Fish Species at New Melones Lake

Among the most popular game fish at New Melones Lake are the Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass. These fish require skill and technique to catch, and the challenge of hooking a large one is thought to be the ultimate thrill for the angler.

New Melones Lake has the habitats favored by bass and has been a “Glory Hole” for bass fisherman both in tournaments and recreational fishing.

interactive image:  black crappie; click for larger image interactive image:  photo of bluegill; click for larger photo interactive image:  photo of channel catfish; click for larger photo
Black Crappie Bluegill
Channel catfish
interactive image:  photo of female kokanee; click for larger photo interactive image:  photo of largemouth bass; click for larger photo interactive image:  photo of male kokanee; click for larger photo
Female kokanee Largemouth bass Male kokanee
interactive image:  photo of rainbow trout; click for larger photo interactive image:  photo of smallmouth bass; click for larger photo
Rainbow trout Smallmouth bass
  • Largemouth Bass/Smallmouth Bass - To fish for bass, it is important to know their habits, particularly what they eat. During the summer, bass usually spend their days and nights resting in the deeper water, but move to the shallow water to feed in the morning and evening. These areas have vegetation or other structures which attract the creatures which bass feed on. Anglers look for prime bass along rocky points and steep ridges, near floating vegetation, or in coves filled with trees. Excellent bass bait is available in the area.

  • Rainbow Trout - Rainbow Trout fishing is great at New Melones Lake. Trout fishing in the lake is done by trolling the deep, colder waters; generally around 40 to 50 feet (12 to 15 m) deep near the area of the dam. Rainbows of up to 5 lbs (2 kg) have been landed, with average weights being 3 to 4 lbs (1.3 to 1.8 kg). Bank anglers often catch trout in the areas of Angel's and Murphy's Creeks.

  • Adult Female Kokanee/Adult Male Kokanee - Kokanee Salmon are a real challenge to the sports angler. These beautiful fish are trolled for in 80 to 100 ft. (24 to 30 m) depths and are well worth the effort. They weigh in at 3 to 5 lbs (1.3 to 2 kg) and are found in the deeper, colder waters near the dam and spillway, Glory Hole Point and Rose Island.

In addition to game fish, New Melones Lake has several types of “pan fish.” These varieties are smaller in size and have higher daily limits.

  • Crappie - Crappie are slightly larger than a bluegill, approximately 1.5 lbs (0.7 kg) and are popular because of their flakey white meat. Crappies run in schools, making them fun and easy to catch in large numbers. Crappie are best caught near vegetation overhangs or near fallen trees, and they're a favorite with kids and shoreline fisherman.

  • Bluegills are the smaller members of the same family, and can be fished for in the same manner.

  • Catfish - Catfish in New Melones Lake are the Channel, White and the Bullhead Catfish. The first two are considered the best fish for eating.

  • Channel Catfish - The Channel Catfish and the White Catfish are distinguished from the Bullhead most easily by their deeply forked tails. The Bullhead has a blunt tail. All of the catfish species in New Melones Lake can be fished for from shore, and grow to extraordinary sizes - 11 to 13 lb (5 to 8 kg) fish are not uncommon. Catfish are best caught in the evening, although many anglers prefer late evening and night fishing for cats', who will strike at anything with a strong odor - just be prepared for a good fight with a strong fish.

New Melones Lake is the site for a number of fishing tournaments throughout the summer. To obtain a special use permit for a fishing tournament, call: (209) 536-9094. The Bureau of Reclamation hosts the C.A.S.T. Festival (“Catch a Special Thrill”) for Kids every June and other fishing related special programs throughout the year. Fishing information and maps are available at the visitor center.


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Last Updated: 4/21/17