The town of Arnold, California is nestled right next to Calaveras Big Trees, the State Park created in 1931 to preserve the majestic North Grove of giant sequoias. This grove includes the “Discovery Tree,” the first Sierra redwood noted by Augustus T. Dowd in 1852.
While the big trees are enjoyed by visitors around the world, Arnold is also the center for superb fishing and other recreation along the Highway 4/Ebbetts Pass Corridor.
For example, Tony Maciel of San Jose and his wife came from San Jose the morning of May 12 to target rainbow trout in the incredibly scenic reservoir of White Pines Lake, located 1 mile from Arnold.
“We tried Beaver Creek first thing in the morning, but didn’t do well there,” he said. “We then came here and caught seven fish trout on Power Bait. Seven fish is enough for us, so we’re headed home.”
He, like other anglers fishing at White Pines that day, landed the fish while using Power Bait.
Arnold offers three wonderful nearby fisheries – White Pines Lake, the North Fork of the Stanislaus River and Beaver Creek – for anglers coming to camp and fish in the land of the Giant Sequoias
And that’s not all. In the same region, off the Highway 4 Corridor, anglers also can target rainbow trout at Spicer Reservoir, brown bullhead catfish and trout at Union Reservoir and rainbow trout at Lake Alpine. Plus further up the road you can hook rainbows in the Mosquito Lakes, rainbows and brookies in the North Fork of the Mokelumne, Lahontan cutthroat trout in Upper and Lower Kinney Lakes and brook trout in remote Highlands Lakes.
White Pines, a scenic and fertile lake located 1 mile from Arnold at the edge of White Pines across from the Moose Lodge, is the most diverse fishery in the Arnold region. The small, tule-lined reservoir offers a surprising assortment of rainbow trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, and even a few brown trout.
Around 20 years ago, one of our former staffers, Chris Dunham, had great day fishing at the reservoir for crappie, trout and largemouth bass after getting a tip from then owner of Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods, Marla Tallant. The current owner, Bill Reynolds, has continued in this tradition of providing excellent advice on current fishing conditions in the local lakes and streams. as well as supplying the fishing tackle, equipment, lures, bait and flies that are most effective in local waters.
White Pines is located on San Antonio Creek, a tributary of the Calaveras River. Big Trees Creek, which flows through the State Park, also runs into the lake. In the spring before the high country lakes like Spicer and Alpine become accessible and the rivers and creeks open to fishing, White Pines is often the only local fishing option.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Calaveras County Fish and Game Commission and Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods plant the lake with rainbow trout. The CDFW has historically stocked 3,000 pounds annually in the lake, while the commission and store stock it for special events. Since the trout season opener on April 30, two plants, the first weighing 1500 pounds and the rest between 300 and 500 pounds, have gone into the lake, according to Reynolds.
Besides fishing, the lake features a picnic area and swimming area surrounded by a forest dominated by cedars and pines. Calaveras County Water District manages the lake as a drinking water supply, while a dedicated group of volunteers, the White Pines Park Committee, maintains the park. Only non-motorized boats are allowed on the reservoir.
The bluegill fishing can be excellent at times. For example, I hooked one bluegill after another while tossing out mini-crawlers along the shoreline brush and trees on an evening trip to White Pines several years ago.
The lake is open year round and holds 260 acre-feet of water when full. The lake doesn’t freeze over during a normal winter.
While White Pines features fishing for both trout and warmwater species year round, the North Fork of the Stanislaus River above Arnold, situated on the border between Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties, offers top-notch rainbow and brown trout action during the stream trout season from the last Saturday in April through November 15. Anglers can entice the trout with a mixture of baits, lures and flies.
The best public access points to the North Fork are in the State Park or at the Sourgrass Campground at Board’s Crossing Bridge. Both areas are heavily planted with rainbow trout throughout the season by the CDFW.
I stopped by the river at Sourgrass Campground on May 12 and the water was high and swift – and nobody was fishing. The CDFW plants rainbows at the major access points, while beautiful wild rainbow and brown trout are available once you get away from the major access points.
“Lure fishermen should try Panther Martin Spinners, Rooster Tails, Kastmasters, Johnson Splinter Spoons, Vibrax Bullet Fly spinners, and Mepps,” advised Reynolds. “Bait fishermen should employ salmon eggs, crickets, nightcrawlers, Berkley Garlic Eggs, Gulp Eggs, and Garlic PowerBait on split shot rigs.”
Reynolds advised fishing enthusiasts to use an array of patterns as the season progresses, including stimulators, parachute adams, cahill, elk hair caddis, wooly bugger, ant, parachute blue wing olive, bead head woolly buggers, stone fly nymphs, and bead head nymphs patterns.
Further up Highway 4 off the Spicer Reservoir Road are two of my favorite Sierra fisheries – Spicer and Union reservoirs.
Spicer Reservoir is legendary for its beautiful 12 to 18 inch rainbow trout that shore anglers target in the spring after the Spicer Reservoir Road becomes accessible and in the fall just before the first snows arrive. The fish are the progeny of fingerlings that the CDFW plants and wild fish that spawn in the creek.
The lake is rising rapidly, rising so rapidly with the snowmelt that the hot fishing since the trout opener on April 30 temporarily slowed with all of the food coming into the lake with the rising water. I have caught beautiful limits of square-tailed rainbows while fishing bait from shore in both spring and fall here.
Another local favorite of mine is Union Reservoir. This lake features both planted and holdover trout, along with an abundant population of brown bullhead catfish. On a trip there last summer, I wasn’t able to coax any cats, but I didn’t coax a limit of rainbow trout from shore.
Then further up Highway 4 is Lake Alpine, probably the most popular of all the lakes in Alpine County because of its high elevation beauty and fine fishing. The lake had just thawed at press time and anglers were catching some holdover rainbows in the open areas of the reservoir. I have found the best time to fish this reservoir with bait or lures to be during the evenings.
For more information, contact Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods, 209-795-1686, http://www.ebbettspasssportinggoods.com
Calaveras Big Trees State Park Facts:
History: Calaveras became a State Park in 1931 to preserve the North Grove of giant sequoias. This grove includes the “Discovery Tree,” the first Sierra redwood noted by Augustus T. Dowd in 1852. This area has been a major tourist attraction ever since, and is considered the longest continuously operated tourist facility in California. Over the years, other parcels of mixed conifer forests have been added to the park. In addition to the popular North Grove, the Park features South Grove, a five mile hiking trip through a spectacular grove of giant sequoias in their natural setting.
Location/Directions: The park is northeast of Stockton, four miles northeast of Arnold on Highway 4.
From Sacramento: Take US 99 South to Stockton, turning off onto State Hwy 4 towards and beyond Farmington to the Park (through Angel’s Camp). Driving time to the Park from Stockton is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Park Campgrounds: The Park houses two main campgrounds with a total of 129 campsites, six picnic areas and hundreds of miles of established trails. Camping information for Big Trees State Park (209) 795-2334 or visit their website at http://sierra.parks.state.cs.us/cbt/btfacts.htm.
U.S Forest Service Information: For Wakalu Hepu campground at Sourgrass and Golden Pines Resort, contact the Calaveras Ranger District at (209) 795-1381.
Lodging Information: The Dorrington Inn and Chalets provide the nearest lodging to the Boards Crossing Access to the North Fork. Contact Dino Lamirato at (209) 795-2164.
Fishing Information and Tackle: Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods, phone (209) 795-1686, fax (209) 795-4725, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, www.ebbettspasssportinggoods.com, address: 925 SR-4 in Arnold Plaza, P.O. Box 579, Arnold, CA 95223.