Countdown To Trout Opener: Don’t Forget Folsom Lake

Photos by Mark Fong

Saturday is the statewide general trout opener.  Our April issue commerates “Fishmas Day” and we’ll count down with a story every day this week leading into Saturday’s opening day.

Today: Underrated Folsom Lake’s trout

By Mark Fong 

For anglers in the Sacramento metro area, Folsom Lake is most often thought of as a warmwater fishery. “Folsom is a bass lake,” they say. 

But perception is not always reality.

“Folsom is the best kept secret in Sacramento,” says Capt. James Netzel of TightLines Guide Service (888-975-0990; “Everyone calls Folsom the Dead Sea, but it has some great trout fishing if you know how to fish for them.”

Folsom is just a short drive from Sacramento. At capacity it holds 11,500 surface acres and has over 75 miles of shoreline. The lake was impounded in 1955 to hold the waters of the North and South Forks of the American River.

The trout in Folsom are primarily a mixture of planters and holdover fish. While trout can be caught year-round, May and June are Netzel’s favorite months. 

“I generally catch my biggest fish then,” he says. “Fish average 18 to 20 inches.  


The key for Netzel is what he calls the “Folsom secret.” 

“I fish four downriggers between 20 and 35 feet year-round, the same depth at a speed of 2.7 mph; I don’t change anything,” he explains. “The only thing I change is where I fish. During the winter I fish the river channels. You can troll on top, but I still do better between 20 and 35 feet. In spring, summer and fall, I fish areas less than 100 feet deep, like flats or points that go into deep water.” 

“In the late summer, look for the bait balls and fish around them. I still keep my lines between 20 and 35 feet. You can see the trout down deep with the bait, but for some reason they don’t bite very well.”

Netzel likes to troll Speedy Shiner spoons, as they do a good job of imitating the forage. He uses a Cousins Tackle Kokanee Special 7-foot, 9-inch KC790-2TG rod paired with an Abu Garcia 5500C linecounter reel. 

He spools up with 25-pound Fins 40G Braid, to which he ties a 30-foot leader of 12-pound Gamma Fluorocarbon. On the end of the leader he attaches a 2½-inch Speedy Shiner. His most productive colors include copper, chartreuse silver, brown trout, Wonder Bread and bullfrog.

“Word is getting out and I’m booking a lot of trips to Folsom,” Netzel says.

Folsom Lake is popular with not only bass anglers but recreational boaters, but don’t overlook the trout bite here, especially in spring before the summer crowd flocks to this urban playground. CS