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Outdoors: Go Fish!

Hook a whopper at one of the East Bay's great lakes


It is often said that a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work. But with all the angling opportunities available right here in the East Bay, you’re not likely to encounter a bad day of fishing. Here are six beautiful spots to cast your line—and reel in a big one.

Lafayette Reservoir
Lafayette Reservoir is small—126 acres—and convenient—located only a few blocks from downtown Lafayette. Pedal- and rowboats are available for rent ($15 per hour, $35 per day). Private sailboats, canoes, kayaks, and electric motorboats are allowed, but only if they are small enough to fit on top of a car, ensuring a low-key atmosphere that’s perfect for a day of fishing with your kids. Trout are planted from October until June. Fishing tends to be best in late winter and early spring—try the South Cove. When the summer heat arrives, go for bluegill, bass, and catfish. Bring your own rod and tackle. 3849 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 284-9669, www.ebmud.com/services/recreation/east_bay/lafayette.

Lake Chabot
This 315-acre lake near Castro Valley is stocked with trout (record catch: more than 21 pounds) and catfish (record: 35 pounds) and also supports a healthy population of largemouth bass (record: more than 17 pounds). Fishing is great at Coots Landing, about a mile down the West Shore trail, from either a boat or the shore. Private boats are allowed if they can be transported without a trailer. Rentals of rowboats, canoes, kayaks, pedalboats (all $20 per hour, $38 per day), and electric motorboats ($21 per hour, $50 per day) are available—and are half price Tuesdays through Thursdays. Rod and reel rentals are available for $6. 17600 Lake Chabot Rd., Castro Valley, (510) 247-2526, www.norcalfishing.com/chabot.html

Lake Del Valle
If you want to take a big motorboat out on the water, 750-acre Lake Del Valle is the place. The lake has a good ramp, and the only boating restriction is the 10 mph speed limit. Rentals are available, ranging from $55 to $135 per day. Trout are stocked during the winter and catfish during the summer. For a change of pace, you can also go after striped bass. Get your lines wet in the Narrows and down near the dam for the best catch rates. Rods and reels are available for $20 per day. For $30, get a package that includes a rod, reel, daily Lake Del Valle permit, hooks, weights, swivels, and night crawlers. 7000 Del Valle Rd., Livermore; for the marina, (925) 449-5201, www.rockymountainrec.com; for the East Bay Regional Park District, (925) 373-0332, www.ebparks.org

Los Vaqueros Reservoir
Fishing at Los Vaqueros isn’t for the faint of heart; the lake is enormous (1,500 acres), and high winds and extreme summer heat can be problematic. However, the quality of the fishing and the beauty of the scenery make a trip worth the challenge. Trout are active during the colder months, but the East County heat means that during the summer, the best fishing is for catfish and bass, including large striped bass (record: more than 17 pounds). If you’re not getting any bites, sit back and enjoy the view of more than 19,000 acres of protected watershed, or scan the sky for the many eagles that call this area home. No private boats are allowed, but motorboat rentals are $25 per hour or $65 per day, and are half price Tuesdays through Thursdays. Rod and reel rentals are free with a $20 deposit. Marina access is from the south entrance. 9990 Los Vaqueros Rd., Byron, (925) 371-2628, www.norcalfishing.com/losvaq.html

San Pablo Reservoir
Tom Stienstra of the San Francisco Chronicle ranks 866-acre San Pablo Reservoir as one of the top-10 fisheries in the entire state for both the quantity and size of its trout. Sink your lines deep if you want to go after one of San Pablo’s 20-plus pound lunkers, or chase one of the other monsters the lake has to offer; record catches include a catfish that exceeded 31 pounds and a 105-pound sturgeon. San Pablo Reservoir has a nice marina and boat ramp, and allows gasoline-powered motorboats (four-cycle, low-emission engines only). Rowboat rentals are $12 per hour, $34 per day; basic motorboats are $23 per hour, $56 per day. A beginner’s special ($39.95 for rod, reel, tackle pack, and two-hour motorboat rental) is available on Thursdays. The reservoir is open from mid-February through October. Those wary of crowds may want to avoid three-day weekends during the summer. 7301 San Pablo Dam Rd., El Sobrante, (510) 223-1661, www.norcalfishing.com/sanpablo.html

Shadow Cliffs
One thing parents often overlook when taking their kids fishing is that the art of angling requires patience—a quality that often eludes youngsters. The solution? No, not Ritalin. Shadow Cliffs. This man-made Pleasanton lake is small (80 acres) but is still stocked with trout—including Mt. Lassen Fish Farm’s once-a-springtime delivery of “thunder trout,” a hard-fighting variety that gets local fishermen’s hearts thumping. The lake also allows swimming and even has a waterslide nearby for when your kids need to work off some pent-up energy. Bring your own rod and tackle, but boat rentals are available (call for rental rates for pedalboats, rowboats, and electric motorboats). 2500 Stanley Blvd., Pleasanton, (925) 846-3000, www.ebparks.org/parks/shadow.htm

Tips for Getting Started

  • Get a license. 2007 licenses cost $12.10 for one day and $37.30 for the season (children under 16 do not need one), and they’re available at most marinas and sporting goods stores.
  • Most lakes charge fees for access and permits. Expect to spend $4–$10 per person.
  • Beginner’s kits for children are available at most sporting goods stores and usually cost between $10 and $20.
  • Power Bait and night crawlers (that’s right, worms!) make the best bait. Rapalas are often cited as the best artificial lures.
  • If you are interested in catch-and-release fishing, use artificial lures; fish are far more likely to swallow a baited hook.
  • The limit at most Bay Area lakes is five fish per person. Always check the most recent rules and regulations.
  • The best fishing is usually around first and last light. It’s never too early to get on the water during the summer.
  • One last word: sunscreen. �¡

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