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Checklist for Choosing Your Next Fishing Lake

Posted: 09.25.2017

kayak fishing I go to the old Honey Hole? Or do I take a chance and try out someplace new all together?

Choosing a Lake
By: Kevin Hofer

One of my favorite ways to get out on the kayak and do some fishing is to explore new waters. Over the past 6-7 years I have fished close to 200 different lakes in California. Being blessed to live in an area that has lakes scattered all over the Sierra Nevadas , the valley foothills, and throughout the coastal ranges makes it possible. With so many lakes within a short drive , how do you choose where to go?
This decision can be very difficult to make sometimes, do I go to the old Honey Hole? Or do I take a chance and try out someplace new all together?  
First thing I do before any trip is I choose a general area based on the time of year.. Too much snow- fish down low in the valley foothills. No snow and hot below then upper sierras good to go! Next I get on the internet and do some quick research on the lakes in the area to see what species they contain and see what the scenery looks like in the area. There have been times where I have chosen a lake purely for the scenery, waterfalls cascading off of the granite and a skyline filled with snow capped mountains sometimes outweighs a place with good fishing!
If the scenery ranks lower than fishing, then a little more research is what I do next. So once I’ve chosen a general area and got a list of lakes and the species they contain, I choose what fish I want to target. If you do not already know then research that species and take notes on their habits for that time of year. I.E. will they be in the shallows spawning, will they be deep trying to find cooler more oxygenated water, what is their main forage etc.
Once I know what I want to catch and a couple options on where to chase them, if I have the time then I will just fish them all. If time is limited and want to narrow it down further, then time for a bit more research. Try to find any info you can on the internet about the lakes, even old fishing reports can be useful and give clues to the health of the fishery. Fishing an obscure lake off the beaten path where no info can be found online, time to send some emails. Get the contact info for the Fish and wildlife warden for the area.. send him an email and ask about the lake, you can get great info this way. Another good person to send an email to is the state biologist who manages the district you plan to fish. They can offer a wealth of knowledge and are happy to share and also hear your stories about the lakes.
Even with all the research, emails and studying, sometimes the fishing is just tough! Its times like these that you will thank yourself for choosing a lake with great scenery and a chance at some nice fish. Kick back and enjoy the view, maybe the evening bite will turn on.