San Jose and the rest of Santa Clara County are best known as Silicon Valley, but if you want to get bites on your fishing hook rather than bytes in your computer, it’s not a bad place to wet a line.
There are multiple lakes with promising fishing for resident bass and panfish species as well as a few trout spots in this county of nearly 2 million people, which includes some surprisingly wild areas.
While the county doesn’t have much in the way of fishing spots with a statewide appeal, there are something like two dozen smaller to mid-sized lakes and reservoirs that are worth exploring. Most you can drive up to and fish (maybe with a fee), while others take some serious hiking to reach.
Besides San Jose, county residents live in Sunnyvale, Santa Clare, Mountain View, Milpitas, Palo Alto, and other communities. They all are close to many of the fishing spots we name below.
This sunny corner of the Bay Area also is home to Stanford University, Santa Clara University, Winchester House of Mystery, and California’s Great America.
Outdoor enthusiasts who don’t want to travel far may find Black Mountain, Ulistac Natural Area, and several of the lakes and reservoirs we list below to their liking.
After checking out all the fishing spots within Santa Clara County, take note of the “Fishing in Neighboring Counties” section, which will point you to even more fishing opportunities nearby.
This lightly fished spot, mostly for bass, is located in the hills south of San Jose and west of Calero County Park.
This is one of several dams in the region that have been deemed seismically unsafe, and at this writing, it’s awaiting major repairs that are currently on hold while Valley Water works on more pressing dam fixes.
Also, this lake’s fish are contaminated with mercury from historic mining in the area, so release your catch.
This good-sized reservoir near Morgan Hill has traditionally been a good fishery at times for resident bass, catfish and panfish.
However, at this time the reservoir is closed for a very long-term dam project. Don’t bother coming here to fish, likely until something like 2030.
Aviso Marina County Park
There’s a launch that takes boaters into sloughs and eventually out into San Francisco Bay, but there’s not much information about the fishing.
There are warnings about timing the tides well or risk getting stuck, so make sure you know what you are doing here. Kayakers do frequent the backwater areas.
If you can safely get out a way, there likely would be opportunities for striped bass, sturgeon, and various saltwater species.
Here’s the county park’s web page.
This one also falls in line with Almaden and Anderson lakes above, both in that it has a dam that needs fixing and a fish population with unsafe levels of mercury for eating.
Check the Calero County Park website for new information.
Campbell Perc Ponds
These percolation ponds in Campbell at times have been stocked with catchable trout as part of the Fishing in the City program.
But, also, at times these ponds go completely dry and take all opportunity with it.
Basically, if there’s water and fish are freshly planted, you’ll do well. Otherwise, try somewhere else.
This small reservoir west of Morgan Hill has a population of bass, crappie and other warm-water species.
It’s located in a county park of the same name.
Coe (Henry W.) State Park
The majority of the biggest state park in Northern California is located in the rural southeast part of Santa Clara County.
There are no drive-up fishing holes here, but if you are up for a hike (and we mean really up for a hike), this 87,000-acre wilderness of a park holds some surprises.
There are quite a few small lakes within the park, many of which hold bass and panfish in good numbers. The park also lists wild rainbow trout among its species.
You can reach the lakes with hikes from the headquarters, located 13 miles out East Dunne Avenue east of Morgan City. Two other entrances are the Hunting Hollow entrance on Gilroy Hot Springs Road outside of Gilroy and the Dowdy Ranch entrance, a long, bumpy ride up Kaiser Aetna Road from the Pacheco Pass Highway (152). The latter entrance is not only remote but also often closed, so make sure to check beforehand.
While a couple of lakes require round-trip hikes of under 5 miles, Coit and Mississippi lakes on the Santa Clara County side of the park are over 20 miles of hiking there and back from the headquarters.
Even farther out, over on the smaller percentage of the part that stretches into remote western Stanislaus County, are excellent fishing spots like Jackrabbit Lake and Mustang and Kingbird ponds that can be more than 40 miles of round-trip hiking from the main entrance. Those are closer to the Dowdy Ranch entrance if it’s open, but still major hikes.
We suggest you study the Henry W. Coe State Park website and a very good map if planning an adventure here. This isn’t a spur-of-the-moment kind of fishing trip.
Located in Hellyer County Park in San Jose, and in the greenbelt of Coyote Creek, this park pond is often more miss than hit when it comes to fishing.
Trout have at times been stocked here, and that would bring a flurry of good fishing. However, those plantings don’t seem to be a regular or current occurrence.
This stream in Santa Clara County is open to fishing for hatchery-marked trout and steelhead, but wild fish are protected.
Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used to facilitate the safe release of fish.
This fishery, also known as Coyote Reservoir, has populations of bass, catfish, panfish and Eurasian carp.
At times the bass fishery can be among the best in this region, especially in the spring and into early summer before it heats up too much. Most anglers practice catch-and-release for bass to help maintain the quality of the fishery.
The fishing here can suffer during droughts due to low, warm water. At full pool, it’s well over 600 acres.
Trout have been stocked here historically, but no recent plantings have been noted.
Coyote Lake is located in oak and grass hills east of San Martin, south (upstream) of Anderson Lake. It’s in Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch County Park, which can give you the current rules for boating and whatnot.
This former fishing destination is now closed to fishing.
The larger lake in Joseph D. Grant County Park is a smattering of warmwater fish species you can target. It’s sometimes called Grant Ranch Lake.
There also are a couple of smaller ponds in the park where fishing is allowed, but satellite photographs suggest they can dry up or come close to it.
The park is about a half-hour east of downtown San Jose.
See the park’s website for more information.
Bank fishing is available at this Los Gatos-area reservoir, with resident warm-water species including bass found here.
Historically, there have been times that trout have been planted here as well.
You’ll find more details on the Lexington Reservoir County Park website.
Sandy Wool Lake
This 13-acre lake in the foothills near Milpitas is usually the most consistently stocked trout spot in Santa Clara County.
The lake is typically stocked with catchable rainbows several times in the mid-to-late winter months, and trout fishing will be best soon after those plantings.
When the trout fishing fades into spring, the lake’s resident bass, catfish and panfish should be biting.
The heat of summer is pretty tough on the fishing success here.
The lake does not allow power boats and swimming. There are accessible fishing docks and restrooms along with picnic areas.
The lake is located in Ed R. Levin County Park.
Spring Valley Pond
This small pond is located within Ed R. Levin County Park mentioned immediately above in the Sandy Wool Lake entry.
As with Sandy Wool, this smaller pond farther south in the park is on the Fishing in the City list of waters that can be stocked with catchable trout at times.
Stevens Creek Reservoir
Though barely outside of Cupertino, this lake in a county park of the same name has a country feel to it in undeveloped hills.
It’s a pretty spot, with modest opportunities to catch resident fish such as bass, catfish and panfish. The shoreline is steep and brushy, and the lake level can drop quite severely.
If you do catch fish here, you are advised to release them. High levels of mercury have been detected in the resident fish population.
This reservoir near Morgan Hill and Gilroy has a resident population of warm-water fish including bass.
Water levels can suffer mightily here, but in the past, it has offered excellent bass fishing, especially when full or close to it.
Spring is your best bet.
Fishing in Neighboring Counties
Alameda County: To the north, the county that includes Oakland also includes a fair number of excellent places to fish, including Lake Chabot and Lake Del Valle.
San Joaquin County: To the northeast, the county that includes Stockton shares the excellent California Delta and Lake Camanche among its fishing spots.
Stanislaus County: To the east, the area around Modesto has a variety of reservoirs and rivers that can be very good fishing spots at times.
Merced County: To the southeast, the areas around Los Banos and Merced don’t have a ton of fishing holes but have some nice variety, from cold-water trout to big stripers and catfish.
San Mateo County: To the west, this county shares part of the peninsula with San Francisco and has access to great fishing both in the South Bay and out on the Pacific Ocean.