I was fortunate enough to live in the Bay Area for a year, while I was attending San Francisco State, and one thing I loved about living in San Francisco was all of the things to do there.
The nightlife was amazing. The entertainment and music scene was second to none.
But outside of a few local surf spots, there weren’t a ton of outdoors opportunities that I learned of while I was up there.
At the same time, I was attending school and was a young, dumb kid at the time, so I probably spent more time seeking out trouble than I did good fishing spots while I lived in the city.
That said, I’ve done plenty of fishing in the Bay Area since my college days, and these are some of my favorite freshwater getaways if you’re ever looking to do some freshwater fishing.
South Bay is pretty fortunate because it has some nice fishing opportunities and lakes. The best bet is to target rocky points with streamers and poppers for bass. The narrows can also be a nice place to strip a streamer in hope of running into a school of bass. If you’re looking for some trout nearby, give Coyote Creek a shot below Anderson Dam.
My friends had always talked about Lakie Barryessa for fishing in the Bay Area, but until I went there one summer, I didn’t realize how big (and luxurious if you look at the resorts) the lake was.
While the Florida-strain bass get most of the credit here, what people don’t always realize is that there are trout in the 2- to 5-pound range in this larger fishery as well, so don’t underestimate the rainbows on this water. There are also a few feisty smallmouth here and there, so give yourself a shot at a slam when you’re on Berryessa by throwing streamers that mimic the baitfish these three species are gorging on.
Crappie fishing is also pretty good in the late spring before the lake gets over-run by pleasure boaters. And smallmouth fishing gets going even earlier in the year, which makes the lake a true year-round fishery considering a majority of the trout stocks come in the cooler months.
This is more of an urban lake, but the 300-plus lake has plenty of Florida-strain largemouth and can offer some decent shoreline fishing when crowds are down. To the surprise of nobody, Bass Cove is one of the better areas for bass fishing, while trout can be had on minnow look alikes.
Now this lake is far from gin-clear, but it’s one of the better lakes for largemouth in the area thanks to the fact that it’s a natural lake filled with larger, Florida-strain bass that can push double digits. Clear Lake also offers some diversity that the other lakes don’t, with deeper water between Lakeport-Nice-Lucerne, and two smaller bays connected to Soda Bay via the Narrows at Horseshoe Bend.
Dal Valle Lake
Trout are the main draw here, at least from my perspective. Streamers are great for big trout, particularly in the creek channel near the dam. Striped bass have also been known to cruise those same channels, so it’s always a good idea to use a good-sized rod when flicking a streamer on the Dal Valle.
Indian Valley Reservoir
One of my favorite Northern California Lakes is Indian Valley Reservoir. This is a big lake that’s located at an elevation of over 1,400 feet with depths to 120 feet, so you know this lake holds some lunkers. Thanks to the North Fork of Cache Creek, the Indian Valley also has a few trout to speak of if you know where to find them. That same northern portion of the lake also has a good crappie population, so keep that in mind as well. It’s also a good float tubing lake if you are into belly boating.
I wasn’t going to include Lake Merced on my list, because it’s not really known as a fishing destination being right next to San Francisco State University, but I can attest to the fact that there’s some bass in there.
Not to be confused with the Merced River, which is located near Yosemite, Lake Merced is small at about 350 surface acres, but bass and panfish aren’t hard to come by there if you downsize your flies and use light lines.