Collins Lake A Solid NorCal Memorial Day Weekend Fishing Option


The following appears in the May issue of California Sportsman:

By Chris Cocoles

Like so many businesses that rely on visitors to subsist, the family who owns and operates Collins Lake’s recreation area was at the mercy of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“2020 was certainly an interesting year to navigate through operationally,” says Jacob Young of Collins Lake resort (530-692-1600; “We were shut down for six weeks from March into May, which is prime trout and bass fishing months, which is hard to not have the typical fishing activity we are used to seeing.”

But if there was a silver lining to the prime fishing days that Collins, located an hour northeast of Sacramento in the Sierra foothills, lost, it’s that the lake’s concessionaires made use of the time off.

“This time with an empty park allowed us to do maintenance projects and improvements that would be difficult with visitor traffic,” Young says. “We did some road repairs, extended our fiber optic lines to broaden Wi-Fi network access, etc.”

The rest of the 2020 high season brought “a huge wave of visitors that were eager to get outdoors after being in quarantine mode for a couple of months,” Young says.

But as 2021’s spring season gets into full swing this month and a sense of normalcy begins to take hold due to COVID vaccine rollouts, Collins Lake and so many other similar fisheries around the state cope with a new enemy.


“Our main concern, as will be for much of California’s lakes, is the drought situation. We are forecasted to be down at potentially the lowest lake level since the lake first filled in the 1960s,” Young says. “This will have operational impacts, as we will likely lose access to boat ramps and day-use beach and fishing access by late summer or early fall. This could also carry over to potentially spring 2022 if we do not have a wet upcoming winter.”

It’s distressing for a state that in recent years had begun to work its way back to more normal conditions following a devastating drought through the mid-2010s. But a map of California on the United States Drought Monitor’s website shows most of the state as being in anywhere from moderate to severe to extreme drought (most of the area in and around Collins was in the severe range).

And because of the lack of snowfall and rain this year – between just 50 and 60 percent of winter averages – the increase of wildfires, which has ravaged parts of the state in recent years, will be a concern again.

“As long as we have a wet winter we should be able to recover well,” Young says. “However, if there is another year or two of drought on the horizon, then it will be a significant impact – not just on our operation, but all lakes and California as a whole.”


Despite concerns about the pandemic, drought and fire susceptibility, there’s no other alternative but to trudge on, and Collins Lake expects to have a busy season as visitors target the lake’s trout, bass and catfish.

California’s statewide trout season opened on April 24, but Collins has been open throughout the last month, with plenty of good production from its extensive rainbow stocking program.

“As we shifted from weather in the 50s to weather in the 70s in late March and early April, it brought a huge uptick in activity. We went from seeing consistent nice catches of trout in the 5- to 7-pound range to consistent limits of trout caught,” Young says.

Increasing air and water temperatures will begin to drive trout to deeper water, making it more of a challenge for shore anglers to be successful, but private boats and rentals available at the marina can continue to score fish with both bait and trolling lures such as Kastmasters, Rapalas in fire tiger, and various spoons.

“We have been doing weekly trout plants since early February and will continue these weekly plants into May, in addition to releasing our net pens of trout raised throughout the winter,” Young says. “In total we will have planted over 30,000 pounds of trout into the lake over the spring 2021 season.”


Postspawn conditions in May should offer bass anglers plenty of opportunities as well.

“They are going up into the beds and have been active over the past week or so,” Young said in mid-April, adding that bass “will continue to be active through April and May.”

Crappie and bluegill fishing should also be strong as the water temperatures continue to increase with summer on the way.

As for Collins’ usual excellent summer catfishing, Young says the fish have been active throughout winter and anglers were having luck fishing by the marina, with various shoreline spots expected to churn out big cats as the season continues.

“It will be an interesting season for bass and catfish, as the topography of the lake will be different with the lower lake level. For the bass, a lot of the typical beds are out of the water, so it will expose different terrain over the next month that we usually see activity,” Young says.

“For catfish, as the lake drops we will have the sediment build-up start to be exposed and more of the muddy shoreline throughout the peak of summer. In late summer and fall we will run into issues with getting access to the water, but up until then there should be great fishing activity all around this season.” CS