The area around Modesto is famously hot in the summer, but there are a good half dozen spots where both fish and fisherfolks can have a cool experience.
Fishing here centers on rivers in the San Joaquin Valley and several reservoirs built to store irrigation and drinking water in this rich but steaming farming area.
Besides Modesto, residents in the county live in Turlock, Ceres, Riverbank, Oakdale, Patterson, and other areas.
Below we tell you about a generous half-dozen or so spots you can go fishing in Stanislaus County, from streams running through town, to reservoirs a short drive away, to an absolute wilderness you might know little about.
After that, check out the “Fishing in Neighboring Counties” feature you can use to find even more fishing spots nearby.
Coe State Park
Stanislaus County residents may not even realize that there’s an extreme backcountry wilderness in the county, and it’s on the west side.
Granted, the access points to Henry W. Coe State Park are over in Santa Clara County, closer to San Jose than Modesto, but some of the better fishing lakes like Jackrabbit Lake and Mustang and Kingbird ponds are actually in Stanislaus County.
But here’s the rub: The only way to fish them for bass and other species is to hike. A lot. Up to 40 miles round trip. You get the picture.
If you’re still with us here, check out the Coe park’s website for details.
This fairly large reservoir of about 3,800 acres when full is just a half hour or so east of Modesto.
At times, fishing at the reservoir can be quite good. Stanislaus County, which manages the regional park at the reservoir, has regularly restocked it with a variety of fish including rainbow trout and largemouth bass. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife also has stocked trout here at times.
Other fish you might catch here include channel catfish, redear sunfish, and bluegill.
Water levels here will fluctuate, as with most California reservoirs, especially in the late summer and fall until (fingers crossed) rains help replenish the supply.
This lake also is popular with speed boaters, water skiers and swimmers, so it could pay to get out on the lake early during the summer season. Or fish outside the speed zones.
Modesto Reservoir Regional Park also offers plenty of camping, including RV sites, as well as other fun amenities.
See the park’s website for more detailed information.
San Joaquin River
Striped bass and even the occasional passage of Chinook salmon make it up the San Joaquin to about the northern edge of Stanislaus County, but you’re more likely to catch warm-water species such as catfish, bass and panfish in this slow-moving section.
Laird Regional Park southwest of Modesto offers some river access in an area dominated by private farmland.
Much of this tributary stream’s mainstem runs too warm in the valley for much of the year for trout, although the the eastern edge of the county has been stocked some in the past.
More readily, catfish, bass and panfish can be caught, especially if the flow doesn’t get too low.
Striped bass and Chinook salmon will occasionally push their way up the San Joaquin River and turn up the Stanislaus.
Access to the river is avaialble at the Oakdale, Orange Blossom and Horseshoe Road recreation areas and Stanislaus River Parks. Just across the river in San Joaquin County, Caswell Memorial State Park has good access to a lower section.
While there’s much more trout fishing upriver, the stream below La Grange Dam in the far southeastern corner of Stanislaus County has at times the past been stocked with hatchery trout.
To be honest, the forks in the higher elevations outside the county provide better trout fishing, in large part to more consistent trout stocking.
The river below La Grange may also see some winter-run steelhead returns, but the lower, slower sections closer to Modesto are much more likely to yield bass, bluegill and catfish.
Several parks have river access in the lower sections, including Tuolumne River and Ceres River Bluff regional parks.
This is a good-sized but fairly shallow reservoir that gets colder-than-average water from New Melones Lake releases to support stocked of hatchery trout.
Turlock Lake also supports resident populations of bass, catfish, and panfish.
Fishing can be done year-round at this low-elevation spot, although outside temperatures can get mighty uncomfortable for anglers on hot summer days.
There’s a mix of grasslands and oak, cottonwood and willow trees around the lake. Keep clear of poison oak.
The most common access spot, Turlock Lake State Recreation Area, has been subject to closures at times Check the state’s website for current info.
This 2,427-acre reservoir six miles north of Oakdale, and a quick trip from either Modesto or Stockton, at times can offer good fishing for trout as well as warm-water species such as bass, catfish and panfish.
If it’s stocked, trout fishing will be best soon thereafter and in the cooler weather.
Bass and panfish fishing picks up as the water warms through spring and early summer but can slow in the heat of summer. Catfish bite best in the evenings.
The county-operated Woodward Reservoir Regional Park offers camping, boating facilities, and many other activities, including lots of boating and swimming.
Fishing in Neighboring Counties
San Joaquin County: To the north, the Stockton area sits among major fisheries such as Lake Camanche and the incomparable California Delta.
Merced County: To the south, the areas around Merced and Los Banos have a variety of trout fishing, from cold-water trout to big reservoir stripers.
Santa Clara County: To the southwest, the San Jose area has quite a handful of smaller to mid-sized lakes and reservoirs that at times can offer very good fishing.
Alameda County: To the northwest, anglers in the Oakland area have access to San Francisco Bay saltwater fishing as well as several excellent lakes like Lake Chabot and Lake Del Valle.