Located about 20 miles east of Ukiah in northwest California, Clear Lake is an almost unanimous inclusion when it comes to picking the nation’s top five largemouth bass fisheries. It covers more than 43,000 surface acres (68 square miles), but averages only 27 feet deep and is tremendously fertile.
The lake is large enough to withstand the tremendous fishing pressure it receives and while the lake record largemouth (Florida strain) weighed more than 17 1/2 pounds, the lake is best known for producing fast-growing bass weighing from three to seven pounds. Largemouth bass dominate the fish catches at Clear Lake with approximately two-thirds of the fish taken by anglers being largemouth bass.
However, those other fish swimming around in Clear Lake make the fishing much more interesting. Channel catfish provide good fishing and average good size with fish weighing more than 25 pounds taken each year. The lake record weighed more than 33 pounds.
Clear Lake contains both black and white crappie and they tend to run big. It is not at all unusual to catch a string of crappies with the individual crappies averaging two or more pounds each. California’s state record white crappie of four pounds eight ounces was pulled from Clear Lake back in 1971 and while the state record black crappie from New Hogan Lake weighed four pounds one ounce, several black crappies matching or exceeding that weight have been pulled from Clear Lake. Crappies to at least four pounds three ounces have been caught by bass anglers casting diving crankbaits around Rattlesnake Island at the south end of the lake.
The lake also has small populations of bluegill and redear sunfish. Both species average close to a pound in weight while the bluegills will top out at more than two pounds (a 3 1/2 pound bluegill was taken this summer) and some of the redears will approach or reach the three pound mark. In a lake the size of Clear Lake, these schools of panfish are tough to find and the schools are rather small.
Almost every year has someone catching a rainbow trout, or two. The population is very small and seems to consist of migrants out of sections of Cache Creek that holds water the year around. The trout tend to be small and almost certainly don’t have long life spans.
There are also very small numbers of smallmouth and spotted bass in Clear Lake. Catching one is a novelty, but spots weighing at least five pounds and smallmouths weighing more than seven pounds have been caught. Check out the photo of an unusual bass double (spotted bass/smallmouth bass) caught near Rattlesnake Island on crankbaits.
Because of its tremendous productivity, Clear Lake is often subject to massive summer algae blooms, Clear Lake fishes best during the spring and fall.