bit early to have the fish begin moving around and in close and shallow. They continue to stay in the deeper water pounding minnows and zooplankton (microscopic shrimp). We have minnows out over the depths as well as minnows in close to shore, shallow ledges and hovering close to the bottom in water 15 to 35ft deep. I will start running a minnow pattern trolling fly this coming week and work the bait balls at around 12 to 14 ft deep. But I’m not going to fix something that’s not broken just yet. I did run a topline this morning and found one strike but all the fish continue to come from the deeper running lines.
We have continued to do well on the east side. I have been trolling orange prism needle fish (color is orange, label reads red), pearl bikini #1 over #2), red-dot frog and cop car (#1), orange Z-Ray’s and orange and frog speedy shiners at 4 to 5 colors of leadcore in the water in 24 to 60ft of water. There have been quite a few the trout bottom feeding on the gravel bars (24 to 35 ft deep) before sunrise while others have been suspended over deeper water, the cooler weather changed up their timing though. As we warm back up again, I expect a similar pattern. I generally work those depths in and out (work the contours) not parallel. You cover twice the water as well as a column of water. The best bite for us has come on around 6AM & slowing down a little after 8AM. After that, strikes are short & the trout haven’t held on as well but it is still worth the effort. Quite often, using an attractant will make them hold on longer & I will be testing that this week. In early morning I am running 4 colors in the water with half the rods and 5 colors in the water on the other half. 4 colors is getting them early while 5 colors is dependable no matter what time. I have hit several just above that at 3 colors but only in the first hour, then it has all been deeper. I have been fishing out in the middle and starting out above Eagle’s Nest and working towards the buoys of Miners Pt and trolling in 24 to 60+ft of water. I have also hit the bay off Black Mt but the fish are moving out after sunrise. My best trolling speeds have been between 1.8 and 2.8 mph and my lines between 21 and 35ft deep depending on the depth of water and location.
Camp Ron McD to The Springs still holding nice trout too but we have also seen the masses of adult tui chubs move in and out as well. Its all good water on the east side. It hasn’t really mattered where you start for trolling. The Springs has been pretty dependable for nightcrawlers under bobbers.
Wildcat Pt through Lake of the Woods is still holding some nice trout on the last ledge that drops off to deeper water (24 to 49ft). .I am running the same lures, depths and speeds on either side of the lake. We caught and released three fish there today between 9 and 10AM.
The minnows have hit the food court over the depths, minnow imitations could be the ticket. Please note that it is illegal to use live minnows, including the naturally occurring tui chub minnows as bait. The top producers are normally Jay Fair and Arctic Fox tui chub trolling flies. Berkley Gulp minnows run crippled are probably the best “plastics” for realistic minnow imitations but it is critical to stay on the small side early in the season. The smallest, I believe, is 2 ½ inches. The best colors on this lake are black shad and watermelon pearl. Florescent orange (#2 prism “red” on package) needlefish continues to rule but all sizes of Sure Catch Red-dog are working for us (double jointed working slightly better than single spoon version), Goldie Locks is working well as is Gator and Medium Mars double jointed lures. Frog Speedy Shiner still did the trick and the “odd balls” that got attention was pumpkin-seed, watermelon and brown grubs, #1 pearl bikini, #2 Fire Tiger, orange and orange/hammered brass Krockadiles, orange Rainbow Runners, and an orange and firetiger Z-RAY’s. If its gold/brass & florescent orange it’s been catching fish. A cloud cover has changed things up and the firetiger needlefish and Z-ray have outfished other color patterns under the darker skies. This could be a critical change when we see clouds rolling in and a chance of thunderstorms.
My best trolling speed this week has been 2.4 to 2.8 mph with the needlefish and other lures which has been working good & I am keeping the lines on a long curve & direction hasn’t really mattered. I run the speedy shiners between 2.8 and 3.2 mph and can run Sure Catch beside with no problem at higher speeds. Needlefish work at faster speeds too, but I had to slow it down a little this week to get the fish. I don’t generally go below 1.2 mph for flies or lures (of course trolling nightcrawlers requires less than 1 mph). The fastest fish we caught this week was on a speedy shiner frog at 4 mph! Go figure? Blue/brown color combination lures begin to work well when the damsels begin to hatch. We did see a minor hatch but the cooler weather pretty much took care of that. When we warm up again, we will see more damsels again. They also will show up pretty well when the skies are overcast. I didn’t get the lure I wanted to run but I haven’t gotten a look on the UV blue/black needlefish…but I will keep it in the water this week & see what happens with a change in the sky. UV paints haven’t done real well on this lake since their inception however, the deeper the fish are, the better they might work…especially under certain conditions.
Even though trout have been caught up to 42 ft deep this week, 30-35 ft has been the most active for us on average but we have also caught a few off the bottom in 21 to 24ft of water.
If I am scoping schools of fish that are below 45 ft deep, chances are they are not trout but tui chub this time of year and every species is seeking the coolest water right now so what you see on your scope can be critical to what you are catching. The oxygen begins to bottom out (decrease) blow 40 ft and below 45ft it drops significantly. Generally tui chub are seen as a large and compact school of fish stacked between 7 and 47 plus ft deep. They can tolerate lower oxygen levels and school differently from the trout. Trout are separated by more distance from one another, pairs often but not stacked up to the point of blackening your screen. The tui chub do hit trollers sometimes but you can tell pretty quickly when you drag several lines though a massive school & don’t catch anything or have lite hits (line rubs) & nothing sticks.
The summer mode is kicked into gear. The fresh hatch of tui chub minnows have hit the food court in some locations as high water temperatures are driving the clouds of tiny baitfish out to the depths. For the most part I have been hitting the east side off Eagle’s Nest. On the east side you have the shadow cast by the mountains that extends the time before the sun hits the water….the fish know that too. I often switch sides of the lake if my bite goes off and the water is flat & the sun is high. I often find another bite or at least a fish or two on at the other side.
One day I have worked harder than another but all in all, the fishing continues to be very good but I do advise getting out there before sunrise if you have more than 2 limits to catch. We generally see more trout on one side of the lake than the other during the heat of the summer. But, we always have scattered pods of trout on the west side, even when the east side is fishing the best. The trout behave a little different on the west side. While we are catching fish deep on the east side in water over 50ft, the trout on the west side have a tendency to feed on the bottom in 25-35 ft of water (lake temp rising can change that by thermalclines)
The minnows just hit the food court in some locations. As water temps remain high and possibly a little higher, more minnows will seek the deeper waters. That’s when the feeding frenzy starts & minnow imitations begin to work well at the correct depths. It depends on where the top and bottom of the cloud of bait is as to what level I fish at. Over the years, 2 ½ colors (12-15 ft deep) has been my luckiest number out over the depths & working the bait balls. But, the bait balls aren’t everywhere just yet. That might take a few more weeks.
I still zig-zag the east side but also run circles out away from the ledges (Reason for zigzags & circles: Making my line work a column of water rather than just one depth as well as changes the action of the lures). As you make a turn, the inside line drops several feet and flutters down (when a clip is used, action is different when tied directly on the line) while the outside line picks up speed and comes up several feet in depth. Depending on my speed, that column of water I’m working can be up to 15 ft. For leadcore users, I have never had to go deeper than 6 colors. I only put 6 colors on my reels & backing to the reel. The sink rate of leadcore depends on your trolling speed and lure weight. I can easily hang up on the bottom at 42ft with 5 colors in the water at 1.2 to 1.3 mph.
If you don’t have a trolling speed indicator. Most smartphone GPS apps have speed on them. Our fish can get directional for trollers so I always troll in circles, east to west, west to east, north to south and south to north. Generally I find the “direction of the day (or hour in some cases) & work it until I wear it out.
Trout rolling on the surface are after fly emergers. They don’t generally take a worm or lure on the surface however, casting small Panther Martin lures has been able to get their attention in the past. Black w/Yellow dots, Yellow with Black dots, Yellow w/Red dots (brass over nickel spinners) are the ones that have previously worked for surface action. Other than doing that or fly casting emergers or small olive flies 3’ under an indicator & letting it sit for a while & twitch it every so often, chances are that the rising trout won’t look at you. Basically, work the water column where the trout has to pass you to go to the top water. The rising trout rarely take a nightcrawler on top but love them down a little deeper this time of year. In fall, everything changes.
For the best lures this week: Sure Catch Red-dog double jointed (all sizes), but orange prism/brass needlefish are ruling the last few days. All the frog patterns are working (Perhaps red working best but yellow/black doing ok too). Any Sure Catch Red-dog has gotten attention as has Goldie Locks. Troll Sure Catch lures between 2.2 and 2.4 mph on average, but sometimes we have had to pick that up to 3. Red prism, pearl bikini (#1 over #2) needlefish, watermelon and motor oil grubs have caught a few fish this week (generally watermelon grubs begin to work when red is on the menu), florescent orange/pearl and brass back, brass bikini & red-dot frog needlefish as well as speedy shiners in frog, orange/hammered brass have been working for us this week. Krocodiles in orange and hammered brass/orange and Z-RAY in florescent orange started picking up fish for us this week. Also, Mack’s Wedding Ring Kokanee Killers in orange with brass spinner (one of my favorites) and the orange/green combo is also working, mostly later in AM. I don’t care for the foil blade spinners on the kok-killers, only the metal blades seem to work for me. French Frye spinners are also one of my “go-to” lures this time of year & I will be running one or two of them later this week. It looks like the minnows are hitting the food court this year so I will be running some minnow imitations this week and see what happens.
FYI just in case the standards stop working or the bite goes off, try something different but keep one rod at the working colors and lure patterns. Orange/gold small rapala’s are still getting a smack here and there as well and generally gold (small 1 ½”) is the best color to start with when the tui chub minnows are on the menu. Remember, different areas of the lake can fish differently for different reasons and under different conditions and water temperatures. We can leave an area when the bite goes off and find it somewhere else.
FOR THE LURES we use a loop knot or a small clip to attach the lures which seems to give it more action in the water during speed changes and especially on turns (where 80% of your fish will come from). I prefer black small spring steel clips over snap clips & I haven’t lost a lure or fish yet, As a tip, the heavier hooks on many of the lures need sharpened after every two fish. If you keep getting strikes without getting a fish to the boat, chances are your hook is dull….been there & done that. Sharp hooks catch more fish. I always like to say, “Mr Sneaky Trout, meet Mr Sharp Hook and try that again!”. It can mean all the difference between fishing and catching those light biting trout. It’s critical on my float tube fly fishing.
Running trolling flies off downriggers can be done but set the hook ASAP & stop the boat. You can’t normally get a skin hooked fish to the boat while continuing to troll & dragging it along. If there is one complaint I hear often from downrigger users who don’t want to stop trolling or put all the lines back in the water, it is about getting a fish to the boat once he bit the fly. Nature of the beast. The skin tears and a nice big buttonhole opens up & with one shake of the head, the fly is out. Don’t give the fish any slack line, but don’t drag him all over the lake either. Use a lighter drag too. Results will be in the bag rather than “the one that got away”.
For leadcore line, I only use 18lb as it is more controllable for depth and easier to splice over time and catching bottom a lot. Spectra brand is tough as it gets, but isn’t user friendly for inline splicing, especially in the field, but using a long sewing needle helps greatly for threading the leader and backing into the Dacron sheath of the leadcore). The top line still gets some attention, and no matter what, I always keep a topline in the water.
Action discs help give the flies and grubs movement if you aren’t holding your rod & working the marabou or plastic yourself. I personally prefer the smaller action disc because of the heavy drag of the discs to begin with. AND I run it close to the fly or grub rather than 3” or more above. The further up the line from the fly the action disc is, the further it travels back and forth, especially through the many currents we have in this lake. Oh it has nice movement but it can also foul other lines if it travels too far. I run the smaller disc right ahead of the fly…it gives it a subtle wiggle rather than a rapid twitch which is often needed on flat water. When the bite comes back on again, chances are what worked earlier will work again. I have found that there are some days that you can have too much movement in a lure or fly and a plain old drag or seductive wiggle is what gets the strikes. When these fish stop teaching me something new every day, it will be time for me to stop fishing!!!
Wind always brings these fish up toward the surface & when I need that last fish in the boat I can guarantee you that 99% of the time it will come on a brown leech 5 ft below the surface. (That’s about 1 color of 18lb leadcore in the water or 1 ½ colors off the reel) When the bite slows down or you find a lull, you can try to get those deeper fish….just do me a favor in keep a line up top & see what happens.
BAIT UNDER BOBBERS: Still fishing bait under bobbers is beginning to get some attention on the east side from The Springs to Eagles Nest & Black Mt. We are catching between 25 and 32 ft deep early & up to 35-38 ft deep later in the morning and early afternoon. I always tell people that there are times of the season when you need to come prepared to do either. Troll or bait fish under bobbers. We are just at the beginning of the summer change for the lake, once she settles in to her summer doldrums, we often end up seeing a good bait bite for the first hour or two of legal fishing time & the rest of the day is just tough fishing for every method till evening.
Attractants can help. Garlic has traditionally been good, krill second, trout gravy third and tui chub scent should be on your list now that the tui chub minnow are beginning to hit the food court. Anis is ok but I generally mix it with something else as needed. I don’t always use an attractant on every bait or lure in the water just in case I have a day that it becomes a repellent. In that case, I use rubber or vinyl gloves to handle my bait…thus keeping my scent off the worm to begin with. FYI on that. Also note that attractants can go bad or sour if left in the sun or heat for long periods. I generally store mine in the refrigerator (ice chest but put in ziplock baggie) or at least in a cool dark spot when I store it for the day.
GENERAL TIPS & LAKE FAVORITES
Bait fishing. NO MINNOWS ARE ALLOWED TO BE USED AS BAIT IN EAGLE LAKE. INCLUDING MINNOWS CAUGHT IN THE LAKE. I can guarantee you that if you bring a bucket of minnows up from the valley to use as bait, you will be found out and turned in. Will the imported minnows live in Eagle Lake? Well, let’s just say that we certainly don’t want to find out as if they did survive and reproduce the entire balance of the lake will change and it will no longer be the lake it is. It could ruin the lake as we know it….forever. So NO Minnows!!!! Besides, minnow imitations don’t work as well early in the season as they do come late summer or fall.
There are several options. Nightcrawlers (threaded on the hook) are probably the best bait going. I prefer to have some mini crawlers handy as sometimes these trout don’t want a meal but just a snack….small over large has always been better. Powerbait type products I refer to as dough baits have also worked well on our hatchery trout. Rainbow probably covers the most popular colors of orange and green but the pale garlic flavor has really done well since hitting the market. Various attractants are also advisable, Pro Cure has a good selection. Garlic is a favorite and most anything for trout. But, tui chub flavor of attractant won’t do as well until late summer when the trout begin pounding the fresh hatch of tui chub minnows. We don’t recommend releasing fish that swallowed the hook. It is not like the days of the past when hooks were made out of cheap steel. Now hooks are all high carbon steel and lazar or chemically sharpened. These hooks cut a hole in the fishes stomach much easier and don’t rust out as fast. The fish I have cleaned that have survived have massive scar tissue around their stomachs and in generally poor health despite surviving.
If there was one noticeable difference in the lake last year, it was the visibility. The best I could see the bottom looking over the side of the boat was 12ft but most of the season it was around 6 to 7 ft. In years past I have been able to see bottom at 25ft deep and regularly 12 to 15 ft. That is a big difference in clarity. Windy days and temperature changes have a direct and immediate effect on the clarity as do clouds. That’s when things change.
For rod set ups for trolling and bait fishing see Tips and Tricks.
Historical Best Bets and Why and Why Not’s: Eagle Lake has seasons. It’s all about water temperatures, thermalclines and solstices. Florescent orange has always been a great color for lures, grubs and trolling flies at any time of the year. This is because it is a perfectly natural color of food in our lake. When water temperatures are below 60F, the shrimp and scuds change color from various shades of olive/bronze to orange/olive. Once water temps begin to rise above 60F, the orange begins to fade to light olive/bronze & the warmer the water gets the darker olive they become. At water temps between 61F and 65F, the shrimp “spawn”. This leaves heavy clouds of zooplankton in the lake. These clouds can get suspended at a certain depth in summer as the lake stratifies but the trout can simply sit still in the cloud of zooplankton eating and breathing in the same motion…they are filter feeders when the concentrations are dense. In the early part of the season, I definitely use florescent orange nymphs when fly fishing and/or trolling. But, as summer comes on, I generally run brown leech patterns (another totally natural food in the lake), and olive wooly buggers.
Come summer when the first of the seasons tui chub minnows hatch out I begin using some blades and beads. Kokanee Killers (wedding ring) and French Frye (orange/green) lures are my go to “lures” when the lake changes for summer. Florescent orange lures such as Large Red-dog or needlefish remain in the top of the list as the water temps on the bottom remain cooler than the surface…although we won’t find too many trout below 35 ft deep in the heat of the summer. This is due to dissolved oxygen being too low or nonexistent below that level. We will scope fish below the DO line, however, the tui chub don’t require as much DO as the trout and are often found at 45 to 47 ft deep when stacked up.
Lures: Sure Catch lures (available at Eagle Lake Marina) have out fished needlefish on this lake but needlefish are on a comeback year this season. They come in many color combinations and back flash. The double jointed have great action but never discount the single blade. If there is a trick to running these lures it is to troll them faster than slower. The best trolling speed for us has been between 2.2 and 2.4 mph but mix it up as it can change day by day and by the area of the lake you are fishing.
Needlefish: Fire tiger, florescent orange combinations and red dot and yellow dot frog have been the best overall for early season catching. We have a highly overlooked frog and western toad population …..but the trout don’t overlook it. Not too often does the plainer yellow dot frog pattern work as well, but it has had it’s moments. Nickel and pearl bikini’s have held a position for years too.
When fish are pounding the surface I often run a flatfish (#5 or #7) fast so it’s skittering on the surface. My best color has been frog patterns & black. These have produced massive strikes when nothing else has worked for rolling trout. Key factor: Smaller rather than larger size. Casting rooster tails in black/yellow can also draw strikes from the rising trout during that time. Generally the best has been black and yellow combinations but throw in a cloudy day and the yellow with red dots turns on.
Rapala’s in florescent orange (broke back 2 ¾ to 3”) can work great early in the season but leave the silver and gold in the box until later in summer and fall.
I prefer using trolling flies but I am not afraid to put something else on the end of my line. However, I am opposed to using bait & generally only bait fish when on a meat hunt for friends during the hottest time of the summer when the trout linger between 25 and 30ft deep. Bait fishing and releasing trout that swallowed the hook is NOT an option in my boat. If you are catching small ½ pounders, then move locations. The larger trout will not be with the shakers until they have too in the heat of the summer.
But, bait works, nightcrawlers are our mainstay and imitate our naturally occurring leech population. Trolling nightcrawlers also works. They can be deadly behind an Uncle Larry’s black perch or perch color combo. Some people like to see a “twist” of the crawler when trolling. That can produce some strikes but if you are intending to imitate a large leech, well, they don’t twist or spin in nature. You should run them slow at about ½ mile per hour for trolling. If using flashers or behind a dodger or worm rig using ½ of a crawler has proven deadly. I like using whole worms so if I want it smaller I generally use mini-crawlers & downsize my hook to #8. Using a worm threader is our preferred baiting method for still fishing under bobbers as well as trolling. Live minnows (even the ones in the lake) are illegal to be used as bait for fishing. Using corn has had its moments over the last two years. However we find more people using it to chum than using it as bait. CHUMMING IS ILLEGAL ON EAGLE LAKE.
Other lures can be productive as well. There is always something new coming out & it never hurts to try something new when the bite is tough. Sometimes you have to simply get it in their face & trick them into striking. Other times you have to be as natural as possible….for me, that natural is always a cinnamon or brown leech…second go to, black leech. These are as natural as you can get in this lake early in the season. The trout will always take a leech, but often can depend on the presentation as well as location. White or bone colored leech patterns, for me, are location specific…. These represent flatworms that we have in some locations. Pumpkinseed with beige tails can work great along the biology station and Wildcat Pt.
Grubs: For the most part, we run grubs behind action discs (dodgers later in summer towards fall). There are two disc sizes now. I prefer the smaller one as it tracks better behind the boat and have less drag. Start about 3” above the grub. The further the disc is from the grub, the further it swings from side to side. This can foul other lines if you aren’t careful. In spring, using a dodger can be productive but dodgers are more productive beginning in late summer and fall when the trout begin pounding the fresh hatch of tui chub minnows. Using flashers is also more productive later in the season rather than in early season. Best colors are brown, rootbeer, watermelon, motor oil, white, orange, black and pumpkin seed. As a note, our black leeches have been more prolific in the bellies of our trout last season.
Later in summer I start using more minnow imitations, Berkley Gulp minnows in watermelon/pearl and black shad 2 ½” (when the minnows just hit the food court in August/Sept and 3” after that time . Black/peacock is my “sleeper” color….when nothing else is getting attention on a clear day. Overcast days and/or cloudy water can change things up. I don’t pack a lot of yellow or chartreuse patterns, but they are in my tackle box for a reason & have saved my butt on many overcast mornings and in cloudy water situations. Olive works great on to-water trolling in summer when the damsel and dragonflies begin to hatch. When top water trolling, I have been known to run my float tubing flies….much smaller than trolling flies. These fish love “hairy” bodies and rubber legs. Just because it isn’t “dubbed” a trolling fly, doesn’t mean it won’t work. Mine are on size 10 and 12 3X and 4X hooks and the smallest offering I have trolled is a #22 olive beadhead midge…especially in big waves.
SHORE FISHING: Shore fishing has subsided while water temps peek. We can see the trout move in for the fresh hatch of minnows but generally a little later in towards fall. Watch the surface of the water. When minnows are boiling, something is after them and it isn’t always the birds. But it’s the time of year that the trout will probably be holding out in deeper, cooler water until fall. Early is always better than later for shore fishing, but these trout can come in at unpredictable times as water temps rise.
Nighcrawlers under bobbers work. Dough bait (powerbait type products) have been great the last few years. Typical colors of orange or green (rainbow covers several colors) and the pale “garlic” flavor have been the best….but, every year it seems that an oddball color is the ticket for a few weeks, then it changes….thus, I believe I have every color of that stuff made in my shore fishing tackle box!!!
To get extra distance on a cast from shore I prefer using 8ft rods and have been known to use a water filled bobber or add some weight to a Styrofoam bobber by pushing in some bb split shots or shotgun shell bb’s into the body. A little extra weight can go a long way. Be careful not to over load your bobber though!
FLY FISHING WILL RETURN AS SOON AS SURFACE TEMPERATURES DROP IN FALL.
USFS QUAD MAPS OF OPEN ROADS AROUND THE EAGLE LAKE AREA: Note a new Smartphone app for USFS maps is out.
The links below go to maps saved from Lassen National Forest website. Any questions you have should be directed to Eagle Lake Ranger Station staff. I am only providing them for quick access for our viewers. More information on road closures in the Forest is available on their website. There are new maps coming out for road closure, multi-vehicle use roads etc. We will replace those for you next season. Until then, you can find them on Lassen National Forest website. I saved them to my iphone and can use them anywhere, anytime, with or without cell signal.
GALLATIN QUAD MAP LINK
PIKES POINT & THE WEST SIDE SOUTH BASIN QUAD MAP LINK
EAGLE LAKE SPALDING QUAD MAP LINK
TROXEL QUAD MAP LINK
CHAMPS FLAT QUAD MAP LINK
See Lake Conditions for water temps
See Ramp Conditions for launch ramp info.
See Tips and Tricks for ideas & set ups dialed in for fishing Eagle Lake. Most methods are covered. We make no claims of knowing everything about Eagle Lake, but we do know a lot about catching Eagle Lake trout in
ALL EAGLE LAKE, ALL THE TIME