Lake Amador Fishing: Catch Giant Trout, Big Bass & More

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Lake Amador offers some of the best trout fishing in Northern California, thanks in large part to having its own busy hatchery operation.

All those stocked trout keep the fishing excellent at the 400-acre lake during the cooler months, despite the reservoir being an easy drive into Amador County from Sacramento and Stockton.

So expect crowds but also expect a reasonable shot at limiting on trout, and perhaps landing a giant along the way.

Anglers have been targeting Lake Amador for years in hopes of landing an elusive 20-pound trout or a 40-pound catfish, which are in the neighborhoods for lake records of both species.

The trout size, especially, can be attributed to the impressive planting schedule at the lake.

The fishing doesn’t stop with big trout and catfish, as Lake Amador also can offer excellent angling for trophy bass and stringers of panfish.

Located in a spectacular valley and surrounded by forest and wildlife, this place will entertain the entire family for days on end.

There are slides, swimming ponds, kayaks, and all sorts of other recreational activities to dive into. The lake has a speed limit, so this you don’t have to worry about the power squad that roar across many reservoirs. 

Be sure to check in at the lodge to pay the fees for fishing and to ask where they’re biting. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable, possibly because they are the ones running the hatchery.

Trout Fishing at Lake Amador

First off, consider ring heavier tackle than you usually would for trout fishing. Lake Amador will test your line and knot strength, for sure.

Be ready for at the net heroics as they come up to the surface and get their second burst of energy. A good 8lb test line should do the trick. Leave the 4 lb line at home if you expect to land trout in the double digits.

Standard stocking at this lake means large fish in large numbers.

Lassen and Donaldson variety rainbows as well as hybrid rainbow-cutthroat trout “cutbows” are stocked frequently from when the water cools sometime in October through April each year, adding up to over tens of thousands of pounds of trout each season. Brown trout have been planted in the past.

The typical cool season trout plants happen weekly and as often daily at times, with 1,000 fish often planted at a time to continuously boost the fishing prospects. These planters range from dinks to giants comparable to steelhead and salmon in size.

The Donaldson trout, which behave differently than the cutbows and the Lassen rainbow trout in the lake because they cruise the shoreline reasonably close to the surface in cold weather.

These predators are constantly on the lookout for baitfish like threadfin shad, and they will aggressively take down a Kastmaster in silver/gold combo, rainbow trout color, or metallic perch.

Lake Amador offers enough baitfish that the trout here can get gigantic. The current rainbow record is over 19 pounds. That’s a beast.

Once you get to the lake and are ready to fish, head out to the dam area and either troll with Excels, Needlefish or Mag Predators. The success rate tends to be pretty high with those during the best times of year.

PowerBait in chartreuse & rainbow, fluorescent red, and sherbet are the go-to flavors that they seem to like at Amador. Berkeley trout worms and mice tails are always a good option as well. 

Kastmasters are popular, and other casting lures such as Panther Martins and Rooster Tails work great at times in Jackson Creek and the Carson Arm. Those areas are known for the biggest trout, as is the center of the lake.

Target trout from late fall through early May from shore, or if in a boat, by toplining (trolling without downriggers, so the bait stays relatively shallow).

The fishing pier is perfect for getting you over deeper water if landlocked. It extends out over 100 feet.

Once it warms up, the trout go deep. The trout aren’t easy to target in the summer, though it’s possible to catch them, but success rates tend to plummet in hot weather.

But you’ll probably have more action going for the other big fish in the lake. Bass, catfish and panfish bite well in warm weather.

One side note here is the lake record for cutbows is over 20 pounds. These hybrids really get big. Luckily, you can target them mostly the same as rainbows.

Fly fishing for trout can lead to an epic trip.

Think streamers and woolly buggers. Early mornings in the fall are the absolute best for flies.

Set out in your tube or ‘toon and chuck some smaller flies with a nice hopper or the like as an indicator four feet up or so from your small pattern.

It’s not unheard of to hook up with two at once. Good luck getting them both to the net, though.

All of that catching has landed Lake Amador on our list of Best Rainbow Trout Lakes in California.

Be sure you have all the advantages by reading through our top trout fishing techniques and tips.

Bass Fishing

Giant trout got that way by eating smaller trout and shad. It turns out the largemouth bass in Lake Amador have done the same thing.

While the numbers don’t compare to the trout, the size and availability of the bass make this a lake worth visiting and in fact have landed it among the Best Largemouth Bass Fishing in Northern California.

Big bass are caught year-round, with the summer months being particularly good.

Since the lake is open 24/7, you can wet a hook at night when it’s not so hot. The bass will love you for it. Well, maybe you’ll love them for it, anyway.

Early spring through early summer can provide spectacular bass fishing from the shore. Boats find that casting in along the shoreline produces the best catches during the early season.

The same strategy works in the summer through fall, though switch from day to night, and you’ll be catching them when they venture into the shallows to hunt.

Use anything that resembles a rainbow trout or a crawfish. The lake has a decent population of crawdads, so the bass are often keyed in on them.

While at this writing the bass population isn’t quite what it once was, it’s still better than average. Give it a go and you might catch a trophy.

Before you pack the boat, read our simple how-to tips and techniques for catching more bass.

Catfish Fishing

Channel catfish are always fun to catch, but have you tried your hand with blue cats? Lake Amador offers ample opportunity to catch both.

Rumor has it that an angler caught a 26-pound blue catfish while fly-fishing from a float tube. That would work both the arms and legs. Imagine being drug through all of cat cove in a float tube.

Targeting these giants with bait can be even more productive. Catfish close to 40 pounds have been caught recently.

In the late spring through late fall, catfish are active and feeding. Target them in 15 feet of water or less, and use chicken livers, stink baits, anchovies or shad.

In the late spring/early summer, cats are going to school up, meaning if you catch one, you’re bound to catch several more.

The coves around the north side of the lake are particularly good for catfish, so spend time fishing in that area.

Blue cats tend to go deeper than channel cats, so look for them out a bit farther in the summer.

If you’re catching trout, you’re too deep; if you’re catching channel cats, you’re too shallow. The same baits as channel cats will work well here.

Blues love them some anise in this lake.

Take your stink bait and dress it up with some anise dip for the best chance of catching one. Krill paste has been known to work as well, though reportedly not as successfully as anise.

This is a very good lake for whisker fish, which is why it’s earned an honorable mention on our rundown of Best Catfish Fishing Lakes and Rivers in California.

To increase your odds of catching your share of these tasty fish, read Catfish Fishing: Simple How-To Techniques and Tips.

Crappie Fishing

Everybody wants to catch a slab. Crappie in Lake Amador are abundant and big.

Like other fish in the lake, crappie benefit from ample cover, excellent forage options and often superb conditions.

Recent catches on the lake have been as high as the 2- to 3-pound range, using the usual crappie fishing techniques.

Surprisingly, a fair number of crappies also hit PowerBait. Anglers targeting trout in the shallower waters end up catching more crappie than trout some days. 

Focus your efforts on any shaded areas or right above drop-offs.

Much more: Find the very best crappie fishing lakes in California and also learn more tips and techniques for catching crappie.

Bluegill and Sunfish Fishing

The fishing pier at Lake Amador is often the go-to fishing spot for big bluegill.

It’s also great for pumpkinseeds. These beautiful but often smaller sunfish here do well, though they fall prey to the bass and bigger trout of the lake, so they keep to the shadows.

Small jigs tipped with a worm or mealworm will get them these panfish going, and filling a bucket doesn’t take long in the right spot.

While there are some bigger bluegill in the lake, you’ll mostly find average-sized fish, but a lot of them.

Bluegill and sunfish fishing is underrated but often a blast if you go about it the right way.

Planning Your Trip

Stockton is an hour southwest of Lake Amador. Sacramento is an hour northwest. That hour is worth the drive, or even the two hours it will take you from the Bay Area.

Camping, swimming, sight-seeing and wildlife watching are all great reasons to come, but the fishing is the clincher.

There are plenty of options here to keep the entire family entertained, even if they don’t fish.

A water slide is set up on the beach to take into the swimming pond, and there are plenty of toys to rent at the marina for everyone.

There are fees assessed to access the lake and to fish, which of course is how the Amador funds its high levels of fishing success.

Check the Lake Amador website for current fees and other information. 

Boat and Shore Access

The Lake Amador Resort marina has a great boat launch with access to the lake, even at very low water, which is a common occurrence at Lake Amador.

Between the ramp and available rental boats, you are almost guaranteed access out on the lake.

Remember that there’s a speed limit on the water, so you’ll want to be aware of that and save the water skiing and Jet Skis for another spot. Check at the marina for more boating-related information.

Shore access also is plentiful, with more than 13 miles of shoreline to explore.

There’s also a fishing pier that extends 100 feet from shore. You’ll be sure to find some catchable-sized fish out that far on the water.

Where to Stay

Lake Amador Resort has a large campground that is well maintained. The sites are pretty secluded and offer some privacy. There are also RV spots that have full hookups, but note that the RV park can fill up so book ahead and don’t just show up.

In the surrounding area, you’ll find other campgrounds, hotels, vacation rentals and all the services you could need. Everything is readily available within a 20-minute drive, from bait shops to casinos.

Restaurants can be found nearby, and if you’re planning to camp, you’ll find markets and grocery stores located a short distance from the lake.

Lake Amador also is close to other popular fishing lakes, especially Pardee Reservoir immediately to the south and the jumbo-sized Camanche Reservoir to the southwest.

Spend a few days here, and you’ll see why Lake Amador is such a popular fishing hole. Give it a try. You might set a new lake record.

Find more fishing spots in Amador County