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Lake Berryessa

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I went out to Pope creek for my first time. Had a good day I cought my first catfish at about noon it was a 8 pound catfish nice and fat. Very h... Continued

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Lake Berryessa is a Reservoir in Napa, California.

Have you fished Lake Berryessa? Help your fellow anglers out by giving a fishing report, some fishing tips or general information about Lake Berryessa.

Do you have a question about Lake Berryessa, ask it here.

Lake Berryessa is the largest lake in Napa County, California. This reservoir is formed by the Monticello Dam, which provides water and hydroelectricity to the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The lake is heavily used for recreational purposes and encompases over 20,000 acres (80 km²) when full. The reservoir is approximately 15.5 miles (25 km) long, but only 3 miles (5 km) wide. It has approximately 165 miles (265 km) of shoreline. It has a seaplane landing area that is open to the public. One of the larger islands supported a small plane landing area, but was closed down in the early 1970s after the FAA issued a safety report.

Lake Berryessa is located 70 miles northeast of San Francisco and 40 miles west of Sacramento. Nearest towns are Napa to the southwest or Winters to the east. Nearest highways are state highways 121 and 128.

Fishing Tips, Tactics, How-To info: 

Sunfish are ideal beginner fish exist in high abundance and are easily caught in nearly any shallow cove, weed bed, or dock area. They generally live in small schools, and feed on native flies and small minnows. Bluegill are best caught with a bobber and a small hook holding a piece of nightcrawler or minnow. Although they are most prevalent during the warm summer months, they can be found year-round in most shallow areas (less than 6 feet).

These fish can be hard to find, especially during the summer when they move to deeper water. However, as any angler would report, where there’s one, there are more. Crappie run in schools, making large crappie catches relatively common. Crappie are best caught in the spring, under coverings such as a dock, vegetation, or a fallen tree. For the best luck, try using a red and white mini-jig or a bobber with a minnow to lure these elusive fish.

Trout and Salmon
Traditionally regarded as cold water fish, are inhabitants of the deep, open waters of Lake Berryessa, and can often reach “trophy” sizes of more than 10 pounds (the average size is 2-4 pounds). These fish are best caught by trolling – dragging a spinner or minnow on a line behind a slow moving boat in open water – a method made easier with the help of a downrigger or fish finder. During the spring, trout and salmon swim at depths around 15-20 feet. In the summer they are generally found below 40 feet. Another method used to catch trout or salmon is to drift a minnow, nightcrawler, or salmon eggs in open water using a bobber. Shore fishing has proven less successful for these fish, but it is possible during the spring when the water temperatures are still cool. Fly fishing is rarely practiced at Lake Berryessa, but it is possible in Upper Putah Creek, and is extremely popular below the dam in Lower Putah Creek. Time, patience, and experience are all necessary to catch these fish.

Rainbow trout are the most common trout species; however brown trout (Salmo trutta) and brook trout (Salvenlinus fontinalis) also exist. Landlocked steelhead are native to the region, and spawn in Upper Putah Creek during the spring months. All other trout are stocked annually. Several other types of salmon also exist in the lake: chinook salmon and kokanee which were recently introduced near Markley Cove.

Because of the technique and skill required to catch these fish, and the thrill of hooking a large one, many anglers consider bass to be the ultimate game fish of Lake Berryessa. The largemouth (15 - 20 inches) is slightly larger than the smallmouth (12-18 inches), and both fish spawn in the spring, when they can be found feeding in shallow areas for most of the day. To fish for bass, it is important to know some basic information about their feeding habits. In the summer, bass generally spend their days and nights resting in deeper water, but they move to shallow warm water to feed in the morning and evening. These areas usually have vegetation or other structures that attract minnows, flies, or other small creatures which bass feed on. In addition, these shallow areas tend to be close to the deep waters where bass rest - therefore, many anglers fish for them along points or steep ridges, and the shallow vegetated areas along the edge.

Fishermen often say that rocky points, floating vegetation, docks, or coves filled with trees are prime bass habitats. Another tricky part about bass fishing is finding the right bait. Every angler seems to have their own belief about the best bass lure. The most popular seem to be floating plugs, spinner baits, rattling lures, plastic worms, or a simple live worm or minnow. Whichever bait you use, fishing for bass is sure to be an exciting experience if you keep their feeding habits in mind.

Catfish, the bottom feeders of Lake Berryessa, are abundant and easily caught in nearly every part of the lake. The channel and bullhead catfish (pictured) are the most common species, although the white catfish (Ameiurus catus) also exists. Dead organic matter is the normal diet of catfish. The average size for these fish is 2-4 pounds, however they can grow enormous in the deeper parts of the lake, often exceeding 20 pounds. Many anglers say that catching catfish requires the least skill of any type of fishing. The one method which nearly all anglers use to catch catfish is to simply sink natural bait to the bottom of the lake, keep the line taught, and wait for a bite. The baits most widely used include nightcrawlers, chicken livers, clams, hot dogs, or anything with a strong odor. Placing a small bell or bobber at the end of a taught line, which alerts the angler to the fish strike, makes fishing for catfish a carefree and widely successful experience.

There are a few feeding habits of catfish that an angler should keep in mind. Although they feed all day long, catfish are most active during the night, which is why anglers generally wait until the sun sets to lure these fish in shallow water (10-20 feet). If you do fish for catfish during the day, keep in mind that they will be best found in deeper water (30 feet or more). Whichever way you fish for catfish, you will likely be surprised by the good luck you will have here at Lake Berryessa.

Recreational Activities: 

Nestled between Blue Ridge and Cedar Roughs, east of the Napa Valley, Lake Berryessa offers year-round recreation opportunities. Berryessa's water reaches temperatures of up to 75 degrees in the summer, making it an ideal place for water sports. The Bureau of Reclamation provides two large day use areas (Oak Shores and Smittle Creek), Capell Cove launch ramp, and many smaller dispersed day use areas. The seven resorts around the lake are managed by concessionaires under contract with Reclamation and provide camping, day use and boating facilities.
Reclamation and the California Department of Fish and Game jointly manage a 2,000 acre wildlife area along the east side of the lake. The Monticello Dam area at the southeast corner of the lake is one of the best local birding areas. The best time to visit for the best birding opportunities is in the early spring and late fall during migration and nesting seasons. The grassy hills dotted with oak and manzanita provide excellent opportunities to view eagles, hawks, songbirds, wild turkeys, and deer. Shoreline viewing opportunities may include canada geese, pelicans, great blue herons, western grebes, wood ducks, snow geese, and common loons.

Facilities and Parks: 

Lake Berryessa is a swimming and water skiing site for enthusiasts. The narrow portion of the reservoir, nearest to the Monticello Dam, is referred to as the "Narrows," and is sometimes busy with boaters on holidays and weekends.

Lake Berryessa
Waterbody type: 
United States
Surface area: 
Standard elevation: