Davis Lake, Calif. offers quality rainbow trout fishing | NevadaAppeal.com

Davis Lake, Calif. offers quality rainbow trout fishing

Don Quilici
Nevada Appeal Outdoors Editor

If you are looking for some quality rainbow trout fishing at this time of the year that is reasonably close to Carson City, you might want to give Davis Lake a try.

How to get there:

For those who have never been to Davis Lake, it is located seven miles north of Portola, Calif.

You can reach the lake by taking U.S. 395 north from Carson City to Hallelujah Junction, which is about 20 miles north of Reno.

At that junction, take Calif. S.R. 70 west (toward Quincy) for about 25 miles until you reach the intersection with Grizzly Road. That junction will be just past a State rest area on your left-hand side and then a cemetery on your right.

Then, just take Grizzly Road north until you reach the lake.

This will be about an 80-mile drive (one-way) of about 1.5 hours driving time from Carson City.

The Lake:

Davis Lake is located at an elevation of 5,800 feet in the Plumas National Forest.

It has a surface size of about 4,000 acres, a capacity of about 84,000 acre feet (when full), and when full it has a maximum depth of about 100 feet.

If you would like to do so, you can drive completely around the lake in any type of vehicle on a combination of a paved road and a well maintained gravel road, which can be very dusty.

Area fishing conditions:

As a reminder of what is happening at the present time:

The West Carson River, Calif., near Woodfords, is super low and offers only planters to catch.

The East Carson River, Calif., near Markleeville, has more water and also offers planters.

Davis Lake is one of the few locations in this general area that currently offers some pretty decent trout fishing.

Heenan Lake, Calif. will close for the 2008 season on Oct. 26.

Lahontan Reservoir is almost bone dry as is Caples Lake, Calif.

Lake Tahoe is rated as slow for the deep-water boaters.

Indian Creek Reservoir is both low and a yucky color.

Pyramid Lake is rated very slow for shore and boat fishermen, even more so for the boaters.

Red Lake is slow and still a yucky color.

Topaz Lake is closed until Jan. 1.

So, with that said, here is some information about Davis Lake:

Launch ramps:

You can launch a boat at three different locations:

Honker Cove on the southeast end of the lake, via a paved road.

Lightning Tree at the northeast end of the lake, via a paved road.

Old Camp 5 on the west side of the lake by a combination of a gravel and a short paved road.


Try the entire length of the lake, along the east side, from the north end to the dam, or around the big island or south of the big island.

You can troll, deep or shallow, with spoons, spinners, bait or flies.

Some trollers use silver flasher blades (Dodgers or Ford Fenders) with either nightcrawlers, spoons, spinner lures or artificial flies.

Some of those folks even use live grasshoppers or crickets.

My favorite combination of time, method and location is to troll in the early morning hours with silver flasher blades with either nightcrawlers or Daredevil-type lures, around the big island.

Downriggers will get you down into the deep water, near the south end, and you can have good success, trolling at a depth of about 15-25 feet at the end of the lake.

The north end is shallower and is more conducive to shallow trolling with flies or small lures.

By late morning, the wind usually begins to pick up, out of the west, and it gets difficult to maintain a normal trolling pattern.

Shore fishing:

The west side (the Old Camp 5 area is especially good) can be darn good for either shore fishing, chest waders or fly fishermen in float tubes.

Try those areas where the bottom drops off and then fish at those drop-offs.

Bait fishermen use mainly Power Bait (orange or Chartreuse are favorite colors) or they will try nightcrawlers or red Salmon eggs.

Some use a combo of Power Bait and a nightcrawler.

Fly fishermen in their float tubes can do very well in the area near the Old Camp 5 boat ramp by using Woolly Buggers.

One of the places where we shore fish with lures is at the very end of the point that juts out into the lake at Old Camp 5.

Some background:

In September, 2007 the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) chemically treated the lake (for the second time) and its tributaries to rid their waters of illegally-introduced Northern Pike that had taken over those waters and almost wiped out the game fish.

That Sept. DFG treatment with the chemical Rotenone totally eradicated the lake’s populations of Northern Pike, Rainbow Trout, Catfish and Bass.

As a matter of interest, one of the dead Pike measured an astonishing 43 inches in length and it would have had a tremendous impact on the game fish.

Following that treatment and after the water was certified as ready for re-stocking, DFG stocked many thousands and thousands of rainbow trout, with a large number of them in the trophy class.

This created an instant and very viable trout fishery, with many, many rainbows being caught this spring, summer and fall in the 5 pound class or even larger.


If you do not get a chance to fish at Davis Lake in the near future, don’t despair. It is also an excellent ice fishing lake in the wintertime.

Heck, what could be more fun than pulling a 5-pound rainbow up through the ice on a winter day? Just remember your gloves, ear-muffs and a thermos of hot coffee.

Bet Your Favorite Pigeon

Bet your favorite pigeon that he can’t tell you what was one of our most fun days, while we were fishing at Davis Lake, last year.

If he grins and says, “It was the day that Don and Elaine went to the far end of the lake, fished from shore with worms for several hours, and caught a whole bunch of nice sized catfish for their neighbor’s dinner,” he could have been fishing next to us on that day.

Don Quilici is the Outdoors editor for the Nevada Appeal