Lake Camanche has fantastic fishing, incredible scenery and abundant wildlife.
This lake is close to Stockton and Lodi, meaning it gets its fair share of usage, but don’t let that steer you away from what could be a great trip.
Lake Camanche is named after the small town that is now resting among the boulders and mine tailings that provide epic cover for the trout, bass, catfish and crappie that call the lake home.
The big reservoir very often called Camanche Lake or Camanche Reservoir.
Stocking takes place often and is partially funded by the extra fees Lake Camanche charges to fish. You’ll need to pick up the permit to fish in either of the recreation areas.
Lake Camanche is a great destination to bring your family and create a great fishing story for years to come — particularly if you catch a 15-pound rainbow or largemouth bass.
Lake Camanche Bass Fishing
For many anglers, several species of black bass are the main draw at Lake Camanche.
There are largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass cruising around.
The crazy amount of prime habitat here and the massive number of threadfin shad around mean only one thing — these bass get big.
Spotted bass and largemouth bass are found throughout the lake in good numbers.
Smallmouth bass are among the species that have taken up residence at Camanche, but most reports indicate there are few enough that they offer little to no action, other than the occasional surprise catch for a fisherman expecting largies or spots.
Largemouth bass are readily available at Lake Camanche. The dense cover and high numbers of baitfish in the lake provide bass the perfect habitat to grow big — and they do grow big.
Start your search for largies in mid-spring. You’ll have your best chance of finding them in 10-20 feet of water holding around cover.
As the water starts to warm in the early summer, the bass move deeper. Search for them between 20 and 45 feet deep.
Throughout the heat of the summer, the bass stay deep and don’t come back into the shallower areas until fall.
There’s a good chance of catching them if you go deep, but it’s easier to target other types of fish during the summer.
Fall can provide some epic days on the water. Show up early in the morning with a buzzbait in the right spot, and you’re sure to see some bass smash your rig.
Fishing slows again as the water cools into the winter months. Try your luck on warmer days that might trigger bass to move shallower, especially in late winter as the spawning season gets closer.
Target your search along the edges of the lake around the rocky cover and sunken bushes.
If you aren’t finding them power-fishing with crankbaits or spinnerbaits, switch over to a finesse setup. Senkos and Baby Brush Hogs often work well here.
Fish the points and bays around the lake, focusing on the cover.
Both Big and Little Hat Islands have some near-perfect areas to target. In fact, the lake record came out near Little Hat on a crankbait.
Several bass tournaments are held each year on Lake Camanche. Some of these contents come with pretty big purses, so if you’re up for a challenge, check them out.
Camanche Lake’s resident bass population is supplemented with some stocks of fingerling Florida-strain bass, which are the strain responsible for California’s near-world-record-busting bass in other lakes.
With its strong numbers of fish and occasionally a huge bass pulverizing your lure, Lake Camanche is among the best largemouth bass fishing lakes in Northern California.
Spotted bass are everywhere you find largemouth bass in Camanche. The underwater structure of the lake provides the perfect habitat for spots.
Submerged settlements, bridges, mines, rockpiles and trees are scattered throughout the water, meaning perfect bass cover to target.
Shore fishing for bass works well in the spring and early summer, but throughout the summer and early fall, you’ll have more luck in a boat.
During the summer months, bass are going to be sitting in deeper water. In a lot of cases, they will be stacked up in a group.
At Lake Camanche, that might mean catching both largies and spots. They hang out together in solid numbers.
Use the same techniques that are working for largies, and you’ll undoubtedly bring a few to the net.
As the water heats up, search the deeper channels for a chance. A better tactic may be to target channel cats during the hotter months.
How to Catch Bass
Learn all of the best methods with Bass Fishing: Simple How-To Techniques and Tips.
Trout Fishing at Lake Camanche
Are you looking for a great time targeting trout? Lake Camanche is your place.
Trout are big here, with fish in the 5- to 6-pound range not uncommon. Deeper channels and an overabundance of baitfish and other forage opportunities let these fish grow big and get there fast.
Rainbows have been planted in the lake since the 1980s. We’re talking tens of thousands of pounds of trout a year, and some holdover brown trout have been caught here and there. Lightning trout (a golden-hued rainbow) are included in the mix with larger numbers of typical rainbows.
The lake also has a variable population of kokanee salmon, though not in great numbers despite some previous efforts to establish these land-locked sockeye salmon in the reservoir.
Starting in the early fall and continuing until about the middle of May, Lake Camanche offers anglers the opportunity to catch rainbows from the boat or from shore.
Once the waters cool enough, trout like to cruise the lake just a few feet below the surface.
When the water warms up, they dive to around 45 feet or more to find cooler water, but they can be brought up by trolling along the channels and open deeper waters of the main lake.
Work your way from the North Shore boat launch to the dam, trolling at typical speeds, and you’re sure to bring in one or two most days. Other days the same route will limit you out in a matter of hours.
Bank fishing in the cooler months can bring some big trout to the net. PowerBait is the most common bait, though nightcrawlers, grubs, mealworms, and redworms all work well but may also attract the attention of the variety of other fish in the reservoir.
The trout here tend to become more active when it’s overcast or windy. That can be challenging for bank anglers if they set up on the wrong shoreline, but luckily the lake has plenty of other spots to choose from.
Trolling between the islands in the clearer water can bring fast action. Try using Needlefish, Kastmasters, Humdingers and good ol’ PowerBait or nightcrawlers.
If you’re not getting any action, there’s always the trout pond at the South Shore Campground.
We hear there are some colossal trout in there sometimes, so it’s not just for kids (or so they say…).
If the rainbow trout aren’t biting here, there’s a good chance their hitting nearby at Lake Amador or one of the other spots in our run-down of Best Rainbow Trout Fishing Lakes in California.
Need some pointers to net more rainbows? Read through our Trout Fishing: How-To Techniques and Tips.
Crappie can be found throughout Lake Camanche. They hold near the submerged cover and typically like shaded areas.
Use an ultralight setup and search for a school of them.
Crappie jigs and grubs work well, as do mealworms.
These little slabs can put up a huge fight if using light gear. Once you find a school of them, you can get a bucket filled up quickly.
Crappie can be a frustratingly cyclical fish. Some years they are hard to find, while other years they seem to be everywhere. Show up in the spring or early summer in one of the latter, and Camanche can simply be outstanding for crappie.
Night-fishing can be awesome for crappie. Use a specially designed light to bring the bugs and minnows in close, and the crappie are likely to soon follow. Then it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.
Lake Camanche reportedly has both black crappie and white crappie.
Channel Catfish Fishing
Imagine getting to the lake only to find that it’s hot, the water temperature is above 72, and nothing much wants to bite.
Well, that’s the perfect time to grab some strong-scented bait and head to the cliffs on Lake Camanche’s south shore.
Big channel catfish cruise around this area and are readily available, though they do prefer the cooler evenings and nighttime.
Consider camping out and fishing all night if cats are your primary goal.
You might also be interested in … Catfish Fishing: Simple How-To Techniques and Tips and Best Catfish Fishing Lakes and Rivers in California.
Planning Your Trip
Camanche Reservoir is a quick 45-mile drive from Stockton and about 55 miles from Sacramento.
Nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills, Lake Camanche is a beautiful, well-maintained lake with plenty of activities for you and your family to enjoy a weekend or an extended stay.
Bring the family along for some adventures that everyone will remember for years to come.
Try out the trout pond with your little ones, or stay at the South Shore campgrounds to watch some movies at the amphitheater during the summer.
There’s always plenty to do at this popular destination, whether you go for the day or turn it into a camping adventure.
Boat and Shore Access
Lake Camanche is big, topping off at over 7,500 acres when full or close to it (though drought years won’t see anywhere near that much water). There are over 50 miles of shoreline at full pool at the reservoir, which impounds the Mokelumne River.
It also has two marinas that offer all the amenities you need, from snacks to the bait. The North and South Shore recreation area marinas have easy-to-use multilane launches that are available year-round.
Rental boats are also available at both marinas, though booking well in advance is advised if you don’t want to be left high and dry and fishing from the shore.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with the current regulations for the lake so you can make the most of your fishing trip.
There are areas with posted speed limits of 5 mph to better accommodate angling, while power water sports are very popular here when the temperatures rise.
Depending on the water levels, shore fishing can be fantastic. With the lake being open all year, bank anglers can expect to catch everything from rainbows to crappie across the seasons.
Where to Stay
There are several tent and RV camping sites around Lake Camanche.
Both North and South Shore have sites with direct access to the lake, along with all the amenities you could think of for a campground.
Hot showers, laundry facilities, and full hookups are all available.
The North Shore facilities have a café open year-round along with an ice cream parlor.
South Shore has the trout pond, a snack shop, and summer movie festivals. Both North and South have great equestrian camping as well.
If you’d prefer to stay indoors, there are cottages, cabins, hotel-style rooms, and several vacation rentals around the lake. You’re sure to find something that will work for the entire group.
Lake Camanche is an excellent getaway for anglers of all skill levels and looks to continue its epic bass and trout fishing for years to come.
A good source for visitor information is the Lake Camanche Recreation Company’s website.