Eagle Lake Fishing: Big Trout and Epic Views

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Eagle Lake is abeautiful, far-away and slightly strange jewel in Northern California.

Home to high-alkaline content water and a unique strain of trout known as Eagle Lake rainbow trout, fishing here is almost as epic as the scenery.

Almost any mountain lake has its charms, but the high country around Eagle Lake in Lassen County is exceptionally beautiful.

It’s also a very large lake, which fluctuates in size but at close to 24,000 acres is the second largest natural lake entirely in the state of California.

There are multiple campgrounds scattered around the lake and some pretty incredible trout fishing to be found at each one.

There are some peculiarities to this lake. The alkaline levels are far higher than in the majority of other lakes. Therefore, the fish that thrive in this lake are limited to the Eagle Lake rainbows and some baitfish.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife also has used the Eagle Lake strain of rainbow trout as hatchery brood stock and planted both in Eagle Lake and in other lakes where typical trout don’t do as well but this strain grows quickly and gets to respectable sizes.

(Even though these are a native fish, natural spawning in Pine Creek, the lake’s historical spawning tributary, has diminished due to lower water volumes associated with human activity such as logging.)

The lake record for Eagle Lake trout is over 11 pounds, with several big ones being caught every season.

The fishing season currently runs from Memorial Day Weekend in late May through the end of December each year. Depending on the weather, the opportunity to catch 20 fish in a day is possible, but regulations strictly limit the number you can keep. 

Other fish in the lake include the tui chub, Tahoe sucker, Lahontan red side and speckled dace.

None of these other fish are particularly popular directly with anglers, but they along with plentiful freshwater shrimp provide some excellent buffet action for the big trout in the lake.

Oh, and one more reason to visit Eagle Lake? The eagles, of course.

Who wouldn’t get a massive rush from catching big trout while bald eagles soar majestically overhead?

Rainbow Trout Fishing

Eagle Lake trout are known for their size and aggressiveness. When they hit, you’ll know it.

Active feeders and good fighters, these trout can be a cut above what most rainbow trout anglers have experienced elsewhere.

The Eagle Lake rainbows are the top predators here. Fishing for the apex predator can provide some epic angling.

Heavy, strong fish that will test your drag and your knots can be found around the state, but rarely are they rainbows.

There are several ways to approach these fish, from simple lures to dry flies and streamers. Pick your poison and hit the water. You’re sure to connect with what some anglers compare favorably to steelhead in size and fight.

Approach these trout as you would any other rainbow. Toss a Mepps, Panther Martin or a Rapala.

If fishing from shore, use nightcrawlers and a slip bobber or PowerBait. Grubs work as well. 

Anglers fishing from shore here generally have the best luck along Highway 139. 

You can’t go too wrong if you focus your efforts on the northern end.

Other places to try are Rocky Point and the rock jetty by the marina. East of the Christie Day Use Area can also be super productive.

Fishing from a boat opens up several more hot spots. Try around Troxel Bay, Miner’s Bay and around Eagle’s Nest. Or find the airport and fish along the tules in that area.

A bonus to fishing from a boat is that you can also hit the same areas as the shore anglers, just from the opposite direction.

For boaters, trolling is the most popular approach on Eagle Lake.

It’s common to see anglers using steel line or downriggers to get to the proper depth.

Slow and steady speed really is the key here. Try lures tipped with a grub or nightcrawler chunk.

Using a spinning rod and a Rooster Tail can provide fast action once you locate a concentration of trout.

Schools tend to move throughout the lake, though they stay pretty unpredictable. One day you may find a school in 60 feet of water, and the next day that same school is within wading range of shore.

Trolling with streamers can really boost your chances of landing big fish.

In the spring and early summer, hit the north end of the lake. Bucks Point, Rocky Point, and Troxel Point are all worth checking out before it gets too hot and the fish head into the deeper southern portion of the lake.

There are several underwater springs in the deeper section—troll streamers around the rock piles near Miners Point and Eagles Nest to find trout attracted to the cooler incoming water.

Into the fall as the water temperatures drop, trout will move back up into the top 10 feet or so of the water column and feed heartily, so trollers and bait fishers alike often have excellent success with fairly uncrowded conditions in the cold mountains at over 5,000 feet in elevation.

Ice fishing can become a possibility toward the very closing weeks of the season, if the weather has been cold enough to allow for a safe hard deck before the lake is closed beginning New Year’s Day.

Dropping bait or jigs beneath the ice can result in some of the larger fish caught each year.

Fly Fishing at Eagle Lake

If you’re into fly fishing, you’ll have a great time here. Wading the shallower waters around the shoreline can be super productive.

Use a 5- or 6-weight rod with a 7- to 8-foot 3x to 5x tippet.

Cruise around with your pontoon or float tube and try to use a pattern that mimics the tui chubs, red sides or freshwater shrimp.

Flashy materials and marabou in white, green, brown, and orange all work well. Chuck them out and strip back in or troll around the area. 

Some of the more commonly used flies here are Assassins, Midges, Scuds, and Wooly Buggers. Use standard methods, and you should find success.

A word of caution, this lake frequently gets windy, so stay reasonably close to shore unless you’re into fighting waves as you get blown to the opposite shore.

More Trout Fishing Information

Eagle Lake is such a unique and excellent spot, we’ve placed it on our rundown of best rainbow trout fishing lakes in California.

We give you lots of good ideas for catching Eagle Lake trout in this article, but learn even more trout fishing tips and techniques in our simple guide.

Other Fish

You may have read about prolific largemouth bass action here. That’s 100% true. Just not anymore.

The bass and catfish died out in the 1950s due to the lake’s high alkaline levels.

Since then, there were attempts at other species, but the only one to hold on and produce an excellent fishery is the Eagle Lake trout.

Salmon, bass, cutthroat trout, and more have been tried, but none have been able to gain a foothold.

Planning Your Trip

Eagle Lake is located about three hours from Redding to the west and a little less from Reno, Nevada, and Lake Tahoe to the southeast, or at least five hours driving from San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Susanville is the closest major town, located less than an hour’s drive from the lake. 

Stone’s Landing is a small unincorporated community on the shore of the lake where you can find boat launches and lodging.

There’s something for everyone at Eagle Lake. Water skiing, tubing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding are all popular here.

It’s recommended to get your SUP and water skiing in early, as the afternoon winds can turn the lake too choppy for many water sports.

Off the water, you can watch for wildlife, go hiking and go horseback riding or bring or rent ATVs. Outdoor enthusiasts will love this place.

Bank and Boat Access

One of the greatest things about this lake is how readily accessible it is. The lake is surrounded by a lot of public land in the Lassen National Forest and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Eagle Lake area, so there are access points all around, with several quality boat launches.

Eagle Lake Marina at the southern end of the lake offers a convenience store in case you left anything behind. 

Shore access is abundant. Either side of the lake has easily accessible areas, parks, day-use areas and walk-in fishing, including from Eagle Lake Road on the west and Highway 139 across the northeastern side of the lake. 

Boats can launch at the marina or one of several campgrounds and day-use areas. There are enough ramps around the lake to accommodate busy days without a problem.

Note that the lake is a closed system, without water flowing out, and at times the inflow diminishes enough to lower the lake’s water levels.

Where to Stay

Overnight options of all kinds surround the lake, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding a place to stay as long as you plan.

Showing up anywhere without a reservation is a bold move, especially if it’s as far from home as Eagle Lake. 

There is a resort in Stone’s Landing with RV spots and cabins for rent.

Several campgrounds line the lake, with amenities ranging from full RV hookups to pitching a tent in a communal field.

The Eagle Lake Recreation Area is a good place to start to look for camping and boat launches at the south end of the lake.

Susanville has some hotels to choose from, but the lake is a bit of a drive, though this could be a good home base option if you are fishing multiple lakes in the northeastern California region, including the excellent Lake Almanor and seeing sights including Lassen Volcanic National Park less than two hours to the west.

Susanville also is going to be the closest town with a wide range of services if the small lake store doesn’t have what you need. There are restaurants in Susanville along with grocery stores and places to stock up on fishing gear in case you forget something.

You’re bound to love the area and the scenery and abundant wildlife, including osprey and those namesake bald eagles cruising above the lake looking for dinner.