Lake Del Valle Fishing: Your Guide to Better Catches

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Lake Del Valle is known as a great trout and mixed-bass fishery within easy reach of the Bay Area.

Also known as Del Valle Reservoir or Del Valle Lake, this 700-plus-acre water storage reservoir is located in the Arroyo del Valle just south of Livermore. It’s part of the East Bay Regional Park District.

Although less than an hour away for millions of people, Lake Del Valle remains a top spot for Bay Area anglers.

There are largemouth, striped and even smallmouth bass, plus loads of trout and often good numbers of channel catfish, sunfish and crappie cruising around searching for your bait or lure.

Besides excellent fishing, the 5-mile-long reservoir also offers a variety of other outdoor adventures to keep everyone in the family happy. We’re talking about camping, stand-up paddleboarding, swimming, picnicking, hiking, horseback riding, wildlife watching and more.

There are some fees to fish here, but that money largely accounts for the good fishing as it pays for the regular stocking program. Many fish stocked here are good sized and at the peak of season can be stocked as often as weekly.

With its close location to the Bay Area, this getaway destination is definitely worth checking out.

Trout Fishing at Lake Del Valle

Trout likely draw the most numbers of anglers here. They are planted in catchable sizes from the fall through spring and are often more than willing to bite in cooler weather.

The stocking efforts keep going through early to mid-spring, when the surface temperature gets too warm for prime trout fishing.

Rainbow trout also can provide bigger fish with tasty meals, so at least a few smaller ones get eaten by the big bass and other game fish in the lake.

With the variety of predators in this lake, smaller rainbows don’t stand much of a chance. The bigger ones stick around, though.

In the fall through early spring, shore fishing for ‘bows can be very good. The water is cool, the bait fish are hanging around the edges of the weed beds, and the trout are holding just out from there suspended above deeper water.

Toss a Kastmaster, Panther Martin, Rooster Tail or another lure along those lines.

PowerBait fished under a slip bobber or floating 18 to 24 inches above the bottom to clear the weeds works well, as do nightcrawlers.

Don’t stress too much on your approach. Some of these rainbows are the classic “Oh look, something shiny,” kind of fish that will bite anything.

That’s an excellent plus for introducing kids or other new anglers to the sport. 

Bank fishing at the marina during the cool months, starting in about October or November and going through about mid-May, can be really productive at Lake Del Valley. 

During this same period, boaters trolling with Needlefish or nightcrawlers also can deliver big trout.

Good spots for trout fishing from a boat are found all over, from the inlet to around the dam and through the Narrows.

Fast action can be found throughout the winter and early spring, but be aware that trout fishing slows down as it warms into later spring and summer.

Boaters will have an advantage as trout tend to seek out cooler waters farther from shore. Trolling deeper water at this point can be successful, with some larger fish but likely smaller numbers than the early season.

There have been kokanee and Chinook salmon planted in the past, but they no longer actively plant these fish.

Lake Del Valle has such good trout fishing for much of the year that it’s earned a spot in our Best Rainbow Trout Fishing Lakes in California.

If you are still trying to improve your catches, read through our Trout Fishing: Simple How-To Techniques and Tips.

Del Valle Bass Fishing

Del Valle provides excellent bass fishing, with striped bass and black bass (both largemouth and smallmouth bass) inhabiting the lake.

With the amount of cover found around the lake, it’s the perfect place to target big bass. The largemouth bass and stripers have been doing very well for several years now, and the smallmouth population is growing nicely.

Largemouth Bass

These feisty fish have reached up into the 17- to 18-pound range, although obviously most are far more typical sizes.

Tossing out a topwater and watching as an enormous bass crushes it and slams back into the water is one of fishing’s best feelings. Having a bass over 10 pounds hit like that is just…fantastic.

The wind here blows from north to south most of the time, with warm air pushing the warmer surface water to the southern end of the lake. That also happens to correspond with the same area that is covered in cattails and excellent bass-holding structure.

Springtime will find bucketmouths staging for the spawn. That’s one of the best times of the year to catch big ones.

Just be sure to release them, especially around this time, to ensure a fat and happy fishery going forward.

The usual bass lures including soft plastics, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits will all have times when they entice the bigmouths.

Curious about largemouths in the region? Check out the Best Largemouth Bass Fishing in Northern California.

Smallmouth Bass

Smallies used to be fairly uncommon but are gaining a more significant foothold within Lake Del Valle. There is a wide area of fantastic rocky cover for them, and they’ve really started to thrive.

Fishing for smallies can be epic here. Fish in the 6-pound range are coming to the net, though smallmouth bass around 1 to 2 pounds are more common.

Try your luck in the spring to catch them in spawn. As with largemouths, be sure to put the females back to ensure a good fishery.

Standard cranks and jigs work well, as do natural-colored plastics.

Smallmouth move a bit deeper as the water heats up but can still be readily caught along almost any rocky shoreline or point throughout much of the year.

Getting hooked on smallmouth? Check out Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing in California.

How to Catch Black Bass

Want to catch larger largemouths, strong smallmouths and scrappy spotted bass? A good place to start is our Bass Fishing: Simple How-To Techniques and Tips.

Striped Bass

Striped bass can be found in pretty good numbers here some years, and there are definitely some big ones caught.

Stripers move throughout the lake, and as temperatures start rising, you’ll see boils as they feed on schools of shad.

Check around the Heron Bay area, Lower Narrows and around the Dam to find the better areas on the lake for stripers.

Anchovies are often a good bait choice for striped bass here, and lures such as swimbaits and crankbaits that imitate smaller forage fish are also effective.

Largemouth bass hang around near these same areas to feed as well and will snatch those same lures.

Watch for shad, and the largies and stripers will be there in no time.

Learn more from our complete state guide to stripers: Best Striped Bass Fishing in California

Other Types of Fishing

The great fishing at Lake Del Valle doesn’t end with trout and bass, because catfish and panfish angling can be quite good as well.

Channel Catfish 

Channel cats are regularly planted here, and they’re almost always hungry.

When the bite is on, catching a limit of eating-sized catfish within a few hours is fairly standard, with bigger fish being caught regularly.

Throughout the spring and early summer, the catfish can be found actively searching for dinner. They hang around in the deeper holes around the Heron Bay area, Lower Narrows and the dam.

Shore fishing along the Narrows can be super productive, so definitely consider giving that area a try.

Use a medium-heavy action rod with a 20-pound braid.

Catfish like it stinky, so stinkbaits, chicken livers, raw shrimp, and other baits like these will often do very well here.

More good stuff: Best Catfish Fishing in California and The Best Baits and Techniques to Catch Catfish.

Crappie

Crappie are readily available throughout the lake. Spend some time locating shaded cover, and you’ll likely find crappie, with the bigger ones closing in on the 2-pound range.

Drop a red worm out there under a bobber or fish a crappie jig, and you’ll do well. Move around until you find them, and you’ll have a bucket full of slabs in no time. 

Red worms, crappie jigs, and small lures work well here. Try along the shore on the southern end. They are going to be holding in the shade between 5-15 feet in the spring and fall, then 10-20 feet in the summer heat.

Get your crappie on: Best Crappie Fishing in California and Crappie Fishing: Simple How-To Techniques and Tips.

Bluegill and Sunfish

You’re bound to catch some bluegill in the coves spread throughout the lake.

Set your kids up with a meal worm or redworm under a bobber, and they are sure to have a fantastic time catching dinner. Like crappie, the bigger bluegill and redear here can get into the 2-pound range, so a big slab might surprise you.

Bluegill and sunfish often seek out structure.

The marina is a great place to catch bluegill. They hang out in the shadows under the docks. Toss your line at the dock, then let it sink.

Keep a bit of tension, and you’ll probably feel the hit before you hit bottom.

Learn all the tips and tricks to catching more bluegill and sunfish, including top baits and lures.

Other fish you might hook at Lake Del Valle include common carp and white sturgeon, the latter of which aren’t common have been caught to over 100 pounds.

Planning Your Trip

Lake Del Valle is located in undeveloped hills of southeastern Alameda County, about 10 miles south of Livermore and 40 miles northeast of San Jose.

The reservoir tends to avoid major crowds in the spring and fall, which is perfect for peak fishing.

Lower speed limits also mean power boaters head elsewhere, making this more attractive to anglers.

It’s worth spending the time necessary to get to know this water, and it will definitely pay dividends in the future.

Whether planning for a day or a week, make sure to prepare ahead. There are restaurants and stores in the area if you’d prefer to dine out instead of cooking your catch at camp.

You can hop on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail nearby or instead take a dip in the cooling waters of the reservoir. However, note that swimming is usually available in designated areas in the lake, but closures can occur due to health concerns (such as blue-green algae levels).

Boat and Shore Access

Shore access is easy to find throughout the lake.

Some areas are more challenging to get to, but if you’re up for an adventurous hike, the east side of the lake has some pretty unique spots.

Just be sure to pack a lot of water with you.

Check out Del Valle Marina, where there is also a store, piers and some pretty good fishing for bluegill.

There is a six-lane boat launch to get you out on the water. The lake has a 10 mph limit, so don’t go jetting around.

If you don’t own a watercraft, private vendors have rental boats ranging from motor boats to kayaks.

Where to Stay

An outing to Del Valle Regional Park will be a day trip for many, but it also has options for overnighters.

Lake Del Valle has a large campground located at the southern end of the lake. There are several RV hookups with over 100 standard camping spots. Several group spots are available.

Livermore has hotels and other accommodations available about 25 minutes away, though you shouldn’t have a tough time finding somewhere to camp in the area. Just make sure to plan ahead.

If you’re visiting the area and fishing different spots, the Bay Area has a surprising number of very good fishing lakes nearby, including Los Vaqueros Reservoir, San Pablo Reservoir and Lake Chabot.